Title: Truth Be Told
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Morgana, Gwen, Hunith, Will
Summary: AU of 1x10, "The Moment of Truth"
Warnings: Magic Reveal
Word Count: ~2100ish
Prompt: #41 ~ Ball
Author's Notes: Yes, there will be a part two. Okay, now betaed and hopefully no longer cringeworthy...
ETA: Part two is here.
Truth Be Told
“I’d trust Arthur with my life,” Merlin told his friend, trying to make him understand.
Will looked back at him, incredulous. “Is that so? So, he knows your secret then?”
Merlin’s guilty face immediately broadcasted the answer to his oldest friend.
Will shook his head with something resembling pity. “Look, face it, Merlin. You’re living a lie…just like you were here. You’re Arthur’s servant, nothing more. Otherwise, you’d tell him the truth.”
That conversation had haunted Merlin since the day they’d arrived in Ealdor. As much as it was Merlin’s biggest fear: that he was wrong about Arthur; the he was nothing more than just a servant to him, he didn’t want to believe it.
Despite the difference in their stations, Merlin had felt the camaraderie and the mutual respect build between them in the nine months he’d served the Prince of Camelot. Arthur may not have been good at showing his emotions, but Merlin truly believed he cared, that they were friends.
And friends told friends the truth.
This was the time. As terrified as he was, Merlin couldn’t go into this battle without telling Arthur about his magic. It was a risk, but a calculated one. If nothing else, it was a tactical advantage; Arthur needed to know. He'd already admitted that they could use all the help they could get.
Merlin swallowed the around the huge lump in his throat. “Whatever happens out there today, please don’t think any differently of me…” he pleaded.
“I won’t.” Arthur gave Merlin a small, empathetic smile. “It’s all right to be scared, Merlin.”
Solemn blue eyes met blue. “That’s not what I meant.”
“What is it?” Arthur asked him curiously. “If you’ve got something to say, now’s the time to say it…” He nodded toward Merlin in encouragement.
"You must understand, Arthur…” Merlin let out a shuddery sigh before he continued, “I have to do anything…anything I can to save my mother, my friends…I can’t let them die.”
Arthur nodded perfunctorily. “Of course, Merlin. I wouldn’t have expected anything less.”
Merlin had imagined this moment every day for months, but he couldn’t believe the time had actually come to reveal his secret. His heart thrummed wildly in his chest, making him feel curiously lightheaded.
“Including this…” Merlin croaked, putting a hand out in front of him.
He whispered the words, “Fromum feohgiftum,” and a glowing ball of blue light hovered in his palm, rolling and swirling for a moment before it rose and hovered in the air between them.
The glow from the enchanted light reflected off of Arthur’s stunned features: his mouth gaped open, his eyes over-wide. “You…” he gasped in shock. “It was you? But…how?”
“I…” Merlin stumbled for the words he needed to explain, “I don’t know how I did it, Arthur. I don’t know how I knew you were in trouble. I just did. I was unconscious, but Gaius said I called out for you and then I made this appear…”
Arthur’s eyes narrowed and his face became shuttered. “You’re a sorcerer!” he hissed, taking a step backward, away from the comfort of the azure sphere.
Seeing the look he most dreaded on Arthur’s face made Merlin’s naïve hope shrivel in his chest. Will was right. He was never Arthur’s friend; he was nothing to the Prince of Camelot. Why would he be?
Merlin sighed wearily and his shoulders slumped as if he were suddenly carrying a terrible weight. “No, Arthur. I’m not a sorcerer; I’m a warlock.”
Arthur’s hand slid surreptitiously to the handle of his sword. “And what does that mean?” he demanded warily.
Merlin noticed the movement and blinked back the tears that threatened to fall. “It means I was born with magic. I never went out and sought it; I’ve always had it whether I wanted it or not.”
This piece of news startled and confused Arthur. Magic was supposed to be a choice…an evil choice. There were no exceptions to that rule. That’s what he’d always been taught, had always believed.
