Merlin was so tired.
Physically, emotionally, mentally – he was just tired. He had enough. There had to be some kind of magical spell that just paused time. He really needed to learn it
At some point since the woman had revealed herself to be a sorceress and explained she served the ‘mighty and great Emrys’, Merlin had been pushed in the middle of all the knights. It would have been sweet if it wasn’t so inconvenient. Adeptly, he managed to duck under Gwaine’s arm so he had a better reach in case the woman decided to attack. From Arthur’s side, Lancelot rose an eyebrow at him. Merlin shrugged before gesturing towards the cloaked figure who was chanting under her breath.
The woman smiled smugly, eyes flickering between the knights as she tipped her head back and looked at the sky. After a few deep breaths she let her gaze move back down to them, a smile stretching over her lips.
“Emrys has called for your death.” She announced, her voice thick with some kind of bravo accent, and Arthur’s hands fluttered to the hilt of his sword, not answering. Merlin had other ideas. He ignored Leon trying to yank him back and stepped out in front of her, crossing his arms over his chest.
“No he hasn’t.” The servant rolled his eyes and everyone froze. The woman blinked at him, her head tilting to the side.
“I – yes he has.” She frowned, her accent faltering. She took another deep breath before turning back to the dramatics “He just spoke to me,” She jutted out her chin “As a creature of magic I can hear his voice-”
“No, you can’t.” Merlin interrupted stubbornly “Only druids can speak to Emrys and you aren’t a druid.” He said, keeping his voice flat and unimpressed. “You’re a fake. Do you even have magic?” He asked, watching as the woman stared at him, mouth slightly agape.
“Of course I do!” She snapped “You anger him – I have been a trusted ally to Emrys for many years and you have the audacity to-”
“You wouldn’t know who Emrys was if he was standing right in front of you.” Merlin told her and from beside Arthur, Lancelot coughed. A few knights shot him a puzzled glance as the man cleared his throat and straightened himself. Humor danced in his eyes. The woman stared.
“Who are you?” She finally demanded, slowly lowering her arms. Merlin considered. While it would be fun reveal himself in this manner, but he knew now wasn’t the time. Not if he wanted his head on his shoulders and Arthur to live for a few more years. So instead he shrugged.
“Who are you? Cause I know you don’t have a magical bone in your body. Your plan is just to scare us so we leave you alone. A bad decision really because all of these men would run you through the second you pretended to use sorcery.” He told her and watched as the woman continued to stare. “If you tell them why you want us gone so badly they could help you, you know.” He finished with a vague gesture to where the knights were watching the interaction with varying expressions. Percival lowered his sword.
For a second, nobody said anything.
“How’d you know?” She finally asked, her voice losing the gaudy accent. Merlin smiled.
“Call it intuition.” He told her. From the crowd of knights behind him, Gwaine stuck his sword into the ground and cleared his throat, drawing everyone's attention.
"Who the fuck is Emrys?"
"Nobody." Merlin said - perhaps too quickly. Elyan rose a brow at him. Giving a weak laugh, Merlin tried to find a way to cover his tracks. "He's, well, he's kind of a sorcerer." He admitted. Before he could defend himself for knowing too much about something definitely illegal to know about, the woman gasped.
"You don't know who Emrys is?" She demanded. Merlin turned to her. He wished for a moment that she was a druid so he could telepathically beg her not to say anything Merlin would regret the knights hearing. "He's only the most powerful sorcerer known to the world." She said, planting a hand on her hip in disapproval at Gwaine's lack of knowledge. "They say after years of prophecy he finally roams the Earth. "His abilities are unequal to any-"
"I don't know about that..." Merlin murmured, ignoring Lancelot slowly turning to him.
"Oh, I do." The woman insisted and grabbed his hands "You know of him! Have you seen him? Have you felt his powers?" She asked, her hold tightening on him. Merlin tried to squirm out of her grip to no avail. "What I would give to even touch him..."
"I'm sure he feels like a normal person-"
"No. No, he would feel...Wonderful." She sighed, eyes dreamily flickering to the sky. He took her moment of distraction to yank himself away. Weird. This was weird...And he was also definitely getting beheaded. Nervously, he turned to Arthur to find him only rolling his eyes as he gestured for his men to gather their supplies and ready the horses.
