Merlin jumped as he turned a bend and the sounds of a swordfight reached his ears. The logical part of his mind told him to flee, to keep his head down and out of trouble as his mother had told him when she had seen him off. Another part of him - a stronger, unknown part - pulled him towards the fight.
"I must be an idiot," Merlin muttered to himself as he followed the sounds to their source. When he reached the fight, he ducked behind a tree.
There were six men, eight counting the two that were either unconscious or dead on the ground. All but one were bandits if the dark clothes and semi-covered faces were anything to go by. The last one, who was surrounded by the other five standing men and fighting tooth-and-nail against them, was obviously someone of wealth. He was skilled as well, having held out as long as he had, but there was only so much one man could do against five. As Merlin watched, the young man managed to down one man and repel two more, but the fourth managed to get in close enough to slice his arm and the fifth nearly took his head.
While the young man attempted to hold off the fifth, Merlin noticed the two bandits the young man had repelled before had snuck behind him. Reacting on instinct, Merlin's hand shot out and magic welled up in him. A spear that had been dropped by one of the fallen bandits flew up to knock the two off their feet. The young man glanced over his shoulder for just a second, but then quickly refocused on the fight. The two bandits still standing went down easy. When the two Merlin had hit returned to their feet, the larger was felled by the young man's blade, but not before dealing him a blow to the head. The last bandit took one look at his fallen allies and deserted into the forest.
Relieved that the stranger was safe, Merlin turned to run off before he could be discovered.
"Stop, you there!"
Merlin glanced back, expecting the young man to be yelling after the fleeing bandit, only to see him pointing his sword towards the tree Merlin was hiding behind.
"I saw what you did. Come out, now, in the name of -"
The young man took two steps towards Merlin before collapsing.
Melin sat frozen. On the one hand, he should really leave. If the stranger really had seen him use magic then he would accuse Merlin of being a sorcerer, which was a death sentence in these parts. On the other hand, could he really leave a man to die in the woods?
"A right idiot," Merlin mumbled as he glanced around then shuffled over to the stranger.
He first pulled the young man away from the bandits and weapons - just in case - then kept an ear out in case the bandit returned as he checked the stranger for injuries. Aside from the slice on his arm, the man only had a few bruises scattered about and the bump on his head from where the bandit had hit him.
It must have been the hit that took him down. He's lucky he made it through the fight before he passed out, Merlin thought and pulled out his waterskin and a few scraps of cloth. He rinsed off the cut and used the cloth to dress and bandage it. It wasn't much, but it would do until the stranger could have someone proper look it over. Next, he poured a bit of water on a cloth and gently held it to the bump on the man's head to help with the swelling.
They stayed like that for a short time -- Merlin idly wondering how much of an idiot he must be -- before the young man started to wake. He groaned, eyes fluttering and hand coming to his head.
"Careful, you don't want to make it worse," Merlin warned.
The stranger's eyes blinked open and he stared up at Merlin in confusion.
"Are you okay? Besides the obvious, I mean. That was a stupid question, wasn't it?"
The young man stared up at him for only a second before jerking up into a sitting position with wide eyes filled with anger and a touch of fear. The look was wiped away a second later when he closed his eyes and moaned, hand brushing the bump on his head.
Merlin moved back all the same. "I'm guessing this means your memory is intact."
The stranger gave him a slightly pained glare. "You're a sorcerer. I saw you use magic to attack the men that were behind me."
"You're welcome by the way," Merlin commented and the man's glare grew.
"Magic is forbidden in Camelot. Those that practice it are evil."
"And yet I just saved your life. Obviously whoever told you that is an idiot," Merlin muttered to himself, but the other man heard.
" You're the idiot. Do you even know who you speak to?"
"King of the prats?" Merlin joked, before adding, "How should I know who you are? It's not like you've introduced yourself."
The stranger gave him an odd look. "What do you want, sorcerer? You must have had some reason to seek me out?"
"I didn't seek you out. I just saw you being attacked and I thought I'd help."
