Title: New Beginnings
Characters/Pairings: Merlin, Arthur, Gwen, Arwen. NO SLASH
Rating: T Just because I’m paranoid
Warnings: No Beta. All mistakes are my own and I suck at catching typos.
Spoilers: The entire series. This is AU after the Coming of Arthur
Disclaimer: I don’t own the characters. They belong to BBC. I’m just having fun with them.
Summary: Over the years, Arthur has seen quite a lot of magic. He had seen it corrupt those he loves. But does he truly believe that magic is as evil as his father says? The death of the king forces him to decide.
“Do you really believe that magic is evil?”
Merlin froze. He strained his ears to listen, desperate to know both the answer and the conversation that would follow.
It had been almost a month since Morgana had been driven from Camelot. The kingdom was slowly healing, but the king was not. He’d weakened steadily over the intervening months and now it was only a matter of time before he left this world. Arthur was keeping vigil over him and, be extension, so was Merlin.
Realizing that there had been no answer, Merlin chanced a look at Arthur only to find that the prince was watching him expectantly. It dawned on him that the question had been directed at him.
“Sorry. What did you say, sire?” Merlin rarely used Arthur’s title without some sarcasm applied to it, but under the circumstances he thought he best to be polite. This seemed like the set up for finding out that Arthur had found out about his magic.
The prince seemed to realize that the’d startled his manservant because he rolled his eyes and sighed. “Do you really believe that magic is evil?” he asked again.
Thoroughly uncomfortable with the topic, and the present company, Merlin did what he did best. He evaded the question. “How do you know that I even think that?”
“Because you told me that when I tried to kill father after going to see Morgause.”
Oh, Merlin thought. Right. I did say that.
When he remained silent a moment too long, Arthur rose from his chair beside his father’s bed and walked toward Merlin. “Which, when you think about it, doesn’t really make sense considering that one of your best friends in Ealdor was a sorcerer himself.”
Merlin gulped, then let out an exasperated sigh. “No, sire, I don’t believe that magic is evil. I believe that it is a tool. Just as a sword, or a spear, or even a crown is. It can be used for good or evil depending on the nature of the person who wields it. I only ever said otherwise because it was the only way to keep you from doing something you would regret!”
Whatever answer Arthur had been expecting, that clearly wasn’t it. “Then you lied to me that day?” he asked slowly.
“About the nature of magic, yes,” Merlin said. He was a little unnerved by Arthur’s behavior. “It was the only way to stop you. If you’d killed your father you would have been devastated.”
There was a brief moment of silence. Arthur glanced at his father, who was sleeping fitfully. When his eyes locked on Merlin again, they were hard. “Then do you believe that the vision I saw was real? That my mother really did die at my father’s hand?”
Merlin gaped in horror. He’d really put his foot in it that time.
“Answer me!” Arthur hissed. “Do you believe that what I learned that day was true?”
A quiet cough from behind the prince saved Merlin from answering. They both turned to see Gaius standing at the foot of the king’s bed, one eyebrow raised.
“If I may, I can answer that better than Merlin,” he said softly.
Once again, Merlin was left wondering if he’d heard wrong. Gaius had sworn never to tell Arthur about the truth of his birth. The only reason Merlin had found out was because Nimueh had tried to kill him. He couldn’t believe that Gaius was going to break the king’s trust. But he could guess the old man’s reasons. Arthur had a right to know the truth before his father died.
“Your father trusted me with an account of what happened that day,” Gaius explained. “I believe that it was indeed an apparition of your mother that you saw. And she did tell you the truth, to a degree,” he said firmly, looking Arthur in the eye. The prince looked dismayed and angry, but he kept his mouth shut and listened to Gaius.
“It was I who contacted Nimueh,” the physician admitted. “Your father wanted a son. He wanted an heir and he wanted a family. Nimueh made him aware of the fact that for a life to be created another life must be taken, but he did not care. So Nimueh gave your mother and father a son. No one, not even Nimueh with her powers as a Seeress could have predicted that your mother’s life would have been taken for yours. Had Uther known that Igraine would be the price of having a son, I doubt he ever would have agreed in the first place.”
Arthur sat down slowly. “Then, I was born of magic?”
“If that is true, why did father ban it?”
