The Lights of Love for gilli_ann
Title: The Lights of Love
Summary: When Merlin frees Kilgharrah the night before Yule, the dragon gives him a rather odd gift in return...
Word Count: 3957
Author's Notes: I really enjoyed your prompt! I hope you like it!
Disclaimer: Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made. Don't send us to the dungeons.
If there was one thing Merlin knew, it was that he absolutely should not be doing this. If there was such a thing as a good idea, this was certainly the farthest thing from it. Why in hell had he agreed to do this? Maybe Arthur was right after all. Maybe Merlin really was an idiot.
“Young warlock,” the dragon’s voice boomed, echoing around the vast cave. “I can sense your apprehension from here,” it continued. Merlin rolled his eyes.
“Forgive me if I’m a little nervous about committing a crime that I could very easily be killed for,” Merlin scoffed, wringing his hands anxiously. He really should not be doing this. What would happen if Arthur found out? Or worse, Uther? He’d be done for.
“Need I remind you, your very existence is a crime, young warlock. This is just, shall we call it… a kindness,” the dragon laughed. “Uther deserves no less, don’t you think?”
The dragon was right about that. If Merlin managed to get away unscathed by this, he couldn’t wait to see the king’s face when he heard the news. For Uther to suffer a humiliation of that magnitude would be a source of great amusement for many years to come.
“I suppose we should get on with it then?” Merlin asked, his voice still a little shaky despite his best efforts.
“Indeed,” the dragon replied, raising what must have been a dragon’s equivalent of a brow. It was a strange sight.
Merlin thought back on how this had all started. For months, he’d been making empty promises, saying he would free the dragon for information on this or that problem. Eventually he’d had to be true to his word.
The dragon had directed him to an old castle where the Knights of Medhir rested and told him to take one of their swords. Only one of their blades could break through the enchantment on the chains holding him. Merlin hadn’t been quite sure who the Knights of Medhir were or why their swords were so special, but if he’d asked Gaius it would’ve been a dead giveaway. So, he hadn’t asked questions. He regretted it now. At least if Gaius had known what he’d been doing he wouldn’t have had to make so many ridiculous excuses to find time to get to the castle.
Merlin shook his head, ridding himself of the odd memories. There was no time to dwell on them now. Just before he could move to free the dragon, however, a thought stopped Merlin. How could he have possibly forgotten this until now?
“You won’t… hurt anyone, will you? If I do this, you have to promise me that you’ll leave Camelot alone. Otherwise, no deal.”
The dragon laughed again. “I can’t promise that I’ll leave Camelot entirely alone. I have a Yule present for Uther that he’s sure to love, but after that… Yes. I’ll go.”
Merlin’s anger flared. Of course, even in this pivotal moment, the dragon chose to remain cryptic. He couldn’t wait to be rid of the creature and its dumb riddles. “What kind of Yule gift? What’s that supposed to mean?!” He picked the sword up from beside him on the floor and raised it at the dragon threateningly.
“Relax, young warlock. It is nothing harmful. Just some petty magic to annoy him for the day. Your precious Camelot will remain relatively unscathed,” the dragon sighed, flapping its wings anxiously.
Merlin wasn’t convinced. “I don’t believe you,” he began. “If you want me to let you go, I want you to swear to me on your life that no one will be hurt,” he threatened, thrusting the sword into the air once more.
The dragon reared back away from the blade before acquiescing. “I swear it. Now, will you let me go?”
Against his better judgement Merlin offered the dragon a resigned nod. The dragon smiled with unrestrained glee as Merlin swung the sword at the chains. In one fell swoop, a link broke and suddenly it was all over.
“Thank you, young warlock. I will not forget your kindness,” the dragon promised, flapping its wings in the air, free from the weight of the chain for the first time in twenty years. Just before the dragon flew up and out of the cave however, Merlin called out after it.
“Wait! Before you go… do you have a name?”
The dragon craned its neck to look back at Merlin with an odd look on its face. “Indeed I do,” it said thoughtfully. “You may call me Kilgharrah.”
