Summary: Everyone gathers in the citadel for a grim occasion.
Warnings: threat of fire
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: This is future cannon/au, depending on no spoilers, just my au mind again.
Everything was set in the citadel. As the king silently surveyed it all, the queen grasped his wrist. “You cannot do this.”
Arthur smiled just a fraction before turning away. It held no happiness, just the protocol necessary in front of his kingdom. “Guinevere, the man committed a crime..”
She insisted hotly, pushing away the satiny folds of her burgundy dress blowing in the wind. “He is little more than a boy Arthur. Seventeen. He meant no harm.”
The king, aware that many were watching, hissed, “Is that what you think about the magic that brought your own father to death? It was that evil Guinevere that ended his life. Nearly did you in too when that sorcerer Dragoon came to Camelot.”
Gwen stared at her husband, thinking how he was acting too much like a stranger now. To prove a point? She knew he was under so much pressure, rulers of the lands of Albion on the verge of war. He was having a hard time keeping the shaky peace.
But this was wrong.
“For you to bring my father up in this shows how far you are from your normal self. I’d say you’re acting more like your father than the man I love and who is to be the father of our child.” She touched intimately at her rounding stomach, pressing his hand there too with hers. Vulnerability hit his eyes for a second, but then he shook his head, removing his hand from the growing life within her. “It is the law Guinevere.”
“A wrong law.” She insisted harshly. “One that you can change. Be brave and do it. For it is a law that your queen does not agree with.” She turned away. Seeing Merlin standing by with cracked emotion, she whispered, “I told him what I thought. I don’t abide by this Merlin. I’m sorry.”
Merlin nodded, watching as the young man was marched in, russet hair to his shoulders, and yet a youthful enough face that showed his fear even though he possessed magic. He had been Merlin’s apprentice now in medicine for over a year. Merlin had taken over Gaius’s duties when he passed those many months ago.
Arthur watched as the boy was tied to the stake, his shirt raked away from his shoulders. His father would have given a speech about the dangers of magic around this time. Arthur just held still, feeling his red cloak billowing in the wind as a flame was struck to a branch of wood.
Gwen pushed against her stomach sickeningly, telling her husband without question. “I can’t stay for this.”
As Arthur watched her go with a troubled brow, Merlin stepped up to him. “Arthur, he was only helping his mother. She would have died without it. The healing spell helped her.”
Arthur hissed at his servant to be quiet, watching as his wife disappeared from sight and the flame edged at the boy’s shoes.
He lowered his head, wanting to leave too. But if he was going to put the boy through this he’d be an observer to his fate. He felt oddly sick, having to open and close his mouth to feel his own breath as the soles of the boy’s shoes began to flame and burn.
Arthur looked to Merlin whose eyes were red, wet. Merlin had taken the boy under his wing like he was his younger brother. They shared some rare connection, through medicine Arthur supposed.
He looked further to see that his wife hadn’t vacated entirely. She was under an archway, biting down on her bottom lip and rubbing at her swollen stomach, almost as if soothing their unborn child, protecting it from the violence of what was about to happen.
The flame started to move higher. Arthur looked to the boy’s face. He didn’t look angry or hysterical, but fear edged his cheeks and he was staring upward, refusing to peer down at the flame.
His father would think it was foolish to care. But Arthur did. He had observed the boy’s mother be brought out of her misery, a painful disease, with that magical medicine. It held no real evil. His father would call him a coward. Say he was a disgrace, but as Arthur stood there, he felt not harsh thoughts directed his way, but gentle. Telling him it was time. That he had to be his own man.
That this was wrong.
Merlin and Gwen held their breaths. Everyone did. The boy looked straight at him finally. Arthur shivered slightly, gathering his strength and shaking his head. “There will be no burning today. Or any day ever again. For the use of magic when it is intended for…
Good. As it was in this case.
This boy meant no wrong. He only meant to save his mother. There can be no fault in that. I am sure the queen agrees with me on this.”
He held out his hand, watching as she emotionally came back to him, clasping his fingers. It helped Arthur to go on, not feeling so alone like he often had as prince.
“Because the ban on magic has yet to be entirely lifted, the boy will spend some days in the dungeons. But that is all. For now on, a crime will be determined by the state of ill will, the intention to hurt another. Those are the kinds of wrong doings that will be faced with grave punishment. Not the intention to save another being.”
With that the king signaled for the boy to be untied and holding tightly to his wife’s hand, departed the citadel, stopping for a quick moment to squeeze his servant’s shoulder, the silent meaning enough.
Merlin watched with a wondering smile before he helped his young apprentice, reassured that the burning of his shoes had not harshly affected his skin.
And knowing that the time of his reveal was not quite yet, but closer in sight.
Magic alone…no longer a crime. No longer a reason to burn.