Title: New Impressions
Rating: T (cuz I’m paranoid)
Warnings: none that I can think of, other than AU after The Coming of Arthur
Spoilers: The Coming of Arthur and all that came before
Previous: New Beginnings
Summary: The day of Arthur’s coronation draws near, but Merlin has no idea if the prince really meant what he said about allowing magic back into Camelot. Will Arthur lift the ban? And will Merlin find the courage to tell the prince of his magic?
Disclaimer: I don’t own these characters. They are the property of the BBC.
Author’s Note: So....I wrote a sequel to New Beginnings. I had a bunch of people say they wanted one and quite frankly I always intended to. This isn’t beta’d and I haven’t really gone over it for typos because I’m too impatient. Sorry.
Anyway, read and tell me what you think!
“Are you sure that Arthur said he was going to lift the ban on magic?”
Merlin was tempted to bang his head against the wall. That was at least the ten thousandth time Gaius had asked him that question in the week that had passed since Uther’s death and Arthur’s strange confession. Merlin hadn’t had the courage to ask the prince if he’d meant it. Showing any sort of interest in whether or not the ban was ifted could get him into trouble, especially if Arthur hadn’t said, or didn’t remember saying, anything about it.
“Merlin!” Gaius called impatiently. “Are you sure--”
“No, Gaius. I”m not sure,” Merlin interrupted. “I have no idea whether or not Arthur intends to let magic back into Camelot. Will you please stop asking me about?”
The old physician had the decency to look slightly sheepish. “I”m sorry, my boy,” he apologized. “But it would be helpful if we knew what the prince was planning. No matter what his decision is, he will make enemies.”
Merlin just groaned in response.
Gaius took pity on him. “Get some sleep, Merlin. The next few days are going to be busy.”
As if the last week hasn’t been busy enough, he grumbled to himself as he heaved his tired body off the bench and stumbled his way toward his tiny bedroom. Since the king’s death, the servants had been run ragged preparing for his funeral and for Arthur’s coronation. Even the servants who generally weren’t charged with the upkeep of the castle had been wrangled into getting everything ready. Add that to the fact that Arthur had been more demanding that usual as his nerves got to him and you had the makings of a truly exhausted warlock.
The fact that he couldn’t sleep didn’t help matters any. Merlin had spent every night tossing and turning as his mind conjured up every possible way the coronation cold go wrong until his body just couldn’t take the pressure any longer and shut down.
Merlin tiredly shucked off his boots and jacket before collapsing onto his narrow bed. But before he could even close his eyes, he felt a tickle in the back of his mind.
The young warlock groaned and pulled his pillow over his head. It had been months since the dragon’s voice had interrupted his sleep. It would figure that the overgrown lizard would decide to interfere just when Merlin most needed his sleep.
“MERLIN!” the dragon shouted.
“All right, all right,” Merlin grumbled. “Don’t get your scales in a bunch. I’m coming.”
He wasn’t sure if Kilgarrah heard him, but the tingle in the back of his mind faded. Muttering curses under his breath, he pulled his jacket and boots back on.
Gaius was still pottering around in the main chamber. He looked up in surprise when Merlin stomped out of his bedroom, looking decidedly put out.
“What are you doing?” the old man demanded. “I thought I told you to get some sleep.”
“Kilgarrah has other ideas. If I don’t see what he wants, I won’t get any sleep at all. If I humor him, then I might get a little rest.
Gaius arched an eyebrow in a way in the way that clearly stated he thought Merlin was being an idiot. “You’re a dragonlord, Merlin. Surely you can tell him to leave you alone.”
“It doesn’t work unless we’re in the same place,” Merlin yawned. “Or if it does, I haven’t figured it out yet. I can summon him, but if I want to actually order him to do something, then I have to be a bit closer.”
“All right then,” Gaius sighed. “Just be careful. The guards are more vigilant these days.”
Merlin grinned. “I’m always careful. See you in the morning, Gaius.”
Strangely enough, the physician was not placated by Merlin’s reassurances.
Merlin miraculously made it out of the city without being seen. The guards may have been more careful after Morgana’s brief reign, but the young warlock was well versed in slipping into and out of places that were supposedly under heavy guard. It was a handy skill to have when you were a secret sorcerer protecting the prince.
It took almost an hour to reach the clearing where he and Kilgarrah usually met. The dragon was curled up on the grass, fast asleep.
