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"You are back early," Gaius commented as Merlin walked in. He was sitting by one of the desks looking through a thick book with stains colouring the yellowing pages. At the same time he was keeping an eye on Sir Edric. The young knight's condition was unchanged and there was only so much the Physician could do for him. All that could be done was to change the bandages, treat the wounds with a salve that would keep them from festering and making sure that the man got some liquid and nutrients into his system, and possibly pray, though it was uncertain how useful the last would be. Gaius wasn't a man who'd embraced the new faith with its light Lord, and praying to the gods of old would be to ask for death.
"Yes, something strange happened," Merlin said slumping down on a stool by one of the tables.
"Oh? Strange how?" Gaius asked as he got up and retrieved a wet rag for Merlin so that the boy could wipe off the worst of the rotten vegetable juice. Merlin accepted it gratefully, knowing that he must smell quite ripe, although he could no longer tell himself. His sense of smell had long since become so dull that he wouldn't notice if he was standing in a pile of dung, which was unsettling close to the truth.
"I called out to a man I mistook for Prince Arthur. I might have insulted him and rambled."
"Merlin!" the older man rebuked.
"I know, I know. It was stupid. He asked me what I had done to be put in the stocks and when I told him he laughed and said that he would have me freed sooner! And I was!"
Gaius mouth twitched in humour. "I see that you have met Harry."
"Yeah, that what he said his name was. How did you know? Who is he?" Merlin asked wiping the back of his neck clear of vegetables; he made a face as something slimy slid down beneath the collar of his shirt, he reached for it as it came down to the small of his back, gripping it and putting it on the floor without looking to see what it was, feeling that he'd be better off not knowing.
"If you mistook a man named Harry for Arthur, a man with the power to have your released earlier, the answer is simple. His full name and title would be Prince Harry Pendragon of Camelot.
Merlin blinked, dropping the rag which fell to the floor making a wet sound as it hit the stone. "What?"
Gaius smiled indulgently. "He is Arthur's twin brother."
"Oh." Merlin felt stupid. Things made a lot more sense now. He should have realized it earlier. They would look alike because they were so closely related. He had thought that he simply didn't remember Arthur clearly enough and that was the reason for his mistake. A twin, well now he couldn't be blamed for mixing them up at least. And as brothers Harry wouldn't have to fear getting in trouble over insulting the other prince. "I didn't know Camelot had two princes," he muttered petulantly, picking up the rag again and walking over to the bowl of clean water Gaius had first dipped it in, rinsing it out.
"You didn't know we had one prince," Gaius pointed out.
Merlin sighed and swiped at his neck again. "No, I suppose I didn't," he admitted.
Gaius who had been smiling, stilled. "Wait..!" he exclaimed. "You, who were locked in the stocks, met Prince Harry?"
"Yes," Merlin nodded, not understanding why Gaius expression had turned from mildly amused to stormy.
"I don't know why I'm surprised… not enough sense between the two of them."
"What? Oh…" Merlin remembered that the Prince had mentioned Gaius. "He was injured," he said, beginning to understand where this was going.
"Yes, rather badly I might ad and he should be in his chambers, in bed more precisely, not visiting the stocks! I thought he knew better."
"He was on patrol by the eastern boarder and he was attacked. As far as I understand they were extremely lucky that any of them survived, though casualties will still increase." He turned and looked at Edric, expression grim.
The younger man followed his gaze. "Who is he?"
"This is Sir Edric, one of the knights who accompanied Prince Harry."
Merlin looked at the unconscious man. Curly brown hair framed his bruised face. His torso was bare except for the bandages that were wrapped all the way across his chest; purple bruises were blooming on every patch of visible skin. "What happened to him?"
"As Harry tells it, he was caught in a rain of arrows. That is where he sustained most of his injuries, though I believe there is more to it. Arrows would not be enough to injure a man wearing heavy armour this gravely, the attack is blunted and there were only a few arrow wounds, most of them only shallow. It should not be enough to kill a man, but he is dying."
"Is there nothing you can do for him?"
"I'm afraid not. I suspect that he is bleeding internally and there is nothing to be done with simple herbal remedies."
