There were no spellbooks in Camelot. Not anymore.
"I kept one for the longest time," Gaius told him not long after he arrived. "I wish now I'd held on just a little longer. All the raids made me too cautious, I'm afraid."
"What did you do with it?" Merlin asked as he devoured his stew. Working for Arthur was exhausting.
"The only thing I could," Gaius said heavily. His eyes flicked to the fireplace.
Merlin set his spoon down. Suddenly, he wasn't so hungry anymore.
Gaius taught him what spells he could, but Gaius had never learned most of what Merlin needed to know. Teaching him to light a fire, Gaius could do. Teaching him how to animate snakes on a knight's shield, not so much.
"It has to be possible. If Valiant's doing it at will, then I can do it too."
"I'm sure you could, Merlin, but without getting close enough to hear the spell - "
"I've done magic without spells before," Merlin argued.
It had to be possible. Valiant could do it. According to one of the legends Gaius had taught him, Cornelius Sigan had done it.
He thought about practicing on one of the statues littering the palace, but Valiant's snakes were already enchanted; they just needed to be woken. A better parallel would be on of Sigan's gargoyles.
So he went up on the battlements and picked out the smallest one he could find. It was crouched above another one and was about the size of a cat.
He leaned against the stone wall and tried to imagine it in flight.
Long ago, there was a mighty sorcerer who befriended the great King Brute, and he brought the very stone to life to defend the castle at need. Yet enmity grew between them when Sigan was betrayed . . .
Life to the stone. Life to the stone. Defend the castle. Life to the stone.
A knight has turned traitor again.
The gargoyle screeched to life and flapped around his head. Merlin grinned at it.
Then he looked at how high the moon was in the sky and realized how long it had taken. He couldn't risk the delay with the snakes.
"Okay," Merlin said to the gargoyle. "Plan B."
The tournament proceeded for only a minute before the gargoyle swooped down from where it had hidden at Merlin's command.
There was a startled shout from the crowd. It dove towards Valiant's face.
Valiant raised his shield. The snakes lashed out at the gargoyle.
The gargoyle's claws sliced through one. It bit off and swallowed the head of the other before swooping upward again.
Arthur ended the fight quickly after that.
Uther ruled that the gargoyle must have been a familiar Valiant had lost control over, so Merlin didn't know what Gaius was so upset about, really. He slipped back up to the battlements where the gargoyle was once again stone. It must have returned after completing its mission.
Unlike before, it looked distinctly pleased with itself.
Merlin grinned. "Good boy."
He wondered if Gaius would explain what a familiar was, and if maybe when magic was legal the gargoyle could be one.
The Great Dragon was helpful. Sometimes.
Personally, though, Merlin could do with less cryptic advice and more spells.
When he ran into bandits with Arthur, he stuck to breaking branches and making them trip. Who needed spells for that?
When he was on his own, he needed more.
He backed away quickly from the charging griffin.
Once there was a sleeping princess -
There was no way to picture that thing as a princess, and he was fresh out of spindles.
So to protect her, a wall of brambles grew up around her castle.
Tree roots threw themselves upward and lashed together. A thick wall of thorns grew up quickly.
The griffin shrieked and tried to charge through it. The wall shuddered.
"Hey!" someone shouted, and then a man was charging forward, stabbing his sword through the gaps in the wall.
The griffin shrieked again but gave up and left.
The man poked at the wall. "I've never seen anything like it."
"It happens. Sometimes. Around here." Merlin shut his mouth to stop himself from babbling and smiled hopefully.
The man smiled back and offered his hand. "I'm Lancelot."
Lancelot charged the griffin with his lance. He was the last man standing.
It's like a spindle, Merlin thought desperately, and a charging angry griffin was a lot like royalty on a rampage, actually.
The princess fell into a sleep like death.
Spindle. Death. Spindle. Death.
Green fire lit up the lance.
The griffin fell.
Merlin hoped it was really dead and not just asleep, but assuming it didn't have a true love, they were probably okay either way.
When they returned from fighting the knights of Medhir to find all but Morgana asleep, Merlin had no ideas as to how to wake Gaius, but someone, at least, he was confident they could wake.
And the princess lay in the woods until the prince came to break the spell.
True love could break the spell, so that was Gwen awake at least.
"Arthur, you've got to kiss Gwen."
"Now, Merlin? Really?"
"It'll wake her up!" Merlin insisted. "She woke you up from the love spell, remember? So you can kiss her to wake her up, and the she can kiss you to keep you awake."
Arthur hesitated. "It doesn't seem right to kiss her while she's asleep."
"Well, unless you've got a better idea, you're going to have to," Morgana said. She smirked. "I'll chaperone."
Arthur blushed bright red, but he marched over to where Gwen lay and kissed her gently.
Her eyes opened slowly as she kissed him back. "What's going on?" she asked sleepily. Then she saw Morgana and Merlin, and her blush matched Arthur's.
"There's a sleeping curse," Morgana said briskly. "I don't suppose there's a way to wake anyone else up?"