Well. Maybe Arthur was finally accepting that Merlin was well informed of things that he shouldn't be... Or he had stopped listening about halfway through the conversation. The second was more admittedly more likely.
“That was…Interesting.” Elyan said as they made their way home.
“You mean awesome!” Gwaine crowed and trotted his horse up next to Merlin’s “You totally called her out. How did you know?” He demanded and Merlin caught Lancelot’s grin before chuckling.
“I told you,” He shrugged “Intuition.”
Gwaine whined that intuition didn’t count as a real answer while Leon sought to find a way to keep him quiet. Lancelot pulled up beside Merlin and leaned in.
“Do people normally call Emrys the most powerful sorcerer to walk the earth?” He asked quietly and Merlin groaned. He told Lancelot most of his magical life during late nights in Camelot, whispering by smoldering fires and ill lit rooms. He was a good friend. Sometimes it felt like Merlin’s only real friend. As far as he knew everyone else might chop his head off within three seconds of finding out who he really was.
Well. Maybe not Gwaine. He smiled fondly.
“Leave me alone,” He grumbled to Lancelot “Nobody knows if it is actually true.”
The knight laughed, looking pleased by the answer. He glanced back at where Arthur was watching them, lips pursed and jaw set. Normally, the prince led the group as per custom, but for some reason he insisted on being in the very back. Merlin could only assume he felt the danger was behind them instead of in front.
“Well, I look forward to hear what other magical creatures have to say on the matter.” Lancelot said, eyes sparkling with mischief. Merlin sighed. Hopefully they wouldn’t run across anyone who is familiar with the name ‘Emrys’ for a long, long time.
“Oh, I have heard tales of Emrys,” The old man told them and Lancelot wasted no time shooting Merlin a bright look. Arthur tilted his head at the man, nodding for him to continue. “He was born of magic. It is said the magic spilled during the Great Purge followed a man fleeing from Uther’s realm and led him to a beautiful woman.”
Merlin got the feeling he was about to feel very, very uncomfortable.
“Nice,” Gwaine grinned “So Emrys’ mom was a looker.”
Seriously. Merlin did not deserve this.
“Rumors have it that the passion between the man and woman led to such pleasure that the entire magical community momentarily rejoiced despite the war because they knew such lust and love would lead to their savior and the Once and Future King.”
“Stop this.” Merlin whispered and Lancelot clapped his shoulder with a grimace.
A different woman told them how Emrys’ powers were tied to nature. Someone else mentioned how his power was given by the gods to protect the Once and Future King.
“I heard his first love was the Lady of the Lake.” One man told them as he skinned a rabbit “Rumor has it they met briefly before she died. He buried her in the Lake of Avalon and there she resides, waiting to repay him for his kindness and love.”
“Where did you hear that?” Merlin demanded, feeling hot. Nobody could have possibly known… It was so specific and accurate he wondered if he had a spy watching him. The man paused in his skinning to look at Merlin.
“My brother spoke to the Lady of the Lake.” He said seriously “She helped him once when he prayed to her. She’s supposed to be beautiful. Dark hair and eyes that’ll melt your soul. And her-”
“Yeah, I got it.” Merlin interrupted again. So apparently Freya was spreading his story. He wondered if she was simply reminiscent or she purposely fed people tales about him. Knowing his old love she might be trying to pry him out of the shadows. He wouldn’t put it past her.
“Was he right?” Lancelot asked later “Are you a consort to a goddess?”
He hadn’t realized it, but she was a goddess, wasn’t she? He gave a meager shrug.
“I mean, I was. Can’t really be anything to her since she’s dead.” He muttered and Lancelot gave a sympathetic smile before bumping his shoulder. Merlin looked over to see Arthur watching them again. Did he suspect something?
Merlin felt his throat tighten at the thought.
“You’re a dragonlord?” Arthur asked, looking at the man who was nodding eagerly. “I thought Balinor was the last of the dragonlords.” He began and the man paused at the name, wrinkling his nose. Merlin waited for him to admit the truth to the statement, but the man only jutted out his chin.
