A Master of Two Servants: Morgana uses the fomorroh to manipulate Arthur into hunting down and killing Emrys. Little do they know the man they are both searching for is much closer than they think … AU of 4x06, 'A Servant of Two Masters'.
Warnings: gore and violence. Spoilers up to and for 4x06, 'A Servant of Two Masters'.
Disclaimer: Merlin is not mine. It belongs to the BBC and Shine.
A Master of Two Servants
Arthur managed to enjoy Yule, but he couldn't bring himself to forget the fears that Leon's reassurance had pushed aside until his conversation with Merlin on the balcony at Oldridge Tower.
Merlin had spent most of Yule with Gaius and Hunith, though he and Arthur had spoken fleetingly. Neither had had a chance to get each other gifts. Camelot was not yet recovered enough for the time of festivity to follow the usual, merry order of things.
The day after Yule, however, saw Arthur in Merlin's company more than he had expected. Though he was previously arranged to spend the morning in bed with Guinevere, matters of state otherwise dealt with for the week, Merlin either hadn't been aware of this or had ignored it.
Still injured and obviously in pain, Merlin had saddled their horses at the most ridiculous time in the morning and told Arthur there was someone he needed to meet. Arthur had argued and complained, but reflected privately that perhaps it was sweet vengeance for the times he had dragged Merlin unwillingly out on hunting trips.
Guinevere had all but forced him to go, promising that she would still be here when he returned. So begrudgingly, he followed Merlin out of the Lower Town on his trusted stead, his curiosity growing with every leap his horse made.
When they reached the woods, they had slowed to a steadier pace, either because there wasn't far to travel or because Merlin, looking slightly unsteady on his horse, could not tolerate the speed.
"Where are we going?" Arthur asked curiously, glancing around the familiar woodland.
"To visit a friend of mine," Merlin replied absently.
On further inspection, Arthur not only noted that Merlin was trying to mask his pain, but also his unease. "What kind of friend?"
"Just… a friend."
"A magical friend?"
"That's why you're so nervous then?"
"Something like that," Merlin muttered. "If you're in a questioning mood, I should warn you that he will most likely answer you in riddles."
"Right," Arthur said, confused. "So far we have determined that this friend of yours is magical and talks in riddles. Does he have a name?"
"Anything else I should know?"
Merlin didn't reply, looking away with a distinctly more nervous look.
After a moment of silent reflection, Arthur demanded, "Kilgharrah? What kind of name is Kilgharrah?"
Merlin sighed, still looking away from Arthur. "Kilgharrah is the name of a dragon."
"The name of the dragon that you supposedly killed," Merlin added quietly, as though hoping Arthur wouldn't hear.
Arthur felt uneasy too. "Supposedly?"
"He's not dead," Merlin replied, casting an apologetic look in Arthur's direction. "After you were knocked unconscious, I allowed him to be free. In fact, I freed him in the first place."
"Were you intending to introduce me to a dragon without telling me this?" Arthur demanded.
Merlin flinched. "Yes."
"Well, change of plans," Arthur said, doing his best to contain his anger. "I'm sure there's a perfectly good explanation for this, which you are going to tell me in full, of course."
"Of course," Merlin said, chuckling nervously, but he said no more.
"Go on then," Arthur urged impatiently.
Merlin took a deep breath and began, "When I first arrived in Camelot, I heard a voice. I had no idea where it was coming from, but I knew it was somewhere in castle. One day, I followed it to the chamber underneath Camelot, where you father had the dragon imprisoned."
"That chamber was supposed to be inaccessible to everyone other than my father."
"I never had a problem getting to it," Merlin admitted. "The dragon told me that I had this great destiny to free magic. You can imagine that I didn't exactly believe him, especially when he told me you were 'the other half of the coin,' that you would be as influential as I in restoring magic to Camelot.
"Eventually, I came to understand that he was right. You weren't half as bad as I believed you to be when we first met, so I began protecting you from afar with my magic. I met others who said the same thing as the dragon and I decided that whether it was true or not, I would remain by your side.
"There came a day when I had to swear to him that if he helped me, I would set him free. Why I needed his help, I promise you, I will explain later. But for now, all you need to know is that I made a bargain with him. I suppose I had the choice of not letting him go, but I didn't think–I should have realized what would happen when I freed him.
"I'm sorry for setting him free, Arthur, but there is something you must understand. Balinor was my father."
Arthur felt a deep, clawing horror that he knew would be expressed in the look he gave Merlin.
