Author: Emeraldawn on LJ as witchyemerald
Title: The choices we make
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Gaius
Summary: Arthur and Merlin have to face the outcome of the choices.
Word Count: 2824
Prompt: #33 Choices
Author's Notes: First time posting to the community. Kind of ran away from me. Title sucks but I can never write a good title. On AO3 I am Emeraldawn it anyone needs to know.
“There is no room for magic in Camelot. Ever.”
That choice, I believe, above all other choices I have made about magic and its relationship to Arthur was the one to seal my fate. I choose to tell Arthur to let Mordred die, believing only he would cause the fall of Arthur and Camelot. Ignoring that I was once told by a powerful being, the Euchdag, that Arthur’s bane was himself. I did not think of myself. I did not think the Camelot had become a dystopia for magic users. Always running. Always hiding.
Maybe too much responsibility was given to me at a young age. Unlike Arthur I wasn’t trained at birth to make decisions that would affect the future, but I was required to make them. Told it was my fate to save Arthur and lead him to his path. But, how do you lead a man to understanding that not all magic is evil when everyone you come in contact with uses magic for evil?
– Journal of Merlin
Merlin closed his journal and put the quill his was using down next to it. The leather bound book that had been a present from Gaius was one of the only things he was able to smuggle out of Camelot. Mostly because Merlin kept it in his knapsack when he was not writing in it. A lot has happen to him since that time when he and Arthur where meeting the Deri. Mordred was alive and well when he and Arthur came back to Camelot thinking that they were to return to a funeral.
And, like it always did, life in Camelot continued on like it did before. During this time, Arthur continued to be a fair and just king. Mordred became a better knight through hard work and training, which brought him closer with the knights and Arthur himself. Also more attempts on Arthur's life were made with the use of magic. Which made Arthur, for as fair and just as he was seen to his people; he began to wrap those worlds Merlin had told him and not trust magic. No, not like his father did, in an outright war against magic, but it was still outlawed. Merlin saw fewer chances to have Arthur know that not all magic is for evil.
Then one day, fate was not on Merlin's side. Once again they were caught in a trap, laced with some magic, in a plot to kill Arthur. Merlin didn't know how it happened. Maybe the light was just right for Arthur to see the brief color change in hi s eyes. Maybe Arthur heard him whisper the spell, among the sounds of swords clanging and heavy breathing. Or Arthur could have finally put it all together and came up with the right answer. Either way, all Merlin knew was after the fight where among the knights that he had been traveling with and considered friends, Arthur stood with his sword pointed at Merlin. Where his lips were normally cocked in a cheeky smile and he had some quick retort about Merlin's lack of ability to defend himself, Arthur face was hardened and the only thing that came out of his mouth was a hard, “So it's true.”
Merlin raised his hands in a placating manner. He was unsure what Arthur was talking about. Merlin's first thought had to do with a curse of some sort, because he wouldn't let his mind wonder to all the things he was hiding from Arthur. “Arthur, what's true?”
“All those years ago when the Witch Finder accused Gaius of sorcery, some whispered it could be you. You were new to Camelot and had two high positions for a servant to have. “Arthur to a step closer to Merlin, never letting his sword fall. Merlin, never lowering his hands took a step back. “I laughed at the idea. You’re always so clumsy. Always getting yourself into situations that I had to save you from.”
“Arthur, you don't understand.” Merlin pleated to his friend and King.
“I trusted you. I asked for your help and advice. Did every magic user we stop, that we killed, were you working with them? Or did you use me, use my fellow Knights as a means to eliminate c those that could be a threat to your power?”
“No, Arthur I wouldn't” Merlin pleaded taking another step back, after Arthur's advance.
“So you don't deny that you have been using magic?”
Merlin looked at the Knights around them. Most had their hands on their hilts ready to draw their swords at a moments noticed. All of them however had looks of confusion, torn between Merlin their friend and the law of the land. In all of Merlin's dreams of how Arthur would find out, it was never like this. Never with Merlin being judged by so many of those he had called friends.
“Arthur you don't understand let me explain!” Merlin begged. If Arthur would just listen to him or Gaius then maybe he would understand why Merlin made the choices that he did.
“No Merlin. I won't listen to you again. I cannot trust anyone who has blatantly lied to me these last eight years.” Arthur lowered his sword, “This is my only act of kindness toward you. Leave. Never step foot in Camelot again.”
