A work based on Episodes 12 & 13, Season Five: "The Diamond of the Day Part 1 & Part 2", and continuing on after the finale, with a different ending. A Multi-chapter work.
This work is entirely my own, based on the characters established by BBC's Merlin. I do not own any of the characters, and am not making any money from this fiction. It is created purely for my own, and others' enjoyment.
Dialogue taken directly from 'The Diamond of the Day Part One.'
FACETS OF A DIAMOND
Jeering at Arthur, Merlin raised the wooden dice in the cup to his face, and blew gently, in a familiar gesture of 'luck'. At the same time, his eyes flashed golden as he surreptitiously threw his will into the small wooden cubes, determining where they would land. "Ten" He stated with confidence. The dice rattled against the wooden table-top, coming to rest against the raised lip, each displaying the number five on top. Shrugging, he laughed out loud again, able in this one small thing to best his master.
Arthur leaned over the low table, frustration tempered with good humour. "Enjoy this moment Merlin. While it lasts."
For those who did not know the monarch well, these words were threatening and ominous. Merlin, knowing his liege rather better than the average man, laughed again enjoying the moment. Sir Percival, standing at Arthur's right shoulder, chucked and rocked on his toes in enjoyment, observing the interplay between the two friends.
For friends they were. An unlikely partnership, that nevertheless, worked seamlessly. Much of an age and height, the two were as unlike in appearance and temperament as it was possible to be. One was blonde, strongly muscled, sturdy and stocky. The other dark, slim, fragile and awkward looking. Yet it was difficult to imagine seeing one without the other close behind.
Arthur the King: Skilled in sword-play and horsemanship was the uncontested Ruler of Camelot. Settled comfortably on the throne he was accustomed to leadership and no longer sat in the shadow of his formidable father, Uther. Decisions were made to aid his people, maintain peace, lead the Knights, and generally set the example by which Camelot was known across the land.
Confident in bearing, Arthur was the epitome of a strong ruler. He was just, noble, and his decisions were made with deliberation for all parties. The years of reigning and tempered him; he could make the difficult decisions, bringing hardship at times to those he ruled knowing that in the long-run the benefits would outweigh short-term pain.
His one blind spot remained, as ever, his condemnation of magic. In this one area, he followed in Uther's footsteps doggedly: Magic was evil, and always best avoided. Nobody who wielded magic could be trusted. Ever. The proverb "Power corrupts and absolute power corrupts absolutely" was the mantra by which he judged all magic-users. They could be useful, on occasion, but would never be accepted in his Kingdom.
Merlin the Servant: skilled in dressing Arthur, cleaning his Master's room, and seeing to his everyday needs. Gangly, awkward, and odd-looking. Yet, in the last few years a maturity had eased his bumbling carriage somewhat. Still clumsy at times, he had stamina and endurance beyond what was immediately visible. On the hunt, he could keep up all day with the well-trained Knights, running without faltering. His skill with a sword had improved, and he was able to hold his own (almost) in a battle by Arthur's side. Added to this was his wisdom, displayed only rarely, and only to those close to him. It was Merlin's counsel that Arthur most often sought. Many were the evenings that, as he tended Arthur, Merlin was able to plant the seeds of his knowledge, and steer Arthur towards more moderated decisions.
These were not all the reasons for Merlin's altered bearing, however, although they did play some part. Many were the facets of this man. Much of his quiet confidence came from his growing comfort with his magic. In the long years in Camelot, he'd had access to boundless knowledge of his craft. Learning from Gaius, the druids, and the huge library in the castle, he had refined and deepened his understanding of who he was. Guided by the Great Dragon, he had accepted his destiny, and thrown himself into fulfilling the role. Not because he had to, but because he chose to. He was Merlin. He was Emrys. He was Magic personified.
It was this total acceptance of himself, rarely found in men, that had granted Merlin maturity. He knew that the time was coming when he would reveal to Arthur who he was. And he knew that he would do so unhesitatingly. But he also knew that he must wait until the time was right, or he risked losing all that he had gained, and more. Not only would he, himself, suffer, but so would Arthur, and by extension all those in the Castle, as well as the people. This was not something Merlin was willing to risk. And so he waited, bided his time, and played dice in the Tavern.
He and Arthur had gathered quite a crowd by this stage. The Inn-keeper stood to one side, surrounded by several other patrons. Laughter and ale flowed as the commoners watched their once-arrogant King lose to his base-born manservant.
The game was simple: two players wagering their pennies against the fall of the dice. Each calling out as they cast, the number they hoped would be shown. A game of chance, or so you would think. To Arthur, the money he was losing meant far less than the temporary loss of dignity. For Merlin, the joy of being accepted as an equal was only enhanced by the extra coins he was accumulating. His mother could always do with a little extra to see her through the winter, and Merlin himself was in need of a few items of clothing.
The crowd roared approval at Merlin's successful throw. Now it was the King's turn, and the contents of the wooden bowl between them rested on the outcome. Rattling the round cup in his hand, Arthur's eyes held Merlin's.