This time, Gaius hesitated. “He blamed Nimueh and convinced himself that she had deceived him. It did not help matters that, because there were no laws govern magic at all during this time, that the use of dark magic was rampant. Everything culminated to convince the King that the only thing he could do was destroy magic completely.”
“So it is not evil?”
Gaius shook his head. Without another word, he turned to tend to the king, more or less leaving Merlin and Arthur alone.
Leaning back, Arthur sighed. “I thought as much,” he said, sounding almost sad. Without warning, he leapt up and began pacing. “I mean, look at the evidence. Almost every sorcerer who’s attacked me or the kingdom, or even father has done so because of the anti-magic laws. They were wronged in some way. The woman who impersonated Lady Helen had lost her son at my father’s hand. Morgause, who actually is evil, really just wants to live in peace and to no longer be persecuted. She’s going about it the wrong way, but she’s got the right intentions. I’m almost positive that Morgana went to her because she was scared and that if she’d been allowed to nurture her...” he stumbled slightly over the word, “...gifts freely then she’d have never attacked Camelot. Hell, the dragon probably attacked because he was annoyed that father had kept him chained up under the castle for so long! Isn’t it possible that the only reason sorcerers seem evil is because the law is forcing their hand?”
Arthur rounded on Merlin expectantly. The warlock gulped.
“You’ve put a lot of thought into this, haven’t you?” he asked.
The prince’s face darkened. “I am going to be king soon. There are a lot of things that I’ve seen over the years that I’ve never been able to really act upon under my father’s rule. I have to consider the chance that he might have been wrong about something.”
“What kind of things?” Merlin prodded. He tried to ignore the hope burning in his chest. Perhaps he could trust Arthur with his secret after all.
There was a moment of silence while Arthur seemed to gather his thoughts. He sank down on the bed and gestured for Merlin to join him. A few more moments passed before he spoke.
“When I was trying to find the morteus flower to save you from the poison, a sorceress trapped me in the cave where it grew. I thought I was going to die and then this light appeared and guided me out of the cave. It had to be magic, but whoever conjured it was obviously helping me.”
Merlin had to fight to keep his face straight. He knew exactly who had conjured the orb and what their intentions had been. He just couldn’t believe that Arthur had remembered. That had been almost three years ago.
Unaware of the slightly stunned look on his manservant’s face, Arthur went on. “Your friend Will was a sorcerer and he obviously meant no harm. He helped save us all. Then that curse from the unicorn. That was my fault. When I made up for it, the curse was lifted. Someone used magic to heal Gwen’s father and because of that she had a little more time with him. Magic had to have been used to force the troll to reveal it’s true appearance. And I know that Balinor had at least some magic as a dragonlord. He was going to help us, despite what my father had done to him. I’m almost sure that he used magic to tend my wound.”
Again, Merlin had to struggle to hide his surprise. Apparently the prince was fare more observant than he gave him credit for. The warlock was almost surprised that Arthur hadn’t connected everything to him.
“Now that I know that Morgana was working with Morgause since she returned, I think that someone magic must have been stopping her,” Arthur plowed on. “How else could that army of skeletons have been defeated? The bridge keeper at the Perilous Lands told me that I couldn’t complete my quest unless I was aided by Strength and Magic. I have no idea who they are, but they must have helped me because I completed my quest. Maybe Dragoon the Great’s been behind it all from the beginning!”
Merlin almost laughed out loud at that. Dragoon the Great had not been one of his finest moments, what with getting stuck as an old man and all. But it had been a great deal of fun and he was looking forward to practicing the aging spell again.
“Maybe he was,” he said mysteriously. “He did save Gwen by getting himself caught.”
“You’re just saying that because then it wouldn’t be quite so embarrassing that you let him get by you,” Arthur said, leveling a glare at the warlock. “I swear, Merlin. You really are the most incompetent servant I’ve ever seen.”
“I do try my best, sire.”
“I’m sure you do,” Arthur grumbled.
Merlin grinned. “If you’re not satisfied, I can always try harder,” he suggest.
At the sound of his name, Arthur stopped, his arm extended to cuff Merlin round the head. The warlock, who’d been cringing away from the blow, straightened up. They both turned to the sound of the voice. Gaius was bent over Uther, trying to calm him. Apparently, the king had woken. He hadn’t been fully conscious or sentient in three days. Arthur hurried to his father’s side and knelt beside the king.
“Father?” he said softly.
