Rating: PG - pre-slash
Beta: The forever amazing souleswanderer
Disclaimer: I own nothing related to Merlin and no money was made from writing this story.
Summary: “Merlin had envisioned his outing as a sorcerer to be something heroic, dramatic and generally so mind blowing Arthur could do nothing but accept the knowledge that his longtime servant was a warlock and embrace their new relationship with grace and dignity befitting his station. And Merlin nearly got his wish. Almost. Well, the dramatic part was there at least."
A/N: This story takes place approximately one year in the future of the current BBC series. It starts like it's going to be a dark, emotional story. It's not. Really, it's not.
Merlin had envisioned his outing as a sorcerer to be something heroic, dramatic and generally so mind blowing Arthur could do nothing but accept the knowledge that his longtime servant was a warlock and embrace their new relationship with grace and dignity befitting his station.
And Merlin nearly got his wish. Almost. Well, the dramatic part was there at least.
Camelot had been attacked by sorcerers, four sorcerers, if Merlin was counting correctly. It was difficult to tell because he was busy avoiding chunks of castle wall flying past his head. The castle was nearly in ruin as knights stumbled; bloody and bruised, still trying to obey the orders Uther shouted from the far wall that somehow remained standing.
Arthur rolled by him, knocking a small chunk of stone out of the air as he rose from the ground. “Merlin, get out of here!”
“But I can help you!” Merlin shot back, falling to his knees to dodge a piece of split wood.
The ground trembled around them as if the castle was waving the white flag defeat. Total destruction was imminent as the sorcerers converged around them.
“Save yourself!” Arthur yelled, swiping at a sorcerer that merely disappeared and reappeared several yards away.
“You should know that never works,” Merlin huffed, pushing to his feet. He’d had about enough of this silliness.
Merlin glanced at Arthur as he raised his hand. “I’m not sorry for this.” Then he shrugged, grinned and opened his fingers.
“Merlin, as impressive as your open hand happens to be –" He was brought up short by the frustrated screams of the sorcerers as their eyes burned gold and their feet remained stuck to the ground. Massive boulders that once belonged to the castle wall flew through the air, hovering above the heads of the sorcerers.
Chants of spells were screamed through the air and remained ineffective as Merlin closed his hand into a fist and the boulders dropped on their targets.
Arthur watched with his mouth hanging open. He pointed at Merlin then at the boulders before returning to Merlin. “That was – well, effective.”
Merlin nodded, leaning against one of the massive boulders. He was a bit out of breath after that. “Yes, I thought so.”
“So that begs the question – why didn’t you do that sooner?” Arthur yelled.
Merlin didn’t get a chance to responded, Uther’s booming order overshadowing everything else. “Guards, seize him!” Several knights pushed themselves off the ground, still shaken by the attack of the sorcerers, but managed to stumble in Merlin’s direction.
Arthur stepped forward, holding his sword in a defensive posture. “No!”
“Arthur, it’s all right,” Merlin said calmly.
“Shut up,” Arthur growled, waving his sword as several guards approached.
“Step away, Arthur,” Uther yelled, his face as red as his tattered cloak.
Merlin reached out and held Arthur’s shoulder, his fingers pressing hard enough to be felt through the chainmail. “It’s all right. Trust me.”
Arthur glared at him over his shoulder. “Yeah, because you’ve been so honest with me up to this point.”
“That was my only secret,” Merlin promised. “Well, sort of. There might be another one.”
Arthur growled and shrugged Merlin’s hand away so he could grip his sword. “You should be running.”
“Why? I’m not afraid.”
Arthur wanted to scream. “You’re such an idiot! They’re going to kill you!”
“Arthur,” Merlin said, “Trust me.” He smiled as guards surged around him, locking their arms over his shoulders and started dragging him away. Arthur watched, his sword tip now resting on the stone, defeated.
Merlin was pulled to stand before Uther who glared down at him from his position on the cracked and broken castle wall. “You will be burned at the stake for your crimes against Camelot. Immediately.”
“Father!” Arthur yelled, running forward to stand alongside Merlin.
“I witnessed his crimes with my own eyes,” Uther said, his voice teeming with barely restrained anger.
“His crimes that saved Camelot, you mean,” Arthur snapped.
“The ends do not justify the means,” Uther replied. “I have taught you better than that. This boy performed magic in Camelot. He cannot be trusted.”