“Emrys is the last dragonlord.” He snapped out and Merlin had to physically pinch himself to keep from screaming.
“So…You’re Emrys?” Elyan asked, raising a brow. The man shrugged. Merlin looked over to where Lancelot was grinning at him. The man in question looked absolutely nothing like Emrys (aka Merlin). There was also the fact that he was hanging upside from a tree branch.
…okay, that might be something Merlin would accidentally get himself into, but not the point.
“Get yourself out then,” Merlin sighed and everyone turned to him “This bloody Emrys is apparently magical and now a dragonlord. If you are him then get yourself out.” He pointed out. Percival shrugged in agreement, raising his sword to subtly poke at the man hanging.
“I… I am having an off day.” The man tried and Merlin stared. “What? You wouldn’t know nothing about it.” He said and looked off into the distance “They say Emrys tamed the great dragon of Camelot and sired the white dragon of Albion-”
“Sired?” Gwaine interrupted “This Emrys fellow is going around siring dragons? How exactly is that happening? Sex with other dragons?” He asked and despite the situation, Merlin flushed. The man blinked, looking equally baffled by the question. From the corner of his eye, Merlin could see Arthur pinching the bridge of his nose.
“Uh…I actually don’t know.”
“But you’re Emrys,” Merlin reminded him with a sigh “You don’t remember siring any dragons?”
“I said it was an off day!” He complained, trying to cross his arms despite being upside down. Merlin took a long breath. Lancelot had already walked away, but that did nothing to hide his howling laughter. Merlin supposed the scenario was funny enough that nobody else questioned it.
“A dragon?” The knight asked when Merlin walked over to kick him. “Is it true?”
“No! I mean…The siring the dragon bit is technically true, but-” He started and hit him again when the laughter started back up “I just hatched the bloody egg! I didn’t have sex with anything! Lancelot…Lancelot stop it!”
“Ah, hello Emrys.”
The group froze at the greeting from the elderly blind woman. She smiled brightly at them all, having been picking berries when they crossed her.
“She’s an elf.” Gwaine whispered, pointing at her ears. He was right, Merlin was pretty sure. Unless there were other creatures that had pointed ears and only went up to your shoulders – or maybe the woman was simply short. Who knows? Not Merlin.
“Indeed I am, child.” The woman said, clearing up any questions on the species front. Gwaine’s grin grew wider, eyes flickering to the rest in excitement at the revelation. Arthur sighed, shaking his head at the knight before turning back to the woman, lips pursed.
“Did you just call us Emrys?” He asked and Merlin didn’t miss the way his hand flittered to his sword. He held his breath, praying he wasn’t about to get stabbed because a blind elf somehow recognized him and didn’t realize the imminent danger.
“No,” The elf said “I called Emrys, Emrys. Do keep up.” She said and Lancelot shifted a bit towards Merlin as she spoke. Merlin tried to tell her telepathically to shut it, but he had no idea if she heard him.
“Emrys is here?” Arthur asked, voice rising a pitch higher. The woman stopped her berry picking, instead turning her white eyes directly onto Arthur, somehow pinpointing where he was and turning to him. For a second she said nothing, simply standing there in a way that made everyone shift nervously. Merlin held his breath.
“You frighten him,” She finally frowned “Though I can’t imagine why. He could turn you to dust with a wave of his – Oh. I see.” She interrupted herself “He cares a great deal for you.”
“What?” Arthur blinked, taking the smallest of steps back. “How…? How do you know that?”
“My child, I cannot see, but I can still sense magical presences and understand the stories they are telling. Emrys’ magic is hard to miss. It is quite protective of you, dear. Not surprising given the prophecy, but I sense Emrys himself has grown fond of you.” She smiled “Prophecies can push people together, but they can’t force emotions.” She said and Merlin felt his face heat up a little at that. He wasn’t sure what she was implying, but judging by the look Lancelot was giving him, the other knight did.
“So why is he frightened of me?” Arthur scowled “If he cares so much.”
“Nobody likes rejection, darling.” The elf sighed “Now, I believe you have come into this forest looking for a relic of the Old Religion, hm? It is over in the old castle near the bank of the river.”