“Oi!” Merlin shouted. “Wake up! You called me out here, so what do you want?”
Kilgarrah opened one eye. “What took you so long, young warlock?”
Merlin glared at him. “Let’s start with the fact that it is the middle of the night, that I have positively been run ragged, and that it’s difficult even for me to to find a way out of the city these days. What do you want?”
Moving slowly and with a lot of leather creaking, the dragon unwound his long body and stood, gazing down at Merlin from his impressive height, his amber eyes glinting. “The destiny of the world rests on a razor’s edge. It can either descend into chaos or rise into glory. It all depends upon the prince.”
“I really do not have the time or energy for this,” Merlin muttered before raising his voice and saying more loudly, “What exactly does that mean?”
“The future of the world rests on Arthur’s shoulders and depends up his choice concerning magic,” the dragon clarified, taking pity on Merlin’s less than awake state. “If the prince allows magic to return to Camelot, he will meet resistance among the nobles who were loyal to Uther and he will still face threats from those who have been persecuted. But if he continues his father’s vendetta, those who have magic will renew their efforts to take the throne and Camelot will fall into a state of darkness from not even you can save it.”
“What would you have me do?” Merlin asked tiredly.
“There is little you can do. It is out of your hands.You must be prepared, whatever the out come.”
“Please tell me that you did not call me out here just for that,” Merlin grumbled. “Because I’d really figured most of that out myself.”
“Perhaps, young warlock,” the dragon chuckled. “But that is not the only reason I called you hear. Will you stand by the prince even if he follows in his father’s footsteps? Will you support him and protect him from his enemies even if he continues to hunt down those who use magic?”
Merlin hesitated. He hadn’t really given much thought to what he would do if Arthur didn’t lift the ban on magic. He’d really only thought about all the ways the coronation could go wrong. It was horrible having to keep so much of himself a secret and watch so many innocents suffer because of an irrational fear of magic. A part of him had been depending on Arthur changing that when he became king. But after everything that had happened with Morgana and her betrayal, he couldn’t help but acknowledge the fact that Arthur would have every right to hate magic more than before.
But the fact remained that Arthur was more than just Merlin’s king. He was his friend. Whether Arthur accepted magic or not, that much wouldn’t change.
Meeting Kilgarrah’s eye, Merlin drew himself up and crossed his arms. “I’ll still stand by him. He’s seen magic in the worst possible ways, so I can’t blame him if he choses not to lift the ban. But he’s still my friend and I won’t give up on him.”
To his surprise, instead of giving him a lecture on showing allegiance to his fellow creatures of magic, the dragon smiled. “Then the prince has a worthy ally. Good luck, Merlin. The hopes of every being in this world rest on you. It will be your duty to guide the prince no matter what his choice.”
“You know, you’re really not making me feel any better,” Merlin said dryly.
Kilgarrah chuckled again. “I did not call you here to lighten your spirits. I called you here to warn you of the task ahead.”
“Thanks, I think. Now I’m going back to bed. I don’t care what you do as long as you stay out of sight.”
He’d almost reached the tree-line when the dragon’s voice reached him once again. “If the prince choses to accept magic, then Camelot will find that it has a dragon as a guardian.”
Merlin spun on his heel, but Kilgarrah had already leapt into the sky and disappeared into the sky. He knew that he could all the dragon back, but decided against it. For once, the dragon had been perfectly clear.
By the time the day of Arthur’s coronation dawned, Merlin had a plan. It was a really bad plan, but it was a plan. If Gaius knew about it, he’d have probably boxed Merlin round the ears and force fed him a vial potion that would have kept him unconscious for a month so that he couldn’t do something stupid. Which was exactly why Gaius had no idea what his young ward had in mind.
He’d spent every spare moment practicing. It wouldn’t be good if anything went wrong. To say that he was nervous would be a monumental understatement. If Gaius picked up on it, he just assumed that Merlin was worried about something going wrong at the coronation.
Arthur had been distant. Despite the fact that he knew that that was just how the prince coped with pressure, Merlin had been vaguely hurt by the fact that Arthur wouldn’t talk to him. To be fair, Merlin knew that he’d been a little distant as well. Since the night when he may or may not have heard Arthur’s plans for magic, Merlin had been careful not to say or do anything that might arouse suspicion. He just hoped that everything worked out once the coronation was over and Merlin actually knew what the future of every magic wielder in Camelot will be.
