Disclaimer: I do not own the Merlin series. Some of the content used is also not mine.

Chapter 3 The Mark of Nimueh

Gaius and Merlin are gathering supplies when they see a corpse in the street.

"Aren't you scared that you might catch whatever it is?" Merlin asks as Gaius goes in to examine the body.

"I'm the court physician, Merlin," Gaius explains. "This is part of my job. Most of the time there's nothing really to be scared of."

When they turn over corpse, it is white skinned and has appeared to have gone blind.

"You were saying?" Merlin asks.

Merlin and Gaius start to wheel the body over the castle drawbridge when Gwen approaches them with flowers.

"What are you doing?" she asks.

"Just moving something," Merlin replies. He notices the flowers. "Did someone get you flowers?

"Would you like one?" Gwen asks, picking out one. "A purple one. Purple suits you."

Merlin smiles and sticks the flower in his neckerchief.

When the body is in Gaius's chambers, they look at it with a magnifying glass.

"Do you think it could be some kind of plague?" Merlin asks.

"I fear that something like this could never come from nature," Gaius says.

"You think it's caused by magic?" Merlin asks.

"Merlin," Arthur's voice yells from outside the door.

"I'm on my way. Sorry I'm late," he apologizes.

"Don't worry," Arthur says. Merlin does not know how to take this. "I'm getting used to it."

Arthur then takes notice of the flower still in Merlin's neckerchief.

"And who bestowed you with that gift?" he asks, feeling a bit jealous for some reason.

"Oh, it was Gwen," Merlin replies, pulling it out.

"Tell Gaius my father wants to see him now," Arthur says, and walks away.

xxx

Arthur sees Merlin in the corridors with some herbs Gaius had told him to get.

"Where on Earth have you been all day?" he asks.

"Helping Gaius like your father ordered," Merlin says in shock.

"Oh… right. Go on, then," Arthur replies.

Gaius is heating a vial of liquid when Merlin enters the room.

"What are you doing?" Merlin asks.

"I'm examining the contents of that man's stomach. This is magic of the darkest kind," Gaius says.

"Why would someone use magic like that?" Merlin asks.

Before Gaius can answer, Arthur and guards burst in on them.

"Sorry Gaius, we're searching every room in town," Arthur says.

"We've nothing to hide. Go on, then. Search," Gaius replies.

"What's this room up here?" Arthur asks, pointing to Merlin's room.

"It's mine," Merlin answers.

"And what do you expect to find in there?" Gaius asks.

"I don't know. Maybe our Merlin is hiding something from us," Arthur says, giving Merlin a mischievous smile.

"Like what," Merlin asks.

Arthur just continues to smile and starts towards Merlin's room.

"What have you done with the book I have you," Gauis asks.

Merlin opens his mouth to answer, but Arthur calls, "Merlin, come here. Look what I found." Merlin swallows hard as he meets Arthur. "I found a place where you can put things. It's called a cupboard."

Merlin spots the book and quickly covers it with his bed sheet.

"What are you really looking for, Arthur?" he asks.

"Excuse me?" he wonders.

"You know perfectly well I don't have anything to hide," Merlin says.

They stare at each other are a moment before Arthur leaves.

"We're finished here," he tells his guards, and they exit the room.

"We must use the book to help," Merlin says. "If I have this legacy then what is it for? You keep telling me it's not for playing tricks.

"You want to practice magic when the King is hunting for sorcerers? Are you mad?" Gaius asks.

"But if I don't practice, then how will I get to be this great warlock?" Merlin wonders.

"Patience is a virtue, Merlin," Gaius says.

xxx

Gaius and Merlin are examining another corpse.

"What's different about this victim?" Gaius asks.

"She's a woman," Merlin says.

He had given up thinking at this point. He could save these people, but that would mean exposing himself.

"Sometimes I do wonder whether you're a magical talents were given to the right person. Anything else?" Gaius asks.

"She's a courtier," Merlin says. Gaius nods. "How does that help us?"

"It suggests that the disease is not spread by contact," Gaius asks. "What's the only thing they do share?

"Water?" Merlin asks, and Gaius smiles at him. "You think the disease is spread through water?

"Merlin, you're a prodigy," Gaius says

When Merlin returns from getting water, he finds that Gwen's father has fallen ill.

xxx

Merlin and Gaius had just seen Gwen being dragged to the dungeons.

"What have you done," Gaius yelled at Merlin as they got back to their chambers.

"What?" Merlin asks.

"I warned you," Gaius says.

"I couldn't let her father die knowing I could cure him. I'll cure everyone! No one will ever have to know it was magic," Merlin replies.

Gaius gives him a sad smile.

"It's too late! They think Gwen's a sorceress! They think she caused the disease! How are you going to prove that?" he asks.

Merlin stops for a moment, but then he leaves, Gaius after him He runs into the council chambers.

"It was me! It was me who used magic to cure Gwen's father," Merlin shouts out. Everyone just stares at him. Gaius finally reaches him. "Gwen is not the sorcerer. I am!"

"Merlin! Are you mad?" Gaius asks.

Merlin turns back to the council, his eyes finding Arthur's shocked ones.

"I cannot let her die for me. I place myself at your mercy," he says.

"He doesn't know what he's talking about," Gaius replies.

"I do," Merlin retorts back.

"Then arrest him," Uther orders.

