So here's the second chapter! It takes place during 5x05, The Disir - I know, it's a big jump, but I wanted to get this idea out of my head. The scenes (obviously) wont' be in chronological order, so any new ideas are welcome, but I have quite a few of my own as well.
Thanks to everyone who is following or favourited and special thanks to the following people for reviwing.
obessedfan101, Paul, Petaldawn, lilyflower1345, iceecream456, readernurse, 2whitie, ladopa, photo100, azuredragonsleeps and Kalia of Camelot (even though the last one is a freak! Jks, she's awesome, read her stories, they are good!)
In answer to your disbelief Paul, yes, yes you are. I forgot about that and am not going to rewrite the whole thing. Good spotting though, but I blame plot convenience. I love that thing!
Disclaimer: I do not own Merlin or any of the characters.
Arthur sat by the fire, lost deep in thought as he watched the flames flicker and turned the gold medallion given to him by the sorcerer over in his hands. Osgar's words troubled him, he had to admit. Surely they were simply the ramblings of a mad sorcerer? Somehow he could not believe that, not completely at least.
Arthur turned, smiling as he saw Mordred appear, carrying an armload of firewood. They had all gone off to collect wood – excluding Gwaine and Elyan who were still resting from the attack – and Arthur had returned first, allowing him to dwell on his thoughts.
"Yes Mordred?" Arthur liked the boy; he had the makings of a fine knight. But Arthur also felt a strange fondness towards him, as though Mordred was the younger brother he'd never had.
"I was just wondering if I could have permission to collect some water from the stream," Mordred said politely, "I'm all out." For emphasis he gestured with his empty water bottle.
"Of course," Arthur said, surprised that the boy felt the need to ask, "Whatever you want."
Smiling, Mordred bowed his head and ducked away through the branches, leaving Arthur to resume his brooding. He could not do so for long however, as Gwaine decided at that point to wake. He had been conscious before, but he kept falling asleep. According to him, this was due to his 'injuries', but personally, Arthur thought he was just trying to get out of doing work.
"Where's Mordred going?" The man asked, looking after the retreating boy, "I thought you were staying at the camp once you'd returned?"
"We are," Arthur replied, still staring at the coin, "He went to refill his water bottle."
Oddly, Gwaine looked surprised at this fact, frowning at the fire as though deep in thought, but did not speak. Eventually Arthur became irritated by his mysterious confusion.
"What is it?" he asked.
"Well, after you guys had left before," Gwaine said with unusual seriousness, "I was still awake and I'm sure I saw Mordred emptying his water bottle. He was acting odd, like he didn't want to be seen though. Kept looking over his shoulder."
Arthur sat up straight, staring at Gwaine.
"Why on earth would he do that?"
Gwaine looked at the fire, brow furrowed.
"I don't know…Unless he wanted a reason to leave. Why he would want that, I don't know."
Arthur stared at the knight for a moment, before standing up and pulling out his sword. Gwaine struggled to his feet as well, wincing.
"Where are you going?" He questioned as Arthur strode through the trees.
"To find Mordred," Arthur replied, pushing branches out of the way, "I'm sure it's nothing but I don't want him to get into any trouble. Stay here while I'm away, don't want you getting even more hurt.
Unsurprisingly, Gwaine did not listen but merely followed Arthur through the undergrowth, stumbling as he did so.
"Nice try Princess," he said, grinning, "But if there's any trouble I'm going to be there, and nothing you say can stop me."
Rolling his eyes, Arthur didn't protest; Mordred was getting further away by the second, and if Gwaine wanted to injure himself further, that wasn't Arthur's problem.
After a few minutes of following Mordred's trail, they caught up with the boy, who was pushing past some branches into a small clearing. The place where Osgar had died, Arthur noted. He himself was pleased they had found the boy, partly due to the fact that Gwaine had finally shut up so they wouldn't get spotted. The pair of them quietly followed Mordred, making sure to stay hidden.
A nudge from Gwaine caused Arthur to stumble and glare at the man, who rolled his eyes and gestured towards the clearing. Arthur followed his gaze and felt his eyebrows rise in surprise when his eyes fell upon Merlin, placing stones on a small pile the boy had clearly made himself.
Arthur and Gwaine exchanged a look. That looked like a grave, but the only person who had died was the sorcerer…Surely it could not be for him. Could it?