"What about magic?" Merlin had to ask.
The older man frowned. "It is forbidden," he said.
"But couldn't I try?"
"It's too dangerous."
"Nobody would need to know."
"From what you've told me you know no magic, you only possess it. What do you think you would be able to achieve?"
Merlin grimaced. "I don't know," he muttered honestly, "but I still think the right thing would be to try. If it doesn't work, then I suppose there's nothing more I can do, still shouldn't we do anything we can to help others."
"Merlin, the King would have your head."
"Only if he found out. Would you tell?"
A pause followed where the Gaius looked into Merlin's eyes, as if searching the younger man's soul, trying to figure him out.
"No, I would not," the Physician eventually answered.
"I think that I must have magic for a reason, and helping people is a good enough reason until such a time I find a definite answer."
"Camelot is not a good place for anyone with such abilities."
"Perhaps not and yet... I- The Prince… Harry… he… hmm…" Merlin faltered. He took a deep breath and began again. "Have you noticed anything strange about him?"
Gaius looked slightly startled, then in the next second the wide eyes were exchanged for resignation, followed by a carefully blank expression. "What happened?"
"You do know something!"
"Tell me what happened when you met him."
"I'm not sure, it could have been my imagination, but when I told him my name he seemed exited and then I think he used," Merlin hesitated, he was speaking about the King's son, a Prince, and he didn't know this man very well. Still he reminded himself that Gaius had not told anyone of his own magic yet, and his mother wouldn't have sent him here if Gaius wasn't reliable, he had to believe in that unless he was to end up bitter and alone. "I think he used magic."
"You don't sound surprised."
"I am, but not for the reason you are suggesting. I've suspected for some time that Harry might have talents for magic. What surprises me is that he would do anything to rouse your suspicion of it. It is unlike him. That I at all harbour the suspicion is because I have seen him grow up. I-," he exhaled. "Merlin, when I was younger, before the Great Purge, I practiced magic, I was a follower of the Old Religion."
"Really?" Merlin couldn't hide the excitement he was feeling. His mother must have known and now it became much clearer why she had wanted him here with Gaius in a city where magic was banned, and further it explained why Gaius was so understanding of his abilities.
"Yes, and so when I first noticed the strange occurrences related to Harry I was the only one able to recognize the signs, but there was little I could do as he wouldn't confide in me."
Gaius gave him a look. "He's afraid of course. His father regularly executes people who are found guilty of practicing sorcery. He's grown up hearing about how magic is evil. Imagine finding out that you possess the ability and not knowing if your own family would turn against you if they found out."
"Yes, it is."
"So why do you think he has magic?"
"It's not talked about much, but about four, five years ago, there was an assassination attempt made on Harry by his own servant."
Merlin gaped silently.
"Or that is how the story goes. I don't think that was what really happened. Esmond, Harry's servant, was not the sort of man to do something like that. Esmond was very down to earth, very loyal, a simple man with simple values. He and the Prince were close enough to be called friends, but the King was the one to discover Harry lying unconscious in his chamber, the room destroyed by magical means and Esmond standing by the Prince's side. He came to the only possible conclusion that didn't involve the destruction being Harry's fault."
"What happened to the servant?"
"I don't think I need to tell you."
"He was executed?"
Merlin swallowed around the lump that had appeared in his throat, he felt horrified and frankly disgusted, though he could understand it, but it was not the way he would have wanted things to be. "And why don't you think the King was correct in his assessment?"
"Something else had happened that day. One of the knights, Sir Beren, who for years had been Harry's mentor and close friend had died and the day of the assassination attempt the report of his passing came. When Harry woke up later he told me that he knew about his mentor's death. If I hadn't suspected things until then I did so now."
"Why is that?" Merlin was frowning; he was filled with curiosity that was blending with the horrification he still harboured over what had happened to the servant, who if Gaius was correct had been innocent.