Merlin nodded grabbing his knapsack slowly and backed away from the Knights. The King. His Friends. Merlin's heart was heavy with the outcome of his choices.
After Arthur and his Knights returned to the Castle after Merlin had been banished, Arthur stayed in his chambers. For three day he saw no one but the maid that was sent to deliver his food. Gwen handled any important court duties and Leon handled anything that came up with his Knights. For those three days Arthur’s emotions where in turmoil his raged in anger, then fell into a depression. He questioned his judgment. He questioned Merlin's loyalty. He questioned, yet again, his father unwavering hatred towards magic. Arthur needed answers so he summoned the only person he believed that was still in Camelot that knew what was going on.
“Gaius, please join me.” Arthur motioned to the seat next to him. Arthur poured a glass of wine for himself and another for the physician.
“Gaius, I have questions and I need you to answer them. I don't care if my father had sworn you to secrecy. I am King now and what you tell me might change the fate of many.”
Gaius answered Arthur's questions. About when his father war on magic turned bloody. The truth of his birth and his mother’s death. Gaius told Arthur about his past and some of the things the old king had him do with magic, even after his band on magic. Gaius told Arthur everything he knew of Merlin and what the young man had done for the young Prince and later King. Arthur was left a lot to think about that night.
Two weeks later Arthur and a group of his knights rode out to Ealdor to see Merlin. Arthur had made a resolution that he will give Merlin a chance to give his side of the story. When they arrived at the small village in Lot’s country Arthur greeted Hunith with a friendly smile inquiring on the whereabouts of Merlin. However Hunith confused told Arthur that she had not heard or seen Merlin in quite some time, the last she knew he was in Camelot with Arthur. With a heavy heart Arthur explained what had happened with Merlin and the punishment Arthur passed on the young man. Arthur explained he felt he was fast in his verdict and wanted to talk to Merlin now.
With nothing more that he could do, Arthur and his knights headed home.
It took Merlin seven days on foot to travel over the border. He stayed off the main paths to avoid both patrols and bandits. Deciding early to stay away from his mother and the village he grow up in he traveled south toward an area that was rumored to house Druids that had escaped Camelot. After crossing the board it took him four more days to find any trace of the Druids. Surprisingly they had little trouble helping another refugee.
Merlin's training with Gaius made him an asset to the make-shift village, and there were always someone around who would work with him on his magic training. In the short time that Merlin was there his knowledge in both healing and magic grew. He learned more history and culture of the Druids then he could have ever hoped to learn from the Gaius hidden books in Camelot.
Unfortunately not everything was peaceful in the refuge. Anywhere you looked you saw the scars of Uther's war on magic. People handicapped, family torn apart. The loss of holly relics and sites. Elders whose live was snuffed out before their knowledge could be passed on, lost forever.
Not only did Merlin see the damage in the people but the area itself too. This make-shift village was just that. It was quickly put together by the first group that settled into the area. New buildings were added when they could, but each one was over crowed. Food sources where sometimes hard to find. The people had little to trade for seed and farm animals from other villages. Many times they would eat once a day. Most people that had found shelter with these Druids come with as little or even less then Merlin had. The village did not feel like a home. Home was lost to all with in this little village.
Time after time someone new would enter the village clearing. More time than not they were from Camelot's boarders and Merlin would beg for any news of his old home. Any news of the King and his Knights were a welcomed blessing to Merlin's heart. After all this time, he still didn't blame Arthur for his reaction, when he found out about Merlin's magic. It was Merlin's choices that brought them down this path. Looking back over his years servitude under Arthur, Merlin had seen numerous times that he could have shown Arthur his magic. Could have talked to Arthur about the good of magic. Instead he took the easy way out. Merlin was so use to denial and hiding who he was, it was easy to continue to do so whenever any problem arose.
Merlin had learned for the gossip and rumors that not much had changes for magic within Camelot’s boarders. Arthur did not go out and hunt down any magic users like his father did. However he never changed the laws either. People believed to have magic where chased out of their homes, some were even kill. Where Camelot seemed to be thriving in most areas under Arthur, it seemed that on the subject of magic Arthur held no public opinion. Merlin took this as a good sign. Arthur didn't take Merlin's betrayal out on the people.