Merlin had his back to all three men, but Mordred made no move to hide his presence, and Merlin turned quickly, causing Arthur and Gwaine to duck behind a small but squat tree which allowed them to peer through its branches and observe the scene playing out in front of them.
Merlin had relaxed slightly upon seeing who was approaching him, but he wore a slightly guarded expression Arthur often saw him wear these days around Mordred. For some reason, Merlin did not seem to completely trust the boy, which was completely ridiculous in Arthur's eyes. Mordred had saved his life, yet still Merlin was wary of him?
However, it seemed the feeling was at least slightly mutual, for when Mordred spoke his tone was cautious, but not quite distrustful.
"What would the King say?" Arthur gave a start upon hearing himself mentioned, "Sorcerers are not permitted marked graves."
Arthur saw Gwaine stiffen, and knew he had done the same. So it was a grave for the sorcerer! What was Merlin doing? That man had killed one of Arthur's knights, one of his friends! He had hurt Gwaine and Elyan! He didn't deserve a grave.
He saw his confusion mirrored in Gwaine's expression, but then a thought occurred to him. Mordred did not seem confused, or even surprised by this turn of events. It was though he had expected it. Not only that, maybe it was Arthur's imagination, but Mordred sounded almost bitter, and Arthur could not fathom why at all.
The boy in question had walked towards Merlin, whose face, upon hearing Mordred's words, had morphed into an expression of slight sadness. He turned his back on Mordred, towards the forbidden grave and placed a final stone upon it before standing up and facing the young knight, that odd wariness still evident upon his face. The boy clearly expected to be rebuked, and frankly, Arthur could not see why he should not be. What he was doing was against the law. But, he supposed, Merlin was a bit odd that way. He probably couldn't bear to see anyone go without a proper burial, not even a sorcerer.
However, Mordred's next words confused him.
"It's alright Merlin. I would have done the same."
Arthur and Gwaine exchanged a glance. They would have to have words with both boys afterwards; they had to understand that some people did not deserve respect, of any kind. Sorcerers who had hurt people were included in this group.
Merlin was staring at Mordred with a sort of relieved confusion. Understandable really, considering that most people would have yelled at him and threatened to tell the king. But Mordred was too like Merlin; they were both so innocent and naïve.
Little did he know that Mordred's next words, spoken so seriously, would change that opinion forever.
"He was one of us after all."
Arthur's mind froze as he processed those words. He was one of us. Surely that couldn't mean…Mordred couldn't be implying that he and Merlin were…
Arthur glanced over at Gwaine, who was wearing a look similar to how Arthur felt. Confusion and denial were painted on his face, staring at his friends as though transfixed.
Back in the clearing, Merlin did nothing to deny or even question Mordred's words, which caused Arthur's heart to sink to his stomach. If anything, a look of understanding crossed his manservant's face as he and Mordred turned to stare down at the last remaining mark of the sorcerer.
Merlin looked round at Mordred, his mouth opening as though he wanted to reassure the boy but did not know how. Why Mordred would need reassuring, Arthur did not want to think about. However, the traitorous thoughts kept flitting through his mind, and he shook his head in denial, just as Merlin found the words to speak.
"It won't always be like this," He said quietly, as Mordred continued to stare sadly down at the stones, "One day we will live in freedom again."
If Arthur's heart had dropped before, it now fell out of his body at Merlin's words. There was only one group of people who his servant could be talking about. And he had included himself in with them. There was no denying it now. Merlin and Mordred, two of his companions – his friends! – were sorcerers.
They had magic.
Betrayed rage filled him as he made to move out of his hiding spot. They had deceived him! They must be working together to overthrow him, Merlin's words had practically confirmed that! Maybe they had been working for Osgar; that would explain the grave they made. Arthur thought back to his original thought about why Merlin had done it and almost laughed. They weren't innocent at all! They were sorcerers – cunning, corrupted and devious.
They were evil.
But before Arthur could confront the two men, a hand was placed on his arm, restraining him. He looked up to see Gwaine give him a warning look, shaking his head. The man looked hurt, betrayed and angry, and Arthur was sure he looked the same. He glared at Gwaine, but the knight simply shook his head and mouthed 'listen', before his hand retreated and he resumed staring at the two sorcerers speak. Arthur considered continuing into the clearing, but eventually decided to stay put; he could not deny the hurt he felt at his friend's betrayal, and he desperately wanted to hear he was mistaken. A small part of himself clung to that hope and forced him to stay silent.
