This idea for a story suddenly came to me by my friend's notion that Arthur's intelligence may be more than meets the eye:)
Hopefully, it's good:)
Take in all you can in a glance, for who knows what mask the face you see will be wearing next.
Arthur has lived and stood by this rule whether in diplomacy or badgering old foes at sword-point. Hunting was the most prominent example when observation and concentration truly came into heart. When the prey stood before the predator, it's rather live or die. A truly intelligent creature could fight, but the rational flee until the danger had passed overhead. Even still, bloodthirsty monsters stole beauty from their world and turned into malformed, inhuman contraptions of their own twisted desires.
Men were no different. They were power hungry, snarling beasts that wore no claws or fangs to back up threats. Instead, they used both greed and gluttony to ensnare hapless victims in a spider-webbing trap that only the weaver find possible to escape from.
This was why Arthur played the young, foolish king. The one who knew invincibility, but not fallibility. Truly, he was cautious before he made a move. The council members of his court knew not his true intelligence. Uther told him to make his smarts scarce, otherwise the council may trip Arthur and topple his reign as monarch of the realm into a figurehead controlled by foible laced elders. He could not let these unintelligent fools make rash decisions that cost Camelot the trust of her people. The chaos would have brought invaders from here to the Saxons. Arthur Pendragon was not one to be just a voice for corrupt men who he could not be rid of.
So instead, Arthur made himself the puppeteer. The Court were his marionettes. And the entire kingdom a stage. But Arthur, like any great performer, never let his audience see him without his mask. So the young king never let himself put his trust into anything except his father, Morgana, and his immediate family.
Arthur Pendragon had grown into this for over a decade. Nothing more than a body, soaking in plans and kingly nature for when it was his time to rule, not with heart but with mind.
But Merlin toppled everything.
The young, raven haired, gangly servant had caught him unawares, making the Arthur that Merlin saw, the true Arthur Pendragon. Ever since the servant had first saved his life, the long worn mask finally crumbled into dust. No longer a performer, but a piece in a role of the world that was much larger than himself. The other side to a coin. Emotions finally seemed to have taken root into his heart, creating the want for safety of his people even stronger than ever. His knights saw his true, caring king demeanor, (when not in battle or practice) a girl who once served his half-sister had stolen his heart, and a manservant who was sired in a rivalling kingdom had become his closest companion.
His father was swearing revenge in the afterlife once he saw the reforms that Arthur had done once he had taken up the former king's throne. Guinevere, Elyan, Gwaine, Lancelot, the list dragged on about the common born that had become part of his new, growing family. The knights were his brothers, his comrades. Merlin even more so. His true, long lost brother it seemed.
Merlin had always been there. He spoke up when Arthur had been misjudged or misguided. He stuck with the king when faced with certain death. He had listened to Arthur's most devastating dilemmas and did his best to connect and understand. Arthur trusted Merlin with secrets he swore to the grave, his mistakes, his arrogant tirades, and his deep, long standing grudge against the magical folk of Camelot. And Merlin wasn't a yes-man, he frequently called out his "prattish" nature when need arose. Arthur was eternally grateful because of this. Not only was the monarch presented with a trusted ally who'd never betray him, but a true friend who stuck with him til the very end, one Arthur would be happy to give his life for.
Even still, Arthur knew that Merlin was harboring a secret. It wasn't hard to find when one knew to look.
At first, Merlin's clumsy nature and general foolish act, Arthur admitted that it was convincing. It took several weeks to find out some holes in the story that Merlin wove. When Arthur had been fighting in Ealdor to help Merlin, the whirlwind that Will had supposedly created had started on Merlin's side, then drifted near Merlin's close village friend. When Arthur fought bandits, the branches of healthy, young trees suddenly broke off and disabled many of the attackers. Never one of Camelot's men. Merlin was always off somewhere when fighting started. Arthur knew he wasn't a coward. He knew that when Merlin first challenged the monarch's foolish and cruel acts to his first manservant. From then on, Arthur watched and observed, slipping into previous habits of watching councilmen.
He noticed a pattern of events. Every time Merlin left to "take a night off for the tavern" as Gaius put it, the dangerous threat to Camelot or to Arthur himself had mysteriously vanished, or had been defeated. And each time Merlin returned, he was bedraggled, beaten, bruised, no doubt having to add another scar to the scores he already had. Arthur had been sympathetic to his friend when it came to that situation, but when Merlin looked completely unharmed, the impish and brotherly nature of Arthur drove him to the banter, the bickering, and even to the punishments.
Merlin believes that Arthur doesn't know that every instance that magic was involved in an incident, Merlin looked about as ready to be sick. Better yet, disgusted at the cruelty of some sorcerers bent entirely on revenge, no matter how futile or misguided it be. Or when the sudden objects came flying onto his foes, and when a miracle needed to happen, it did.
No doubt Merlin was raised harboring secrets that would've gotten him killed, but so was Arthur. Except Arthur learned not only to hide or keep them, but to snuff them out like a dog does a fox during one of his hunts.
But the final confirmation had been when Uther had died, and Arthur was swept away on an endless and seemingly infinite cycle of grief. Arthur came out of the final resting place of his father to see the big eared manservant sitting outside the door, never far from his master. Arthur had looked into the eyes of his servant, behind the mask and the streaming lies and found his true emotions. The two most prominent, sympathy and grief equal to the king's, but also an emotion that kings were quite familiar with. Especially after long years of war torn families and vacant eyes searching for a knight whose voice was lost in a sea of blood. Oh yes, Arthur felt that constant companion of emotion leeching off of him like a parasite.
It was etched and laced through every part of Merlin, the hunched shoulders and his scuffing feet. Yet, the only one that Arthur knew completely was the sadness in his eyes. Arthur realized then and there that the old man called Dragoon had been yet another mask for Merlin. Merlin was Dragoon, which led to the next realization.
Merlin was a sorcerer.
Hopefully this wasn't your normal "Arthur knows" story. I hope this was okay:)
Tell me what you think!:)
Review Question: What do you think is going to happen next chapter?