Title: New Friends, Old Friends
Warnings: AU after The Coming of Arthur, unbeta’d
Spoilers: Through the Coming of Arthur
Summary: Merlin’s just revealed himself as a sorcerer to the entire court of Camelot, including Arthur. So now what?
Disclaimer: I do not own these characters. They belong to the BBC. I’m just having a bit of fun and indulging in some whimsy.
Author’s Note: See. Told you I’d write a sequel. I honestly can’t believe the number of alerts and favorite I got because of New Impressions. I’ve never gotten that many in such a short time. Thank you so much to everyone. Enjoy!
New Friends, Old Friends
In the silence that had fallen over everyone gathered in the throne room, Arthur gaped at his manservant, who was apparently also a warlock. At least now the awkwardness of the past few weeks was explained. Merlin had obviously had no idea whether Arthur had been serious about lifting the ban on magic. In his shoes, Arthur would been a bit distant too.
Then the doors flew open and a tall man in a black cloak stormed into the room. His eyes were burning with a red gold light. Wind whipped around him. In an instant, Leon, Gwaine, and Lancelot had placed themselves between Arthur and the sorcerer while the others hurried to clear the room.
“No!” Merlin hissed, just a moment too late.
Chuckling darkly, the sorcerer shouted, “Oferswinge!”
The three knights went flying backward. Merlin raised a hand. His eyes glowed pure gold without a word and they halted in mid-air. With a flick of his wrist, he set them back on their feet. Arthur gaped. The man standing before him wasn’t the bumbling manservant he remembered. He was the wise, powerful warlock that the prince had occasionally glimpsed without realizing what he saw. He’d seen it when the went to face the dragon, when they had been hiding in a cave during Morgana’s reign, when his father had disowned him and married a troll. He had always known that there was something about Merlin. Now, he knew what it was.
Seeming mildly impressed, the sorcerer turned his attention to Merlin. “Well done, boy. You should join me. Do not stand with this king who would murder your kind.”
Merlin rolled his eyes, apparently completely at ease. “You must have missed the part of the ceremony where Arthur lifted the ban on magic.”
“What does it matter?” the man asked bitterly. “He and his father killed hundreds of our kin. My own family died because of their ignorance and hate. How can you stand by and protect such monsters?”
“Uther suffered a great loss at the hands of magic,” Merlin said, his voice low but commanding. “His pain was as great as ours. It blinded him to the truth of magic. Our people did not help matters by lashing out. They gave him even more reason to hate magic. More importantly,” he continued, striding forward slowly, his eyes flashing though they did not glow. “Arthur is not his father. Despite everything that has happened to him, he has still seen that magic is not all evil. He’s allowed it back into his kingdom. Don’t prove his trust wrong.”
“Trust!” the sorcerer screeched. “This is nothing more than a ploy to draw us out so that they can kill us! And you are a fool if you have fallen for it.”
“Do you deny that a dragon’s prophecy is always true?” Merlin demanded suddenly.
The sorcerer wasn’t the only one who seemed a bit nonplussed by the change in topic. He quickly covered his surprise with disdain. “Everyone knows that a dragon’s prophecy is to be regarded as the truth,” he snapped. “Are you really so ignorant that you don’t know that?”
Merlin smirked. “I have spoken with the great dragon. Arthur is the once and future king who will unite Albion and bring magic back to Camelot.”
“You?” the sorcerer scoffed. “You spoke to the great dragon? Was this before or after the man you claim trusts magic slew him?”
Arthur blanched. He knew that was going to come back to haunt him But Merlin just smirked even more. “Before,” he said causally. “Damn lizard wouldn’t shut up when I first got to city. Oh, and Arthur didn’t kill him.”
“What?” Arthur demanded. “You said I dealt him a mortal blow.”
Merlin’s smirk became slightly sheepish. “I lied.”
“It doesn’t matter who struck the blow or even if the dragon is dead,” the sorcerer snapped. “The Pendragons imprisoned the last of the greatest of all magical creatures for more than twenty years!”
“Uther imprisoned Kilgarrah for twenty years,” Merlin sighed. “Not Arthur. You cannot hold the son accountable for the actions of the father.”
It was only because he knew Merlin so well that Arthur could see that he was steadily losing his patience. He could practically see the power bleeding out of Merlin as he struggled to reign in his temper.