Mordred had looked up at the older boy, his eyes glistening with unshed tears. He met Merlin's eyes with disbelief, as though what he was saying was impossible. Despite himself, Arthur felt a twinge of pity for the boy. Now that he thought about it, it couldn't be nice to have to hide all the time. He shook himself mentally. They had chosen this. It was their fault.
Slowly, Mordred's sceptic expression faded, as he stared at Merlin, a younger brother looking up to his elder for comfort.
"You really believe that." It was not a question, but Merlin answered anyway.
Mordred lowered his head and Merlin also returned his gaze to the sorcerer's grave. Arthur glanced at Gwaine, but before he could speak Mordred had raised his eyes once more.
"Until then," He said smiling bitterly, "We go unmarked in death as in life."
Merlin looked up and the two shared a look of understanding that Arthur had never seen between them before. Well, he thought angrily, they were very good at hiding their mutual talent. There was much Arthur apparently did not know about them.
Mordred smiled slightly, and turned away, walking away, no doubt to fill up his water bottle so no one would be suspicious. Too late for that.
Arthur felt a tugging on his arm and looked down to see Gwaine attempting to pull him away from the clearing. Arthur stared at him incredulously – did he really believe he would not confront Merlin? – but Gwaine glanced at Merlin then lowered his voice.
"We need to discuss this." He said quietly, and Arthur could see the hurt in his eyes at Merlin's betrayal, "Back at camp."
Arthur hesitated, but then nodded. They needed to talk to the other knights before Merlin and Mordred returned.
As quietly as they could, the two men made their way through the trees to the camp. Thankfully, Mordred was the only knight not yet returned, but they probably didn't have long.
Elyan looked round when he heard them.
"There you are," he said, sitting up from his position lying down on the floor, "I woke up and no one was here! Then Percival turned up and said you were collecting wood. But where were you Gwaine? I'd have thought you'd be the last to get up and work if you didn't have to."
Leon and Percival laughed, but Arthur and Gwaine exchanged a worried look. Arthur hated to spoil their good mood, but it had to be said.
Seeing the look they shared, Leon's smile slipped off his face.
"Sire?" He asked, hand automatically going to the hilt of his sword, "Is something wrong?"
Percival and Elyan were looking serious too, finally taking in Arthur and Gwaine's expressions. Arthur glanced at Gwaine again who sighed.
"We were following Mordred," He started, "he was acting suspicious and we just wanted to make sure it was nothing." He paused here and looked at Arthur nervously.
"He-he went to the clearing where Osgar died," Leon, Elyan and Percival looked surprised at this; they clearly had been suspecting something else, "Merlin was there."
He became silent again, the betrayed look returning to his eyes. Elyan and Percival exchanged a confused look.
"Right," said Elyan slowly, "Why is this bad?"
Gwaine took a deep breath but Arthur beat him to it.
"He was making a marked grave for Osgar, "He said, trying to ignore the widening of the other knight's eyes, "Mordred spoke to him. Said he understood, and he would have done the same. We thought they were just being kind, but then…"
Arthur closed his eyes tight as the scene replayed itself behind his closed lids. He opened them to see Leon, Elyan and Percival staring at him with worry. He shook his head and continued.
"Mordred said 'he was one of us after all'." Arthur said, his voice gaining a bitter tone, "They're sorcerers. Merlin practically confirmed it. They have magic."
Arthur heard the shocked gasps coming from Leon, Elyan and Percival, but before any of them could speak, a twig snapped behind them. As one, they spun around to see a horrified Mordred standing, as though rooted to the ground, a few metres away.
There was silence for a moment as they all stared at him, each face showing betrayal and hurt. Then Mordred stumbled backwards and the knights sprang into action.
Percival and Leon grabbed Mordred by the forearms and pulled him forward, ignoring his struggles to get away, to stand before Arthur.
Arthur looked down at the boy he had grown so fond of, who now looked so terrified as he looked up at him. He didn't look evil in the slightest.
"Arthur…" Mordred said imploringly, staring up at him. Arthur met his gaze levelly.