"I inherited his abilities when he died," Merlin continued. "I am a Dragonlord. And Kilgharrah was the last of my kin. I knew what I had to do. I know how to kill a dragon… but I couldn't do it. I couldn't bear to be alone, to be the last of my kind.
"I rode out with you and I set him free, but I made him promise never to bother Camelot again. He answers to my command now. Even if he intended to harm Camelot, he would be unable.
"There's more," Merlin added guiltily. "When I discovered that there was a dragon egg still preserved, I couldn't stand by and watch you destroy it. I went to the tomb and found the egg. When I took it to Kilgharrah, he showed me how to hatch it. The other dragon, her name is Aithusa."
"There are two dragons?" Arthur demanded.
"I thought–I hoped perhaps someone would have told you."
"No, this is the first I've heard of this," Arthur said. "Two? Two flying, fire-breathing, carnivorous–and you're taking me to meet one? The one that tried to kill us nonetheless, not the little one?!"
"Oh, the little one could still kill you."
"That's really reassuring, Merlin!"
"Are you angry?"
"Of course I'm angry!" Arthur snapped. "You could have at least told me that Balinor was your father. I would have…" Arthur shook his head. "I still can't believe there are two dragons."
"We can turn around, if you want."
"You could have warned me before we left Camelot."
"I could have, but would you have come?"
Arthur sighed. "Probably not. You really want me to meet this Kilgharrah, don't you?"
"Despite everything, he is a friend," Merlin replied. "And I am a Dragonlord."
"Next time, a little warning would be nice."
"I'll bear that in mind."
"Yes, please do."
Arthur had tried to remain calm. After all, honesty was good. Besides, he had known Merlin had other, big secrets that he had yet to tell Arthur–if not, he would have accepted the position of Court Sorcerer outright, without the need to clear his conscience.
Of course, he wasn't the only one with a heavy conscience. Arthur had somehow managed to keep a few secrets from Merlin, the deepest and darkest ones that he knew his friend would hate him for. The time would come for him to confess just as Merlin was now and as they rode through the forest, silent and keeping to their own thoughts, Arthur couldn't help but think of his own mistakes.
Arthur clearly remembered returning from his first patrol. Leon had been waiting on the steps for him. The knight had taken in the blood on his armor and the lost look on Arthur's face in one understanding turn.
There had been something like pity in the way Leon had looked at Arthur, but the regret and disappointment was what stood out most. Arthur would never forget it.
Unwillingly, he flinched at the memory of why he had been at the receiving end of such a look, and he returned his attention to the matter at hand. He would tell Merlin what happened that day at the Druid camp, but now was not the time.
They came to a clearing not long after their conversation had ceased. It wasn't too long a journey and by the way Merlin maneuvered them through the forest, instinctively turning his horse before Arthur even realized there was a branching in the path, he had taken the route a number of times before.
Arthur guessed that Merlin had been seeking advice from the dragon long after setting him free, despite their past disagreements and what Arthur thought to be rather untrustworthy judgment, considering the dragon had tried to scorch the Lower Town.
They tethered the horses to the side of the clearing. Merlin explained that he usually walked here, but Gaius potions didn't seem to be helping all that much at the moment. Before Arthur could berate him for brushing off his injuries so lightly, Merlin had returned to the clearing, standing in the middle and looking up at the sky.
Arthur stood half way between Merlin and the horses. In any other circumstances, he would have been embarrassed to admit that he was scared, but this time, there was a dragon involved. Surely, it was only normal to feel some fear.
When the dragon's arrival didn't appear to be imminent, Arthur took a cautious step forward.
"Does he know we're coming?" Arthur asked uncertainly.
"Yes, I called him earlier," Merlin explained. "But he's dealing with the, uh, bandit problem that was preventing Mithian from returning to Nemeth, so he might be longer than usual."
Arthur took a step back to where he had been standing before.
Without looking over his shoulder, Merlin said, "You can come closer, you know. He's not going to roast you."
"The last time we met, that seemed his exact intention," Arthur replied. "I think I'll stay right where I am, thank you very much."
In the end, they didn't have much longer to wait. Arthur heard the strange flapping noise, like the frantic motion of a sail in strong wind, and looked up to the see the sun overtaken by a large shadow with a considerable wingspan. He watched in both fear and awe as the dragon landed in the snow.
Kilgharrah's long wings stretched almost the length of the clearing before he dragged them to his sides, creating long, deep gashes in the once-untouched snow. The dragon lowered his head slightly so that he was almost face-to-face with Merlin, what Arthur could only describe as a smile revealing a colossal set of knife-like teeth.