The young man snorted and narrowed his eyes once more. "Why would you risk revealing yourself and your magic just to save my life? You must have wanted something."
"I wasn't going to sit back and watch someone be killed. I didn't think I just... acted." When the man just stared at Merlin in an unconvinced fashion, he added, "I'm serious."
"I can't tell whether you are a really good liar or just a complete idiot."
"At least I'm not an ass," Merlin mumbled.
Neither had a chance to say more before the sounds of horses and men began to fill the air.
"That will be the knights. About time too," the stranger said, glancing towards the sound. He turned back to Merlin and looked him over. "You best be leaving."
"I - What?" Merlin asked.
"If you're still here when the knights arrive, I'll have no choice but to turn you over. Now leave," the young man said, slowly pulling himself to his feet.
"You're letting me go? Just like that?"
"You... assisted me in my fight against the bandits. For that, you have my thanks. I'm an honorable man and I repay my debts. Leave now and I will not hunt you."
"Assisted? I'm pretty sure I saved your life."
"I had the situation perfec- Are you trying to make me reconsider letting you go?"
"Who, me? I didn't say anything. I'll just grab my stuff and go." Merlin stuffed his waterskin and the unused clothes back in his bag and got up to leave.
"And sorcerer," the stranger added, "this is a one time deal. If I catch you doing magic again or if you try to threaten the kingdom, I will not let you live."
He nodded and said, "Thank you," before rushing into the forest away from the knights.
Merlin looked everywhere as he made his way through the lower town and into the citadel. Everything was so different from his small village, even at night. He only wished he could have arrived sooner and during the day. His detour, both the stop to help the stranger and the side road he had taken to be sure he didn't run into the knights, had led to him arriving later than expected.
"Where would I find Gaius, the Court Physician?" the warlock asked one of the guards stationed in the square.
The guard pointed to a hallway. "There."
Merlin nodded his head in thanks. He turned to head down the hall before pausing when hoofbeats echoed through the square. He glanced back to see a woman riding in alongside her guardsmen.
"That must be Lady Helen," one of the citadel's guards said. "Wish I could have gotten duty during the feast. Her voice is a gift."
Merlin watched the woman, Lady Helen, get helped down from her horse until he noticed a different guard glaring at him. He gave the guard what he hoped was a reassuring smile before slipping down the hall. It led to a staircase and he knocked on the door he found at the top.
"Hello?" the warlock called, opening the door. "Hello, Gaius?" He stepped in and glanced around the workshop, which was filled with vials and herbs and other such stuff Merlin assumed were necessary for a physician's work, but couldn't see the man he was meant to be meeting.
"What are you doing here?"
Merlin felt his blood go cold as he spun around to see the young man he had saved two days earlier. The stranger was standing in the doorway, glaring at Merlin with his hand coming down to rest on the hilt of the sword at his hip.
"W-what are you doing here?"
"I do believe I asked you first," the young man growled, shutting the door behind him. Merlin stumbled back as the man approached him. "I thought I made myself clear. You were allowed to leave with your life as long as you stayed away. Do you want me to turn you over for execution?"
"No! No, of course not!"
"Then why are you following me?"
"I'm not, I swear! How was I supposed to know you were here?"
"You knew I was injured. Why wouldn't I come to see a physician?"
"Sure, but how was I to know you'd come to see the court physician. He can't be the only one you could go to."
The young man gave him the same odd look he had given Merlin before. "Why are you here then? Are you trying to sabotage Gaius's work? Or is Gaius the one you're after?"
"No, I would never! I was just -"
The warlock cut off as the door to the physician's quarters began to open.
Arthur was furious. He should have never let the sorcerer run off with his life. Now he was going to attack Gaius or send a plague through the city or something equally terrible and it was all going to be Arthur's fault.
No. The boy wasn't going to do anything because Arthur was going to right his wrong before anyone could get hurt.
"Gaius," Arthur greeted the elderly physician as he slipped through the door.