“Just follow the trail and you’ll get there by sundown.” She finished and plucked another berry from the bush. They tried talking to her for a few more minutes, but she didn’t speak again. Arthur eventually gave up and grumbled to himself as he marched past, ignoring her humming.
Be brave, a voice echoed in his head and Merlin almost dropped the pack he was carrying. The woman had turned to look directly at him. For a second, his breath caught. He felt his magic twist uncomfortably at his words, a bit offended. Merlin was born brave. He never had the choice to be a coward. He often wonders if he did have the choice, if he would be a coward. If he was born normally, would he ever have ever even touched magic? He swallowed a bit of resentment down and turned away. Even if he was acting cowardly, he figured he had earned that right.
“Sounds like this Emrys fellow has a crush on you, Arthur!” Gwaine yelled as they walked down the trail the woman had pointed out and Merlin immediately almost tripped.
“But he’s magic!” Percival (his hero, bless him) called “Why would anyone with magic have a crush on Arthur?” He reasoned. Merlin wanted to ask why anyone would have a crush on Arthur, but Leon interrupted with a hum from his place next to the king’s side. He looked at Arthur with some consideration before turning back to the others.
“Emrys already was in love with that lake woman-” He began, but stopped when Lancelot clapped his hands together.
“My friends,” He called and Merlin could have sighed in relief that someone was finally going to change the subject. “Have we considered that Emrys doesn’t know he has such feelings for our king?” He asked, holding out his arms with a small wink at Merlin.
What a fucking traitor.
“Emrys doesn’t like Arthur,” Merlin interjected, crossing his arms with a sharp glare towards Lancelot. “The elf was clearly insane if she’s talking to the guy when he clearly isn’t even here… Besides, Arthur is a prat.” He added on for good measure. Percival shrugged.
“Well, good,” Arthur declared – speaking for the first time since this mess of a conversation started. “Because I certainly do not have a crush on Emrys…Whoever the Hell he is.”
Merlin knew it was kind of silly to be offended…but also. How dare he?
"Right, right." Gwaine snorted "We forget someone has already snagged our king's heart."
“Emrys is too good for you anyways.” Merlin sniffed before he could help himself. In fairness, Gwen was out of Arthur's league too. “He probably likes people who have a smaller head…and waist.” He added just to make sure Arthur was thoroughly annoyed. Sure enough, the king threw his waterskin at Merlin’s head a few moments later.
“Merlin let it go,” Arthur sighed as the druid girl tilted her head, giving a slight nod of apology as she bit her lip. “It’s Emrys. At this point I’m not surprised.”
Merlin looked at him and then back to where the druid girl was silently crushing her berries in a bowl. He turned around, seeing the knights each watching him with various expressions of boredom. They didn’t even look shocked. He turned around again.
“No.” He said and shook his head “No, I don’t think so.”
“I...I’m so sorry.” The girl squeaked, stopping her progression with the berries to look at him. “But the legends do say Emrys is immortal.” She began and trailed off when Merlin wrinkled his nose.
“The legends are stupid.” He decided “Emrys can’t be immortal.”
“Why?” Leon asked, voice gentle despite the fact this had been a ten-minute argument now. “Why can’t he be immortal? He’s supposed to be the most powerful sorcerer to live, Merlin. Surely he can-”
“Nobody is bloody immortal. And if Emrys is a real person than he, of all people, should not be immortal.”
“He is quite powerful-” The girl began, but Merlin was not having it.
“And that must be very stressful!” He said, throwing his arms out in frustration. “The man is out there with a whole destiny apparently and is probably very tired and worried and anxious.” Merlin said stubbornly “It is mean to make him live forever!”
“…That doesn’t sound like the Emrys, I know.” Gwaine said and Merlin turned to him, mouth gaping.
“The Emrys you know?” He repeated, trying not to scream at the ridiculousness. Gwaine hummed in agreement, throwing his apple to the side in order to gesture in front of him, framing the sky with his hands.
