A CODA TO IN THE SHADOW OF KINGS
NOTE: a few people mentioned in the comments for "In the Shadow of Kings" they would have wanted to read the conversation between Gaius and Merlin as they thought it would have been a great add to the "comfort" part and allow for further explanation of Merlin's remission/Hunith's death and Gwen's knowledge of the steward's abusive manners. The two last chapters haven't been edited yet because my beta-reader had troubles with her internet system but I will send the files to her as soon as I can so they will be edited (mainly for typos) before the AO3 masterpost is posted. I don't know if it's right to do this, but I wrote the missing conversation between Merlin and Gaius as I realised maybe it was a good thing to add after all. This conversation will be added at the beginning of the chapter 17 and to the AO3 masterpost of this fanfiction. I hope it's alright, I don't know if it's common for writers to do that.
Chapter 17 – Merlin and Gaius's missing conversation
Gaius waited for Gwaine to be out of the room and walking in the corridor to turn his attention to Merlin. Merlin could see his grey hair lying behind his head as he looked at the dismissed knight. He had his hands behind his back he didn't express retreat or unease like Gwaine had done moments ago. He looked older maybe because he was tired of the ride he'd made to come back to Camelot.
"You're not doing very well are you." He said calmly to Merlin. It wasn't a question, but Merlin felt he had to answer it.
"I don't know."
"I know you don't. Let me see your bruises first."
"I thought the other physician had given you a brief description of my injuries already?"
"Nothing's worth my own eyes when it comes to injuries, especially when it concerns you."
Merlin knew Gaius referred to his magic's ability to heal him faster and – as he'd experienced in the last month – to reduce the trauma and the hurting sensation. He'd always been interested in that but he'd also been clear to Merlin that he shouldn't let his magic do those things as it could be dangerous for his health. What if you were bruised fatally and didn't know it because of your magic? Had he told Merlin a few years ago.
So Merlin let Gaius look to his injuries, even the smallest ones. It was fast considering the number of injuries the warlock had but Gaius knew Merlin well.
"It's healing remarkably well." He declared after he finished.
"That's what the other physician said."
Gaius stretched his arms and legs in the small wooden chair he was sat on.
"I'm more concerned with your mind, to be honest, Merlin. The flesh wound is always mended faster than the soul, and yours has been under some extraordinary pressure."
They were silent for a moment.
"What happened to her?"
"You want me to talk about your mother?" asked Gaius in wonder.
Gaius took a deep breath.
"Well, there isn't much to say except for what I wrote in the letter. When I arrived in Ealdor she was already sick, and she'd been for a few days apparently. They thought it was just a cold, that it would pass, but when I looked upon her, I realised it was the same sickness I'd just treated in the other village. So I treated her..."
Merlin felt the tears come up his eyes but they didn't fall on his cheeks. They stayed there, on the brink of his eyelids, waiting for Gaius to finish his story.
"... I treated her with everything I had used on the other villagers. But it was too strong, Merlin, way too strong. I think towards the end she realised she wasn't going to make it. She was very calm, very strong. She told me about your childhood, about what you'd done, about your father... about everything, really. She's proud of you, and she will look upon you even in death."
When the tears finally came down his cheeks, Merlin smiled. He hadn't really thought about it like that, but it was, he guessed, a nice enough death for the soft, gentle personality of his mother. He knew it would still take some time but Gaius' words had somewhat made him... happier.
"Thank you Gaius. I know you did everything."
Gaius smiled at him.
"There is still another thing I'd like to discuss with you."
"How come I, or you, didn't know about this? How come Guinevere never told you about all of this?"
"A lot of the servants who were badly threatened didn't end up working as actual servants I think. And Sefa said a lot for those who did became servants after spending time under his orders were just glad it was over that they didn't want any more trouble. Most servants work under the cook and the head seamstresses' supervision or nobles orders."
"But how come nobody even talked about it?"
"She warned me about the steward, but..."
Merlin didn't finish his sentence.
"But you're still your usual stubborn self. I guessed that one."
Gaius smiled at him and the warlock felt a warm ball form inside his chest. His magic felt good about the whole conversation.
"Well I'm pretty sure once Arthur finds out he'll do something about it." Declared Gaius.
"Probably. He became very... nice in the last few days."
"I noticed that."
"How could you? You only just arrived." Merlin said incredulously.
"Oh you know, small things. I've been told for a fact that he tended to you last night. It's rather impressive."
"Would you imagine the young, arrogant prince Arthur do that kind of things five years ago?"
And then Merlin could keep it serious anymore. He burst out laughing at the image of the young Arthur he'd first met the day he came of Camelot bathing him. His ribs protested by sending rushes of pain to his chest but it wasn't as horrible as it had been a few days ago.
"That would have been rather funny!" he said, taking his breath.
"Indeed! Keep laughing like that, Merlin. They say it's the best medicine in the world."
Merlin kept smiling but frowned, unconvinced.
"Who said such a thing?"
"The people I met in the outer villages. They don't always have bad ideas. You should try it on the king. I must say, he probably looks as worse as you. The peace treaty hasn't been very... peaceful from what I've seen."
"No, it hasn't."
"He told me earlier, that you mentioned your mother to him. He was very sad, I think he liked her a lot." Gaius said softly.
"I think he did, too, yeah."
Gaius remained silent for a moment, but he kept smiling to himself.
"I have a story for you. It'll make you laugh and maybe if you tell it to Arthur, it'll cheer him up, too."
"I don't think I'm supposed to laugh, with the... ribs."
"Well you'll just have to chuckle, then."
And Merlin did. It wasn't that bad, his ribs moved put he wasn't in pain. It was probably due to the other physician's potions thought.
"Okay, go on then."
So Gaius installed himself comfortably in his chair and told him the stories of the new, little physicians he'd trained in the outer villages. He told him stories of boys who wanted to be princes, of girls who wanted to help Gaius, and of the old men who asked questions about Camelot.
END OF THE CODA