"Ah, Prince Arthur, good timing. I hope I haven't kept you waiting. I was just dropping off your father's medicine," Gaius said, bowing his head respectfully.
"Prince?" Arthur heard the sorcerer squeak before he could think up a way to get the physician out of the line of fire. He glanced over to see that the boy was staring at him with shock and a touch of fear in his eyes. About time he realized who he was dealing with.
Gaius turned to the sorcerer with wide eyes. "Oh, I'm sorry. I didn't see you there."
"Oh, erm…" The sorcerer turned to Gaius with an uneasy smile. "Sorry, I had this letter, but it kind of got ruined when my waterskin leaked. I'm - uh - I'm Merlin."
Arthur watched as realization flashed through Gauis's eyes. "Hunith's son?"
"But you're not meant to be here till Wednesday!"
"It's... Thursday, actually."
"Sorry, I -" The boy, Merlin, glanced over at Arthur. "- got lost on the way here."
"It's fine, just as long as you're okay." The sorcerer nodded. "Ah, right then. You better put your bag in there. You must be tired. Have you eaten?" He nodded again. "Then go rest up, we can talk some more in the morning."
"Thank you," the sorcerer said before sending Arthur one last look and ducking through the door Gaius had gestured at.
"If you would, Your Highness, you can sit here while I check your injuries and change your bandages."
Arthur nodded and sat where he was told, still looking at the door that the sorcerer had disappeared through. "You know that boy?" he asked, finally turning to Gaius.
"Merlin?" the physician hummed, removing the bandages from the prince's arm. "Not personally, no, but his mother is a dear friend. She contacted me and asked for me to take him in; watch over him and teach him a few things. Why do you ask?"
Arthur briefly considered telling the truth. "He… was here when I arrived. I don't remember seeing him around so I was worried he was up to no good."
"Well, if he's anything like his mother then he'll be no problem at all. If he's like his father, though…" Gaius snorted and shook his head.
"He didn't seem to recognize me. In fact, I'm not even sure he understood I was nobility."
"I can't say I'm surprised. The village Merlin is from is in Essetir's boundaries, near the border of Camelot. At most, he's probably only heard your name in passing. And I doubt he's had much experience with nobles since Ealdor isn't near any major roads."
"Essetir? Why would he come here all the way from Cenred's kingdom?"
"I don't think Hunith had many other options."
"But why send him away at all?" Cenred didn't have Uther's hatred of magic. Merlin's mother must have known of the boy's powers. Why would she send him to the heart of Camelot?
"Merlin was having… problems with the people of Ealdor."
"He was causing trouble?"
"More like people were causing trouble for him. From what I understand, Merlin didn't quite fit in. I'm not too surprised. His father… has been gone a long while. As I know you can understand, growing up without a parent can be hard, and we all don't have the luxury of being the prince to keep the bullies away. Children can be harsh, teenagers can be worse."
Arthur still didn't see why escaping a few bullies would be worth the risk of discovery and execution. He wasn't about to say such to Gaius though; Merlin was his problem so he would just have to figure this out on his own.
He put on his best understanding face and nodded.
Merlin's eyes flickered open and he sat up, glancing around. He could have sworn he heard a voice. He glanced around for a moment longer before shaking it off. He quickly dressed and stepped out into the main room of the physician's quarters.
Gaius glanced up at him as he entered. "I got you water. You didn't wash last night."
"Sorry," Merlin said, moving to grab the bucket of water, but stumbled and knocked it off the table instead. For a second, water and bucket froze in midair. Merlin glanced up, wide-eyed, and thanked the heavens that Gaius's back was turned. Of course, the moment his focus was off the bucket, it clattered to the floor with the water splashing around it. "I'm so sorry! I can be a bit clumsy sometimes," Merlin explained, blushing and fetching a mop.