Uther’s eyes, clouded with the madness that had consumed him since Morgana’s betrayal, some how found those of his son. He stilled sightly and struggled to speak.
“You’ll be a good king,” he whispered. “I’m proud of you. Don’t let Camelot fall.”
“I won’t, father.” Only because he knew the prince so well did Merlin hear the sorrow in Arthur’s voice.
“Don’t make my mistakes,” the king warned. Each syllable was a struggle, but still he spoke. “Be better than me. Listen where I did not. Keep those you care about close. They are your strength.”
This time, Arthur merely nodded. Satisfied, the king close his eyes and breathed no more.
The bells pealed out over the silent town. The few people who were still awake at that late hour paused and bowed their head in respect for their fallen king. Uther may not have been the best of kings, but he had done much to protect the people of Camelot.
Arthur was standing on the battlements. He’d taken care of the official business of the king’s death. The council would set the date for his coronation and would take care of most of the funeral. As soon as he wasn’t needed, he’d fled his father’s chambers and escaped into the night.
His hands were clenched into fists on the stone. Every muscle in his body was taut with the effort it was taking not to cry out. He and his father hadn’t been close in so long. He honestly couldn’t remember the last time he had looked at Uther as a father. He had become the king and nothing more. More recently, he’d stopped respecting his father as king. If he had to guess, Arthur would say that it had happened sometime after Merlin had arrived. The idiotic manservant had helped open his eyes to many realities that he had previously been blind to.
But it hurt. No matter what their differences had been as father and son or as king and crown prince, he’d still loved his father. He hated that he hadn’t been able to do anything to save his father.
Tears started to slide down his cheeks. He squeezed his eyes shut and tried to hold the grief at bay.
Small hands slid along his ribs and a pair of familiar arms wrapped around him. Arthur felt himself being pulled around. He allowed himself to be manhandled, despite the fact he could easily have resisted, and collapsed into the waiting embrace of the woman he loved.
Gwen hugged him tightly. His grip on her was almost too tight, but she didn’t care. She knew what it was to lose a father.
“Why do I feel this way?” Arthur asked brokenly. “He wasn’t a good father and he wasn’t a good king. Why does it hurt so much?”
She drew back and looked him in the eye. Her heart almost broke and words almost failed her when she saw the tears glistening on his cheeks.
“None of that matters,” Gwen murmured. She slid her hand up his chest to rest against his neck, trying to give him a more tangible anchor to hold on to. “He was still your father. He loved you and you know that, even if he wasn’t always the best at showing it. The two of you may have disagreed, but he was still your family.”
Her words seemed to unlock his grief. He pulled her tight again, burying his face against her neck. Gwen felt hot tears wetting her skin and dress, but she didn’t care. She simply held Arthur tighter.
“It’s my fault,” he finally whispered. “I should have done something. I should have seen how Morgana was struggling and I should have been there for her like the brother I was supposed to be. If I’d helped her, none of this would have happened.”
“You can’t know that,” Gwen protested. “Morgana was always strong willed. Even if you had seen that something was wrong, she would never have told you that she had magic. She would have kept it to herself and this still would have happened. You cannot blame yourself for Morgana’s choices. Or the choices of your father. We all knew that something was off. He was the one that was too blind to see it and that is what broke him. It had nothing to do with you.”
“Then why do I feel like it is?”
Gwen raised her hand to rest against Arthur’s cheek. “Because you are a good man who cares for others and who feels their pain. Because of that, you will be a better king than your father ever was.”
Arthur pulled her tighter to him before letting go of all of her except her hand. With every step, he shook his grief away. It was still there, but he was mastering it as only he could. Gwen looked up at him in mild concern.
“Are you all right?” she asked. Despite how well she knew him, she often had trouble telling. He was so good at masking his emotions, especially when it came to burying the pain. He’d had too much of it in his young life.
“Not really,” he admitted. “But I don’t have much of a choice do I?”
“You always have a choice. You can decided what kind of king you will become.”
Arthur laughed softly. “You know, Merlin said something similar not too long ago.”
“Well, he is a lot smarter than you give him credit for,” Gwen teased. “He’s always coming up with good ideas.”
“Just don’t tell him,” the prince almost begged. “He’s impudent enough as it is without either of us encouraging him.”
Gwen giggled and slapped his arm.
“It’s true,” Arthur protested.
She just rolled her eyes.
