Pairing/s: Arthur/Merlin, Gwaine/Percival
Character/s: Uther, Arthur, Merlin, Agravaine, Gwaine, Percival, Gaius
Summary: Uther holds Merlin as a slave, forcing him to use his magic to bring the other kingdoms under Uther's control. Merlin can't disobey, the stakes are too high.
Warnings: Character death, copious amounts of angst.
Word Count: 997 (within the limit for once!)
Prompt: 79 Greed
Author's Notes: Thanks to deinonychus_1 for the beta. Also fills Trope Bingo square Slavefic.
It wasn't supposed to be like this.
Merlin was destined to work with Arthur to unite Albion, not his father. And uniting Albion didn't mean forcing all the other kingdoms to submit to Camelot, it meant working with them, persuading them to become allies under Arthur's glorious rule. Merlin's magic wasn't meant to be used like this. Arthur wasn't supposed to be imprisoned.
It was all wrong.
It had been months, perhaps a year now, since he'd been caught in Arthur's bed and condemned to die for enchanting him. Not that Uther had realised that Merlin actually had magic, it had been a convenient excuse to do away with the troublesome servant who had been found compromising the crown prince.
Only Arthur wasn't crown prince any more. Arthur had climbed up onto the pyre in a vain attempt to save the man he loved, blatantly disobeying Uther in front of countless witnesses, and that was deemed unforgivable. Uther had been so furious with his son that he'd ordered the fire lit anyway.
That was when the truth about Merlin's magic came out. He couldn't let Arthur die, and there was no other option as the flames started to burn. A flash of golden eyes and they were free.
Somehow, in all the confusion that followed, they'd failed to escape. Stunned by what his father had tried to do, Arthur had slipped and fallen as they climbed down off the pyre. The king had seized the opportunity, the blade at Arthur's throat effectively stopping any attempt Merlin might have made to get away, because he'd never leave Arthur. That was his weakness and Uther knew it. That, and now the collar that held him prisoner. Because despite Uther's professed hatred of all things magic or perhaps because of it, he had possessed a collar that suppressed magic and had used it to make Merlin his slave.
Merlin fingered the collar nervously, hating the thing. He recalled how it had felt, the first time it had been placed around his neck. Where his magic had always been, all around him, singing to him, there was just silence.
Soon Uther would remove it, he knew, but it wasn't something he was looking forward to. Nine kingdoms taken now, but they weren't enough. Uther wanted to rule the entirety of Albion, and Merlin was his key to doing so.
Merlin had never thought of himself as a weapon. Arthur was the warrior, not him. But as he stood on the battlements, looking down on the army that Cendred and Bayard had assembled in a desperate attempt to stand against the might of the Pendragon war machine, he knew that wasn't true.
Merlin was reviled throughout all the kingdoms that had been forced under Uther's rule. The people didn't see a slave, they saw a sorcerer, a demon that did the bidding of a cruel and greedy king.
All Merlin saw was Arthur, rotting away in a prison cell. He'd be up on the battlements too, soon, because it was almost time. That was how Uther did it, how he forced Merlin to obey him, by threatening Arthur's life.
Merlin had thought he could be clever at first.
"If you kill Arthur, you'll never be able to make me do anything," he'd warned Uther.
That was when he'd been reminded that he had other friends, other people that he loved.
Gaius, Gwen, Lancelot and Gwaine, all of them were down there with Arthur, and Uther had no qualms about killing any of them to get what he wanted, he'd proved that with Percival.
Merlin tried not to think about quiet, gentle Percival, or about the way Gwaine had changed since that moment, as if part of him had died too.
The armies below him were waiting. He could sweep them away with a wave of his hand, dash them all against the earth and destroy them. But first he would do what he always did, create fire and hail and the appearance of destruction that never quite reached them. Most of them would run, terrified, trampling each other in their desperation to get away. He didn't kill if he could help it, but there was always death and he was the cause.
Uther was behind him, his hand on the hated collar, fingering it. Merlin couldn't help looking back, waiting for the moment when he'd see Arthur brought struggling up into the light. Every single time his skin was that bit paler, his body a little thinner. The prisoners weren't being well-treated. Merlin hadn't seen Gaius in months. He didn't want to think about that, either.
And then there was Arthur, gagged so that he couldn't tell Merlin that he, Arthur, didn't matter, that Merlin should just kill Uther and put a stop to him. Not that Merlin ever could.
Arthur was forced to his knees, his head pushed forward with the heavy, razor-sharp blade balanced over his neck, only Uther's grip stopping it from falling. If Merlin attacked Uther and made him lose his hold on that blade even for a moment then Arthur would die.
Agravaine stepped forward, ready to release the collar. He'd done well from his new position at Uther's side and was likely to be rewarded with Morgana and one day the throne. Merlin hated him almost as much as he hated Uther.
He felt the collar unclip, his magic roaring up, thinking it was free again. With a last look at Arthur, trying not to see the anger and betrayal in his eyes, Merlin turned back to the battlefield.
It wasn't forever. One day Uther would make a mistake. One day he wouldn't hold the heavy blade over Arthur's neck at quite the right angle, and Agravaine would fail to get the collar back on Merlin fast enough. One day Merlin would set them free, stop Uther forever, then throw himself on Arthur's mercy.
He knew that Arthur would never, ever forgive him.