"Well, we better keep you out of trouble. You can help me until I find some paid work for you. Here, Sir Gregory was feeling ill after his ride with Lady Helen. Tell him to take half at midday and the rest before bed. And this is for Sir Leon. Remind him that he needs to eat with it. Tell him that if he ends up sick again because he skipped a meal to train, he'll need to find someone else to treat him." Gaius said, taking the mop and handing Merlin two vials, each with a label stating who they were for. "And here," he added, holding out a plate with a sandwich. Merlin smiled in thanks before the older man shooed him away with an, "Off you go."
Merlin had finished his sandwich by the time he realized the castle was far too large to just wander about until he found who he was looking for. He was just considering asking one of the servants when the choice was made for him and he bumped into a maid as he was turning the corner.
"Oh, I'm sorry," he said, dropping down to help her gather the clothes that had fallen out of her laundry basket.
"No, it's okay. I was lost in my thoughts. I should have been paying attention to where I was going." The girl smiled up at him once they'd gathered the clothes, only to frown and tilt her head. "I'm sorry, I don't think we've met. I'm Guinevere, but most people call me Gwen. I'm Lady Morgana's maid."
"Right, I'm Merlin," he held out his hand for her to shake. "Although, most people just call me Idiot. Or Clumsy. Or Clumsy Idiot. Take your pick."
Gwen giggled and Merlin smiled. It was almost like being back with Will.
"I don't remember ever seeing you around here before. Are you visiting someone?"
"No, you see, the thing is…" he paused and Gwen leaned closer, curiosity shining in her eyes. "I'm a knight."
The maid snorted, then covered her mouth at the unladylike sound.
"I'm sorry, it's just… You don't look like one of those big, muscle-y kind of fellows."
"Thanks," Merlin said, giving her a fake pout.
"No! No, I'm sure you're stronger than you look. It's just, erm... The knights are always real rough, tough, save the world kind of men, and… Well…"
"You don't look like that."
Merlin glanced around before motioning for her to move closer. When she did, he whispered, "I'm in disguise."
She giggled again and he smiled, shaking his head.
"I've come to stay with Gaius, the court physician. Honestly, I'm supposed to be running errands for him, but… I don't actually know where I'm supposed to be going."
"Maybe I could help you," Gwen offered, standing up and settling the laundry basket against her hip.
"That would be great, thanks. I'm supposed to be dropping off medicine for Sirs Gregory and Leon."
"Well, Sir Gregory should still be in the knights' quarters, resting, but at this time of day you'd be more likely to find Sir Leon out on the training field." Gwen gave him directions to the knights' quarters and training field and he left with a quick thank you and goodbye, letting her get back to her work.
As Merlin left the training field, he wondered if Gaius would want him to come straight back or if he was allowed to have a look around first. Well, it wasn't like Gaius told him to come straight back, and he wasn't going to leave the citadel. He'd just take a peek around the market and then -
Hands latched onto the back of Merlin's jacket and he was dragged into an empty chamber. The warlock jerked out of his assailant's grip and yelled, "Hey! What's going o-" He froze and grew pale when he turned to see a glaring Prince Arthur. "Oh, hello again."
The prince drew his sword and Merlin stumbled back, only to find himself up against a column. Arthur leveled his sword at the warlock's neck and asked, "What are you doing here?"
"Well," Merlin chuckled nervously. "Shouldn't you be asking yourself that? You're the one that dragged me in here."
The sword pressed closer and the boy flinched.
"You know what I mean. What are you doing in Camelot?"
"My mother sent me to live with Gaius."
"That's what Gaius said."
Merlin glared at the prince and gestured to the sword. "If you've already talked this over with Gaius, then what's this about."
"Does Gaius know about you? About your magic?"
"Not unless you or my mom told him. And if he does, he certainly hasn't told me he knows."
Arthur nodded. "Then Gaius doesn't have the full story. I want the full story. Why are you in Camelot? Cenred hasn't banned magic and you already said your mother knows about your magic. Why would she send you away from safety to the heart of Camelot?"
