Author's Note at the end!
"What happened?" Lancelot demanded, keeping his eyes focused solely on Arthur.
Arthur wanted to tell the knight everything that had happened since everything went to hell earlier that morning, but the man was a ticking time bomb and Arthur wasn't entirely sure how he'd react when he learned the truth about what happened to Merlin. He could practically see the fury radiating in waves off the man.
"Lancelot, I think you need to calm your self down." Arthur replied evenly, in an attempt to get the man to calm himself
"What I NEED is for you to tell me what happened." Lancelot snapped back, the man quickly losing control over his anger.
"Lancelot, I won't say anything till you've –"
"DAMN IT ALL ARTHUR!" He shouted, rising to his feet before the men. "I deserve to know the truth."
"Fine." Arthur conceded with a heavy sigh. "I'll tell you everything that happened, but you must let me get through the whole story before you say anything. Can you at least promise me that?"
Arthur knew how close Merlin and Lancelot had been and if he was going to tell the whole story, he would have to tell the man about Merlin's secret. After seeing the way the knight had responded to Morgana's return, he wasn't sure how he would react when he realizes that one of his closest friends had been lying to him. It was something Arthur himself had already gone through that day – something he was still dealing with.
So Arthur began telling the story of everything that had happened that day. As he got closer and closer to the point in the story where Merlin's secret was revealed, he became more nervous about how Lancelot would react. Up to that point, the man had kept his promise and never uttered a single word, his face remaining unreadable throughout the whole story.
But at last the moment finally came.
"She'd said without Merlin, Camelot's bravest and most loyal weapon standing at my side, that all hope would be lost." Arthur explained, his voice low and full of pain.
At the time he hadn't understood the full meaning behind her words, he had no earthly clue of how Merlin could possibly be used as a weapon against him, but now he knew just how true her words were.
He was about to continue when he looked up and noticed a change in the knight's face. Had it not been for everything that had happened that day Arthur may have never noticed the slightest change in Lancelot at his words, but he did. He could see the hint of worry that covered the man's face, the sense of foreboding that was clear as day, it was as if Lancelot knew what was coming next.
Arthur could see it in his eyes. Lancelot already knew about Merlin's secret.
Swallowing the lump in his throat, Arthur continued.
"I told Morgana that Merlin was not a weapon. So she decided to prove me wrong. Under her control, Merlin lifted his arm and his eyes changed from black into a molten silver and before anyone could react my sword was wrenched out of my hand and my body lifted into the air as Leon and Gwaine were both thrown backwards. In a single moment Morgana was able to prove her point and make her big reveal - that she had Merlin and his magic at her complete disposal."
As soon as the words were out of his mouth, Arthur saw the knight's face fall, as if his worst fears had been realized and that was all the proof Arthur needed.
He'd been so worried about how the man would respond to learning about Merlin's lies, but apparently his concern was unnecessary. In that short moment, he could see that Lancelot had been more worried about him knowing Merlin's secret than he'd been about the knights reaction to the truth. He felt like a fool.
"But you already knew about Merlin's magic didn't you?" Arthur asked, unable to keep the bitterness out of his voice. Coming to the realization that Merlin had trusted Lancelot and not him with his secret almost hurt more than learning about the secret itself.
"Arthur what are you talking about, there's no way Lancelot could have known." Gwaine jumped in, trying to ease the tension that had suddenly materialized at Arthur's cutting words.
"Tell him the truth Lancelot." Arthur demanded, not taking his eyes off the knight, wanting to see the moment the man admitted that he'd known about Merlin's magic all along.
"Arthur, I'm sorry. This wasn't how you were supposed to find out." Lancelot said, not even attempting to deny the truth.
"WHAT?" Gwaine shouted, the shock clearly covering his entire face. "I can't believe Merlin told you about his magic before he told me!"
Arthur stood up from where he was sitting and started making his way to the tree line, wanting to get as far away from the knight as he possibly could.
"Arthur I swear to you" Lancelot pleaded with Arthur as he retreated, "Merlin didn't choose to tell me about his magic. My finding out was completely by accident."