“You should get some rest,” Arthur suggested. “The next few days are going to be hard and...” he bit his lip uncertainly for a moment, “I think I’m going to need all the help I can get.”
“I’ll help in anyway I can,” Gwen assured him. “I’ll see you in the morning. Though I might be a little late. By the time I get home, it will be rather late.”
She stood up on her toes and pecked him lightly in the cheek. It was still a little strange that she could be so forward with the prince...no the king of Camelot. But he’d done so much to make her comfortable around him that it seemed almost wrong not to return the favor. Giving him one last smile, she turned to go.
Before she could walk away, Arthur grabbed her hand and pulled her back. “Stay at the castle. It’s safer than going back to your house and since my father’s gone we don’t have to worry about what anyone will say. Besides, since Elyan’s a knight that makes you a lady. It’s only proper.”
Gwen bit her lip. Truth be told, she rather liked the idea of staying in the castle. It was so much closer to Arthur and so much easier on her. There was no way anyone could complain. Since Arthur was king, what he said was law and with Elyan now a knight she really was a lady of the court by extension. She had no reason to say except that it was still so strange to consider herself a lady when she had been a servant for so long.
Arthur knew that he’d won when she didn’t answer immediately. “You can have one of the guest rooms for tonight. I’ll have another room set up for you tomorrow, if you’d like to move to the castle permanently.”
She laughed and kissed him again, this time on the lips. “I would love to.”
He snaked an arm around her waist, hauling her against him and crushed her lips with his. Keeping one hand wrapped securely about her waist, he slid his other hand into her hair. Her fingers nimbly slid up his chest, coming to rest over his heart. Arthur had to choke back a moan and pull away before things went too far.
“I love you,” he whispered.
“And I love you. Now go get some sleep,” Gwen ordered. “If I’m going to be busy then you really will be.”
“All right,” he grumbled. “Have breakfast with me tomorrow?”
“I wouldn’t miss it."
A small, coy smile pulled at her lips and she walked away, leaving Arthur standing in the middle of the hallway, staring after her. Hope bloomed in his chest. For the first time since he’d fallen for Guinevere, he saw a light at the end of the tunnel and truly believed that they would be together.
Arthur shook himself from his thoughts as a wave of tiredness crashed over him. Running a hand through his hair, he stumbled back to his bedroom. To his surprise, not only was everything ready for him, but Merlin was standing by the fire, adding a few logs.
“Why aren’t you in bed?” Arthur asked.
Merlin glanced over his shoulder. “You never told me to go,” he said cheekily. “It’s my job to be here until you tell me otherwise.”
“Since when you have actually followed protocol?” the prince scoffed.
“Since your father just died and I thought you might not want to be alone right now,” The warlock admitted. “Though considering you just left Gwen, you probably don’t really need my company.”
Arthur sighed. He’d stopped trying to figure out how Merlin seemed to always know what was going on a long time ago. Instead, he just looked at the manservant who had become his best friend. He’d never say it out loud, but they both knew it. Merlin was there because he felt an obligation to his prince, but to his friend.
“Well if you’re here, you might as well hand me a clean shirt,” he said brusquely.
Merlin rolled his eyes good naturedly, but did as he was asked. While Arthur was changing, he turned down the covers and snuffed out the majority of the candles, leaving the fire that warmed the room as the only source of light.
“So what’s your first act as king going to be?” Merlin asked conversationally. He hadn’t heard anything from the prince in several minutes and was actually afraid that he’d fallen asleep in the middle of changing.
When Arthur emerged from behind the screen a moment later, he made straight for the bed and collapsed onto the mattress. He was already half asleep, even as he pulled the covers up over his arms.
The warlock shook his head and made to leave the room. But the sound of his name being called stopped his short.
Arthur was looking at him blearily. “I think I’ll lift the ban on magic,” the prince murmured, before promptly falling into a deep sleep.
Author’s Note: So what do you think? I was in the middle of working on another fic when this plot bunny just popped into my head and wouldn’t leave me alone. I kinda like the idea of Arthur coming to his senses about magic on his own based on everything that had happened. I know it’s a little far fetched after what happened with Morgana, but I’m just wishing. Anyway, I think this will probably just stay a one shot, but I do have half an idea to continue it. I guess it just depends on how many reviews I get and what people think. Please read and review. I love it when people do!