Merlin knew he had to return to Camelot, back to Arthur. Even if it would be easier hidden, he had been told enough time that he was fated to help Arthur unite all of Albion, and he couldn't do that here. If he were to help Arthur, help Camelot; help these people that at times were starving, he need to leave. He only hoped that Arthur would listen.
Arthur looked out the window in his chambers. Two years since he had last seen his friend and servant. Two years and it felt like twenty. He had spent that time protecting his land from anyone who still wanted to pass judgment on the Pendragons. He had to use Gaius and his limited magic to help him against any magic user that wanted ill will to happen to Camelot. But, time did not easy Arthur heart instead to show him what he had lost. Why didn’t he give Merlin a chance? He knew there was not an ounce of bad in Merlin’s body, but when he saw the young servants eyes glow gold it was a shock to his core.
Arthur, about to head to the hall for dinner with his wife and chosen knights, stopped when he heard commotion from the court yard below. A group of guards with a knight as the patrol leader entered the courtyard with a man bound between them. Before Arthur could began to find the identity of the man, Leon burst through his door with a breathless “It’s Merlin.”
Arthur stood dumbstruck. His friend Merlin was back! But, why was he bound like a criminal? Was Merlin caught in a crime? Did Arthur’s banishment of Merlin lead him to a life as some highwayman?
“Bring him in the Hall and I deal with the situation there.” Arthur told Leon as he turned to look at the window again. Merlin how could you have gotten yourself into trouble? Depending on the charges Arthur had to face the fact he might not be able to help his friend.
Arthur entered the hall before Leon could come back with Merlin and the patrol. He informed the group at large that before they ate he had to deal with Merlin and whatever trouble he got into.
Merlin was brought before Arthur, Guinevere, and the Knights he had called friends. The man before them looked vastly different then the young man of two year before. Where before he was wiry, now he was rail thin, his clothes were worn and torn and he has a few new scars on his hands and another on his left check.
“My Lord, we have caught the criminal known as Merlin, who your Majesty himself banished from Camelot’s two years prior.”
Arthur hid a smile. No one but those in this room knew that Arthur had been looking for Merlin. That he was thinking of retracting his sentence. Merlin’s only crime was Arthur’s failure to do anything about Merlin since he couldn’t find him.
“Thank you. You may go.” Waiting for the guard to leave, Arthur chose his next course of action. Even though he wanted to great the sorcerer back with open arms, Arthur still had to answer his questions he posed two years before. Why did Merlin hide his powers for such a long time? Was he friend or foe? But, as soon as the door closed, Merlin spoke.
“Sire, I know that I have trespassed on your Kingdom but I beg of you to listen. I need you to understand my story. What has happened all these years where I hid my magic from you, and yet used it to help you.”
“I know quite a bit Merlin, Gaius had been question upon my return. However I do need to hear your side of the story. Leon will you untie Merlin? It is time for supper and I believe Merlin can eat and talk at the same time.”
Merlin sat at the chair given to him at the foot of the table. He started to tell his tale, from the first day he set foot into Camelot. He told of how he had used magic on Arthur thinking his was a prat but saved his life anyway. He talked of the Dragon that could call him to the deep pits of the Castle. About Nimueh, young Mordred, Morgana and her sister. About Excalibur, where the sword came from and how it became in the stone. Merlin talked about meeting his father and his death, about his sad deal with the Dragon and his part in the release of it, and how he is still alive, but will not harm Arthur now the Uther is gone. There was times that Merlin had to refer to his journal and offered to let Arthur just read it.
Merlin was also asked where he was these past two years. He told Arthur of the Druids that had taken shelter to the lands south of Camelot. How none of them used magic for destruction.
“Arthur the problem is we are living under the choices of your father still. Yes, I was wrong to hide what I am, but I did it under fear for the most part. These people can be an asset to you and your kingdom. You can have better health care, better harvests, help in defense. There is no different between someone who can use magic as a weapon then you using your sword.”
Arthur looked at his knights around the table and his wife. He thought of his mother lost to magic. His father who lived in fear and hatred, killing hundreds of people just because of his belief that all magic was evil, yet used it to give Arthur life. How many good people died for nothing?
“Merlin, you are right today we must make choices to heal this land and its people.”