“Emrys is…Calm. Tranquil. Like an angel in the clouds watching Arthur from afar…Refusing to admit his crush.” He explained and looked towards the other knights. Percival was nodding in agreement while Elyan put a hand under his chin before shrugging and giving Gwaine a thumbs up.
For the love of all that was good in this world…Merlin took a long breath.
“You don’t know him, Gwaine.”
“Him and I have a connection,” Gwaine insisted “I think if we met we would be friends.”
Merlin wasn't sure how Gwaine was alive if he was just openly admitting he would be friends with a sorcerer...Then again, it was only yesterday that Gwaine very loudly declared that if Arthur didn't confess his love for a certain servant that Lancelot was going to beat him there... So clearly he had no concerns about living or dying at this point.
“I…Fine. You would be friends. But he isn’t immortal.” Merlin said and the druid grimaced. “Come on. You’re going to make the poor guy deal with life for the rest of time?” He asked, a little desperately. She shot him another look of apology.
I am only the messenger, she said in his head. Merlin stared. This is ridiculous. Arthur tugged him away, muttering under his breath that Merlin cared far too much about inane things.
Are you certain I’m immortal?
The girl watched as he was dragged away with a small wave as his answer.
Two hours later, Lancelot found him sitting in the grass, picking bitterly at the ground. They both just waited for a moment – unwilling to ruin the silence. Finally, the knight gingerly lowered himself next to the servant.
“I’m sorry, Merlin.” He said quietly. “I know you wanted to see your loved ones in Avalon again.” He told him quietly and Merlin sighed, letting the tension that had been eating at him begin to slip away as his friend said the words he had been trying to avoid thinking.
“Will I have to watch Arthur die?” He asked and Lancelot swallowed, reaching out to clasp his arm gently as answer. More silence followed and unwilling to deprive himself another moment of wallowing in self-pity he launched himself at the other knight, hugging him tightly.
“Maybe he’s immortal too,” Lancelot said gently “Then you could both pretend like you aren’t head over heels for each other for all of eternity-”
“All that talk of you being noble is horseshit, Lancelot. I know you just want Gwen to yourself."
“What did you just say?”
Merlin would like to momentarily pause time to point out that he had never – not even once – did anything to deserve something like this. Never. He was a good man. He was doing good deeds and sought no reward other than Arthur’s safety.
So why was this happening?
“Emrys and the priestess Nimueh had a torrid love affair-”
“Nope,” Merlin interrupted the woman “That’s not true.”
“It is!” She insisted, turning to Arthur and the rest of the knights “Rumor even says they had a child together-”
“That’s even less true.” Merlin shrugged, jutting his hands in his pockets and glowered. The woman crossed her arms over her chest. Lancelot was looking between the two, face pinched in uncertainty as he seemingly attempted to figure out what course of action to take next.
“Oh, what would you know of it, Merlin?” Arthur asked, exasperation hinting at tone as he tucked his sword away “Nimueh is an enemy of Camelot. Is Emrys still aligned with her?” He asked, and Merlin had to take a moment to remind himself that only he had knowledge of the witch’s death.
“Well… No, he killed her.”
The woman sighed as if it was a dream ruined that Merlin hadn’t lived and long, loving life with that psychopath. “She tried to harm the Once and Future King and everyone knows Emrys’ love for him is far greater than for anyone else.” She noted and Merlin sighed.
“This warlock is in love with me?” Arthur asked, sounding astounded. Despite everything, Merlin flushed.
“Called it.” Gwaine muttered and Elyan wrinkled his nose as he reached to his belt to hand over a sack of coins. Merlin might have found it in himself to be affronted by that display if he wasn’t more concerned with the other conversation happening right now.
“Who the Hell said you were the Once and Future King?” He snapped, crossing his arms over his chest. Percival raised his hand.
“A druid did,” He said and when Merlin stared, shrugged “You were sick.” He added and Merlin squinted until his mind jumped back to when he had been poisoned a few weeks earlier by one of Arthur’s enemies. “The druid told us Arthur was the once and future king and that Emrys was also beautiful.”
“Oh yeah,” Gwaine shrugged “I guess it isn’t a surprise since his mom was supposed to be a hot piece of ass, but the druid did mention he was a beauty to behold…which is good news for our princess!” He added, clapping Arthur on the back “At least you know a beautiful man has eyes for you.” He chirped.