But now Merlin—Merlin, of all people—had magic? He knew it was true…the evidence still floated in the air before him. But Merlin, evil? Merlin, who hated the mere thought of hunting fluffy creatures. Merlin, who in the past year had already saved his life twice; three times if you counted the blue orb that had guided him to safety in the Caves of Balor. How were those the actions of an evil sorcerer?
Supposedly all sorcerers hated the Pendragons, wanted nothing more than to see them dead. Yet, if that were true, Merlin wouldn’t have even had to do magic of his own. All Merlin would have had to do was to let Mary Collins’ dagger hit him instead of dragging him out of the way. Or let him drink from the poisoned cup. Instead, he’d protected Arthur. Why?
It was like having all the pieces to a puzzle, but somehow they didn’t fit together.
Merlin noticed Arthur’s hesitation and saw it for the opportunity it was. He took a deep breath and blurted out, “You don’t have to be afraid of me, Arthur. I won’t hurt you.”
“I am not afraid of you!” Even though Arthur looked affronted, the wild glint in his eye gave lie to the words.
“Please, Arthur…just give me a chance…please…” Merlin put his hand out again as if he wanted Arthur to shake it like they had moments ago, before Arthur had known of his secret.
Arthur stared at Merlin’s hand for a long moment, but before Merlin could find out whether the prince could accept him, Morgana burst in, saying, “Arthur, they’ve crossed the riv—…”
Morgana’s voice trailed off into nothingness as her attention was caught by the glowing orb still suspended between Merlin and Arthur. Her eyes first widened in amazement and then narrowed in realization.
Arthur raised his eyes to Merlin’s for a split second, his expression unreadable, before he turned and bolted out the door to warn the others.
Morgana turned her head and walked toward Merlin, as if in a daze. She put out a trembling hand and touched the floating orb, immediately feeling warmth, safety, and something indescribably Merlin in it before it disappeared like a gossamer web on the wind. Her eyes snapped to his, and she breathed, “Oh, Merlin…” in a voice that was sad, awed, and accepting all at once.
A tear—just one—escaped the confines of Merlin’s watery eyes before he wiped the moisture away with the heel of his hand. Of course, Morgana would understand…
“Come on, we should go,” she said, placing a hand on Merlin’s forearm.
“Yeah,” he rasped, his throat dry and painful around the word. He grabbed the sword belt from the table in front of him, unsheathed his sword, and then followed Morgana out the door.
“Now, Morgana! What are you waiting for?” Arthur hissed under his breath. “Something’s gone wrong…”
That was all Merlin needed to hear before he was tearing off across the open field, Arthur’s shocked, “Merlin!” floating in his wake. Zigzagging wildly to evade the crossbow bolts aimed at him, he skidded to a halt beside a frantic Morgana, who was still trying to light the oil ditch with a flint.
“Watch out!” Merlin said as he raised one hand and whispered, “Baerne.” Morgana’s eyes widened again, shocked as he openly performed magic in front of her. Flames leapt to life underneath his outstretched palm and raced along the ditch, trapping Kanen’s men inside the confines of the town.
Moments later, they heard Arthur’s battle cry and burst out of hiding with the others to attack Kanen's men.
Chaos reigned. Everywhere Merlin looked, his neighbors were fighting for their lives. One of the bandits surged forward, swinging his sword as if to cleave Merlin’s head from his shoulders. He blocked and stepped back, and then cut a sweeping arc through the man’s stomach. Another man engaged him and it was only a few moments of sparring before Merlin had shoved the man's sword aside and stabbed his vulnerable gut. Merlin suddenly felt grateful for every training session he’d ever endured at Arthur’s hand.
Winded, Merlin stood catching his breath for a moment, not noticing the man on horseback thundering up behind him with a mace aimed for Merlin’s head…that is, until he heard a commotion at his back. He turned just in time to watch as Will jumped out of an abandoned cart and tackled the man onto the ground, killing him with his own weapon before stealing the man’s sword.