“It is too late for the father to pay,” the sorcerer growled. “His son will have to do.”
“Think carefully before you do this,” Merlin warned, his eyes were glowing with a brighter gold than Arthur had ever seen. “No one who has attempted to use magic to attack Camelot has succeeded. Nimueh failed. Sigan, who had gained immortality, failed. Morgause failed, multiple times even though she had an undead army and the aid of Morgana. Did you never think to ask why that was?”
The sorcerer could only shake his head.
Merlin strode forward slowly, the golden aura surrounding him growing more and more intense. “They failed because I stopped them. I killed Nimueh. I trapped Sigan’s soul in his crystal. Both of the immortal armies Morgause raised fell at my hand. I have masted the magic of the sidhe and the power of life and death. I have taken council with the fisher king, survived the Crystal Cave, and seen Avalon. I am the one the druids call Emrys and if I were you, I would turn around and leave.”
With a squeak, the sorcerer disappeared in a cloud of smoke. Merlin deflated, his power fading back into him, until his was once more the goofy idiot that Arthur had come to call his friend the moment the sorcerer was gone.
“Well,” he said, brushing his hands on his tunic and turning back to Arthur. “Hopefully he’ll spread the word and no one will be stupid enough to attack Camelot. For a while at least.”
Arthur gaped at him. “You just frightened him away.”
“Yeah, about that. Apparently I’m supposed to be the greatest warlock ever born,” Merlin admitted sheepishly. “The druids have all these prophecies about it. Personally, I think they’re crazy, but if they believe it, then I might as well use it to my advantage.”
“You have a lot of explaining to do, Merlin,” Arthur choked out.
“I know,” the warlock said softly. “And I’ll tell you everything if you come with me. There’s something I need to give you and someone you need to meet.”
The newly crowned king rolled his eyes. “I’m the one that gives the orders around here. But just this once, I’ll agree to your terms. Meet me down in the stables in ten minutes. I have to get out of this finery.”
Half an hour later, Arthur and Merlin were deep in the forest. Merlin was slightly ahead, for once, leading the way. There was a staff attached to his saddle that looked a lot like the ones Sophia and Aulfric had carried. He still hadn’t spoken.
“I thought the point of this was for you to explain everything,” Arthur said when he couldn’t take the silence any more.
Merlin glanced back at him nervously. “I’m not completely sure where to start.”
“How about the beginning?” Arthur suggested sarcastically. “How long have you been using magic?”
“Since I was born,” Merlin answered, tugging his horse back so that he was even with Arthur. “Mum said she’d come in and I’d been levitating things from my crib. At first it was really just moving stuff around just by thinking about it. Then I started being able to slow down and stop time. I set fire to things a couple of time, but never on purpose. I didn’t really start learning until I came to Camelot.”
“You started learning magic in Camelot?” Arthur demanded incredulously. “Are you completely insane?”
“It was either that or let you get killed! Besides, I had to learn how to control my magic before I accidentally did something stupid.” He paused and chewed his lip. “I’m a bit of an oddity. Gaius says he’s never heard of anyone born with the kind of powers I have. And I’ve done a little bit of looking myself. I’m the only one.”
“Then you’re the only one who was actually born with magic?” Arthur pressed. “Everyone else had to learn it.”
“Sort of. You have to be have been with some magical ability to be able to learn it, but most people do have to have some kind of training to tap into it. There are a few like Morgana and Morded who’s powers manifest on their own, but it’s usually at a much older age.”
“You would be the freak among sorcerers,” Arthur teased. “Did you really do all those things you mentioned in the throne room?”
“But you couldn’t have sent that orb to guide me in the caves of Balor,” he protested. “You were back in Camelot dying.”
“And yet, I did it,” Merlin said dryly. “I don’t really remember it. Gaius told me afterward that he and Gwen had been talking about the fact that it was probably all a trap and the next thing he knew I was muttering a spell in my sleep and there was one of those orbs in my hand. I don’t know how I did it, but I did and it saved you life, so I’m really not complaining.”
They rode in silence for several moments while Arthur processed just how powerful Merlin seemed to be. He was slightly taken aback by the fact that Merlin seemed so calm about all of it.
“What about all the other stuff?” he asked after a few more minutes.