"Merlin, it is good to see you again," the dragon said in a great, grumbling voice that seemed to make the ground shake.
"And you, Kilgharrah," Merlin replied, smiling.
"I see you have bought your king with you." Kilgharrah's golden eyes turned to Arthur, glistening with curiosity. "We meet under better circumstances this time, Arthur Pendragon."
"We do," Arthur said, trying to sound unafraid and wishing he had managed to think of something more meaningful.
"I apologize for our past disagreements," Kilgharrah offered.
Fear forgotten, Arthur couldn't help but scoff. "Disagreements?"
The dragon looked at him with a mixture of curiosity and amusement. "I see you have not so easily forgiven my attack on your people."
"Does that surprise you?"
"Arthur," Merlin cut in, although he wore a look that told Arthur that he had expected this clash. "Kilgharrah was influential in our retaking of Camelot. We would not have been able to make the swords that freed the knights without his and Aithusa's help."
"And that makes up for his crimes?" Arthur demanded, incredulous.
"It made up for mine," Merlin replied.
Kilgharrah chuckled, a sound that echoed mightily through the forest around them.
"You didn't kill innocent people!" Arthur snapped.
"I have killed, Arthur," Merlin said quietly.
"For a reason!"
"My anger was directed at Uther for my imprisonment," Kilgharrah explained. "Is that not reason enough for you, Pendragon?"
"I do not expect you to forgive him if you feel unable, Arthur. That is not why I bought you here." Merlin, looking keen to move on from their argument, turned to look at Kilgharrah. "I trust the bandits have been eradicated."
"The path is clear," Kilgharrah replied.
"That isn't going to make me forgive you either!" Arthur hissed.
"Still not my intention," Merlin muttered.
"Then why are we here?"
"For help," Merlin revealed, looking intently at Kilgharrah. "Or advice. In the prophecies, does it say anything about the struggles we will face in freeing magic?"
Arthur looked at Merlin, the way he stood as though weighed down by something unimaginably heavy, his shoulders slumped in worry. It didn't take much to realize how shaken he was by the council meeting, how afraid he seemed of facing that hostility again.
Will those with magic not be punished for their secrecy?
Arthur couldn't imagine what it would have been like to hear that from Merlin's perspective. It had hurt Arthur and he didn't have magic, hadn't been harboring magic for years during his father's terrifying pursuit of it. He hated Jarin for sparking this new fear in them both. He wished his father had never made him a lord.
Kilgharrah looked saddened. "You have faced a great many struggles already, Merlin. But you have yet to face your greatest. As Albion comes into existence, you and your king will not be free of suffering even if the people of Camelot are."
"What's that supposed to mean?" Arthur demanded.
"It means, king, that the prophecies are vague, but they tell of difficult times ahead for you both," Kilgharrah replied. The strange sort-of smile returned. "Do not fear, Arthur Pendragon, for you shall both prevail."
"That doesn't help."
"I can tell you no more. There are some things you must discover for yourself."
"Will Camelot face war," Arthur said, looking up at the dragon with renewed confidence. "Because of this decision to free magic? Can you tell me that?"
"Not war," Kilgharrah replied. "But such important decisions cannot be made without some conflict. Have I told you enough?"
Arthur had a feeling that even if he'd said no, Kilgharrah wouldn't have told him more. "Yes."
"Then I must warn you both to be prepared. Even with Morgana dead, there are forces at work that would see Camelot fall. You would do well to be wary of those seeking to destroy all that you have worked for."
Arthur glanced at Merlin, who seemed struck by the news.
"What is it?" he asked, approaching his friend.
Merlin shook his head. "Nothing."
Kilgharrah looked curious. "You have made enemies over the years who you assume will have forgotten about your wrongdoings. Yet you have allies in corners of this world you would not think to look. Perhaps you will call upon them in your time of need."
"Thank you, Kilgharrah," Merlin said softly.
"Should you need me," Kilgharrah replied, bowing his head. "I am at your service."
"You're an ally then?" Arthur wondered. "You would no longer see Camelot fall?"
"I have never wished for Camelot's end. I simply wanted to see a new king upon the throne–" Kilgharrah glanced at Merlin "–with the right advisors at his side. And now you sit on the throne, Arthur Pendragon, with a Dragonlord at your side. And one day, you will learn to trust me."
Arthur frowned at the dragon's surety. "Perhaps."
Kilgharrah chuckled. "I have enjoyed meeting you under better circumstances."
"One day, maybe, I'll be able to say the same."
"Is there anything else?" Kilgharrah asked of Merlin.