The night before the coronation, Merlin finally got everything sorted out. He closed his magic book and carefully stowed it away before curling up on his side and trying to get some much needed sleep. It was going to be a busy day.
Arthur woke before the dawn and long, long before Merlin showed up to bring him breakfast. He was nervous. In a few short hours, he would be crowned king. It didn’t matter that he’d more or less been playing that role since Morgana had been kicked out of Camelot. The fact that it was now becoming official scared the hell out of him, especially considering what he planned to change.
Since sleep seemed out of the question, Arthur threw back the blankets and walked to the window. He knew that it wasn’t going to be easy to make the changes he envisioned. But he’d hoped to have at least some support from Merlin. Ever since he’d let slip his plans that night his father died, Merlin had been just the slightest bit distant. The fact that his best friend -- though he’d never actually made it official -- wouldn’t support him, hurt.
He wasn’t sure how long he stood there, just staring out the window. Eventually Merlin came stumbling in, a goofy, nervous smile painted on his face.
“You ready, sire?” he asked.
Arthur just shook his head.
The next several hours passed in a blur. Before he knew it, Arthur was wearing the rich attire that had been made especially for his coronation and he was standing before the throne. In the absence of his father, Geoffrey was passing on the crown. He’d wanted it to be Gwen, but the council had balked at the idea. In the end, she’d convinced him that having her take on such an important role would being pushing the council too far too soon. She’d held up admirably under the scrutiny and disdain of the council when Arthur had announced his intention to marry her. Only the fact that she was technically a lady of the court since he’d knighted Elyan had kept the council from truly throwing a fit..
The sound of Geoffrey clearing his throat from inside the throne room abruptly brought Arthur back to reality. The ceremony was about to begin. It did not escape Arthur’s notice that Merlin was nowhere to be seen.
Once the room was silent, the knights pushed open the doors. Arthur strode in confidently, trying to ignore the eyes the were following him. Gwen stood next to Geoffrey, that much he’d insisted on. She looked absolutely beautiful a rich purple gown. Given the distance between him and Merlin the past few weeks, Arthur wasn’t sure he’d have made it to his own coronation without her help. Gwaine, Leon, Lancelot, Elyan, and Percival -- the knights of the round table as Gwaine insisted on calling them -- stood on either side of the carpet that led the way to the throne. They were all grinning proudly. Arthur halted at the foot of the dais and knelt. Once the room was silent, Geoffrey began.
“On this day, we have gathered to witness the crowning of a new king. Arthur Pendragon, son of Uther Pendragon, do you swear to govern Camelot fairly and wisely, as to the best of your ability.”
Arthur took a deep breath. “I swear it.”
“Do you swear to uphold the laws of land? Supporting those that are just and ending those that are not?”
“I swear it.”
“Do you swear to protect this land and all it’s peoples?”
“I swear it.”
“And do you swear to set aside your own wants and needs for the people of Camelot?”
“I swear it.”
“Then I crown you, Arthur Pendragon, king of Camelot.”
Carefully, the old man set the heavy crown on Arthur’s brow. He waited a beat before standing and turning to face the crowd. Geoffrey stepped back and said, “Camelot, I give you your king.”
The room erupted into applause. Arthur took a deep breath. Now for the really hard part.
Arthur rose a hand for silence. “The last few months have been hard,” he said, his voice strong and carrying effortless across the room. “As have the past several years. Camelot has been battered by many foes. Still wee have survived and come out even stronger. If we are to withstand another such attack, then we must learn from our past.”
Pausing, he took a moment to rally his nerves before going on. “My father was a good king, but he was blinded by his prejudices. I have seen that too many of those who attack us want only to live in peace, but cannot because of my father’s laws. My first act as king will be to right that. As of today, magic is no longer banned and those that wield it will no longer be punished unless they commit a crime.”
The end of his sentence was almost drowned out by the incredulous muttering that immediately filled the hall. Gwen appeared by his side, placing a reassuring hand on his arm. He looked down at her. His knees almost gave out in relief when he saw her approving smile. At least someone didn’t think he was crazy. Turning his gaze back to the people filling the throne room, he caught sight of Gaius. The old man looked stunned, relieved, and, over all, proud. Arthur almost grinned. That made two people. Now if only he could find out what Merlin thought of the whole situation.
His knights were carefully holding everyone back. Arthur caught Leon’s eye and shook his head just slightly. He wanted to hear what the nobles had to say.