"When you, as someone with magic, haven't learned much of your gifts, they can escape your control as you experience emotional upheaval, becoming a danger to both yourself and those around you. I believe that is what happened to Harry. He lost control and his magic lashed out. Beren might have realized what was happening and known that knocking the Prince unconscious could stop it, though I could not prove it, and even if I could the King would not have been inclined to believe me. Since then I have kept an eye on Harry. If I hadn't known what to look for I may never have noticed, but as it is I have seen signs. What the question is now is why he took an interest in you."
"At first he appeared idly amused at finding me there, at how I thought he was Arthur and more or less made a fool of myself. Something chanced when I told him my name."
Merlin nodded. "I can't be sure about if it was he who used magic just then, but someone did. I could feel it." Merlin's eyes glazed over slightly as he thought back, a wistful look shaping his features. "It felt like the magic in the rain the other night."
"Did it now?"
Before they had a chance to continue the conversation, they were brought to a halt by the sound of boots against stone outside the door. There was a tentative knock, and before Gaius answered the door was opened and the man they had been talking about was walking inside.
"Good day, your highness, I take it you've been resting?" the Physician said, giving the man a look.
"Of course," Harry said, then he spotted Merlin and he faltered for a second before his face became neutral again. "I think my shoulder needs to be looked at again, you didn't give me any salve or new bandages, so…"
"There was a reason for that. I wanted to take care of it myself, but it shouldn't need changing until later today and I was planning to come visit you."
"Well, I suppose they just loosened up faster than you thought."
"I suppose so," Gaius agreed, giving the prince a levelled stare, which didn't faze the man. "Or it could have been because you have not been resting."
The Prince didn't twitch. "What makes you think so?" he asked innocently.
"I might have heard that you had someone released from the stocks."
"Oh," now Harry didn't bother to keep up pretence any longer. "You got around to telling him, did you?" he said, directed to Merlin.
"He did," Gaius was the one to answer. "Why would you do that? It's very irresponsible of you."
"There was something I had to do," Harry said vaguely. "How's Edric?"
"Bad. I'm sorry, my Lord, but I don't think he'll make it."
"No? I- is there anything I can do?"
"I do not believe so, sire. We can only wait and see. As long as he draws breath there is a change that something will change."
"Keep me notified of any changes."
"Of course. Shall I have a look at your shoulder then?"
Harry sat down and pulled his shirt over his head, allowing the Physician to look at the bandages, where dark stains of blood were showing. Merlin watched and for some inexplicable reason he felt colour rising in his cheeks. The Prince undressing had taken him by surprise, not that it should matter; a man's naked torso was nothing he'd not seen before. There was another knight in the room, but there was something about Harry that he couldn't put his finger on. The idea that the man might have magic intrigued him and he longed to find out more.
"You've been straining yourself," Gaius scolded; unwrapping the cloth.
"Maybe a bit, but it'll be fine."
"It would be fine sooner if you followed my recommendations. I trust you will not leave your chambers again today."
Harry glared slightly. "Fine," he muttered, before he winced as Gaius prodded the wound. "What did you do that for?"
"So that maybe you would realize that this isn't something to be laughed away."
Gaius proceeded to apply a salve to the wound and wrap it up in bandages again. "Let's have a look at that leg too," he said once he was done, and proceeded to take the same care of the wound on Harry's thigh, the three of them staying silent as he did so.
"There, all done," he announced soon enough, allowing the prince to get redressed. "Merlin why don't you accompany Harry and make sure that he doesn't stray on the way to his chambers?"
Harry gaped slightly, with his fingers at the strings tying his trousers together. "You're sending him to watch me?"
"I am. It's for your own good, I don't trust you to not wonder around, or to ride off on a rescue mission. You are not to leave your room again today, am I understood?"
The Prince looked like he was about to protest, meeting Gaius stern gaze. "Yes," he relented, managing to do a good impression of a chastised child. "Let's go then, Merlin."
The way he said Merlin's name made the boy in question feel a bit uneasy and he shared a look with Gaius who just nodded to Harry's back, urging Merlin to follow him. The young warlock grimaced and hurried to do so.
They walked in silence for a bit, trekking down hallways and up swindling staircases, Merlin following and trying to commit the path to memory, it might be useful to know the way to the Prince's chamber at a later point, and if that point showed up he didn't want to get lost.