And just like that, Kilgharrah was gone. Merlin couldn’t help but wonder if they would ever see each other again. He was both relieved and anxious at the idea of the dragon flying free of Uther’s chains.
With a heavy heart, Merlin retreated back up to Gaius’ chambers, careful to avoid the sight of any guards patrolling. He managed to not wake up Gaius either upon his return to their rooms, but that didn’t help to stop the anxiety pooling in his chest.
Merlin couldn’t stop thinking about Kilgharrah’s promise of a Yule gift to Uther. His mind ran through different possible scenarios, each one ultimately leading to the king’s ultimate demise.
Not that he had any sympathy for Uther, but he knew Arthur would be heartbroken, nor was Arthur ready to be a king. He still had many years left of maturing in him.
Deciding he could take the stress no longer, Merlin put the thought out of his mind and supposed he could deal with the consequences in the morning after a goodnight’s sleep. He was no use to Camelot if he was falling asleep on his feet.
The moment Merlin woke up, however, he knew something was terribly wrong.
His fingertips pulsed oddly, and there was a foreign energy thrumming in his chest. It was unexplainable, but Merlin knew there was something about him that hadn’t been there last night. Did this have anything to do with what Kilgharrah had spoken of before he left?
Deciding to seek help from Gaius, Merlin threw his legs over the side of his bed and hastened down the stairs. The moment Gaius turned around to face him a bright light pulsed forth from his hands.
Merlin shrieked in horror, jerking his hands up to examine them. When he didn’t see anything, he looked back up to see if Gaius was alright.
Gaius was more than alright. He grinned at Merlin as if he hung the stars in the sky himself. Merlin was more than disturbed.
“Gaius? Are you… alright?” He asked warily, watching to see if he got any reaction out of the man. He waited a few seconds more until finally the dopey grin fell off of Gaius’ face.
Gaius gasped. “What was that?”
Merlin shrugged, not knowing either. “Maybe it was just a fluke?”
Gaius looked skeptical. “You’d best make sure it doesn’t happen again, especially not while you’re serving Arthur. Now you’d better hurry, I believe you’re already late,” he warned, raising an eyebrow. Merlin gulped before making haste to throw on his jacket and give Gaius a brief hug.
As soon as Merlin hugged Gaius, it was his turn to be stupified by a bright light. The light made him feel comforted and cared for, and he was loathe to end the embrace. When the light finally faded, Merlin quickly pulled away, feeling embarrassed.
He and Gaius stared at each other for another moment before he dashed out of the room.
While Merlin traversed his way through the castle, more and more pandemonium broke out. Bright lights exploded everywhere, leaving poor unsuspecting citizens both exhilarated and panicked. Merlin quickly realized that the bright lights originated from the people themselves either by sight or physical contact, and that each one had a unique effect on people. Some left people sick with excitement, others surrounded by love, and others inspired. The effects weren’t permanent, but it was enough magic to terrify the people.
Merlin’s own light seemed to shine when anyone laid eyes on him (which was often) and left people overcome by happiness. It was strange and yet somehow fitting.
That was another thing. The effects of the magic seemed to echo the person’s personality, always having something to do with love or happiness.
“Kilgharrah, I am going to kill you,” Merlin mumbled under his breath, knowing exactly who was responsible for this mess.
He supposed Arthur was going to find out at some point, so Merlin went to wake the prince up. He and Morgana were supposed to break fast with Uther that morning for Yule, and there already wasn’t much time to get Arthur ready.
When Merlin entered the prince’s chambers, Arthur wasn’t awake yet. Merlin crept around the bed frame and when he opened the heavy curtains, he finally caught sight of Arthur.
Immediately a bright light exploded, leaving Merlin feeling empowered, like he could take on anything, like he mattered. It left him near breathless for a moment before he finally regained his senses.
Meanwhile the magic that had sprung forth from Arthur had awoken him. Arthur stared at his own hands in complete shock, whispering almost inaudibly.
“...Merlin?” Arthur whispered, the first word that Merlin could actually make out.