"You are a sorcerer?" he asked, trying to keep his voice steady. Mordred face morphed into and expression of distress, before his eyes dropped to the ground.
"I have magic." He said quietly, staring at the ground at Arthur's feet, who felt as though the ground had dropped out from beneath him. He knew it was true, but it was horrible to hear it said aloud, denying him of that one last hope. He saw Percival and Leon's arms tighten on the boy's. And if Mordred was a sorcerer, then that meant that Merlin…
"Why did you come to Camelot?" Arthur questioned, mostly to force those unwanted thoughts out of his mind. He would deal with that later, but he knew there would be a lot more shouting once he allowed the painful ball of ever growing hurt and anger to escape out of him.
Mordred did not answer at once, his eyes glazed over, as though he wasn't fully paying attention. Then he focussed on Arthur again.
"You offered," he said incredulously, looking up at the king, "why would I deny it?"
"He meant your real reason," Gwaine said, stepping forward for the first time. His eyes were hard and full of pain "You must have one."
Mordred was shaking his head in denial.
"I have no other reason, I'm not evil Arthur." The boy dared to raise his eyes to Arthur's once more, meeting his blank gaze, "I swear I mean you no harm."
As hard as he tried, Arthur couldn't stop a crack from forming in his calm façade.
"Why should I believe you," he spoke coldly, his voice shaking with anger, "All magic has ever done to me is harm. It has killed my mother, my father and many of my friends and people! And you expect me to believe you? You're a sorcerer!" His voice had risen to a shout by the end, his hands clenched into fists at his. It was all he could do to stop them from going to his sword.
Mordred was staring at him in anguish and despair, and for some reason kept glancing over his shoulder with desperation. Arthur turned away from him and marched away, one hand going to his hair in anger. He stood, trying to calm himself by taking deep breaths, but Gwaine's next words caused the air to freeze in his throat.
"What about Merlin?" He said quietly, clearly not wanting to know the answer, but needing it all the same, "Does he have magic too?"
It seemed the forest fell silent in anticipation. Arthur stood, motionless, awaiting Mordred's answer. He could almost hear the boy's thoughts whirring as he stayed silent. Arthur turned his head slightly, and saw Mordred's expression. It was one of turmoil and desperation, but his mouth stayed determinately sealed.
Rage boiled up inside Arthur again, and he spun around and strode to Mordred, unsheathing his sword as he did so. Gwaine made to step forward, but Elyan placed a hand on his chest, restraining him. Arthur marched to the scared boy, hating himself, and held the sword to his throat.
"It's a simple question Mordred," he growled as the boy lent backwards away from the sword, but Percival and Leon held him still, "Does Merlin have magic? Don't make me force you to answer."
Mordred's eyes flickered around nervously, but then he looked straight at Arthur, his eyes determined, his jaw set. Arthur glared at the boy for a moment, before glancing at Leon, who nodded and together he and Percival forced Mordred to his knees.
Before Arthur could speak though, a voice sounded through the trees. A very familiar voice.
"Let him go Arthur"
Merlin crouched by Osgar's makeshift grave, contemplating what Mordred had said. He still couldn't trust the boy, however much he wished he could, but he had felt the need to comfort him; they were the same after all, no matter what the dragon said.
Merlin started as Mordred's voice echoed throughout his skull. He stood up, looking around for any danger, but seeing none.
"Merlin!" It was more urgent this time, pleading almost.
"Mordred?" Merlin thought back tentatively. Most of the time he tried to ignore Mordred when he spoke to him in his mind, but he sounded desperate.
"They know Merlin! They know about us!"
Merlin felt his blood run cold. Surely Mordred could not mean Arthur had found out about their magic. He couldn't!
"Who knows about what? What are you talking about?" Merlin thought back quickly, starting to head back towards the camp, moving quietly through the woods. Well, quietly for him anyway.
"The knights!" Mordred sounded positively panicked, confirming Merlin's worst fears, "Arthur! They followed me and heard out conversation! They know we have magic!"
Merlin stopped suddenly, mind freezing with horror. They know we have magic. Arthur knew. Arthur knew he had betrayed him. Oh God, what was he going to do!