Merlin shook his head, smiling gratefully. "No. Go to Aithusa. The king and I need to talk."
"Are you testing me again?" Arthur asked softly.
They sat looking over a frozen lake not far away from the clearing. It wasn't Avalon, Merlin had told him, though Arthur privately wished it were. Wherever they were, it was still pleasant, and Merlin had packed them lunch.
Merlin didn't look at him. "What do you mean?"
"I'm not going to change my mind about magic."
"Why did you feel the need to wave a dragon in my face?"
"I thought it was time you met."
"I warned him."
"Well, that's all right then."
Merlin sighed. "I'm sorry."
"I suppose it's nice to know that we're about to face," Arthur said thoughtfully. "Preparation is… good."
"You don't have to be my Court Sorcerer."
"No, I mean… I've been caught up in the idea of a better, magical Camelot. It failed to occur to me that it will take hard work and sacrifice to get there," Arthur explained. "And you have already made more than enough sacrifices for Camelot. You shouldn't feel that you have to put Camelot first. I want you to think about yourself before you think about anyone else. Is this really what you want?"
Merlin shook his head and smiled. "Of course this is what I want."
"But you're… after the council meeting…"
Merlin's smile faded. "I'm just worried."
"Everything. About being Court Sorcerer, about freeing magic, about our supposed 'time of need.' I'm worried that my enemies will become your enemies."
Arthur scoffed. "I find it hard to believe you have enemies worth worrying about."
The haunted look on Merlin's face banished Arthur's disbelieving grin.
"I have enemies, Arthur. I've done terrible things."
"I find that hard to believe too," Arthur murmured.
"I poisoned Morgana," Merlin admitted. "Morgause used her to create the spell that put everyone in Camelot to sleep. I poisoned her because she was responsible for the spell–not that she knew it. I could have told her, but that would mean revealing my magic and I was too selfish to do that. I knew–well, I suspected that one day, she'd use it against me. Really, I had no reason to suspect she would ever become the Morgana that took over Camelot… I pushed her to become that way that day. She never trusted me again, and for good reason."
"You were protecting yourself," Arthur tried to reason.
"I should have protected her too. She came to me for help. She knew she had magic and I turned her away. I could have helped her to understand her gifts. I could have helped her see that Morgause was not who she seemed to be. She could have been so good, Arthur. She was, and I ruined her. I blame myself for what she became."
"We all played our part. My father hardened Morgana's heart; not even you could have changed that. Perhaps I could have helped, but… you know how stubborn she was. She always fought for what she thought was right. In the end, she was… I find now that she's dead, I can remember the old Morgana better–now that there's no one to fight, no one threatening Camelot. I hated all that she did to Camelot… but I did love her." Arthur looked out over the peaceful lake, sighing. "I hope she can find peace."
Merlin nodded once.
"But Morgana is no longer an enemy of yours or mine. She won't hurt is again."
"I know," Merlin said. "But are others. I've killed others. Mary Collins, Edwin, Sophia, Aulfic, Nimueh, a whole lot of vengeful sorcerers and magical beasts that wanted you dead. There has to be people that knew them, that will want their own revenge on me for what I've done. And Mordred…"
Arthur frowned. "Mordred?"
"There's a prophecy that says… one day, Mordred will kill you. I thought that I could stop him. When you attacked the Druid camp, I tried to delay him, so that the Camelot guards would find him and be forced to kill him, but he escaped. The last thing he said to me was, 'I shall never forgive this, Emrys, and I shall never forget.' I've made an enemy of him and he knows how much I care for you."
"But helped him to escape Camelot."
"And you destroyed the Druid camp where he had been staying."
Arthur looked horrified. "Do you think he'll come back?"
"If he does, it won't bode well for anyone."
After a moment of quiet, Arthur said, "Perhaps it's time to learn from our mistakes."
"What do you mean?"
"You know, or at least suspect, that Mordred wants to kill me, that he's an enemy of Camelot. But the last time that you believed such a thing, it was when Morgana discovered her magic and met Morgause. We both regret what happened to Morgana," Arthur replied.
"You mean this time we should use the prophecy as a warning of sorts. Instead of assuming Mordred is an enemy of Camelot, we should do everything thing in our power to ensue he is not?"
Merlin looked surprised. "That's actually quite a good idea."
Arthur laughed. "Tell me it occurred to you before?"
Arthur became serious again. "Mordred scares you, doesn't he?"
"I have reason to believe he's your greatest threat. Does that not make him my greatest enemy?"
