A/N: sorry it's been a while again. Doing my best! My season 5 boxset has arrived, so I'm enjoying myself listening to the commentaries and checking up on facts. Trying to write, too, honestly! If only work wasn't quite so busy... anyway, enjoy, and they still don't belong to me, etc
Council – Arthur
The first thing I did when we finally reached Camelot was hold Guinevere very close for a very long time. There had been times over the past few days when I had feared I would never see her again, never smell her sweet perfume and feel her hands gently stroking my face, and from the strength of her embrace she had missed me too.
The second thing I did was call a council meeting.
As we filed into the council chambers to sit round the table, it was already obvious that not all had returned from Camlann. Leon informed me that two remained in the care of the medics, while another three had lost their lives in the battle. As we moved to our usual chairs, Merlin went to his customary spot in front of the pillar. I spoke quietly to Gwaine, who seemed as bouncy as ever despite his ill-treatment at Morgana's hands, and he moved along, making room for Merlin between him and Gaius. Merlin shook his head as I indicated the seat to him, but Gaius had a word with him and he eventually came and sat, looking extremely uncomfortable. I saw one or two eyebrows raised round the table, but no-one dared say anything, and so we settled to business.
Guinevere sat to my left, of course, with Sir Leon on her far side, and then Percival. To my right sat Gaius, then Merlin, then Gwaine. Of the other sixteen, only eleven remained.
Reports were given of activities in various bordering kingdoms: it appeared that most were peaceful, but Odin's land to the north and Areth's kingdom to the north west both reported Saxons on their borders and Annis was too busy protecting her borders to offer help.
The most immediate concern, however, was with the delegation from Young Sarrum, who was threatening an attack on Camelot itself. They were claiming that Camelot had broken the treaty by harbouring a sorcerer, and were demanding he be handed over for execution.
Leon suggested that they were frightened at the perceived threat: if Camelot had that sort of power, what was to stop them taking all the other lands? He had heard rumours that men had been sent to spy out the land, searching for the sorcerer in order to kill him before he could lead an army to battle.
That tied up with our experience. I told the table a little of our journey to the blessed isle, and how we had been attacked by a group of men who had been looking for me and for the sorcerer.
"Sire... who is this sorcerer?" Leon asked curiously.
"He is a great friend of Camelot," I answered. "He will not attack these lands. He seeks peace across all the kingdoms, just as we do."
"With all due respect, I do not believe Young Sarrum will just accept your word on the matter," he said.
"Where is this magician, anyway?" asked Gwaine.
"He keeps his own company, but I have his word that he is watching and will know if his presence is necessary, just as he did at Camlann." I did not dare look in Merlin's direction as I spoke. I knew that he had not liked my decision to keep his magic secret, but with assassins roaming the countryside seeking to kill him, it was the best way to keep him safe. I had said little of his role in our journey save to say that he had been told by the sorcerer that it was possible a cure would be found on the blessed isle in the lake.
We agreed that the first step towards a solution was to invite Sarrum himself, and the other leaders. Fighting between the kingdoms would only leave the way free for the Saxons to take over the lands one by one, and what was needed was to find a way to work together.
Messengers were sent out with invitations, and council adjourned for the night. I had managed to ward off all enquiries as to my health, but now it was time to face the truth, at least in private.
Home – Merlin
Once we arrived back at Camelot it seemed in some ways as though nothing had changed. Arthur called a council meeting, and I took up my usual place, but Arthur insisted I sat next to Gaius at the table, using the excuse that he hated seeing the gaps and that I looked as though I was about to fall down. As I sat, I wondered how he would proceed. Would we indeed see him usher in an age of magic? How would he explain a change of heart and law?
Still, as we heard of the mercenaries out searching for the sorcerer, I gradually acknowledged to myself that perhaps it was wise to keep my magic a secret for a while longer. It was hard enough trying to protect Arthur on occasion; having to do so while fearing for my own safety as well was not an experience to be sought out.
When at last the meeting was adjourned, Gaius and I both accompanied Arthur and Guinevere to his quarters. There Arthur seemed drained of his strength and sank down into a chair, pressing a hand against his side. Gwen knelt next to him, soothing him. We gave them a moment's privacy, then Gaius and I stepped forward to help him finally out of his armour and lay him gently on the bed, where at last we got a clear view of his injury.
The wound was little enough to look at on a first glance: a black line on a red swollen area, which seemed already to be healing. When we looked closer, however, we could see the swelling was looking painful and angry, and the slightest pressure caused pain.
As Arthur lay there, he grabbed my hand. "Merlin, will you try healing me again, as you did in the woods?"
Startled, I looked over at Gwen, but she only smiled.
"Don't worry, Merlin," Arthur said. "Guinevere already knows. She worked it out. She's far cleverer than I am."
"I had begun to wonder long ago," she admitted. "I always knew there was something about you, Merlin."
Reassured, I placed my hands over Arthur's wound. It was easier now that I could see it properly. I closed my eyes for a moment and then began to chant a spell. The magic flowed out of me – I could feel it pouring from my hands, but as before it seemed to hit the sliver of metal in Arthur's chest and then instead of flowing round as I had commanded it and helping to ease the metal out, it felt as though the power had hit a stone wall, and rebounded back to leave my hands seared with pain. I staggered back and Arthur seemed to convulse, but as Gwen moved to Arthur and Gaius caught me the power drained away, leaving us both exhausted but unharmed.
"Thank you," Arthur murmured. "And now, Merlin, it's time for us both to sleep."
"I can't," I answered at once. "There is too much to do, if we are to be ready to leave at first light."
I felt the dread that had haunted me during the meeting strengthen as I realised that my suspicion was true. I had been intending to leave for Brinefed first thing in the morning, but it seemed Arthur had other ideas.
"Arthur, we must get you to the Disir."
"Yes, yes, but not yet. There is too much to do here."
"Which you could manage far better if fully healed!"
"Merlin, I cannot leave Guinevere again without ensuring she is prepared to meet with the kings. That meeting is vital for the future of not only Camelot but all of Albion. It must be handled right."
"And if we leave for Brinefed early we can be returned in time for you to lead it yourself."
Arthur shook his head sadly. "Merlin, you know my injury is too severe, and there is no reason for the Disir to heal me. Not unless I agree to terms that are unthinkable. Now, both of us need to sleep."
I would have stayed to argue, but both Gaius and Gwen encouraged me gently out of the door, and by now I was too exhausted to protest further, and allowed myself to be led away to the comfort of my own room and bed.
So - when they do finally go, any preferences as to which of the Knights provides escort? Comments/ suggestions/ reviews always welcome :)