Several knights were pulling wood across the courtyard that had been blown around by the sorcerers attack. A makeshift woodpile was created, and Merlin was soon dragged over to the pile.
“Ouch,” Merlin muttered. “There’s no reason to be rough.”
“Merlin, do something,” Arthur hissed as Merlin was tied to the wooden pole that had conveniently been taken from a destroyed market shop.
“Like what?” Merlin asked.
Arthur lifted his sword to take matters into his own hands. His father be damned. Merlin wouldn’t burn for saving Camelot. Despite being told magic was wrong his entire life, there was no justice or honor in Uther’s hasty decision.
“Arthur, no,” Merlin repeated. “Do not defend me. What I’m being charged with is true. I do not deny the allegations.” He tilted his head, his eyes narrowing as Uther in the distance. “Do you hear me? I am a warlock! A warlock!”
Arthur shook his head, his emotions surging. “But what about Gaius?”
“Oh, Gaius. I almost forgot. He’s locked in my bedroom. Let him out later, will you?”
Arthur opened and closed his mouth. “Yes, of course, but Merlin –"
“Burn him!” Uther yelled.
“Do not fear,” Merlin repeated, his eyes on Arthur as one of the knights hesitantly approached with a torch.
Arthur swallowed and watched as the torch was lowered to the dried wood. It went up in an instant, the smoke and salty tears that he stubbornly refused to release stinging his eyes. The courtyard was eerily quiet; the only sound was crackling fire.
The ropes burned and gave away, and Merlin – Merlin stretched his arms above his head. “That’s much better,” he said conversationally. Arthur saw that his eyes were gold, and he doubted it was only a reflection of the fire.
The guards stepped away, stumbling over themselves to get as far away from the warlock as possible.
“You’re not burning,” Arthur said.
“Nope,” Merlin agreed.
“You’re not burning,” Arthur repeated, at a loss to do anything but restate the obvious.
Merlin glanced around the fire that burned around him, checked his arms, his legs and lifted up his shirt to examine his stomach. “It would appear that way, yes.”
“You didn’t think to share that bit of information with me prior to the fire being lit?” Arthur nearly yelled.
Merlin shrugged. “I wasn’t entirely sure it would work.”
This time Arthur did yell. “What?”
“Guards, seize him!” Uther yelled.
“And do what exactly?” Merlin asked, stepping away from the wood that had been reduced to embers. He muttered a quick spell and the fire vanquished. “You can’t kill me, your highness,” Merlin yelled.
“You can’t stay here,” Arthur murmured.
“Right, of course. I suppose I need an escape plan then?”
Arthur nodded. “Perhaps you could have thought of that while you were sunning yourself in that fire.”
Merlin yelled several words that Arthur couldn’t understand. The sound of pounding hooves soon echoed across the stone steps that led to the courtyard.
“Quick, try to kill me,” Merlin instructed.
“What?” Arthur spat. “I’m not going to –”
“Hurry! Make it believable. Uther’s watching.”
“Think of something else because I’m not –”
“Will you shut up and try to stab me? The unicorn isn’t going to slow down!” Merlin ordered.
“The what?!? Arthur glanced over his shoulder in time to see a flash of white, and he made several attempts at a clumsy jab before Merlin somehow managed to leap onto the unicorn’s back and ride through the castle gates.
Merlin stopped, the unicorn rearing on its back legs. “Now that’s impressive,” Merlin murmured, grinning to himself. He smiled a final time at Arthur before lifting his hand in the air and recanting a quick spell. He rode away to the sounds of Camelot being rebuilt to its former glory.
It had been two days since Camelot was attacked by sorcerers, and Arthur’s manservant was revealed as being a sorcerer who thankfully turned out to be more powerful than the sorcerers that were attacking the great city. Then said manservant turned sorcerer had been burned at the stake, only he didn’t burn, and then he rebuilt Camelot with a flick of his wrist as he rode away on a unicorn.
Arthur refilled his goblet for the sixth time. Merlin would be impressed – he could pour his own wine.
Following Merlin’s departure and Uther’s quick order for him to be followed, he’d questioned Arthur mercilessly. Had he known Merlin was a sorcerer? Luckily, all of the questions Uther had asked Arthur had been able to answer honestly. As much as he hated to admit it, he had a feeling Merlin intended it this way so he wouldn’t have to lie to his father.