"No. If there's something we can do to change the path of destiny, then we're going to do it. But for now, you don't need to worry about Mordred. We haven't seen him for years."
"Of course I am," Arthur boasted jokingly, grinning. "When the time comes to worry, we'll worry. But for now, I'm curious. Just how did you kill Nimueh?"
"It's a long story."
"We've got all day."
"That's not what you said this morning."
"I changed my mind. Come on, I want to know. How did you manage to kill a High Priestess of the Old Religion not a year after arriving in Camelot? If my memory serves me correctly, you were a bumbling, clumsy idiot who was probably as ridiculously relaxed about magic as you were with your chores."
"Oh, Arthur, you'd be surprised…"
Merlin somehow managed to explain just about everything, from Valiant to Aithusa, without any omissions. By now, Arthur knew he was powerful, but it was rather brilliant to watch his reaction to discovering all that Merlin had done for Camelot and for him.
At one point, the issue of Uther's death had been raised, as Merlin knew it would.
"The spell worked," Merlin told Arthur. "But Morgana thwarted it with the pendant. Gaius couldn't have explained it without incriminating himself, so we never told you. I'm sorry, Arthur."
"I should have known Morgana would play a part in his death," Arthur said sadly, seeming to remember the event in sudden clarity. "I'm sorry for what I said to you afterwards."
"You were grieving."
"I still hurt you."
"I still wish there was more that I could have done."
"You did more than enough, Merlin. Thank you."
Another memorable moment had been when Merlin revealed how he'd had to remedy Arthur's donkey ears.
"You let me sound like a donkey for another three days!"
"It serves you right for being such a prat!"
"The knights still joke about it!"
"Whatever! It's good for your ego."
It was difficult to relay every event. Some, Merlin enjoyed retelling. He told Arthur of Gilli, how he hoped that the young sorcerer would be an ally. He explained their many lucky escapes, how Arthur had survived many difficult duels and tournaments through more, unfortunately for him, than pure skill.
"Well, I'm glad I had you to look over me," Arthur admitted.
"What would you have done without me, eh?"
"Honestly?" Arthur said somberly. "I don't know."
Merlin had smiled at this, going on to explain further about Odin's assassin and the jousting tournament that had led to Arthur and Gwen's relationship. Despite the worry of an assassin in Camelot, Merlin had rather enjoyed those few days.
The subject of their relationship lead Merlin onto the difficulties of the one he'd had with Freya.
"This one really is a long story," Merlin warned.
"You don't have to tell me everything."
"The Bastet… it was the Druid girl. Her name was Freya."
"You really were harboring her?"
"Sort of. She stayed in the tunnels under the citadel and I smuggled her food and candles.
"She killed a man to protect herself and was cursed to kill every night after that, when she turned in the Bastet. I tried to help her, but there was nothing I could do. Even the Druids couldn't help her. They turned her away. I thought… well, we were going to run away together. I could find a way to banish the curse and we could live happily together away from Camelot."
Merlin smiled wistfully. "It wasn't to be. My place is in Camelot, but it was a nice thought, running away and living by a lake–like this one, but not quite. Avalon, on the other hand… Avalon was perfect. I buried her there. She's the Lady of the Lake now, the guardian of Avalon. She looked after Excalibur and helped us to destroy Morgause's immortal army."
Arthur stared at him with a look of both horror and sadness. "You loved her?"
"I'm so sorry, Merlin," he whispered.
"I don't blame you for what you did."
"I denied you the happiness of being with the woman you loved."
"And I forgave you for it a long time ago."
"How could you forgive me?"
"You did what you had to. I cannot blame you for that. I loved Freya and one day, perhaps, we'll be together again… but my place has always been in Camelot and by your side, Arthur."
"I wonder sometimes if you're too forgiving."
"I'm not always forgiving. But I think you deserve my forgiveness, Arthur, and my loyalty."
"Merlin…" Arthur said, shaking his head. "I don't know what to say."
"Then don't say anything."
"No, I want to thank you. No matter how undeserving I am, you have always stayed by my side. I always–I still think you're the bravest man I know. And I'm grateful, more grateful than I can say, for your loyalty."
Eventually, the conversation came to an end. Merlin said all that needed to be said. Finally, Arthur knew everything that he had done. And Arthur, with awe and happiness and gratitude, seemed to have accepted it all.
Merlin felt freer now that Arthur knew everything.
Arthur, on the other hand, knew that he too would have to confess all. And it terrified him.
A/N: Arthur's turn to come clean next! What did you think of this chapter?
Feedback much appreciated :)