"Safety," Merlin snorted. He was glaring again, though not at the prince. "Oh yeah, Cenred loves magic users. He just loves having them dragged down to and chained up in his dungeon. Loves having them trained until they are perfectly obedient. Loves having them muzzled and caged and dragged off to be weapons wherever he wants them. Weapons, not warriors, because of course people with magic are monsters and are less than even horses or dogs. They're just swords to be sharpened and beaten and used until they can't be used anymore. And oh yes, that's only the most powerful magic users, because the weak ones aren't worth training and are better left rotting in the dungeons. And they can't be too powerful either, obviously, because then they can't be controlled. No, they're just rabid animals that need to be put down.
"Safety, yes, that is exactly the word I would use for Cenred. Thank you. "
Arthur was stunned. So much so that it took him a moment to realize he'd lowered his sword sometime during Merlin's rant. He swallowed and looked down at his sword.
He'd known Cenred used sorcerers in his army, of course, but it had never occurred to him to think about how he acquired them. He supposed he would have assumed Cenred hired them, like men-at-arms. Slavery was a horrible practice, one that was not allowed in Camelot. However…
"That's still better than letting sorcerers run around freely, causing chaos." He met Merlin's glare and said, "If you choose to study and use magic, then you have to face the consequences."
"And what about those of us who don't get to choose?" Arthur's expression dropped into one of confusion. "You really think I chose to have magic? Do you think I'm that stupid that I would choose to study magic when my choices are between execution and enslavement? I don't even know where I would go to study magic!"
"Then how -"
"I was born like this! That trick I did with the spear to knock over those guys, I've been able to do that since before I could walk. I don't know spells or rituals or whatever else sorcerers do, things just… happen. I make them happen. Do I deserve to be enslaved because I was born a freak? No, I suppose you'd say I deserve to be executed, wouldn't you?"
The boy glared at Arthur, eyes insolent and defiant even as fear began to creep back in.
"Can't you just… not use magic?"
"Can't you just not use your arm?" Arthur tried to respond but Merlin kept on. "I don't mean it is injured and you have to put it in a sling. I mean, just one day you decide not to use your arm at all. You can't even move it. Do you think you could do it? No, you couldn't. You'd go to reach for something out of habit and there it is, you've used it. You'd subconsciously curl your fingers and it's over, you've used it. Your arm twitches and guess what? You've used it. I've tried to not use magic before. I have, and it was the most frustrating time of my life. My magic is just as much a part of me as your arm is a part of you. I can't even imagine what my life would be like without my magic and I don't want to. No more than you would want to imagine a life without your arm."
Arthur was dumbfounded. "That - That doesn't make sense. Magic is evil. For it to be that much a part of you - For you to have been born like that - you-you'd have to…"
"I would have had to have been born evil?" Merlin asked, finishing the prince's thought. "Do you think I'm evil?"
Arthur opened his mouth to answer, only to realize he didn't have one to give. He should say yes. The boy had magic. He was a sorcerer. Everything his father had taught him about magic told him the boy was the scum of the earth, evil to the core, and he needed to be killed before he corrupted the minds of everyone around him and threw the world into chaos.
However - and Arthur would never admit this out loud - this was the boy that had saved his life. Arthur could admit, if only to himself, that the chances he would have made it out of that fight alive without assistance were slim-to-none. The best he probably could have hoped for was a crippling, though survivable injury. Even with the assistance, if the boy hadn't stayed, if he had fled like anyone with half a brain would have done, who knows what would have happened. Would the knights have found him in time? Would the bandit have returned to finish the job? Despite Merlin's jokes, it was plain to see he hadn't expected to leave the situation with his life, let alone a thank you or reward. He had gambled with his life just to be sure Arthur - Not Prince Arthur or Knight of Camelot Arthur or Nobleman Arthur or Wealthy Arthur, but just Arthur - would survive.
Merlin jumped at the response and Arthur realized a bit of time had passed while he had been deciding on an answer.
The sorcerer - Was that even what Merlin was? - met the prince's eyes and nodded before glancing down at his sword. "Are you going to kill me?" It was barely more than a whisper, just loud enough that it carried to Arthur's ears.