“Idiot,” Arthur muttered.
He got up, the constricting walls of his chambers were becoming stifling. Arthur had thought he’d be sitting in the dungeon, but Uther somehow interpreted his few clumsy jabs at Merlin as a real attempt on the young warlock’s life. Arthur wondered if Merlin had something to do with that as well.
He walked down a dark corridor that led to the castle wall that faced the west. Nearly everyone was asleep save a few guards that were unlucky enough to have night watch. Arthur positioned himself where he knew he couldn’t be seen and stared out at the expanse of his kingdom, and a unicorn pawing restlessly at the stone ground next to the wall.
“Shhh,” Arthur hissed as the unicorn snorted at him and stomped the ground with its hoof. “Someone will hear you.” The unicorn looked up at him with a lopsided expression that reminded him of Merlin. “Please tell me you haven’t turned yourself into a unicorn.” The unicorn whinnied rather loudly, and Arthur pinched the bridge of his nose. “All right, all right. I’m coming.”
He strode through the halls quietly and managed to sneak by the guard who was most likely sleeping against the wall.
Arthur approached the unicorn cautiously and held his arms out. “Well?” The unicorn looked at him for a second before turning and walking away. “Hey,” Arthur hissed. “Where are you going?”
He followed the magical horse until it stopped on the grass. “Now what?” Arthur asked, crossing his arms over his chest. The unicorn nickered at him. “I don’t know what you’re saying,” he said apologetically. “Ugh, of course I don’t know what you’re saying. You’re a horse!”
The unicorn whinnied again as if was frustrated by Arthur’s lack of comprehension. “You want me to ride you, don’t you?” Arthur nodded as if he was assured by the unicorn’s lack of response. “I can do that.” He carefully eased himself onto the unicorn’s back, without the aid of a saddle it was more difficult than it looked. “I’ll have you know I’ve been trained to ride since –“ The rest of his words were swallowed by the wind as the unicorn started running at a speed that couldn’t be matched by an animal that didn’t possess magic.
The unicorn ran and Arthur could do little else but grip its mane and hang on, his thighs shaking from the exertion. As quickly as the magical ride began, the unicorn stopped, and it was all Arthur could do not to go flying over its head.
“Ah, he found you, then,” a cheerful voice said.
“Merlin, you idiot,” Arthur growled, sliding off the unicorn and leaning against its side for support as his legs stubbornly refused to support his full weight.
“I believe the words you meant to say were ‘Merlin, you’re a great and powerful warlock. Thank you so much for saving Camelot from total destruction.”
“No, I meant to say idiot,” Arthur clarified.
“No appreciation,” Merlin muttered.
Arthur glanced around a forest he didn’t recognize. He was pretty sure it wasn’t autumn in Camelot. “Where are we?”
Merlin scratched his neck. “It’s hard to explain.”
A lot of things involving Merlin had become hard to explain. “Never mind.”
Merlin stroked the unicorn’s nose and whispered words Arthur didn’t understand, words he actually found rather soothing.
After several seconds, Arthur shifted his weight, his legs finally deciding to cooperate, and cleared his throat causing Merlin to look up. “So, you’re a warlock, then?”
“And you decided not to tell me,” Arthur continued.
“And then you revealed yourself as a warlock to my father, over half his knights and nearly every citizen of Camelot.”
“Well, I suppose so, yeah,” Merlin agreed hesitantly.
“So why, in all of Albion, did you stay as my manservant?” Arthur asked. It was the one question Arthur had been unable to answer, well, that, and the other hundred questions he had in his mind about Merlin.
Merlin grinned, his hands lifting with excitement. “It’s simple, really. It all had to do with my destiny. Would you like to hear about it? You see, there’s this dragon -”
“No, never mind. I don’t want to know.”
Merlin lowered his arms. “But you’re a part of it. A big part, in fact. There’s this coin and -” Merlin stopped short and narrowed his eyes as he studied Arthur. “Are you all right?”
“Merlin, you’re a warlock!” Arthur yelled.
“I thought we’d covered that,” Merlin said, kicking at the ground.
“Can you change?” Arthur asked curiously. He didn’t have a lot of experience with living warlocks so he took this as an educational opportunity.
“No, not really. Is that a problem?”
“No, not as much as it should be,” Arthur replied, crossing his arms over his chest.
“You’re not making any sense,” Merlin accused.