"Merlin?" Mordred thought again, breaking Merlin from the shocked trance he was in, "Sorry, but they're questioning me right now, but you need to come here. Arthur will listen to you, he will believe you. I don't think they believe I don't plan to kill Arthur and take over Camelot!"
Merlin had to prevent himself from asking 'Well don't you?' and concentrated on finding his way to the camp as quietly as possible.
"Don't worry," He thought reassuringly, "I'm coming. Be warned though, this won't be pretty."
"Not sure it could get much worse…" Mordred thought, "He's holding a sword to my throat. He wants to know if you have magic too."
Merlin drew in a sharp breath. There was no getting out of this one. He would have to confess and hope for the best.
He had reached the edge of the clearing in which they had set up camp now. He could see Leon and Percival holding Mordred, who was leaning away from the sword Arthur held to his throat. Gwaine was looking angry and betrayed, and Elyan looked worried and confused.
Just then Arthur's voice, full of anger, carried across to where Merlin stood.
"It's a simple enough question Mordred. Does Merlin have magic? Don't make me force you to answer."
Mordred didn't answer, and Merlin felt a stab of guilt as he realised that the boy wouldn't betray him. And Merlin still couldn't trust him.
Mordred was now being forced to his knees. Merlin had to interfere. Steeling himself for the shouting and fury that was sure to come, he stepped forwards.
"Let him go Arthur."
Arthur spun round at the sound of Merlin's voice, the owner of which had appeared on the edge of the clearing, looking worried and resigned.
Merlin took a breath and briefly closed his eyes, before looking back up at his friend.
"I do," he said, his voice breaking slightly, "I'm sorry. I have magic."
Those three words and Arthur's world collapsed around him. His sword dropped out of his hand and fell to the forest floor which a dull thump. Out of the corner of his eye he saw Gwaine stagger backwards, looking betrayed.
Merlin was still staring at Arthur with a remorseful expression, but his eyes were scared. Of him, Arthur realised.
"Arthur," Merlin said stepping forwards, hand stretching out towards his master. Arthur stepped backwards away from him, a stab of guilt shooting through him at the hurt in Merlin's eyes as his hand dropped. He shook himself. He shouldn't feel guilty. Merlin was a sorcerer. One who had lied to him.
"Why?" He tried to speak normally, but it came out as a croak. Merlin flinched at his tone.
"I didn't choose it Arthur. I swear to you, I was born with it, and I never, ever would try to harm you or Camelot."
Arthur stared at him. He knew he should be screaming, raging at Merlin, but somehow his anger had been overwhelmed by shock and betrayal.
"You have magic." He stated, staring his friend in the eye, trying to detect some form of the evil, of the cunning, that he had seen in other sorcerers, "Why should I believe you?"
Merlin looked at him miserably.
"Because I am your friend?" he asked, "Because I have never done anything to make you not believe me? Arthur, please, think back. Remember everything we've been through. It wouldn't make sense for me to be evil, I could have just let you die! "
Merlin stepped forwards towards Arthur who, this time, did not step back. Out of the corner of his eye Arthur saw Leon shift warily, still with one hand on Mordred's shoulder, the owner of which was watching the scene nervously.
Arthur looked away from his magical servant, thinking hard. Eventually he turned his back on Merlin, confused and distressed.
"Leave me." He said, not looking at his friend. Merlin's face fell to one of hurt and dismay.
"Arthur…" He started, but Arthur interrupted him.
"No, Merlin. Just…go. I need to think about what I'm going to do." The unspoken 'with you' hung in the air between the,.
Merlin stood perfectly still for a moment before turning and heading off in the direction of the stream. No one stopped him. After a few seconds of silence, Mordred slowly followed, Leon and Percival not bothering to stop him; they were all watching Arthur.
Eventually, Leon spoke up.
"Sire?" He asked, quietly, stepping toward the motionless king, "We must keep an eye on them. If they are evil, they cannot be allowed to escape."
Arthur raised his head to look at the knight blankly. He could not process the words right now, he had too much to think about. Luckily, Gwaine spoke for him.
"I'll follow them," He said, his face white and tired, "Make sure they don't run off."
It crossed Arthur's mind that maybe Gwaine had more in mind than just following them – he had been one of Merlin's closest friend's after all – and the thought that he might talk to Merlin jarred him into action. He could not let them talk to him. Not until he had thought this through.