Arthur stopped at the edge of the clearing, his back still turned on the men and the fire behind him. He wanted to believe what Lancelot was telling him was true.
"When did it happen?"
Lancelot stepped forward running his hand over the back of his neck. "Arthur, it's not important when-"
"It's important to me." Arthur said as he snapped back around to the men, cutting the knight off mid-sentence. "No more secrets and no more lies. I want the whole truth." He insisted as he stepped back into the circle.
Lancelot looked to each of the men that surrounded him and he couldn't help but feel hesitant. For years he had kept Merlin's secret, but none of that mattered anymore because Arthur knew and Merlin couldn't even be there to explain everything for himself.
"I found out about Merlin's magic the first time I came to Camelot."
Arthur couldn't stop the pained noise that escaped from his mouth as he brought hand up to run over his face. Lancelot had known all along. For as long as he'd been a part of their lives, he'd known a side of Merlin that Arthur had never gotten the chance to see.
He thought back to all the times he'd seen Merlin and Lancelot away from the rest of the knights, anyone could see how comfortable the two of them were whenever they were near each other - how easily they joked and had a good time. And now Arthur knew why. It was because Merlin didn't need to hide who he really was when he was with Lancelot, Merlin was able to be his true self around the man in a way he never could be around Arthur.
"How did it happen?" Arthur asked.
"It was the Griffin." Lancelot admitted.
"You didn't kill it did you?" Arthur chuckled. Just another time to add to the list where Merlin saves the day and someone else ends up taking the credit.
"Well technically I did kill it, I just had a little help from Merlin." Lancelot said smiling at the memory. "As I rode towards the beast I heard Merlin enchant the lance I was using. At the time Merlin had no idea that I'd heard him do it, but before I left Camelot I told him that I knew what he did and I promised to keep his secret. Now that I think about it, I'm a bit surprised more people didn't find out, Merlin can be a bit careless at times."
"That or the rest of us are just thick." Arthur replied.
Lancelot had a point, Merlin may be some great sorcerer, but there was no way that the boy's clumsiness and incompetence was all some elaborate act to fool them. So Arthur couldn't help but wonder, just how many times had he come close to finding out Merlin's secret for himself.
So caught up in his own thoughts, Arthur didn't realize that Gwaine and Leon had continued to tell Lancelot about what happened with Morgana and Merlin, but when they finished Lancelot was still confused.
"Okay, but that still doesn't explain what happened with the dragon or why you lot are even out here in the first place. With everything that's going on with Morgana shouldn't you be back at Camelot?"
"Well not long after Morgana disappeared we suddenly hear people screaming from clear across the castle, shouting as if their lives depended on it. So when we finally make it to the courtyard where all the commotion was coming from we see this massive dragon hovering right above us. Next thing we know the creature is demanding to speak to Arthur about a young warlock. Little did we know he was talking about Merlin." Gwaine explained, getting more excited as he told the story.
"Hold on a second." Lancelot said shaking his head. "This dragon you speak of, it was the Great Dragon wasn't it? Kilgharrah right?"
"Wait, you already know Kilgharrah? How is it you got to meet a dragon before I did?" Gwaine demanded, sounding very much like a jealous child.
"Well I never actually met the beast." Lancelot admitted. "I only know what Merlin's told me about him."
"Which is what exactly?" Arthur asked, finally rejoining the conversation.
"Well he didn't tell me much about the creature. Merlin really only told me about how he'd first met the creature in the depths of Camelot and about how he became a..." Lancelot stopped again, unsure if the other men knew about Merlin's other secret.
Arthur sensing the man's discomfort had a fairly good idea why he was hesitating at finishing his sentence.
"We already know about Merlin being the last Dragonlord."
Lancelot let out a sigh of relief.
"So you can go ahead and finish your story." Arthur said, urging the man to continue.
"Well he told me about the dragon's attack on Camelot, your search for Balinor, and how he finally gained the power to stop the dragon, about how it was only after his father's death that he could gain the power and abilities of a Dragonlord and stop the beast from destroying the entire city."