“I’m here, don’t worry,” Merlin assured, anxious to let the prince know he didn’t really have magic. “A spell’s been cast. We’ve all been given powers of a sort, even me. Look, see?” Merlin explained. When the prince did look up at Merlin, the light shined forth again, infecting Arthur with its happiness and joy.
He’d never seen Arthur smile so brightly. Merlin admired the way that his eyes lit up spectacularly and how the stress lines on his face seemed to just melt away.
When Arthur finally snapped out of it, he blinked his eyes for a few moments and looked at Merlin strangely. No more words were said and Merlin bustled around the room to set out an outfit for Arthur, anxious to get away from the odd looks.
“Has my father heard about this… spell yet?” Arthur finally asked from behind the changing screen. Merlin breathed a silent sigh of relief that the awkward silence had been broken.
“I haven’t heard anything yet, but I suspect he does,” Merlin replied, unsure of what else to say. Merlin himself was both amused and terrified at the prospect of Uther’s reaction.
Within ten minutes the pair of them found themselves outside of Uther’s chambers. Merlin was expected to help serve the breakfast, along with Gwen, but he was apprehensive to enter. Although it was unlikely, he feared Uther would discover that Merlin had always had magic.
Finally Arthur dared to open the door, and they both entered.
Morgana was already seated with Gwen standing behind her. Both glanced awkwardly at Uther, as if fearing he might do something rash at any moment.
When they caught sight of the girls, their own bright lights filled the room. He felt Morgana’s fierce, loving protectiveness wash over him and Gwen’s tender compassion warm him. For a moment he just stood there, enjoying the feeling before it faded away.
Everyone looked up when Gwen and Morgana’s magic burst forth, and then of course Merlin and Arthur’s quickly followed suit. All of the people in the room seemed affected for a few moments before the feeling faded once again. Merlin had never seen Uther look so happy than in those few moments.
When the feelings did fade, however, Merlin was certain he had never seen Uther quite so angry either.
“Whoever has cursed you so, my son, I promise we will catch them!” Uther growled, slamming his fists on the table. Morgana flinched and Arthur’s eyes widened.
“I’m sure you will, father, but I’m not terribly concerned as of yet. No one seems harmed by the spell. It feels… loving, not malicious,” Arthur tried to reason, and Uther’s eyes narrowed.
“That is the purpose of all magic. It makes itself attractive to you to lure you into it’s trap. Trust me, you’d best be wary of everyone,” Uther warned. Merlin glanced at Morgana who seemed to be fighting the urge to roll her eyes. When she looked up and caught his eye, the pair smiled at each other.
The breakfast was one of the most uncomfortable he’d ever witnessed after the first few strings of dialogue. Everyone seemed to be avoiding each other’s eyes. Strangest of all, Merlin could sense no magic originating from Uther. It seemed he was the only one unaffected by Kilgharrah’s little magic game.
Gwen and Merlin glanced at each other often, both desperate to get away from the feuding family. When they could manage it, they wished each other a happy Yule and exchanged smiles.
The day continued as well as it could go, what with everyone constantly stopping when they were overwhelmed by some new loving emotion. Merlin was getting rather sick of it once each spell wore off.
The great feast was cancelled since the nobles were too frightened to be in each other’s presence, so it was just Merlin and Arthur that evening as the prince ate by himself.
“Do you think this curse will be gone come morning?” Arthur asked quietly. Merlin was surprised by the wariness in his voice.
“I hope so,” Merlin replied after a moment, unsure of what else to say. He truly did hope so, and there was no doubt in his mind that if the magic wasn’t gone by the morning that he’d be seeking out Kilgharrah, even if the dragon was no longer in the cave. He’d find him somehow.
“It’s terrible that it’s ruined Yule, isn’t it? This is usually such a nice time of year. I’ve always enjoyed the traditions. What about you, Merlin?” Arthur asked him, changing the subject.
Merlin shrugged. “No traditions, really. Mum always preferred to celebrate my birthday which fell on the same day, so we did that instead,” he explained.
And suddenly it hit him. It was his birthday and he’d forgotten it! Having been so caught up in the magic spell that had fallen over them, the thought hadn’t even crossed his mind.