"Not unless you fancy jamming sleeping people's lips together in the hopes they're true love," Merlin said.
But an idea nagged at him.
Surely the prince in the tale hadn't been the maiden's true love? They hadn't even met.
So what if all they needed was a prince?
And the prince kissed the maiden, and she awoke.
The prince kissed. Awoke.
Prince. Kissed. Awoke.
"Alright, I've got an idea," Merlin said.
No one answered him. They were too busy staring.
Arthur stepped between Merlin and Gwen. "You've got magic," he said hoarsely. "Your eyes just flashed."
"That's impossible," Merlin said automatically. He hadn't even been trying to cast magic!
But he realized with a sinking feeling that he'd gotten too used to casting with the help of old stories. He probably had cast magic.
"You have magic?" Morgana demanded. "You have magic, and you never told me?"
Arthur and Gwen's stares switched to her. "Is there some reason he should have told you in particular?" Arthur asked.
Gwen jumped to the wrong conclusion. "Oh!"
Arthur got there a second later. "So you're a sorcerer, and you've been flirting with Morgana. Was one guaranteed death sentence not enough, or . . . ?"
"Don't be ridiculous," Morgana snapped. She whirled on Merlin. "I thought we were friends."
"I'm sorry," Merlin said desperately. "I was scared. I've never told anyone before, and I only know a handful of spells, so I've barely got control over it at the best of times."
Arthur threw his hands up. "An uncontrolled sorcerer! Even better."
"You've got more control than I did!" Morgana shouted.
There was a moment of silence.
"Your dreams," Gwen whispered.
Morgana had grown pale, but she nodded. "Yes."
Arthur looked between the two magic users. "Both of you." He shook his head. "Gwen? Anything you want to tell me?"
She shook her head.
Arthur pinched the bridge of his nose. "If my father finds out . . . "
"Well, we're hardly going to tell him," Morgana snapped. "And Gwen won't tell. Right, Gwen?" A bit of uncertainty crept into her voice.
"Of course not," Gwen said strongly.
"If we're all going to commit treason," Arthur began in a strained voice.
"It's not like it's the first time," Morgana said.
Arthur ignored her. "If we're all going to do this, you have to tell me everything. Both of you."
"Absolutely," Merlin said. "Just not right now. We've got company."
Arthur turned to the window. The motion put his back to Merlin, and his willingness to do so was comforting. "The knights."
"Fortunately, I think I've enchanted Arthur - "
Arthur whirled. "Fortunately?"
Merlin went on hastily. " - so he should be able to wake anyone with a kiss, not just Gwen."
"With a kiss," Arthur said flatly.
Morgana smirked. "Now, now, it's for the good of the kingdom."
"The forehead should work," Merlin assured him.
"If that's the only way to break the curse, that could take a while," Gwen said hesitantly.
"Then I'll start with the knights." Arthur stalked out of the room, still looking sour. "And you'd better have a good explanation when this is over!"
Merlin looked after him worriedly. "Even with the knights awake, we can't fight foes we can't kill. Not unless the dragon breathes on another sword, but I don't think he will."
"A - dragon?" Gwen said.
"Another sword?" Morgana demanded.
"We'll have to trap them," Merlin decided.
For Medusa had displeased Athena and had been turned into a hideous beast who turned all who saw her into stone.
No, that wouldn't work, he couldn't turn someone into a monster for life -
But the gargoyles. He could bring some of the gargoyles to life and use it on them. If they accidentally hit one of the knights with it, he knew how to bring them back.
He grinned. "I've got a plan. But we might want to stop Arthur before he kisses any knights."
Two hours later, Camelot had several lovely new statues, the cursed gargoyles had been reluctantly smashed, and Morgause had fled after being wounded by Arthur.
Arthur surveyed the rubble in the courtyard and the sleeping people in it. "Couldn't you cast your charm on someone else too?"
"It might work on Uther," Merlin said hesitantly.
"No," Arthur and Morgana said together.
"Or Morgana." She was sort of a princess, right?
It was past midnight before everyone was awake, and Uther was satisfied with their explanation of events.
Merlin just wanted to go to sleep. Arthur, naturally, had other ideas. He dragged them all to his room.
Well, he dragged Merlin. The girls followed on their own.
"Explain. Now," Arthur said once the door was shut.
Merlin swallowed. "Once upon a time, there was a little baby warlock . . . "
(Later, there will be a time when the four of them will have to fight off something where untrustworthy eyes can see, and Morgana will think not of Morgause's bitter spells, but the comfort of Merlin's stories.
And the queen turned herself into an old crone and went into the forest.
"I have an idea," she'll say.)
(Later, in the Golden Age, Emrys will learn he's meant to live forever.
"Ever after's just supposed to be a figure of speech," he'll moan.
"Cheer up, Merlin," his king will say. "It's supposed to be happily ever after, after all."
"I don't see how it could be if I end up alone," he'll say glumly.
"Well, then, it's a good thing the stories always say they," his king will retort.
Merlin's eyes will flash gold without his quite meaning for them to, and Arthur will prove to be right.)