“I’m saying you being a warlock should bother me, but it doesn’t. Not really.”
“Oh,” Merlin said, smiling. “Well, that’s a good thing.”
Arthur made a disgruntled sound in his throat like he didn’t entirely agree with Merlin’s opinion on the situation. “What are your other secrets?”
Merlin tilted his head to the side. “What?”
“In Camelot before the guards took you away you said you had another secret. I want to know what it is.”
“Oh – oh,” Merlin said, his cheeks flushing vibrantly. “I don’t have any other secrets.”
“You can’t lie,” Arthur said flatly.
“That’s not true! I lied to you for over a year!” Merlin said triumphantly.
“Do you really want to remind me of that?” Arthur asked.
“Good point,” Merlin mumbled, looking away.
“Tell me,” Arthur repeated. “No more secrets.”
“It’s nothing, really. I was about to die and not thinking clearly.”
Arthur rolled his eyes. “You weren’t about to die. Now tell me. I want to know.”
Merlin cleared his throat, his eyes everywhere but Arthur’s face. “It’s stupid.”
“I realize I can’t order you, but –”
Merlin jerked up. “I’m still your manservant!”
“Um, no, you’re not. You’re a warlock, remember? Not to mention you’ve been banned from Camelot as long as my father is alive,” Arthur explained.
Merlin looked away, the realization that he was no longer allowed in Camelot would make protecting Arthur an even more difficult task. Still, he would remain loyal to Arthur to whatever end. “Just because I’m banned from Camelot doesn’t mean you’re not my prince.”
Merlin’s stubborn response caused Arthur to laugh. “I didn’t realize being my manservant meant that much to you.”
Arthur nodded. “I’m sure.”
“Are you hungry?” Merlin asked, changing the subject.
Arthur glanced around the forest. “Do you even have food out here?”
Merlin lifted his eyebrow. “Warlock, remember? Would you like an apple?” He whispered a spell and plucked an apple from what looked like an oak tree. “Something else, perhaps?” He pulled some type of citrus fruit that Arthur had never seen off the same tree.
“Now you’re just showing off.” Despite his weak objection, Arthur took the fruit, smelled it before biting carefully into its soft exterior. It was good, very good, and his expression must have shown this because Merlin smiled.
“So, your other secret,” Arthur pressed, reaching out to prod Merlin’s side. “Tell me.” Merlin swallowed, unable to meet the prince’s eyes.
“Oh, come on!” Arthur said. “It can’t be any worse than being a warlock!”
“Hey, being a warlock isn’t a bad thing!” Merlin replied. “I saved Camelot! More than once, mind you.”
Whatever it was, it was obvious Merlin wasn’t ready to release this burden yet, and Arthur thought perhaps he’d had his fill of secrets for the time being.
“All right,” Arthur conceded. “Next time I come you’ll tell me.”
Merlin looked at him, eyes wide. “You’ll come see me again?”
“Of course,” Arthur replied. "Where else will I get one of those delicious fruits?”
Merlin blushed, rubbing his hand down his arm. “I’m glad you liked it.”
“So how do I get home? The unicorn?” Arthur and the unicorn shared a glance that clearly said neither of them was interested in a repeat performance.
“Actually, no,” Merlin said. “I can get you home.”
Arthur looked at him skeptically. “Oh? You’re going to escort me through the castle gates? Would you like to say hello to my father while you’re there?”
Merlin rolled his eyes. “Hello? Warlock? How many times to do we have to go over this?”
“Okay, warlock, send me home,” Arthur said, raising his eyebrows as if he was challenging him.
“As you wish, your highness,” Merlin said as he stepped forward and rested his hands on Arthur’s shoulders, his eyes shining gold.
Arthur blinked, raising his hand to shield him from the light, and when he lowered his arm, he was in his chambers. It was still dark outside; his chambers had stubbornly remained the same even though Arthur felt as if everything had changed.
He started for the bed, actually welcoming the sight for the first time in two days. He pushed his boots off and set his coat aside. When he reached the side of the bed, the covers pulled themselves back. Arthur blinked, and the pillow fluffed itself.
“Idiot,” he muttered as he rolled onto the soft mattress. Only Merlin would refuse to release all of his duties as Arthur’s manservant. The covers pulled themselves up and under his chin.
As Arthur drifted off on the wings of slumber, he realized Merlin’s other secret might not be such a secret after all.