"But Arthur has eyes for someone else even more beautiful!" Elyan called. Merlin might have thought that was a little strange considering the knight wasn't the biggest fan of Gwen and Arthur together, but he was too busy very slowly turning to Lancelot to think much of it.
“Uh…Sorry I didn’t mention that,” The knight whispered “I thought you might be embarrassed.”
“None of this is true!” Merlin hissed back. He hadn’t been in love with Nimueh, he hadn’t had a child with her certainly, and he wasn’t in love with Arthur!
“Oh, don’t be like that Merlin.” Lancelot told him, clapping his arm “I think you are quite beautiful.”
“Why do you hate me?”
Sometimes truth seems more abstract the more you lie. If you tell yourself the same lie over and over again, eventually the truth seems unreal and foreign. You lose your grounding and when things circle back around, reality hits you with a force you can’t defend yourself against.
“You’re not druids.” Merlin noted calmly, the rope reddening his skin and he continued trying to unknot himself from the tree “But you serve Emrys?”
“We know of the prophecy.” The girl said, not tearing her eyes from Arthur. Him and the knights were in chains opposed from Merlin’s meager ropes. An unwise decision really. The iron claps were their only chance at ensuring their safety from Emrys himself. “Emrys is said to serve the Once and Future King-”
“Yes, yes. I know. But if you serve Emrys why did you tie the Once and Future King up?” He argued impatiently. Elyan was hissing at him to be quiet, concern flitting across everyone’s faces at Merlin’s impatience. The servant had already had enough. Ever since the name ‘Emrys’ had entered Camelot’s walls Merlin had received nothing but grief. So many rumors and prophecies that he couldn’t even give comment to without risk of exposing himself.
“Emrys chooses who the Once and Future King is.” The girl snapped as her brother aimed a swift kick at Merlin’s legs as he passed. He hissed in annoyance, but didn’t interrupt the girl “We are keeping Emrys from choosing him.” She added with a jerk of her head towards Arthur. Merlin felt his ire rise, a growl bubbling in his chest.
“That’s…Offensive. Even if Emrys did choose the Once and Future King, which I don’t think he does, shouldn’t you trust his judgment?” He asked and felt a stab of relief when the knot tying his hands together loosened. “Besides, why don’t you just talk to Emrys about your concerns?”
The girl and her brother exchange wary glances. They muttered something and Merlin rolled his eyes, asking them to repeat themselves.
“We don’t know who he is.” The boy snapped. Merlin sighed.
“Your plan is really stupid.” He said and the ropes fell off of him as he undid the final knot. The boy moved towards him, but Merlin held up a hand. “Trust me, I’m helping you by escaping. As it happens, I know Emrys. He would not be a fan of this.” He added and the pair stuttered out their disbelief.
“You’re not a druid!” The girl growled “We checked – none of you bear druid markings.” She told him and Merlin tried to think of a way he could get them out of his way without using magic.
“I never said I was a druid.” He answered and held out his hand “Could I have the key to their handcuffs please?” He asked, offering a polite smile.
“Can you-? No!” The girl yelled and rose her hand “I’ve heard enough from you.” she said and started chanting. Merlin flicked his wrist, silencing her. Discretion was over.
“Funny. I was going to say the same thing.” He told her. The girl was clutching at her throat, opening her mouth in a desperate attempt to speak. Her brother was frozen.
“You’re a sorcerer.” He swallowed and Merlin tilted his head. He shrugged.
“Key?” He asked. He potentially could free them all with magic, but it would be painful and difficult since they were all in iron. The boy grabbed the key and pulled it closer to his chest, eyes flicking to his sister warily.
“Why do you protect the king?” He asked instead “He kills our kind.”
“Arthur is not the same as his father. He doesn’t kill out of fear or cruelty. He is the Once and Future King, despite the actions you have taken to prevent it.” He added bitterly “I’m afraid I can’t let you harm him so it would be much simpler if you handed me the key and swore fealty to him.”