"Twelve" he declared, needing to beat Merlin's ten.
The cup tipped and the dice fell. Arms crossed over his chest, Merlin coughed, a hand held to politely cover his mouth. Again his eyes flared, unnoticed. The two small cubes settled to a rest, displaying a one and a three. A chorus of "Oooh's" flowed from the audience. Merlin leant to claim the bowl, when Arthur's challenge caught his attention.
"You put me off."
Puzzled, Merlin glanced towards his King. "What are you talking about?" and reached once more for the small pile of coins. Percival watched, a small smile on his lips.
"You just coughed. Deliberately." Arthur was beginning to be annoyed at his losing streak, and leaned forward, supporting his weight on the table while moving into Merlin's personal space.
Momentarily unsettled, 'Did he notice? Am I caught?' Merlin fell back on his standard buffoonish response. Sighing and shaking his head, he admitted "Ahh! I knew you'd discover my secret in the end! There's just no fooling you, my lord!" He looked down, penitent.
Laughs from the on-lookers echoed across to Arthur, as Merlin's response highlighted the foolishness of the King's accusation. Arthur played along, pretending to act like spoiled child, upset when he wasn't winning. Glaring across at his servant, Arthur telegraphed his displeasure.
Merlin's fooling abruptly ceased, and he met Arthur's gaze evenly. He then reached down, and methodically picked up each of the piles of silver and placed them in the betting bowl, challenged Arthur with the remainder of his money.
Recognising Merlin's teasing, and quite willing to provide amusement for the watching people, Arthur swept the remainder of his own money into his hand, and dumped it into the bowl along with Merlin's. "It's like that, is it?" he jibed.
Merlin locked eyes with Arthur, nodded, and grabbed the dice cup. Holding his gaze, he insolently went through his little ritual of shaking the cup and blowing on it, surreptitiously releasing his magic once more, before throwing the dice. "Twelve." He called, matching Arthur's previous call. A rattle and the dice, inevitably, displayed two sixes. Whooping, Merlin punched the air in triumph, before claiming his winnings. It was not often that he was able to best Arthur in anything, and this small public victory was sweet.
In fond exasperation, Arthur rolled his eyes and accepted defeat. After all, it rarely occurred, and it wasn't as if he would really suffer from losing the money. He grinned, and, clapping Merlin on the back, ordered another round of ale.
An hour later and Merlin was quietly entering Gaius' chambers on his way to bed. Since his imprisonment by Morgana almost two years ago, Gaius had aged noticeably. His face held more lines, the skin around his neck sagged more, and his posture was more stooped. He tended to tire more easily, and was often found asleep resting over a book on healing, or herbal lore.
Though physically more frail, Gaius' mind and healing knowledge remained unmatched in the Kingdom. Merlin thought that he'd never come to the end of the old man's wisdom, and would often sit and talk, learning more about healing, magic, and the druids as he did so. Merlin had found himself taking on more and more of the Physician's duties as his own skills in medicine grew. His fondness and respect for his guardian expanded to include care and concern for his wellbeing.
It was many months since Merlin had returned this late, and he was taking care not to disturb the sleep of his beloved mentor. Juggling his purse in one hand, Merlin closed the door softly, tugging to check that the latch had engaged. Walking carefully in his soft-soled shoes, he headed across the chamber, noticing on the way that Gaius had a pot simmering on the stove. Deviating course, Merlin inhaled deeply through his nose, identifying his favourite breakfast stew. A pleased grunt, and he resumed direction to his bed chamber. In the darkness he failed to see a three-legged stool placed in front of the fireplace, and, tangling his feet in it, fell with an enormous clatter.
A soft curse, and Merlin lay still on the floor, taking inventory of his bruises. There appeared to be only minor damage, and he lay quietly to see if Gaius had awakened. Several long moments later, and Merlin decided that Gaius must be sleeping deeply indeed, as he heard no disparaging comments on his clumsiness flung his way from the other man's bed.
Stumbling to his feet, feeling a little worse for wear from both the fall and the few pots of ale he'd consumed, Merlin continued on into his room. So intent on reaching his bed was he that he failed to notice two important facts.
One: Gaius wasn't in his bed. He was laying on the floor, just now beginning to regain consciousness from a blow to the head which had left him bleeding behind the left ear.
Two: there was a strange wooden box with ornate carving partially hidden beneath his bed. The top was open, and resting against the box, and an odd, dank smell filled the small chamber.
Falling face-first onto his bed, Merlin placed the full coin-pouch on his stand, and began to sink into sleep. He could never relate, later, what it was that alerted him. It could have been the bizarre squelching hiss as the creature abandoned it's place in the box. It could have been a sudden increase in the odd rotting-water smell that pervaded the room. Or it could have been a sub-conscious response of his magic, signalling him that danger was near. Most likely it was a combination of all three.
Whatever the cause, Merlin found himself suddenly sitting in the middle of his bed, hyper-alert, waiting for…he knew not what.
