"You've done well, young warlock."
Merlin frowned, side-eyeing the great dragon. "For crushing a grieving old woman under a chandelier?" While he knew he had done the right thing in saving Prince Prat's life from the crone's knife, committing murder like that still gnawed at him. The fact that she was magical, like him, and that her son had just been executed for that same reason, only made it worse. It was just one day into Camelot, and it didn't feel much like the adventure he was hoping for when he left Ealdor a few days back.
"Take heart, Merlin." The Dragon crooned empathetically. "The Once and Future King's golden age requires many sacrifices of us... but I promise you, it will all be worth it."
"Yes, but… about that?" Merlin scratched his head nervously. "It's just, I mean, how much exactly am I supposed to sacrifice here?"
"Oh, only the unimportant things, nothing major." Scaly claws drummed an irritated beat out of the rocks.
"Well that's good to hear." The young man sighed in relief. "I really don't want to hurt anybody else."
"Oh no, my young friend! You'll be killing fistfuls of your own people before you can say 'well-intentioned extremist', let me tell you!"
He seemed quite excited about that. Merlin, not so much.
"I- um- what?"
"Oh, don't look so glum. It's all for a good cause, I promise you."
"So… you're telling me that I have to kill my people, in order to free my people?" Merlin swallowed a sudden lump of bile clawing up his throat. He could already see the faces of sorcerers, people like him, and the looks in their eyes when one of their own struck them down. "I… guess I can see that. Not many are going to believe that Uther's idiot son will be the face of the magical rights movement."
Kilgarrah snorted. "I know, right? What's with all the people, like, trying to fight for their independence against an attempted genocide that's lasted for decades? They should be glad Arthur's coming to fix everything."
Merlin blinked. "Um-"
"Well, not everything, I mean it's not like he's going to free magic or anything."
"Wha- but you just said-!"
"Okay, maybe I was embellishing just a tad."
Merlin glared. "If Arthur isn't going to free magic, why am I doing this?"
"Because Arthur's going to make a wonderful kingdom full of peace, and love, and rainbows, and he needs you to sacrifice all facets of your existence and everything you thought this life would bring you!"
"And hey, he'll get over his magic thing, it'll only take him like nine years. I mean two weeks later he'll ban magic officially, but for a while there he'll be a really enlightened king."
"And yes, okay, maybe the golden age he's going to bring will look more like every other kingdom in history, other than some class mobility stuff that's pretty cool."
Merlin was chewing his lip hard enough to draw blood. "But… it'll last forever, right? Even if magic doesn't get to flourish, he'll be a good king to his people?" Memories of his village, beset by raiders and an uncaring monarch, flooded him. "The smallfolk like me, they'll be safe?"
"Yes, completely safe." Kilgarrah nodded solemnly. "Aside from the endless, bitter wars with that curmudgeon Morgana which will see most of them starved and slaughtered every few years."
"Are you kidding me?"
"And it will all culminate in Arthur dying in your arms and breaking your little heart. Magic just, kinda, fades out of the world or something after that."
Merlin did an excellent impression of a fish. "That's… ridiculous! Aside from being the most depressing damn thing I've ever heard, why would the Lady Morgana-?!"
"Oh man, you don't even know what she's gonna do, it's nuts." Kilgarrah drew a dragon-sized cigarette out of nowhere, lighting it absent-mindedly with a snort. "Be glad I get you to abandon her before you can help her with her emerging magic, bro, she's pretty much Uther in high heels."
"She has magic?" Merlin felt his knees quake. "I-I think I need to sit down."
"Woah, hey, young warlock, don't go feeling all kindred with her, alright?" Kilgarrah took a deep drag and blew what smelt frighteningly like marijuana in the boy's face. "The witch has nothing in common with you! Aside from living in constant fear of being discovered, being torn between love of Camelot and love of magic, a willingness to betray and kill her friends for the greater good as she sees it-"
"I-is that pot?" Merlin gaped.
"-and trust me, you'll be doing a LOT of 'Et tu-ing' up in here, hoo boy. You'll get used to it. It'll only break your heart a little bit by the time you trick Morgana into killing herself after she's convinced you're the only one who cares about her, thus driving her totally cookoo, a scenario that could have been otherwise averted if I didn't have you behaving wildly out of character whenever you guys were in a room together."
"Seriously, are you high right now?!"
"Oy, what else is a dragon supposed to do?! I live in a freaking cave, man, it's burritos."
Merlin let Kilgarrah recline back on his rock and watch his hand move in front of his face for a moment, and began to think.
So, according to a drug-addled giant lizard, he was supposed to sacrifice all hopes and dreams he'd ever had in order to protect Arthur, who would be a king ahead of his time that he'd be proud to fight for… but not one that would do much of anything for his people. Meanwhile, the golden age they were supposed to build together was constantly being blown up by Morgana, who Merlin would have driven to insanity by abandoning her to go through the same suffering he'd gone through his entire life. It would all last about nine years until Arthur dies horribly and-
Merlin came to a sudden conclusion.