“How do you know that?” The boy spat “If we kill him than he can’t be the one the prophecies speak of-”
“That isn’t how prophecies work. I know for a fact he is the one they speak of. I’m losing my patience.” Merlin warned. The girl had recovered from the shock of losing her voice and was now fumbling around for a weapon. Merlin hoped he didn’t have to do anything dramatic to stop them from attacking.
“The druids told me. And a dragon. And a seer… Really the list is endless.” Merlin sighed and held out his hand.
“And why is it your duty to protect him?” The boy continued. Merlin knew he didn’t really look all-powerful, but he was still kind of offended by the idiocy being displayed. He didn’t risk looking at the knights to see if they had caught on. Merlin just stared at him. “You’re not…” He trailed off and Merlin continued his staring.
“I know,” He said instead “Everyone says the same thing. That I am so much younger than they expected or not as tall or as imposing or whatever. I really don’t know what people think I’m supposed to look like. An old man who lives in the forest with a bright light around me? Honestly. How am I supposed to protect anyone like that?” He mused, admittedly losing track of his initial goal. “Oh, come on,” He added when the boy shook his head “Don’t be an idiot. What other sorcerer do you think is stupid enough to be a personal servant to King bloody Arthur Pendragon of Camelot? Trust me, it wasn’t my first choice either. I walked inside the citadel and the first thing I saw was a beheading. I would have left immediately if the dragon didn’t trick me into staying with all that destiny nonsense. Can I please have the key now?”
“You’re… You’re really Emrys?” The boy whispered. His sister had dropped the knife she had found to spear him with, mouth opened and face contorted in shock.
“So… Arthur Pendragon really will unite Albion and bring back magic?”
“That’s really up to him. I’m just here to make sure he’s safe and protect Camelot. Can we talk about the key now?”
“But you’re the most powerful warlock to walk the earth!” The boy protested, his sister nodding eagerly beside him “Surely, you can take the throne yourself? Or force him to bring magic back?”
Seriously? Seriously? Merlin groaned, lowering his hand.
“Why would I do that? Arthur is my friend and I certainly do not want to be king. He’ll do a fantastic job and I trust the decisions he makes. If he brings magic back, he’ll do it in the best way and be honorable and all that. He can’t do anything though if he’s chained up so please, please give me the key before I knock you both out and take it from you. I’m really at the end of my rope here, guys.”
“Oh. Right. Sorry.” The boy asked and held it out to him. Merlin sighed, flicking his wrist to the girl’s voice was restored and took the metal key from them. “Were you serious about before? About swearing fealty to Camelot?” He added and Merlin raised an eyebrow.
“You say you serve Emrys?” He asked and both nodded “Then, yes. If you serve me, you serve Arthur and Camelot. Welcome.” He added dryly. He finally turned to the knights. He wasn’t for sure what reaction he would receive, but most of the expressions were fairly blank. Lancelot was smiling at him, the pride unmistakable. Gwaine was giddily grinning as well, face alight with pleasure at the revelation. The rest were harder to read. From behind him, the siblings knelt, muttering their oaths. Arthur was watching them with a little annoyance.
“If I, uh. Let you out will you promise to let me explain before you kill me?” He asked. Arthur’s eyes snapped up to him and – yep. There was the anger he was expecting. For a second there was only silence and Merlin figured he was safe to let Lancelot out.
“Are you hurt?” His friend asked when Merlin released him. He shook his head and moved towards Gwaine. The knight had wisely not spoken, despite the clear excitement he was vibrating with. Merlin shook his head at him, hiding a smile of his own when he was pulled into a hug from the other man.
“Sire?” He asked warily, and Arthur took a long breath.
“Let me out.” He said lowly. Merlin frowned – it didn’t sound very promising. From behind him, Lancelot and Gwaine shuffled. The brother and sister were peering over at them nervously. Merlin stepped forward and released him, moving towards Leon, Percival, and Elyan to unchain them as well.
There was an awkward pause.
“So…You’re in love with me?”
For the love of God. Before Merlin could even defend himself, Gwaine raised his hand.
“I want to know how you fuck a dragon.”