“You’ll have to be more specific,” Merlin sighed.
A million questions were floating through Arthur’s head, so he just picked one at random. “How exactly have you spoken to the fisher king when he’s supposed to have been dead for centuries?”
“He wasn’t dead,” Merlin said as if it was the most normal thing in the world. “I don’t now how he did it, but he was alive and waiting for me. He was waiting for the time of the once and future king. He...he wanted me to end his life so I gave him the cursed bracelet Morgana had been using on you. In exchange he gave me some water from the Lake of Avalon. That water saved Camelot.”
Arthur was disbelieving, but he let it pass. “Nimueh, then. Did you really kill Nimueh?”
The young warlock nodded. “You’d be dead if I hadn’t. I went to the Isle of the Blest to save you after the Questing Beast’s attack. The only way to save you was to sacrifice my life for yours, but she tricked me. In the end, I killed her in your stead. I didn’t set out to,” Merlin said quickly. “But it was the only choice.”
“I don’t care about that,” Arthur said. “It’s not as if I’m going to think any less of you for killing a sorceress who tried to kills both of us more than once. Did you really try to give your life for mine?”
Merlin arched an eyebrow in a way very reminiscent of Gaius. “Why are you so surprised? I’d already tried to when we were at Gedref.”
Once again, Arthur found himself completely thrown by his manservant’s fierce, easy loyalty.
He cleared his throat. He started to ask about the others Merlin had mentioned. But, in the end, he realized that he had no reason to doubt Merlin. It all made sense. He’d disappeared during the fight with Sigan and he had seen that Cedric was possessed before anyone else. Arthur himself had stated that someone had to have stopped Morgana and Morgause. It must have been Merlin.
“You did something, didn’t you?” Arthur said abruptly. Merlin shot him a confused look and the king hurried to explain. “You did something to stop Morgana’s army when we were taking back Camelot.”
Merlin nodded. “You’ll have to wait a minute before I explain that one, though. Anything else you want to ask me?”
“Just tell me everything from the beginning,” Arthur sighed.
By the time Merlin finished, Arthur felt like someone had hit over the head with a hammer. Suddenly all the times Merlin had said that’d he’d saved Arthur’s arse made a lot more sense.
“Why do you do it?” Arthur croaked. “Why do you risk your life like that? You had no guarantee that magic would ever be allowed in Camelot.”
It was a moment before Merlin answered. “At first, it was because someone told me that my destiny was to protect you. Then, I got to know you and I saw that you weren’t as big a prat as you pretended to be. I started believing that you could become a great king and well...” he faltered slightly but plowed on. “I kind of thought we were friends and I’d do anything for my friends.”
Arthur shook his head. “You really are a wonder, Merlin. I...I can never thank you enough for everything you’ve done.”
Merlin shifted uncomfortably in his saddle and pulled his horse to a halt. Arthur did the same.
They were at a very familiar lake. Arthur recognized it from some very hazy memories involving Sophia. But what caught his eye was the large boulder sitting at the age of the lake. He was positive it hadn’t been there before. He was pretty sure he’d have remembered a rock with a sword stuck in it.
“What is that?”
“Do you remember that wraith your father fought the first year I met you?” Merlin asked, sliding out of his saddle. He fiddle with the leather strap tied to his staff until the knot came free.
“How could I forget?” Arthur grumbled. “He got Gaius to drug me.”
“You’re not the only one who was unhappy about that. I went to the dragon and got him to burnish a blade with his fire. A blade forged in dragon’s fire can be used to slay the dead. It is a very powerful weapon and it was only to be wielded by you. But your father saw it and he used it to kill the wraith. Kilgarrah was not happy,” Merlin said, shuddering at the memory. “I threw it in the lake so that no one could use it.
“When we decided to take back the city from Morgana, I went to retrieve it. Freya’s spirit --”
“Hang on,” Arthur interrupted. “Do you mean Freya as in the druid girl you fell in love with and I killed?” He flushed slightly at the mention. It had never sat well with him that he’d killed the druid girl, not when it was so obvious the transformation had been something she had no control over. Only the fact that it had been the only way to save Camelot had soothed his conscience. Now that he knew of Merlin’s feelings for her, Arthur felt worse than ever about his part in the girl’s death.