Arthur looked down at the sword as well before putting it back in its sheath. "I told you: I'm an honorable man and I repay my debts. I have neither seen you do any more magic nor have you threatened the kingdom. As such, our deal still stands and you may walk away with your life. Just… do not make me regret this."
Merlin studied him, as if trying to determine if he was telling the truth. He must have found what he was looking for because he relaxed slightly and gave a small smile. "I won't. Thank you… Your Highness."
The last part was added a bit after the rest, an afterthought, but Arthur didn't bring it up. He just glanced away from the person who made his world flip upside down and waved his hand.
The boy took it as the dismissal it was and fled the room.
Merlin spun his spoon around in his soup as he thought over his conversation with Arthur. "Gaius?" When the man in front of him hummed to show he was listening, Merlin asked, "Studying magic is banned here, right?"
Gaius looked up at him with a raised eyebrow. "Of course. Uther banned all such work twenty years ago. You're not thinking of…"
"No! No. No, I-I was just wondering why?"
Gaius frowned down at his soup before meeting Merlin's gaze. "People used magic for the wrong end at that time. It threw the natural order into chaos. Uther made it his mission to destroy everything from back then, even the dragons."
"What? All of them?"
"There was one dragon he chose not to kill, kept it as an example. He imprisoned it in a cave deep beneath the castle where no one can free it."
Merlin frowned and glanced to the side, remembering the voice from nowhere he had heard that morning. Could it be… No, that was impossible.
"Now, eat up. When you've finished, I need you to take a preparation to Lady Helen. She needs it for her voice."
This was probably the stupidest thing he's ever done. He was walking about a part of the castle he's pretty sure he's not allowed to be in, following a voice he's pretty sure is in his head, and for what reason? In the hopes of meeting a dragon he's pretty sure doesn't exist. This probably ranks up there with saving the life of a prince who turned out to be a prat about how he chose to save his life, though thankfully not so much of a prat as to kill him for it.
Think of the devil.
Merlin paused three steps down the creepy, pitch-black staircase he had somehow decided was a good idea to turned to see Arthur staring down at him with crossed arms.
"What are you doing here?"
Arthur narrowed his eyes.
"Hey, I actually managed to ask you first this time!"
"I spotted a certain someone skulking about the castle in the middle of the night and followed him to the dungeons since it's my duty to keep him out of trouble. For some insane reason, I've decided to let him live and therefore any trouble he causes is on my conscience. Your turn."
"I'm… taking a midnight stroll?"
"Through the dungeons? Tell me, Merlin, would you like me to show you what the inside of a cell looks like? Do I even want to know what you did to get rid of the guards?"
"I didn't attack them! I just tossed their dice down a hallway… On second thought, no, you don't want to know."
"What are you doing down here?" the prince growled. "No more lies."
The warlock flinched and shifted nervously. "Did you know there's supposed to be a dragon down here?"
"You're after the dragon?"
"No! Well, yes, kind of. I think he's calling me."
"You think the dragon is calling you?"
"Yes, I can hear this voice in my head -"
"You're hearing voices in your head?"
Merlin blushed. "Not-not like that! I think it's a magic thing!"
"You're using magic?"
"Not me! The dragon! He's using magic to call for me and so I'm playing along so he'll stop! Alright! Are you happy?"
"You do realize you sound completely insane, correct?"
"Yes, yes I do! Thank you for pointing it out," Merlin groaned turning back to the stairs. They suddenly seemed like a much better option than this conversation.
"Where are you going?" Arthur's voice called, followed by the stomping of his feet as he trailed after Merlin.
"We've been over this already."
"You do realize that this breaks our agreement, correct?"
"How does this count as you seeing me do magic?"
"This counts as you threatening the kingdom."
"How does coming down here to tell the dragon to shut up so I can sleep count as threatening the kingdom?"
"I - That's - The dragon…"
Merlin could feel Arthur's glare on his back as the prince failed to come up with a reason.