"Right, you're an idiot." He announced.
Kilgarrah looked up, wide eyed. "Yeah, but my hand is huge."
"I'm… gonna go tell the Lady Morgana what's going on, and make sure she doesn't go nuts." Merlin crossed his arms defiantly. "Because, y'know, a lifetime of hiding and being terrified has given me an unshakeable belief in helping people in need, especially people just like me."
Kilgarrah spat out his cig, waving his claws in a 'time-out' gesture.
"Woah, woah, dude come on, you can't do that! There's murder in her heart!"
"I JUST CRUSHED A LITTLE OLD LADY TO DEATH."
"BUT YOU'RE THE GOOD GUY, THAT'S TOTALLY DIFFERENT- wait where are you going?"
Merlin stopped halfway up the stairs. "Morgana and I are going to go start bullying Arthur into realizing magic isn't evil. However long it takes." He stepped down a few, to better glare. "Then, one day, we're all gonna rise up and overthrow Uther without any of this cloak and dagger, hidden magic, phyrric victory crap you're selling."
"No, wait, you're supposed to protect Uther!"
Merlin actually laughed, which only made Kilgarrah flail more.
"Seriously, if Uther dies his son will be hardened to magic! It'll happen in a few years, you'll see, he becomes just like him!"
"Well if THAT is destined, then why is Arthur worth fighting for?!"
"No, don't worry, Arthur gets over it a few weeks later. He's a much better man than his father, not even Uther's death can harden him to magic."
Merlin stared, agape.
Kilgarrah smiled, glad to have won the argument.
"…Great Dragon, you're just messing with me, aren't you?"
"I may have gone a little psychotic down here, not gonna lie." Kilgarrah drawled, fishing under a cliff for his bong.
Merlin shook his head, stunned. "I'm, uh, gonna go talk to Morgana now."
"Kay." Kilgarrah chirped. "Hey, be sure to tell her how inescapably evil she is, right?"
Morgana brushed the tears from her eyes, clearly ashamed to have shed them in front of a manservant. It had taken a few hours for Merlin to calm her down after relaying the truth of her magic, but she seemed to be adjusting alright once he'd assured her that she wasn't alone. Perhaps all she'd needed to overcome Uther's teachings was someone kind who shared her gift. Merlin didn't know what was going to happen with her now, but he was determined not to fail her; or himself.
"I can't believe he thinks I'm evil." She said, accepting the glass of tea he'd brought her gratefully. "I mean- why? Did he give you a reason?"
Merlin squirmed. "You mean aside from the whole 'I abandon you for no discernible reason' thing?"
"I don't know why he thought you'd actually do that!" She said indignantly. "I mean even after a week it's pretty clear you're basically just this huge, empathetic teddy bear. Where does he get off?"
"I know, right?"
"Well, don't worry, Merlin," She began, giving him a hopeful little smile. "Arthur's not nearly as prejudiced as he looks at first. Between you, me, and Gwen, we'll be able to make him see that magic isn't what Uther thinks it is." There was still a small tremble in her voice as she said the word, but she was already getting better at saying it.
Merlin smiled down at her. "A new golden age, huh?" In his mind's eye, he could see it; a Camelot filled with smiling sorcerers, practicing openly, under the accepting smile of King Arthur. Perhaps the chances of failure were higher, perhaps it would be easier to spend his life hiding and killing and praying that Arthur would just come around on his own. But that wouldn't be fair to the prince, and it wouldn't be fair to himself.
And the alternative didn't sound very rewarding to anybody. Honestly, it would have been horrible if he spent the next nine years making himself and Morgana and the rest of their kind suffer horribly, all for the vague promise of a future that never came.
"I guess the dragon's gonna have to get used to a Camelot that actually makes sense, huh?"
And that was how the eternal kingdom of Camelot began.
Meanwhile, Kilgarrah groaned.
"Man, that was a bad batch."
Just a crappy little wave goodbye, written in like thirty minutes on a caffeine binge, to offset my SEETHING FURY at the piece of shit that the BBC thinks is an ending. Honestly, I'm stuck between laughing and sobbing at the finale, that probably accounts for the wild tonal shifts. Ah well, even though it's a crap fic it was good to vent. Maybe it'll help you to; my poor, wounded fandom… -_-
Oh, and bonus props to the writers for randomly deciding to torture Gwaine to death while convinced he's failed his friends. Because that was totally necessary. And thanks for making Merlin kill Morgana in like five seconds guys, you really did my OTP justice!
(THIS WAS SUPPOSED TO BE A FAMILY SHOW, YOU BLOODY HACKS!)