Arthur choked on his bite of food. “It’s your birthday? And you didn’t tell me?!”
Merlin grinned sheepishly. “I… forgot?”
Arthur heaved an exasperated sigh. “Of course you did. I suppose I’ll have to get you something. How many winters are you now?”
“Twenty, but it’s nothing, you don’t need to get me anything!” He tried to reason, but Arthur was having none of it.
“Of course I do!” Arthur exclaimed, hiding a grin. “Why, I’d already gotten you a gift for Yule, so it’ll work for both. Let me just fetch it.” He walked to the other side of the room.
Merlin stood there gaping for a moment. He couldn’t believe that the Prince of Camelot had thought to get him a gift. A moment later, he was struck by the fact that he hadn’t gotten Arthur anything.
Arthur returned a moment later with a parcel in his hand, tossing it to Merlin.
Merlin scrambled to catch it as Arthur laughed. When he unwrapped it, a pair of gloves remained.
“You always complained about your hands getting cold on our hunting trips. Now you have no reason to complain,” Arthur explained, nodding his head at the gloves.
“Oh, Arthur, thank you!” Merlin exclaimed, throwing his arms around Arthur and hugging him tightly.
Arthur stood there stiffly for a moment before he slowly and carefully removed his arms from his own side to hug Merlin. The embrace lasted only a moment, for Arthur pulled away not soon after.
“I’m so sorry I don’t have anything for you, I promise I’ll get something-” Merlin began, but Arthur cut him off.
“No, don’t even think of it. That hug was certainly more than enough,” Arthur scoffed, but his cheeks were burning red and when he turned away, Merlin could see his smile reflected in the mirror.
Neither of them brought it up again, but smiles remained on their faces the whole evening.
The next morning, Merlin was filled with even more dread than the morning before. The magic still thrummed underneath his skin, persistently annoying. He knew that he’d have to sneak out later that evening to try and find Kilgharrah and force him to end the spell.
The day passed a little easier than the one before since everyone was a little more at ease with their newfound powers, but Uther was still raging. He had knights and guards pulling extra shifts to patrol the area. Now that people weren’t so occupied by being terrified of their powers, they eyed each other with suspicion. Merlin was used to having a difficult time getting out of the citadel, but this was a new level of danger. He’d have to be wary.
Soon enough the day came to an end and it was time for making his move. The sun was just set and the patrols were changing guard. It was now or never.
Merlin made a hasty dash out of the citadel, ducking behind walls, barrells, and carts to avoid being seen. Eventually he’d made it to a clearing far enough away from the castle that he wouldn’t be heard.
“Kilgharrah?” Merlin called into the air as loud as he could. “Kilgharrah, if you can hear me I need your help!”
He looked up at the sky and decided to try once more. If he received no response, he supposed he’d have to try his luck with the books.
“Kilgharrah!” Merlin called one last time, attempting to use telepathy the way that the dragon had done with it in the past.
He waited for ten minutes in the field before the sound of beating wings finally reached his ears. Merlin gave a little cheer and watched the sky anxiously for the dragon’s arrival.
“Young warlock,” Kilgharrah greeted, his landing on the ground causing a thud.
“Kilgharrah, it’s good to see you free,” Merlin smiled, acknowledging that this was the first time he’d seen the dragon free of the shackles and cave. Then he moved to the matter at hand.
“I need your help removing the spell you’ve placed on Camelot. Obviously, the spell itself isn’t hurting anyone, but I fear Uther may begin to persecute innocents out of his fear. It’s time for the magic to end,” Merlin explained, looking determinedly up at the dragon.
“Tell me, Merlin, how has Arthur reacted to his gift?” Kilgharrah asked curiously, ignoring Merlin’s plea. Merlin bristled but decided to hold off. After all, Kilgharrah usually had a point to his crypticism. That didn’t mean he had to like it though.
“He reacted surprisingly well. He even defended it to Uther,” Merlin laughed a little, still unbelieving. “It shocked us all.”
Kilgharrah mused on the information for a moment.
“Good,” the dragon finally replied.