Merlin’s face blazed with gratitude and delight as he mused, “I didn’t think you were coming…”
Will turned to him with his familiar cocky grin and said, “Neither did I.”
Reunited, the friends stood back to back and fought off their attackers.
Although Will and Merlin were able to defeat the men that had come for them, it was clear to see as they looked around that Ealdor was losing the battle. Not too many of their brethren had lost their lives yet, but the strain of battle was taking its toll. They were still outnumbered; and Kanen’s men fought with crossbows and swords, while Merlin’s family and friends mostly fought with their farm implements or sticks.
Beside him, Will had obviously come to the same conclusion. “There are too many of them.”
Merlin felt his resolve harden. This was it; he would do what he must, even though it would reveal his magic to everyone. “Not for me, there isn’t…”
He aimed his hand at his feet. “Cume þoden.” Immediately, the dust and straw in front of him began to swirl until it grew into a mighty whirlwind. Raising his hand, it pushed it forward with his mind, into the fray, tossing men off horses and ripping weapons out of hands, allowing them to be overpowered.
Then, there was a terrified scream behind him and Merlin's blood ran cold. Even while his right hand controlled the twister, his head twisted round to see his own mother pinned up against a fence by a man twice her size. He pawed at and ripped the neckline of her dress as Hunith grappled with his other hand, holding a dagger away from her neck by inches.
“Arthur!” Merlin screamed, calling the prince’s attention to his mother’s plight, but in his heart, he knew that Arthur could not reach her in time. Instead, Merlin thrust his left hand toward his mother and bellowed, “Hleap on bæc!” closed his hand in a grasping motion, and pulled it towards himself. The man flew backward through the air, landing at Arthur’s feet. The prince wasted no time putting his sword through the bandit’s gut.
Merlin lowered his other hand, allowing the winds to dissipate. It had done its job, giving his neighbors and friends the advantage they’d needed. Many more of Kanen’s men lay dead on the ground, and those that had survived were running away.
But before the victory cry could fully be heard, Kanen’s incensed voice rent the air, “Pendragon!” He stalked around the corner into the main square, ripping off his helmet and tossing it aside. Arthur turned, swung his sword about in his signature flourish, and dropped into his battle stance.
The fight, as harrowing as it was for Merlin to watch, was mercifully short. After Kanen’s failed attack had left him vulnerable, Arthur speared the man underneath his rib cage, watching dispassionately as Kanen collapsed.
Incensed, Arthur stalked forward as his eyes flashed. He made a beeline for Merlin, not even stopping in his stride as he dropped both sword and shield, raised a hand, and cuffed Merlin hard across the cheek. “How dare you? How dare you use magic in front of me, Merlin!”
Merlin fell to his hands and knees in front of the prince as the pain exploded up the right side of his face, making his eyes water.
From his position on the ground, Merlin felt as if time had slowed around him. Each beat of his heart echoed slow and painful where Arthur had struck him. His mother and best friend moved at a snail’s pace, trying to get to him, to intervene on his behalf. But what Merlin saw from his vantage point made him shiver in foreboding: Kanen, with his dying strength, aiming a crossbow at the prince’s vulnerable back.
“No!” Merlin screamed. He thrust a hand forward just as the bolt twanged into the air.
Arthur, startled by Merlin’s outburst, turned to see what his manservant was gawping at. In frantic terror, Arthur watched as a crossbow bolt stuttered to a stop and hovered in midair, an inch away from becoming the mortal wound it was meant to be. The lethal arrow trembled for one moment before it dropped to the ground at Arthur’s feet.
Slowly pivoting on the heels of his boots, Arthur turned back to stare at Merlin with his mouth gaping open. His manservant was still crouched upon the ground, but rather than hiding from the blow he obviously thought was coming, Merlin stared up at Arthur, his cobalt eyes big and round, shimmering with tears.
“You just saved my life…” Arthur said, stunned.
Merlin had to swallow twice in order to speak around the lump in his throat. “Yes…” he whispered.
Arthur stared down at Merlin for a long, long moment, and then turned his back and angrily stalked away.