Arthur quickly stands as two guards grab Merlin's arms.

"I can't allow this! This is madness! There's no way Merlin is a sorcerer," he says.

"He admitted it," Uther replies as Arthur makes his way beside Merlin.

Merlin did not know what Arthur was playing at, and he did not know if he wanted to.

"He saved my life, remember," Arthur asks. No one seems interested. "He's in love."

Merlin's eyes grow. He knew he was not going to like this.

"What?" he asks.

"With Gwen," Arthur says. Everyone smiles. He leans into Merlin's ear. "Just go with it."

"No way," Merlin replies.

"I saw yesterday with that flower she'd given you," Arthur retorts, squeezing Merlin's arm and goes to his ear again. "I'm trying to help you."

He did not want any help from Arthur only to be in his debt. It was enough that his destiny was to protect this prat. But at this moment with his arm around him... no!

"Perhaps she cast a spell on you," Uther suggests.

Arthur looks at his father with a worried look on his face. When they begin to laugh, so does Arthur.

"Merlin is a wonder, but the wonder is that he's such an idiot. There's no way he's a sorcerer," Arthur says.

Gaius stays as Arthur drags Merlin out of the room.

"If you ever do that to me again..." he begins.

"You didn't have to do anything, sire," Merlin says.

xxx

"He was right to do what he did. And, thankfully, he saved you from your own stupidity," Gaius tells Merlin later on in their chambers.

"Arthur isn't going to find what it is. He thinks he is so sharp! But even when I told him I was a wizard, he still couldn't see it," Merlin says. "Maybe I should go around wearing a pointy hat."

They share a small laugh.

"I don't think you'll find one big enough. If we're going to save Gwen, we have to find out what's contaminating the water," Gaius says. They start for the underground where the water is stored. "Take a sample."

Merlin gathers some water in a small bottle and they begin to leave until they hear something.

"What the hell was that?" Merlin asks.

Gaius grabs Merlin's arm and they leave.

"It was an Afanc," he says as they reenter the chambers. "A beast born of clay, and conjured up only by the most powerful sorcerer. Now we have to find a way to defeat it. But where?

Merlin does not say a word as he leaves.

"Hello?" he asks as he enters the Great Dragon's cave.

"The great warlock returns, as I knew he would," the dragon says.

"I need to know how to defeat an Afanc. Will you help me?" Merlin asks.

"Trust the elements that are at your command," the dragon says. "You cannot do this alone. You are but one side of a coin. Arthur is the other."

"I don't understand. Just tell me what it is I have to do," Merlin replies. The dragon starts to fly away. "No! Please, help me!"

"I have," the dragon says with a laugh.

xxx

Gaius enters the chambers to find Merlin frantically searches through books.

"Merlin, what are you doing?" he asks.

"Looking for a book on elements," Merlin says.

"The study of base elements is at the very heart of the scientific process," Gaius tells Merlin.

"But how would they help me kill the Afanc?" Merlin asks.

"Well, the Afanc is a creature made from earth and water. That's two of the four base elements. Well, perhaps the other two will destroy it. You want fire. Wind and fire. How did you find this out?" Gaius wonders.

"One of my powers," Merlin says.

"What else do your powers tell you?" Gaius asks.

"That I am only one side of a coin. The brighter side, obviously," Merlin replies with a laugh.

"And who's the other side?" Gaius asks.

"I think that might be Arthur," Merlin says. "We need him. I am to help him destroy the creature."

xxx

Merlin had convinced Arthur the face the creature, and they were now walking into the Square.

"You'd better be right about this, Merlin," Arthur says. "You should stay here."

"I'm coming with you," Merlin replies. "What? Scared I'll have to save your arse again?"

"Don't ever talk to me like again," Arthur threatens.

"Yes, sire," Merlin says.

Arthur is taken aback how quickly Merlin switched his tone of voice.

"There it is," Arthur yells.

Merlin quickly turns.

"What did it look like?" he asks.

"It's quick," Arthur says.

"I think it's gone this way," Merlin yells, seeing the shadow.

The Afanc comes into full view. Arthur starts swinging his sword.

"Get out of here," he yells to Merlin.

"Arthur, use the torch," Merlin says.

Arthur does so. Merlin casts a spell, increasing the flame and killing the creature.

"Arthur," Morgana yells as he and Merlin walk out.

"We're fine," he says, taking her in his arms.

"Yeah, Arthur was fantastic," Merlin tell her.

Morgana notices the look that the pair shares and then the surprising smile. Arthur had never smiled at his servants before.

"Yes, well, you can father that all is well," Arthur says after looking back at Morgana. "Merlin, make sure my bath is ready."

"Of course, sire," Merlin replies.

"Merlin. I wanted you to know, your secret's safe with me," Morgana tell Merlin when Arthur is out of hearing distance.

"My secret?" Merlin asks.

How could she how about his magic?

"Don't pretend. I saw it with my own eyes," Morgana says.

"You did?" Merlin asks.

"I understand why you don't anyone to know. I won't tell anyone. You don't mind me talking to you about it?" Morgana wonders.

"You have no idea how hard it is to keep this hidden," Merlin says.

"You can continue to deny it, but I think Arthur's a very lucky man," Morgana replies. Merlin's eyes grow. Morgana smiles and puts a finger to her lips. "It's our secret."

"Oh God," Merlin says with sigh.