At an unspoken command, the knights stepped back, but continued to watch the crowd carefully.
The instant the knights were out of the way, Baldwin, a lord from the southern provinces of Camelot, stepped forward. “Surely your Majesty cannot be serious. Magic has been this kingdom’s enemy for years. It corrupts even the most noble of persons, or do you not remember that it as the Lady Morgana herself who sought to bring down this kingdom not even fourth months ago?”
“I have not forgotten,” Arthur hissed angrily. “I will never forget that because she was forced to suffer her visions in secret out of fear of death, Morgana was forced to take desperate measures to control something she did not understand. Perhaps it has escaped your notice that almost every sorcerer that has attacked Camelot has done so because they wanted to live freely?”
The low murmur that filled the room was enough to tell Arthur that he’d made his point. But still, Baldwin persisted. “That may be. But even if that is true, there will be many who will take this new freedom for granted. They will kill you and we will be unable to stop them because they will be able to walk into the city.”
“It is a risk I will take to show those who have magic that I mean to right the wrongs done to them,” Arthur snapped. “Too many innocents have died because of this. I have seen too many people forced to desperate acts that only get them killed because they are desperate for a chance to live without fear of death because of what they are.”
Before Baldwin could protest further, an eardrum shattering crash echoed off the walls and a column of smoke appeared in the center of the room. For a moment, it roiled ominously before solidifying into a very familiar old man leaning on a gnarled staff with a glowing blue stone at the top.
Dragoon glared at Baldwin. “You don’t need to worry about the king’s safety,” he said in his creaking voice. “I will protect him as I have for the past four years.”
Arthur’s mouth fell open, and his wasn’t the only one. “You almost got Gwen killed!” he spluttered.
“I did not!” Dragoon said indignantly. “Morgana was the one that planted the poultice. I got myself caught in the act to throw suspicion off the lady. And that is not the only time I have saved your sorry arse.”
Under any other circumstances, Arthur would have told Dragoon off for speaking to him that way, especially now that he was king. But he was too interested in what the old man had said. “What do you mean that you’ve been protecting me?” he demanded.
A smirk stretched Dragoon’s lips. “Have you never wondered, sire, how it is that you have had so many lucky escapes or vanquished so many enemies when you were unconscious? Every branch that conveniently fell on a bandit’s head, every beast that has died when nothing worked before, every stroke of mysterious luck has been me.”
“Prove it,” Arthur challenged, refusing to believe that such a doddering old man could have followed him on all those hunts and quests.
Dragoon raised his hand. “Fromum feohgiftum on fæder bearme.”
The whole room gasped when his eyes flashed golden. A familiar orb of swirling blue and white appeared above the sorcerer’s palm. A moment passed and a matching appeared, hovering before Arthur at eye level. The king’s eyes widened.
“It was you,” he gasped. “You guided me out of those caves all those years ago.”
Dragoon nodded. He closed his palm and the orbs faded. “It is my destiny to protect you and that is what I have done. At least, the best I could given that I could not reveal myself to be a sorcerer.”
Arthur felt a smirk tugging at his lips. Here was the proof he had needed to prove to himself and to everyone else that magic was not purely evil. He slowly descended the dais, ignoring the gasps coming from the nobles.
“It has recently come to my attention that Camelot once had a sorcerer as a member of the court before the purge,” he said slowly. “I cannot guarantee that you would keep the post given that you are the only sorcerer I know, but would you be willing to become my court sorcerer? I could use a hand learning the truth about magic and how best to deal with it.”
Dragoon grinned. “It would be an honor, sire.”
“Then I, Arthur Pendragon, king of Camelot, name you, Dragoon the--”
“That is not my name,” the sorcerer interrupted.
Arthur blinked. “What?”
“My name isn’t Dragoon and this isn’t what I really look like,” the old man said with a sly grin. “This is simply an aging spell I used so that I wouldn’t be recognized when I stopped Morgana’s plot to kill the Lady Guinevere.”
“Then who are you really?” Arthur demanded impatiently.
“Well...the druids seem to think my name is Emrys, but...” he trailed off and smirked again, this time almost sheepishly. His eyes glowed. The light flowed down his whole body. When it faded, Arthur found himself staring at non other than his manservant.
“I really prefer Merlin,” he finished, looking anxious.
Author’s Note: Yes. There will be a sequel. I know I’m cruel, but I couldn’t resist the impulse to leave it there.