“Now, will you help me?” Merlin asked, hoping that they could get it over with.
“Not quite yet, young warlock. What you do not yet realize is that not only was this my gift to Uther, but this was my gift to you.”
Kilgharrah laughed. “Yes, to you. This spell has paved the way to your acceptance.”
“What the hell is that supposed to mean? How does that help me?” Merlin frowned.
“You shall see…”
Merlin groaned. “Will you just stop being so cryptic and end the spell!”
It seemed Kilgharrah’s new favorite pastime was laughing, for he did it once again. “I can not end the spell, Merlin. The spell prompted outpourings of love and can only be fulfilled if one of the hosts offers one that is true and complete.”
“And who am I supposed to out pour true and complete love to?” Merlin scoffed. This was getting ridiculous.
“Arthur, of course.”
Merlin sat flabbergasted for a moment.
This was not real. Kilgharrah didn’t mean it, did he?
How was he supposed to bloody out poor his love for Arthur?!
“But I don’t love Arthur, at least not like that,” Merlin spat out, stumbling over his words. His chest filled with anxiety.
“That may be true, but you do love him. There are many kinds of love, young warlock,” Kilgharrah explained. Merlin released a shaky breath. “Think on what I have said. I am sure you will find a way,” the dragon continued, before flapping his wings and soaring into the sky.
“Wait! What does that mean?!” Merlin called after Kilgharrah, frustrated that once again he’d been left with a set of clues he was meant to piece together. “Bloody cryptic dragon…”
The next morning, Merlin had a sneaking suspicion at what this outpouring of love was meant to be, but he ignored it. That couldn’t be it.
Throughout the day, the feeling got worse. It just made more and more sense the more he thought about it.
“This spell has paved the way to your acceptance.”
There could be no other explanation.
With a heavy heart, Merlin made his way towards Arthur’s chambers that evening. If he was going to end the spell, he had to do this.
“Arthur, could I speak to you?” Merlin began. Arthur, who was sitting at his desk, didn’t even look up as he gestured for Merlin to continue. He gulped, feeling the nerves overwhelm him.
“I’ve been meaning to tell you this for a while, and well… I trust you and… and you deserve to know.”
The seriousness of the situation must have finally hit Arthur. The prince sat up and his chair and looked him dead in the eye, waiting.
Merlin closed his eyes. It was now or never.
“I have magic.”
There was a beat of silence, and then-
“Oh, you bloody idiot! You got me worked up over nothing. I know. We all have magic right now!” Arthur scoffed, crossing his arms over his chest.
“No, you clotpole! I...ugh… I mean… I had magic before Yule. I’ve always had it!” Merlin exclaimed, throwing his hands in the air.
Unlike his first confession, this statement shocked Arthur into silence. He blinked at Merlin for a few moments with an utterly confused look before finally speaking.
“You’re… You’re serious?” He asked, jaw hanging slack.
“Pretty bloody serious, yeah,” Merlin replied, allowing his eyes to glow gold and a glowing orb to float above their heads.
“Oh,” Arthur whispered softly, looking at the orb in awe. “It’s beautiful.”
“...you like it?”
“Yeah,” Arthur replied with a small laugh, not taking his eyes off the orb.
“You don’t hate me for it?”
“I don’t think so, no.”
Merlin couldn’t help the grin that split across his face. The light of the orb pulsed, reflecting his fluctuating emotions. “Why not?” He couldn’t help but ask.
Arthur finally took his gaze off the orb, looking into Merlin’s eyes. “This magic these past few days has shown me so much love. How could it ever be bad? And whenever I was hit with yours… It’s hard to explain. It was like... I was on a cloud. I was the happiest I’d ever been, and I felt well and truly loved. In a way that no one else had ever shown me, not even my father. After experiencing that care you had for me, for everyone, I know that nothing about you could ever be evil or wicked, no matter what my father says.”
Merlin felt like he could cry. “Oh, Arthur,” he gasped, choking back tears and throwing his arms around his friend for the second time in three days. This time Arthur didn’t resist, and they held each other for a long time.
Merlin didn’t ever want to let go.