Disclaimer: I do not own Merlin
Summary: AU. When Merlin's father returns suddenly Merlin realizes that his destiny isn't exactly what he thought it would be. Separated from Arthur, Merlin's life is turned upside down, never once suspecting that Arthur might miss him with the same intensity, or that their destiny is going to be tested and tried as his magic begins creating all sorts of troubles and attracting all sorts of potential rivals...
Note: Icon that inspired story was created by jade_dragoness
Dodging the blow Merlin turned on his heel and gave a decisive swing of the sword, grinning when it caught his partner by surprise, causing his sword to fling out of his hand helplessly to the ground.
In seconds, Merlin’s sword was trained on his partner’s neck.
He blinked, shocked. “I can’t believe it.”
“I can’t believe it!” Hunith cheered from the background.
“I can’t bloody believe it.” Wyborn chuckled, hugging his wife to him and looking so damned shocked.
Lancelot though, Lancelot was grinning proudly at Merlin. “I believe it.”
Merlin dropped his sword and shook his head. He’d always been horrible at swordplay, Arthur had had a hell of a time trying to teach him, and yet he’d learnt better under Lancelot’s training. He knew that if this were true combat he’d be dead, but it was the first time he’d bested his teacher and friend, so he was going to not be insulted by how shocked his parents were and just grin.
“Well done, Prince Merlin.” Lancelot smiled. “I knew you could do it.”
“Well, Sir Lancelot, I had a good tutor.” Merlin grinned back.
It was mostly teasing to call each other by their titles, for despite Merlin being prince of Valador and Lancelot a knight of his realm, Lancelot was also his closest and most dearest friend in this new kingdom, and their friendship had grown stronger.
“Sire, you were magnificent!” Gawain, Merlin’s manservant cried in his usual hero worship as he quickly grabbed Merlin’s discarded sword.
“Thanks Gawain,” Merlin smiled at the younger boy.
Sometimes it was a little embarrassing how Gawain seemed to worship him, but Merlin guessed he could understand, a bit. He’d been out on a stroll when he’d come upon bandits attacking a home in his kingdom and he’d used his magic to not only save the daughters from being brutally raped, but the sons as well.
He still flinched when he remembered that night, but things were well for Gawain and his family now so he tried to put it away.
Since the parents had been killed trying to defend their children the six had been orphaned, and terrified, and Merlin hadn’t been able to leave them there.
To his credit, despite being surprised that his son had returned walking and leading his horse (the younger three sitting astride his horse) and with children all around him, Wyborn had only smiled and nodded in understanding when Merlin had explained what had happened.
Hunith, radiant and beloved as Queen, had taken all of the children under her wing immediately, making sure that they were taken care of, but Merlin just hadn’t been able to get rid of fifteen year old Gawain. The boy had hounded him ever since, desperate to repay his ‘debt’ and Merlin had been shocked when he father had offered the boy the position of manservant---and how eager the boy had been to accept.
Thankfully they were a good match, and Merlin made sure never to act like Arthur had no matter how much Gawain mucked up his duties during his first month.
In the end, Gawain had somewhat turned Merlin into a god in his eyes, and it was a little embarrassing, but heartwarming nonetheless.
“I shall go and sharpen this for you, sire!” Gawain announced, hurrying away.
“Don’t run with a sword!” Merlin called after him, concerned. “You might get hurt!”
But Gawain was already gone.
Lancelot watched them and snorted in amusement, shaking his head. “You’re a good master, Merlin, but be careful that you are not toogood to the boy. You don’t want to break his heart when you finally take a queen.”
Merlin turned to Lancelot, frowning, confused. “Break his heart?”
“You truly are blind, Merlin.” Lancelot sighed, shaking his head. “The boy is horribly infatuated with you.”
“He idolizes me, there’s a difference, Lancelot.” Merlin pouted, his friend just enjoyed teasing him. He was about to ask the knight what exactly had turned him into such a dirty-minded fellow when there was a screech in the air, giving Merlin enough of a warning to raise his arm as Haldir, his falcon, landed on it, a string and letter attached to his foot.
“Speaking of infatuations.” Lancelot murmured darkly to himself.
Merlin ignored him, with one word transferring the letter to his pocket and with another conjuring a strip of meat to give his pet as a reward for its good work. Wyborn had his most trusted advisors teaching Merlin how to use and control his magic, and everyone was surprised at not only how easy it was becoming for the young prince, but at the realization of just how powerful he truly was.
And they hadn’t even begun to scratch the surface.
“Why don’t you go and rest?” Merlin asked the falcon.
Haldir rubbed his beak against Merlin’s finger before taking off into the air, presumably to go see how all the female falcons were doing.
Merlin chuckled as he watched his pet fly away.
“The Lady Morgana and you have been exchanging correspondence religiously these three months since you came to Valador.” Lancelot spoke slowly, following Merlin as the young warlock headed towards the gardens. “Do you truly think that that is wise, Merlin?”
Finding his favored stone bench, Merlin looked up at Lancelot, backlit by the lowering sun. “Why wouldn’t it be? Morgana has my total trust, and she needs me. We---we are close.”