"So Merlin," Harry began, "I haven't seen you around before and I can tell that you must be new to Camelot as you did not know to recognize me and from what you told me earlier you did not recognize Arthur either, and you did not have enough wits about you to not insult a man who could not have given another impression than that he was from a noble station." Merlin scowled at the Princes' back, not caring for being called out at being ignorant. "What brings you to Camelot?"
"It was my mother's wish," he said, choosing his words so that he would not give too much away while still keeping to the truth. "She thought I would end up getting into trouble if I stayed back home and as Gaius is an old friend she asked him to look after me for the time being."
"I see. And where is home?"
"Ealdor. It lies east of Camelot's border about half a day's journey on foot inside of Cenred's kingdom."
"Cenred?" Harry asked sharply, halting his steps and turning to face Merlin who had been walking a few steps being him.
"When did you arrive at Camelot?"
"The day before yesterday," Merlin answered, stunned by the abrupt way the questions were being asked.
"Along the way, did you notice anything strange? Did you see any of Cenred's men?"
"No campfires? No horse tracks? Anything?"
"Not that I can remember."
The prince made a small sound of disgruntlement and walked on.
"Why do you ask?" Merlin inquired to the Prince's back, hurrying this time to walk by his side.
"It is not something I could tell just anyone. I am sorry Merlin, but that is all I will say."
They walked the rest of the way to Harry's chambers in silence, a silence that Merlin experienced as tense and uncomfortable, with how the Prince had refused to tell the origin of his inquiry.
"You've done your duty now, Merlin. You are free to leave." The Prince opened the door and stepped inside, Merlin remaining in the corridor feeling awkward and not knowing what to do with himself. He was curious to say the least, both regarding the possible magic and why he had asked him those questions. The later might be more easily understandable as one of his friends were lying unconscious down in Gaius chamber, the other one however was less so and with the man being a prince there wasn't much he could do in order to sate his curiosity. He couldn't confront him unless he wished to risk exposing himself.
If Harry had magic it might be safe to do so, but if he had mistaken the situation and the current he'd felt when he was stuck in the stocks only had been a coincidence that had nothing to do with the man then he would be in trouble. He couldn't take that risk, at least not yet. He'd only been in Camelot a couple of days and he wasn't planning on letting his life end like that. No matter how much he wanted to knock on the wood of the door that had literally been closed in his face and demand answers he would settle on observing the Prince. After getting a satisfactory idea about Harry's character he might be able to do more.
Exhaling slowly he turned and walked back down to Gaius, perhaps the Court Physician would have some job he could do to take his mind off things.
"God, I'm glad I'm able to talk to you right now," Harry said, pacing through the dreamscape of his chambers, Sirius sitting on one of the chairs by the table, leaning forward with his elbows propped up against the surface, looking intently at him.
"Something else has happened," he stated needlessly.
"Yes," Harry said in reply. "I don't know if it means anything, but perhaps." He walked over to one of the windows, seeing that it was snowing outside, frost roses were covering the corners of each windowpane, glittering in a few rays of sunlight that filtered down through an otherwise gray sky. Winter was a season he associated with inner turmoil. Though summers were the time for fighting, wars and visitors bringing conflict, the winter was when everyone was confined to the indoors too a larger extent than what was advisable and a lot of tension was often the result. For Harry conflict within the family was far graver than any trouble with outsiders. The winter landscape outside reflected the way he was feeling now, hence why the dreamscape had taken that form even though it still retained the comforting shape of his chamber.
"What do the stories say that Merlin looked like?" Harry asked next, turning to look at his godfather, who as always had taken the appearance of his younger self, leaving the younger wizard to guess at what he actually looked like.
Sirius frowned. "I sense that there is a reason besides idle curiosity behind your question."
"There is," the Prince confirmed, "but can you please answer before I explain?"
"Most stories talk of Merlin as an old man, dressed in robes, having long white hair and a beard to match, though it is possible that the stories have focused on the later parts of his life."
Harry nodded. "Is there anything else known about him? Something he could be recognized by?"