"No," he said, and Gwaine stopped in the process of leaving, surprised, "There is nothing around us for miles. We would be able to track them if they tried to leave." No one pointed out that as they were sorcerers they could probably hide their tracks easily. No one wanted to think about it.
Elyan staggered to a log and sat down, and soon Percival joined him. Leon stood staring at Arthur for a moment, before walking over to the fire and crouching by it. Gwaine just stood there. Still no one spoke.
"Do you really think he's evil?" Surprisingly, it was Percival who broke the silence, his quiet question directed towards Arthur, who turned his head slightly, "He's never shown any sign of it."
"Sorcerers bear no mark." Arthur said shortly, but did not speak further. They lapsed into silence once more, but Arthur couldn't stand it.
"He lied to me." The other knights turned towards their king as he spoke, his eyes clenched tightly shut, "I trusted him. And he betrayed me."
Elyan and Percival exchanged a glance.
"Sire," Elyan started cautiously, as though expecting to be stopped, "If I may, Merlin has never shown any desire to do anything but prevent you from coming to harm. Maybe he is not evil. Maybe," he paused, looking nervous, "Maybe he uses his magic for good."
Arthur did not speak, but a spark of hope rekindled in his chest. He tried to quell it, but the thought remained. Maybe the Old Ways were not so evil, maybe it was the people themselves who were the cause of the trouble. Although sorcery and magic had caused him much pain and suffering, there had been a few cases where it had been used to save him, in some unexplainable way. And maybe more times than he realised, if Merlin was sincere.
Gwaine moved closer to Arthur for the first time.
"It's Merlin, Arthur," he said, resting a hand on his shoulder, " he may have ma-magic," his voice faltered on the word and his eyes once again flashed with hurt, "but he's still Merlin. You're not upset that he has magic. You're upset he lied to you. And you need to talk to him about it. He's your friend."
Arthur stared at the usually laughing knight and realised he was right. Magic might not always be evil; if it had been anyone other than a close friend he would not have been so angry. He'd saved that woman after all. But he had been angry at Mordred for betraying him, who he had only known for a short time. He had known Merlin for years, told him everything, and never once had the man thought to reveal his secret.
Without warning, Arthur turned and strode out of the clearing in the direction that Merlin had been heading, causing Leon to rise to his feet in concern.
"Sire?" he asked worriedly, making as if to follow him, "Where are you going?"
Arthur, paused and looked over his shoulder, his eyes set.
"To find some answers." He said, before turning back to the trees ahead of him, leaving three very concerned knights in his wake.
Arthur stomped through the trees, not bothering to stay quiet and thinking hard. He had always been taught that magic was evil and that those who practised it were likewise. Magic had killed his mother, his father, and nearly him more times than he could count. It had corrupted his sister, who now wanted to kill him.
But this was Merlin!
Merlin, who, despite everything, had stuck with him through thick and thin. Merlin, who had been there for him when his father died. Merlin, who had saved his life countless times.
He couldn't be evil.
Hearing voices up ahead, he slowed, moving more stealthily through the trees.
"I'm sorry." That was Mordred, and with a start Arthur remembered that he too had magic. He had been distracted by Merlin's revelation but now he started to wonder. How many people had been hiding magic under his nose? Sorcerers really did bear no sign after all.
"It's not your fault." Arthur winced involuntarily at how dejected Merlin sounded, as though he had lost something close to him, "He would have found out eventually."
"But not like this!" Mordred argued, moving into Arthur's line of sight. Shifting slightly, he saw Merlin sitting miserably on a log near the stream, arms resting on his knees.
Mordred sat down next to him, looking at him seriously.
"He does not know how much you have done for him Emrys. I don't even know how many times you've saved his life, although I can guess it's quite a high number."
Merlin did not acknowledge or deny these claims, and in his hiding place Arthur stood very still. How many times had Merlin saved him? Surely it couldn't be that many? And why did Mordred call Merlin Emrys?
Merlin had still not responded to Mordred's words, but the knight continued speaking.
"Look, I know you don't trust me Emrys. Maybe you even fear me, I don't know." At this, Merlin looked up at the young knight, a blank expression on his face, "But I can see that you are the only one who can persuade Arthur that magic is not evil. You, and no one else. Please Emrys, talk to him. If not for yourself, do it for all those innocent magic users out there who have to hide their gifts. For all those who have suffered because magic was not allowed to save them."