A dark blur, and a large rubbery something propelled itself through the air, and clamped over his face. Instinctively Merlin grabbed the animal, trying to thrust it away from himself. Calling on his magic, he willed it away in panic. It had sealed itself over mouth, nose, ears and eyes, and he couldn't breathe. He could hear and feel his heart pounding, as it fought to pump blood around his stressed body.
Worse than that, he could feel an unexpected heat on his face, despite the clammy sliminess of the thing. Four spots of searing heat, as tendrils from the creature began infiltrating eyes, nose and mouth. Panicking, kicking and struggling, Merlin rolled from his bed onto the floor, perhaps reaching for his Sidhe staff under the bed, perhaps just hoping that the jolt might knock the creature from him, as the four points of heat increased to blinding pain. Lungs screaming for air, terror pounding through his body, Merlin fought.
Somehow, he detached the creature and flung it, with everything in him, against the wall away from him. Sobbing in a great breath Merlin half raised up against the wall, trying to identify what it was that had attacked him. Readying his magic, he braced himself for the next onslaught, trying to ignore the residual pain and tingling in his face.
The creature appeared stunned, resting in the corner several feet away. On examination, it appeared to be a cross between a giant slug and an eel. No discernible head or tail, it appeared to be rallying. It was almost as if it could sense him. Raising his hand in front, Merlin was focused entirely on the 'sleel' (as he'd dubbed it) and was still shocked with the speed with which it launched itself once more into the air, un-erringly heading for him once more.
'Thwak!' the sleel connected with a metallic object, which had suddenly appeared in it's pathway through the air. It was the fire-shovel, wielded by a groggy Gaius. The sleel landed on Merlin's coverlet, and Gaius followed the first whack with several more, until the creature shuddered, and moved no more.
Gaius crawled to Merlin, oblivious to the bleeding cut on his forehead, concerned only for his ward. "Merlin!"
Merlin was groggy, leaning against the wall. His face appeared oddly swollen, and he was obviously having trouble focusing his eyes. "Gaius. Your head." he fingered the cut oh the physician's face, "You should get that seen to." Merlin was peripherally aware that his co-ordination was off, that he was unable to command his hand to move where he willed it, and that his speech was slurred. 'Head injury' He silently catalogued, before losing consciousness.
Some time later Merlin came back to himself. He was laying supine on his bed, and Gaius was wiping his face with a cloth soaked in a herbal wash often used to help reduce bruising and swelling.
Seeing his ward's eyes open, Gaius uttered a relieved and joyful "Merlin!"
"What happened?" Merlin rasped. "What was that thing?"
"Morgana's work, that's for sure." Was Gaius' succinct answer.
Nodding, Merlin accepted the likely truth of the statement, before Gaius continued on.
"Mordred would have told her of your powers by now Merlin. It was only a matter of time before she struck out." Comforting now, the old man added "We can only be grateful that she failed."
Getting to his feet, Gaius moved away from the bed, collecting the bowl and cloth as he went to leave. Merlin slowly moved his head on the pillow, conscious of aching all over, a dull headache, and a foul taste in his mouth. Smacking his lips, he looked towards the cup of water set on the stand beside his bed, yearning for a cleansing sip of fresh water.
Extending his arm towards the cup, he realised it was just out of reach. Not wanting to aggravate his headache, he called up his magic, and uttered the spell 'Strangath' to summon it to him. It took Merlin a second or two to realise that nothing had happened; the warm feeling of power that flooded him when using his magic was missing. Becoming uneasy, he repeated the spell with more force, commanding the cup to move. 'Strangath!'
Fear and dread rose inside him, adding nausea to his other discomforts. Cold sweat slicking his face, Merlin again uttered the spell. Nothing. Dread increased tenfold: there was no magic! His heart pounding as if he once more wrestled with the sleel, Merlin strained every millimetre of himself, feeling for the comforting glow of his power. It was always there, like a background hum. Always ready to respond to his will. Until now.
Controlling his panic as best he could, Merlin called to his mentor. "Gaius!" tears gathered, and he did his best not to shed them. Voice shaking, he sobbed out "I don't think she failed."
Alarmed, more by Merlin's demeanour than his words, Gaius moved swiftly back to the bedside. Quietly he inquired "Whatever do you mean?" as he leaned over the distressed young man.
Merlin rolled his head back to face Gaius, and the tears poised in his eyes fell, and dribbled down his face into his hair. He didn't want to utter the words; to say them would make it all too real. Maybe if he didn't say it, then it wouldn't be true. But Merlin couldn't lie to Gaius, the person he'd always revealed his troubles to.
Sobbing quietly, Merlin forced out the words in little more than a whisper. "I've lost my magic." Pain, physical and emotional filled his body, as the suddenly small room was filled with the sound of his gasping breaths.
Gaius reeled back, unsure what to say. This was something far beyond his power to remedy, and he didn't know what words to utter to bring comfort to Merlin
The thought of Emrys without magic was inconceivable.