Arthur's mind sputtered to a complete halt at the knight's words. Off to Arthur's side Gwaine started choking on a piece of an apple he'd just taken from one of Lancelot's bags.
"His father?" Arthur asked, his voice barely above a whisper.
Lancelot, whose focus was solely on Arthur at the moment, didn't see Gwaine's silent but erratic hand signals to not say another word.
"Yes his father. Balinor." He answered. It wasn't till after the words were out of his mouth that he noticed Gwaine's frantic attempt to get his attention, but it was already too late.
Balinor was Merlin's father. The words kept repeating themselves over and over again in Arthur's mind, followed up shortly by the memory of Merlin broken and sobbing over the man's dead body. For the life of him, Arthur could never understand why Merlin had been so upset over the man's death, but now his reaction made complete sense.
And what had Arthur told him afterwards? That no man was worth his tears. At the time there was no way he could have known the truth, but that didn't make his feel any less like shit.
Merlin had watched his father die in his arms, and Arthur essentially told him to man up and stop crying.
Hearing hushed whispers to his side, Arthur looked up to see Gwaine giving Lancelot a scathing look of disapproval.
"You knew Gwaine?" Arthur asked, unable to make himself sound angry at the man.
Gwaine abruptly stopped his hushed conversation with Lancelot and turned back to Arthur, looking like a child caught doing something he had been told not to.
"When did you put it together?" Arthur knew it had to have been recently.
"It was the dragon." Gwaine admitted. "When he told us about Merlin becoming the last Dragonlord only after Balinor's death."
When Arthur and Leon still looked confused at his explanation Gwaine sighed and continued.
"Like I told you lot before, when you live outside of Camelot and in other lands where magic is illegal, well you learn certain things. One of the legends surrounding the Dragonlords is that their powers can only be passed down from parents to their children. And while parents can teach their children many things about being a Dragonlord, it's only after their death that their son or daughter gain full access to their abilities."
"Camelot was under siege for days before Gaius suggested we go in search of Balinor. Why didn't Merlin propose we find the man sooner?" Arthur asked. Merlin didn't exactly have to bring it up himself, but surely he could have just asked Gaius to suggest the idea sooner than he did.
"He didn't know." Gwaine replied, his voice full of regret.
"What do you mean he didn't know?" Arthur asked, not entirely sure he wanted an answer.
"Merlin never knew his father." Lancelot said, his words tearing through Arthur like a knife.
"Right before the two of you set out in search of the man, Gaius told Merlin that Balinor was his father and that he was still out there. From what Merlin told me, Gaius had helped the man escape your father after Uther tricked him into bringing the last dragon to Camelot, saying that he wanted to make peace with the creature, but once they arrived in the city Uther trapped the beast and set out to kill every last Dragonlord. Merlin's mother had been an old and trusted friend of Gaius and he sent Balinor to her for protection and well – that's how he ended up in Ealdor." Lancelot finished awkwardly.
In the silence following Lancelot's retelling, Arthur suddenly found himself laughing, starting as a small chuckle and growing into a full blown laugh. The three knights around him just stared on, worried that Arthur had finally cracked from everything that'd happened that day.
"Sire?" Leon asked wearily.
"Don't you see it?" Arthur asked, his voice a mixture of pain and humor. "Don't you see the irony of it all?"
The three men shared concerned looks, completely clueless as to what Arthur was talking about.
"Had it not been for my father's never ending and bitter war on magic, Balinor would have never needed to escape my father and Gaius wouldn't have sent him to Hunith, and as a result Merlin would never have been born." Arthur explained. "In a way my father's hatred for magic was directly responsible for the birth of the most powerful sorcerer to ever walk this earth."
A/N: Hey guys, sorry again for the long wait for this next chapter. Things have been a bit crazy with the whole looking for a job thing, and with the holidays coming up things just keep getting busier. I hope you're all doing well and hopefully I'll have chapter 22 up for you soon!