Arthur listened to Mordred's words with a growing sense of guilt. Had those innocents with magic really suffered that much? In his mind's eye, he saw that old woman who had been accused of magic and nearly burnt at the stake. He had saved her because he looked at her and saw not a wicked witch, but an old woman who had wanted to learn a new skill, to be good at something and be special. Could he punish someone for wanting that?
Merlin was watching the water flow by again, seemingly thinking over Mordred's words, who was waiting for a reaction. When one did not come, the boy's shoulders drooped and he stood up, but was stopped by Merlin's voice.
"Thank you," he said quietly, "And you are right. Arthur is a good man, I just hope he gives me the chance to explain everything." He laughed softly, "Come to think of it, I can't wait till that conversation. His face will be hilarious when I tell him just how many times I've saved his life."
Arthur scowled as the two men chuckled at his expense, but soon Merlin's expression grew sombre again.
"I'm sorry," he said, watching Mordred closely, "I hope that one day we can be friends, I know you are a good person." Why did that sentence feel unfinished, as though Merlin knew more than he was letting on.
As Mordred smiled and walked away, Arthur felt it was time to reveal himself. Taking a breath, he strode out towards his servant, who froze, clearly hearing someone behind him. He turned, and for a moment they both stared awkwardly at another, before Merlin turned back to the stream.
Arthur hesitated, then went to sit down beside him, and for a few seconds there was silence.
"I wanted to tell you." Arthur turned to look at Merlin, who was speaking to the water flowing past. "But there never seemed like a good time."
Arthur snorted slightly, but the humour soon vanished, and Merlin looked up at him, meeting his eyes.
"I swear Arthur, I only ever use it for you. Only for you."
Arthur searched the face he knew so well, and saw only plain honesty within.
"Why do you do it?" He asked, confused. Even though he would never admit it, they were friends now. But why would Merlin have saved his life that first time, pulling him out of the way of a dagger, if he knew Arthur would have him killed if he knew his secret?
Merlin looked away again, almost as though he was wondering himself.
"I could go on for a long time about destiny," He said eventually, "About how I have to protect you for Albion and the future I believe you will build," Arthur wasn't entirely sure what he was talking about, but didn't interrupt, "But to be honest, in the beginning I saved you from that dagger because it was the right thing to do. I couldn't let you die when I had the power to stop it. From then on," He paused, looking unsure, "I don't know when it stopped being that, but at some point, I began saving you because you were my friend and I didn't want you to die." Here he met Arthur's eyes, a sad smile on his face.
Arthur stared incredulously at the man in front of him. He had come to Camelot, saved the son of a man who would have him dead, and then stood in the shadows protecting him, because it was the right thing to do? Was he insane? Maybe he really did have a mental disease…
But no, Arthur thought, he didn't. He was just being Merlin. Because, magic or not, Merlin would always be Merlin.
"Merlin," He started cautiously, watching the other man for a reaction, "You have magic. But," He added hastily as Merlin's expression fell, "you were willing to act as a servant all this time, never seeking power or glory. Only you would do that Merlin."
Merlin stared at him for a second, then laughed an incredulous laugh, and Arthur smiled back.
"So am I going to be executed?" Merlin asked, at least partly seriously. Arthur shook his head.
"No, good servants are hard to come by," he said, remembering that time long ago, when he had said that line before. Merlin had been trying to sacrifice his life for him then. "Especially ones who follow me into battle, seemingly," he emphasised the word, "unarmed," Merlin grinned sheepishly.
"So what are your views on magic now," he asked curiously, "I know how much pain it has caused you."
Arthur was silent for a moment. It was true, magic had caused him much hurt, but now that he thought about it, most of those 'evil sorcerers' had been out for revenge for their own pain. But Arthur could not change overnight, so he responded the only way he could.
"Merlin, I've learnt a lot in the past half an hour, but there's one thing I know for certain," He paused as Merlin looked at him curiously.
"What?" Merlin asked, and Arthur grinned.
"Magic or not, you're still an idiot."
I wasn't sure if I got their reactions quite right in this, I think Arthur was a but too angry at Mordred, but oh well! Tell me what you think in a review, constructive criticism is welcome. Thanks for reading!