“Yes,” Merlin sighed. “That Freya. I really don’t blame you, you know. I got over it a long time ago and it wasn’t your fault.”
“How can you say that? You loved her and I killed her.”
“She was trying to kill you,” Merlin pointed out. “I knew that even then. To be honest, I think she’s happier now. When she was alive Freya was always worried about what she could do to others. Can we get back to why we came here?”
“Freya’s spirit had some how become bound to the lake,” Merlin explained. “I don’t know exactly how. She used the water from the fisher king to contact me. I came back here and got the sword. Lancelot and I never planned on going to the warning bell. We made our way to the cup of life. I was able to use the sword to actually kill the soldiers. Lancelot and I made it to the chamber with the cup, emptied it, and destroyed the soldiers.
“Afterward, I brought the sword back here and used an enchantment to put it in the stone. Only the man it was made for can wield it and that man is the rightful king of Albion.”
For a moment, Arthur just stared at the sword. “You want me to pull that out of a boulder?”
Merlin rolled his eyes. “Yes, Arthur. It’s your sword, destined to be wielded by the once and future king, who happens to be you.”
“It’s buried in rock,” Arthur protested. “I can’t pull a sword out of stone.”
“The only reason it’s in there is because of an enchantment,” Merlin said impatiently. “And that enchantment says that the sword will be free when it’s rightful own claims it. I would know. I cast the spell. So just go claim the damn thing already.”
Despite the many things he’d learned about magic and about what Merlin was capable of during their journey, Arthur found it hard to believe that the scrawny man beside him was capable of driving a sword into stone, with or without magic. And given Merlin’s own claim that he was still learning the finer points of more complicated magics, it seemed unlikely that he’d have been able to cast a spell as complex as the one he was describing. Still, it seemed that the idiot wasn’t going to give up. So Arthur stomped over to the boulder.
The sword was beautifully crafted. The golden engravings near the hilt was expertly done. It wasn’t a language he recognized.
“It says ‘Take me up and cast me away’,” Merlin supplied. “Gwen’s father made it. When I found out what it would take to kill the wraith, I went to her for a sword. She told me it was the best her father ever made.”
Arthur gazed on the sword with new awe. After a moment, he stepped closer and gripped the hilt. Warm energy pulsed up his arm. The hilt fit beneath his palm, perfectly. He glanced over at Merlin, who gave him an encouraging smile. Planting his feet, Arthur heaved at the sword.
It slid free from the stone as easy as if it had encased in silk. He stumbled back a step at the unanticipated lack of resistance. For once, Merlin didn’t laugh. Arthur stared at the blade. The metal gleamed even more brightly than usual in the sunlight. The gold inscription literally glowed, as though by magic.
Experimentally, he swung the blade about in his hand. It was balanced perfectly. It actually felt like an extension of his arm. He’d never handled a sword like it.
“Excalibur,” Arthur found himself murmuring.
Merlin raised his eyebrows, “What?”
“It just...it appeared in my mind,” Arthur murmured.
“Excalibur,” Merlin repeated. “An apt name.”
“I’ve never seen it’s equal,” the king murmured, still staring at the blade, at Excalibur.
“No one else can wield it,” Merlin cautioned. “I’ve used it a few times, but it’s not meant for me. No one but you can use Excalibur. It’s a powerful blade and only the right person can handle it.”
Arthur nodded grimly and slid the blade into his belt. “So this is obviously what you wanted to give me. Wasn’t there someone we were supposed to be meeting as well?”
Merlin nodded and carefully laid his staff on the ground. He looked incredibly nervous, which did not reassure Arthur in the slightest. The warlock took a deep breath, threw his head back, and shouted, “O drakon, e male so ftengometta tesd'hup'anankes!”
“Well that was anticlimactic,” Arthur said dryly, gazing around the lake.
Merlin didn’t meet his eyes. “He will be here soon. I spoke to him a few nights ago and I’m pretty sure he was staying in the area.”
“Who exactly are we meeting?” Arthur asked warily.
“And who might that be?”
Resolutely, Merlin raised his gaze to meet Arthur’s head on. “The great dragon.”
“The great dragon?” Arthur deadpanned.
Merlin nodded, looking miserable.
“The same dragon that attacked Camelot and killed dozens of people?”
He nodded again.