“That’s a good question – but let’s hear more about the pretty Lady of the Lake you apparently got with.” Elyan started, rubbing his wrist now that the bindings we off “And that torrid love affair with Nimueh. This is going to complicate things, your majesty. He’s a player, clearly.”
“No, no.” Leon shook his head “Let’s talk about the fact he has a kid. Arthur, are you really ready to become a father?”
“THE DRAGON IS THE KID! NIMUEH IS ACTUALLY THE DRAGON!”
“NO!” Merlin yelled, loudly enough to shut them up “I did not have any feelings for Nimueh. At all. She was evil. I killed her. That’s it.” He pointed out and Lancelot, damn him, clicked his tongue.
“Because she threatened Arthur’s life?” He innocently questioned and Merlin looked up at the sky at the chortling that followed. He hated them.
“Yes – and I did not fuck a dragon. I just hatched the egg – No. Don’t roll your eyes at me. I didn’t!” He said and looked at Arthur. This was not how he was expecting this conversation to go… At all. “Aren’t you pissed? Shouldn’t you be planning to behead me?” He added. It was a bit of a shock that that was how he wanted the conversation to go at this point.
“I’m not…Sure.” He admitted “It is rather shocking to learn you slept with some lake lady-”
"He's also immortal," Leon pointed out "Beheading him might just mean you have a talking head following you around, sire." The knight said and Arthur rose his eyebrows at that, eyes flicking Merlin over at that.
"...is that not what's happening now?" He asked with a roll of his eyes.
“Why did I even bother keeping you alive?” Merlin hissed, face going bright red. Before he could realize that question was a huge mistake, Percival jumped in.
“Well you do love him-”
“Please kill me, Arthur.”
It was perhaps a month later when Arthur walked in to find a bunch of druids casually stuffed into his room, surrounding Merlin who was eagerly taking notes.
"...no, no. I need it more...dramatic than that." Merlin was saying as Arthur loudly shut the door to announce his presence.
"Merlin." He greeted and stared at the cloaked group sitting on his bedroom floor. "Druids."
"Your majesty," They all murmured with bowed heads in return "We are answering some questions that Emrys has regarding your prophecy." One of them chipped on. Arthur turned back to the sorcerer, not even bothering to voice his question. He just stared, waiting for Merlin to get it out.
"The prophecy says your an idiot." He finally burst out. Arthur might have been offended if he actually believed him. It was only when one of the druids shrugged that he let his mouth drop in betrayal. Merlin smirked as he leaned back in victory from his spot at Arthur's desk.
"Well," One druid jumped in "Technically the prophecy says that the Once and Future King would fail without your guidance." She explained, shifting from where she - was she sitting on Arthur's bed? Nevermind. Arthur had bigger problems at the moment.
"So he's an idiot," Merlin rectified and the king took a long breath. "Anything else about the Once and Future King?"
At one point in his life he might have had a lot more to say on this matter. His servant turned sorcerer using his room as his own to house ex-criminals and insult the king... His father was probably rolling in his grave somewhere. As it was, Arthur knew that this was one of those rare situations where speaking would only add more problems.
Plus he just knew Merlin was going to make a mess of things and very much wanted to see that.
"Uh..." A druid boy piped up, taking a piece of fruit of Arthur's table "It is said he is a servant to his people as his people are to him...Oh and that his love will guide the way to Albion." He continued, taking a bit of the fruit and wiping the juice from his chin. Merlin blinked.
"Gwen leads him to Albion?" Merlin asked and pulled his brows together, voice going a little huffy "That was my job."
"It is your job." The first druid said and there was a long moment of silence. Eventually Merlin must have gotten the implication because he flushed red, knocking over a bottle of ink as he muttered something about prophecies and lies. Arthur smiled. That was the mess he was waiting for.
"Really, Merlin," Arthur said as he opened his door back up. Training seemed like the better option right now anyways. "You didn't have to go to the druids for a love confession. The knights have been saying it for months now..." He sang and wrinkled his nose "I was a little worried Lancelot might not have gotten the message. Luckily he's assured me he only has friendly feelings for you." He added with a shrug and there was a loud crash as he shut the door.
"...Emrys? Are you alright?" A voice asked.
"Come back here, you coward."