Sirius shrugged. "There's a lot of stories, but as usual I hesitate to tell you."
"Relax Harry, whatever I tell you might be either true or not. It's been such a long time that nothing is certain. Many sources claim that Merlin taught Prince Arthur during his childhood as well as being there to council him later in life, being his teacher and showing him what is right and wrong, giving him the tools needed to become a good king. You and I both know that the first part isn't true."
Harry shook his head lightly. "Right, I'm just… I suppose I am a bit frustrated. Ever since you told me that our are connected I've been keeping an ear out for anything and now…"
"I don't know what to think of him, but today I met a man who called himself Merlin."
Sirius sat up straighter in his chair at hearing that. "For real?"
"Yes. He doesn't match the image you've painted up though. He's young, younger than myself if I were to guess. Gangly, thin, big ears. I just don't know what to think."
"Could it be him?"
"I suppose so. He did say that his name was Merlin, but only time will tell. Magic and greatness can hide anywhere as I myself am proof of, being the son of a man who hates sorcery and magic of all kinds. Perhaps this boy is or will become the greatest wizard in history just as you say my brother will father legends where he is a great king. It's just that I don't see it. Merlin, he… He is staying with Gaius, the Court Physician and on his first day in Camelot he got into trouble with my brother."
Harry made a small sound of amusement. "I first met him, locked up in the Stocks. He confessed to calling my brother an ass."
Sirius let out a short bark-like laugh. "Did he deserve it?"
"Knowing Arthur I'm sure he did. That he would dare stand up to Arthur is the only evidence I have pointing towards this Merlin being the Merlin. It would take some courage to do such a thing, or perhaps just recklessness, either way that might be a character trait someone who is to go down in history needs." Harry touched the frosted glass, feeling the chill of the material against the pads of his fingers. "I took a risk using magic around him, just letting it out to see if he would react and nothing happened."
"That doesn't have to mean anything," Sirius said, "using magic is not safe in Camelot, he might have been trying to keep a low profile and showing signs of recognizing magic can get a person in trouble from what you have told me. I hope trouble didn't find you because of this risk, it was stupid, Harry."
"I had to. This is important. Finding Merlin is important, you must agree with me on that."
"I do, I most definitely do." He sighed. "Once we're done here I will be telling the Order that the time for fighting might be coming. It is what will follow after you complete your destiny at Emerys side and it will be time for us to prepare what we can."
"Have you not done so already? It shouldn't matter that I possibly found Merlin now, you already knew that the peace wouldn't last."
The older man shook his head. "I've tried to keep everyone alert and to keep the group together, but as we have peace people grow complacent, they forget about the dangers and they want to forget. One day that will come back to haunt them, but I try my best to make sure that these mistakes will affect as few people was possible. Now though I might be able to get Dumbledore to take action and if he says that we need to prepare, more will listen than if that strange Auror Sirius Black who was a recluse for- oh how many years was it again? tells them that war is coming."
Harry made a sympatric face, and pulled out a chair sitting down next to Sirius. "Try your best."
"Sure, kiddo, that's all anyone, can do. Try to find out more about Merlin, and for eh," Sirius cleared his throat, "eh, doesn't really work to curse by the normal names when you live with the people."
The Prince snorted. "Were you going to say for Merlin's sake?"
"I was, then I were about to change to Morgana which only would be weird as she is more or less your sister."
"You swear by her name too?"
"People in some circles do, my mother did, which is why I end up doing it from time to time."
"How come no one swears by Arthur's name then?"
"Muggle," Sirius said as if that explained it all, which it also did.
"Anyone use my name?" Harry asked with a smirk.
Sirius smirked right back. "Can't answer that one."
"Of course not."
End Chapter 13
AN 18th November 2013:
Merlin's pants I've been working on this chapter for an eternity (3 months is a long time). Sorry about that. I've just not felt all that inspired and my focus was drawn to other things. Here's a new chapter though, although it's neither all that long nor all that interesting. The next one might turn out good though as I plan for Merlin to have a little chat with the Great Dragon.
I hope you enjoyed this update.