“The same dragon that you said I killed?”
“Yes, but I did mention earlier that he wasn’t dead,” Merlin protested.
Arthur glared at him. “You just said that I hadn’t killed him. You didn’t mention one way or the other whether that creature was still alive. How could you keep this from me? I understand why you didn’t tell me you had magic, but the dragon could have attacked at any time! All of Camelot is in danger because of this!”
“Camelot wasn’t--isn’t in danger from Kilgarrah,” Merlin said softly. “I told him never to attack the city again and he has to obey.”
“Please,” Arthur scoffed. “You might scare one lone sorcerer, but no skinny little warlock is going to scare a dragon.”
“A skinny little warlock would scare a dragon if said warlock was also a dragonlord.”
It took Arthur a beat to realize what Merlin had said. “If you’re a dragonlord then why didn’t you do something to stop him sooner? If you’re a dragonlord then why did we have to travel into Cenred’s kingdom to find Balinor? He died because he was helping us!”
Merlin flinched as if struck. “I haven’t always been a dragonlord,” he answered in a strained voice. “I couldn’t stop Kilgarrah when he was attacking Camelot. My magic wasn’t strong enough and he was too lost in his anger to listen to me.”
“Getting answers from you is like pulling teeth,” Arthur growled. “If you weren’t always a dragonlord, Merlin, then how did you become one?”
Balling his hands into fists, Merlin took a shaky breath. “The power of the dragonlord passes from father to son when the father dies. I became a dragonlord when my father died in my arms after taking a sword meant for me.”
Arthur took a step back, stumbling against the stone that had once held Excalibur. “Balinor was your father.”
Merlin nodded. “I didn’t even know who he was until Gaius told me just before we left. Once Gaius explained how the power of the dragonlord is passed on, I decided to face the dragon one last time and hope that it worked.”
“Gods, Merlin.” Arthur ran a hand over his face and started pacing around. “I had no idea about Balinor. I shouldn’t...I should have known that you wouldn’t do anything to endanger Camelot.”
“But I have,” Merlin almost moaned. “I’ve done so many stupid things. After the questing beast, I told the dragon I would never speak to him again. Then I was forced to go to him to defeat Sigan. He...he made me swear that one day I would free him. He forced me to fulfill that oath after the Knights of Medhir attacked Camelot.”
“You couldn’t have known--”
“But I did,” Merlin cut in wretchedly. “I saw it in the crystal of Neahtid. I’d have never set Kilgarrah free, but it was the only way to stop Morgause and the oath was binding. There was nothing I could do to get out of it.”
Arthur stared at Merlin, torn between anger and sympathy, as the young warlock sank to the ground beside his staff, his head in his hands, pain clear on his face. It was clear to the young king that Merlin deeply regretted everything that had happened, that he had truly felt that he had no choice. When he had been in a similar position with Morgause, Arthur had kept his word, despite how dangerous agreeing to her task had been. Merlin made it clear that he had never use his magic to harm someone unless it was the only option. And he had kept his word and in doing so had shown more honor than many knights.
Sighing, Arthur lowered himself to the ground beside Merlin and placed a hand on his shoulder. “It’s not your fault, Merlin. You saved Camelot because of what that dragon told you. No matter the outcome, you kept your word. You did the right thing.”
“So many people died,” Merlin whispered. “I couldn’t even help Morgana, so she turned Morgause. I may have saved Camelot, but I’ve put it in danger just as often.”
“You’re not the only one,” Arthur said dryly. “My father’s done more harm to Camelot than anyone. And let’s not forget the time I killed a unicorn and nearly destroyed Camelot or all the close calls I’ve had that have almost sent us to war. You may be a warlock, but you’re only human.”
Merlin glanced sidelong at Arthur. “You’re taking this awfully well.”
“You’ve saved me and Camelot more or less on your own for four years,” Arthur said. “It’s not surprising that you’ve mucked it up a few times. And it’s not as if you ever intended to. Just,” he elbowed Merlin in the ribs and grinned, “don’t do it again.”
“Ow,” the warlock muttered. “Prat.”
“Idiot,” Arthur retorted. “Why exactly are we meeting with this bloody dragon anyway? And what’s taking so long?”
Merlin glanced at the sky. “I’m not sure what’s keeping him. He’s usually a lot faster. We’re meeting him because he wanted to talk to you if you lifted the ban.”
