Title: Destined Path
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Uther
Summary: He had a choice to make, his future to decide.
Warnings: Some hints of violence - only mild.
Word Count: 998
Author's Notes: I'm sorry, I'm really tired. I'm not sure this makes sense!
Arthur could do nothing but stare.
On one hand, his father was looking at him with the utmost fury, promises and threats in his eyes. If Arthur didn’t do what the king deemed to be the right thing here, he would be disinherited and the future of the kingdom would be at risk. Arthur knew how dangerous it was to not have a secure line for the throne, he could be putting hundreds, thousands of people, his people at risk if he disobeyed the man now.
On the other hand, however, Merlin was bound, gagged and drugged, hanging limply in the guards hold. If Arthur sided with his father, Merlin would be killed. The secret negotiations he had been making on Arthur’s behalf with the Druids would be destroyed and war would once again flourish. Arthur found himself torn between his heart and his head.
Merlin or his kingdom?
But while his father was glaring at him, Merlin didn’t even have the strength to lift his head. Arthur knew he had been beaten when the guards had first arrested him: the king had had him followed and saw him not only consorting with the Druids, but using magic as well. After all these years sneaking around, Arthur had never thought the day would come when they had been caught out. The king had been furious; he had made Merlin his son’s servant all those years ago, after all, and ordered for him to be weakened.
As of yet, however, he didn’t know Merlin had been acting under Arthur’s orders. Merlin hadn’t betrayed him. Arthur could still walk away from this, he could still guarantee peace for his kingdom…
But he couldn’t. Not if the cost was Merlin.
“Release him, Father, my servant has done nothing that I have no instructed.”
Even the guards looked surprised. They all knew what Merlin was guilty of; for the prince to admit being involved would mean treason. Arthur could see Merlin struggling to lift his head and knew he would be pleading with Arthur not to do this; he had worked too long to set Arthur on the right path for his destiny. But Arthur only focused on the glare on his father’s face.
“If you lie like that to me again, Arthur, I will have you flogged.”
Arthur knew it was just Uther’s way of trying to regain control of the situation. He hoped the threat of pain would be enough to make Arthur back down, to change his story regardless of the truth. After all, having an heir he couldn’t trust was better than having no heir at all.
Arthur, however, had had enough to being his father’s puppet. He had worked too long trying to secure peace. Staying would confirm the line, but he would be betraying his ideals and the man he had been working so hard to become. He would be nothing more than his father’s son, something he had once been proud of. But now, he had grown rather fond of the Druids thinking of him as Emrys’ man and knew which title he would rather.
“Then flog me, Sire. I ordered him to be a representative, my representative. The time for bloodshed is over. A peace treaty is ready to be signed, Father. Let go of the past, let him go and we can put this forward. We can forge a new path together, a stronger one for Camelot.”
Arthur should have seen it coming. But he didn’t reel back in time before his father had struck him.
“Lock them up!” Uther ordered, and Arthur found himself being seized before he could offer any sort of protest. Merlin struggled weakly as he was dragged out, but the drug keeping his magic at bay was killing him. Arthur looked towards him, but then found his head wrenched around by his father’s strong grip on his chin.
“I will give you one last warning. Condemn the sorcerer yourself and set aside these foolish notions. Your path is here, Arthur. Your duty to your kingdom is what is important.”
“He’s not a sorcerer,” Arthur gritted out, managing to yank his head away and glaring at his father. “He’s a warlock. And I will not betray him. I will not betray myself to spend my days controlled by you. I’ve chosen my path, Father. Now I intend to follow it.”
It wasn’t a slap this time. It was a punch. Followed by one to his stomach. As the beating continued, Arthur felt himself dropping to the floor, but the guards didn’t let go of his wrists, didn’t give him a chance to fight back. His father continued to lash out and Arthur honestly thought that he was going to die kneeling on the throne room floor, beaten to death by his own father.
“Enough,” a powerful voice rang out and Arthur thought he had taken one too many blows to the head. Merlin was gagged, he couldn’t talk. He had also been escorted from the room. But when he glanced up, it was to find his father frozen in position – literally. Every muscle was rigid, kept motionless. Gaping, Arthur pulled free of the stunned guards and turned. It was indeed Merlin standing there, his hand outstretched and his eyes blazing as he kept his father still.
“How-?” was the only thing that Arthur could splutter. Merlin held out a hand and helped him up.
“My magic was destined to protect you. No drug can keep it down when you are in danger,” he murmured softly. Arthur let himself be helped up, but then kept hold of Merlin’s hand.
“Let’s go,” he said, making sure he locked eyes with his father as he said it. “We’re leaving. I shall return, when Camelot needs me again. But until then, my path lies outside of this castle.”
And with those words, Arthur Pendragon turned his back on everything he had ever known in order to continue on his path towards his destiny.