The two made one last turn and came out into a large cavern. Merlin gasped at the size, but Arthur just glanced around with an upturned nose.
"I don't see a dragon," he pointed out.
Merlin turned to glare at the prince, but it was cut short as a laugh echoed through the cavern.
"Where are you?" Merlin questioned at the same time that Arthur yelled, "Show yourself!"
There was a roar and both prince and sorcerer jumped back as the dragon came to land on a platform a short way from their outcropping. On instinct, Arthur drew his sword as he looked up into the face of the giant beast.
And here he was thinking "The Great Dragon Under the Castle" was just a story the knights and Morgana would tell him to scare him when he was little.
"I'm here," the beast said when it landed. It could speak! Maybe Merlin wasn't as crazy as he sounded.
The Great Dragon glanced over them as he settled down onto the platform. "How small you both are for such a great destiny."
"Why? What do you mean? What destiny?" Merlin asked. Never mind, the boy was absolutely insane. He was taking this all in far too easily.
"Your gift, Merlin, was given to you for a reason."
"So there is a reason," Merlin muttered under his breath.
The dragon seemed to hear it all the same though as he nodded and turned his eyes on Arthur. The prince flinched and raised his sword defensively, but neither he nor it moved to attack.
Instead, the dragon chuckled at him and stated, "You, young prince, are the Once and Future King who will unite the land of Albion."
Arthur's jaw dropped. Future King, sure. He was the heir to Camelot after all. But Once and Future King? Uniting Albion? Was Arthur the only one sane in this cavern?
"Right," Merlin said, not sounding much more convinced than Arthur.
"But you face many threats from friend and foe alike."
That wasn't news. He was prince, heir to the throne. People were always making threats on his life. Just the other day a sorceress had threatened his life when her son was executed. How did Merlin fit into this though? Or was he a threat? Or was the dragon just insane? Probably that last one.
"I don't see what this has to do with me," Merlin voiced Arthur's thoughts.
"Everything. Without you, Arthur will never succeed. Without you, there will be no Albion."
"Wait, why would I need his help? He's a sorcerer! I should have him executed!"
"But you haven't," the dragon pointed out, taking on that smug tone of someone who knows something you do not. Arthur hates that tone. It was Morgana's favorite.
"No. No, Arthur's right. You've got this wrong," Merlin agreed.
"There is no right or wrong, only what is and what isn't."
"But I'm serious! He wants to kill me! The only reason he hasn't yet is that it would hurt his honor or some other such nonsense."
Arthur glared at the sorcerer. "That nonsense is keeping you alive so I would show some respect."
"See!" Merlin exclaimed, waving his hands in Arthur's direction, but the dragon just laughed.
"He wishes to kill you no more than you wish to kill him, young warlock. None of us can choose our destiny and none of us can escape it."
"Warlock? Is that what he is?" Arthur asked, receiving a nod from the dragon.
"No. No way. No. No. There must be another Arthur because this one's an idiot."
"Excuse me," Arthur growled.
"Perhaps it's your destiny to change that," the dragon chuckled before flying off.
Merlin flinched before smiling at him. "At least I know you don't want to kill me."
"Trust me, I want to kill you a lot, which really makes me question your intentions," the prince continued to growl. He sheathed his sword before snatching the torch from the sor-warlock and stomping back the way they'd come. He'd leave the crazy boy with his crazy dragon. Maybe then Arthur's life could get back to normal.
Merlin never could understand how things could go out of control so quickly.
One moment he's having a simple conversation with Gwen, blushing as he realized he had been right before. It was a lot like his conversations with Will. Too much so considering he'd only known Gwen for not even two days and really didn't know how to respond.
The next moment he's saving Arthur's life (again) with magic (again) and Arthur's glaring at him like he's going to kill him ( again ).
"You know, next time I can just let you get impaled," Merlin muttered under his breath as the court politely clapped for his new appointment as Arthur's manservant.
Arthur surreptitiously elbowed him in the gut.