“Why would he want to talk to the king of the land he attacked two years ago?” the king asked, clearly baffled.
“Because I wish to apologize.”
Arthur started violently while Merlin just rolled his eyes before directing his gaze skyward. A massive dragon, one that was incredibly familiar to the young king, soared over the treetops and landed gracefully, but heavily, on the ground before the two men. Merlin rose and inclined his head. Arthur did the same.
“So magic has returned to Camelot,” Kilgarrah said, gazing down at the king and the warlock. “The old religion rejoices. Can you not feel it, young warlock?”
A grin tugged at Merlin’s lips. “I can feel it. I have never felt magic so alive.”
Throwing back his head, Kilgarrah let out a massive roar of joy before turning his attention to Arthur, who suddenly felt very small beneath the great beast’s gaze.
“You have overcome your father’s hate, Arthur Pendragon. For that the world will be eternally grateful. You will be a great king. Heed Merlin’s council in the days to come and together, you will bring Albion into an age of unparalleled peace. I am sorry for my deeds two years ago. I let my anger and my hate cloud my better judgement.”
For a moment, Arthur looked completely nonplussed. Then he gathered himself. “You are not the only one who should be apologizing. My father did you a great wrong all those years ago. You should never have been imprisoned. I cannot hold your anger against you. I’d have felt the same.”
Kilgarrah chuckled. “You have indeed grown wise, young king. You will need all your wisdom and all the wisdom of your friends to survive the years ahead. Do not ignore them. And do not forget the allegiance you owe to to creatures of magic. The old religion will not tolerate such injustice again.”
“I will not forget,” Arthur vowed. “May I seek your counsel as well in the days to come? If you are as wise as they say, it would be of much use.”
“If you can show the humility to come to one you once considered nothing more than a prisoner, then yes. I will offer you my counsel.”
Arthur bowed lowed in thanks.
The dragon swung around to face Merlin. “As for you, young warlock. The people of the old religion will look to you for guidance. You are Emrys of the prophecies. It is up to you to guide them and teach them of the true ways of magic. Do not fail. The destiny of Albion is on your shoulders as much a it is on Arthur’s. You must work together to succeed and there will be many enemies.”
“We will be ready,” Merlin promised. “I will do all I can to restore magic to it’s true nature.”
Kilgarrah pulled back his scaly lips in an absolutely frightening smile. “The prophecies were indeed true. The two of you are the stuff of legends. Good luck.”
The king and the warlock could only watch as he leapt into the air and soared away.
Merlin picked his staff up from the ground and walked back to the horses. Almost in a trance, Arthur followed him. They both pulled themselves into their saddles. This time, Merlin kept hold of his staff and Arthur held Excalibur in his hand. They didn’t speak during the long ride back to Camelot. Merlin knew that Arthur had a lot to think about it. It wasn’t until they had left the forest behind and the city was before them that Arthur once more broke the silence.
“We have a lot of work to do, don’t we?”
The warlock nodded in agreement. “But if anyone can do it, we can.”
“You know something,” Arthur mused. “I think we might actually be friends.”
Merlin stared at him in surprise. “Really? Because I thought kings couldn’t be friends with servants.”
“But now you’re the court sorcerer,” Arthur pointed out. “Not that being a servant ever stopped you before.”
“What about you then?” Merlin asked. “If the court sorcerer can be friends with the king, can the king be friends with a sorcerer?”
“If we’re going to work together to untie Albion, seems that we don’t have much choice,” the king said gruffly.
Merlin laughed loudly and soon, Arthur joined in. The spurred their horses forward and, grinning broadly, they road into Camelot, side by side, two legends that had only just begun.
Author’s Note: I obviously started this series before the premier of season 4. That being said, this last little scene was inspired by the exchange between Arthur and Merlin at the end of Darkest Hour Pt. 1 when they are hiding from the spirits of the dead (I have no idea how to spell the actual term, so that will have to do). I thought it would be nice for the two of them to actually acknowledge their friendship.
Thanks so much for all the support on this. If any of you can think of any other “new” themes for me to write about, let me know, but I don’t really have any definite plans to continue this series at the moment. Doesn’t mean I won’t, but any inspiration would be appreciated.