Lancelot hesitated before sighing and sitting down next to Merlin. “You are no longer Prince Arthur’s manservant, Merlin.”
“I—I know.” Merlin hesitated at Arthur’s name, telling himself that he was not hurt at the fact that not once had Arthur tried to get into contact with him, or had asked Morgana to tell him hello, as Merlin had done countless times through their correspondence.
He hadn’t gotten better at lying, unfortunately.
“You are the sole heir to a kingdom larger than Albion, you have more responsibilities, you---you must think of how this looks, Merlin.” Lancelot was obviously trying to get him to see something important, but for the life of him Merlin couldn’t figure out what it was.
“So since I am a prince I cannot be friends with Lady Morgana?” Merlin asked.
“Exactly.” Lancelot nodded. “Because you might be friends, but to anyone else, this is a crown prince favoring the attentions of a ward of King Uther of Camelot, this is a political marriage in the making.”
Merlin’s eyes widened.
What was it with people trying to marry him off to Morgana?
It wasn’t that she wasn’t beautiful and intriguing and one of his best friends, but it was Morgana…it would be like marrying Gwen…it just wasn’t thinkable.
Seeing that Merlin was finally getting his point, Lancelot sighed, closing his eyes. “You know that you have a way of, of attracting people, Merlin. Ever since you’ve taken your place as prince there have been countless banquets with kings and lords parading their daughters---and their sons!---in front of you. They---there has been much talk against Camelot and Lady Morgana.”
“Talk against Morgana?” Merlin’s eyes narrowed, protective. “What sort of talk? Why didn’t I know of this?”
“Merlin, a new crown prince has arrived, a way for them to lift their own status through their children, and then you don’t pay their daughters or sons any attention but you write faithfully to Lady Morgana and King Uther gloats openly at the courtship?”
Merlin felt his face blanch. “Courtship?”
Lancelot nodded. “Courtship. I have heard this from numerous sources. With how things are going, King Uther is expecting an offer of marriage.”
“But this is Morgana!” Merlin blinked. “She—I---we--?”
Lancelot chuckled softly in amusement. “She is a beautiful, queenly woman, and you are to be king, it is not hard to come to that conclusion, Merlin.”
People thought he was planning on marrying Morgana.
No wonder Arthur hated him now!
He thinks I plan on taking away the woman he loves.
Why did it hurt to think that?
The young warlock sighed and bit his bottom lip, thinking, before shaking his head and opening the letter.
I am sorry to burden you with this, but I haven’t been completely truthful with you about how things have been fairing in Camelot since you left.
It is a matter of life and death that compels me to beg of you Merlin, please, ask Hunith to write and invite me to stay for a while in Valador with you.
I know that it is horrible of me to put this on you and without any reason I can state on paper, but please Merlin, know that I wouldn’t ask this of you if it wasn’t an urgent matter.
Merlin stood immediately.
“What are you going to do?” Lancelot asked, standing and hurrying after his friend as the prince walked to where he knew his mother would be teaching the girls, Gawain’s sisters, to sew.
“I will do as Morgana asked.” Merlin knew that Morgana wouldn’t ask him for something like this if she wasn’t in trouble, and the fact that she seemed to feel she was endangered by merely remaining in Camelot worried him terribly.
“You do know how this will look, do you not, Merlin?” Lancelot sighed from his side. “They will see this as a prerequisite to an engagement. They will see it as Queen Hunith inviting Lady Morgana so that you two may have time together as you miss each other.”
“If I have to marry Morgana to keep her safe, then I will.” Merlin surprised them both by announcing with determination, realizing that he was telling the truth. “I don’t love her, not like that, but she is one of my truest friends, Lancelot, and I would do anything for those I love.”
Lancelot looked at Merlin in silence before he sighed and nodded. “We know that Merlin, that is why we would all die for you happily.”
“I don’t like it when you start talking about dying for me.” Merlin grumbled, turning and entering his mother’s sunroom with a knock.
Immediately there were squeals and giggles as the four girl children dropped their needles and work, hurrying towards Merlin in a blur of blonde and red curls, colorful dresses, and large smiles.
Lancelot sent Merlin and amused and annoyed look that clearly said: Even the children, Merlin! Even the CHILDREN!
Merlin just ignored his overprotective friend and smiled at the girls, listening as each spoke to him, giving them all attention before going to his mother, who was smiling proudly at him, and pressing a kiss to her forehead. “Mother.”
“Merlin, Sir Lancelot.” Hunith smiled at them. “To what do the girls and I owe this pleasure?”
The girls were all flocked around Merlin, grabbing hold of his hands and pants.
“I have a favor to ask, mother.” Merlin would go into deeper detail with her when they were alone, but for now he was vague. “I need you to write an invitation asking Lady Morgana to come and keep you company at Court for an indefinite period of time.”
Hunith’s smile disappeared for a moment. “Only Lady Morgana?” Her gaze lowered, troubled. “Should I not also ask that Prince Arthur come as well?”
“No.” He doesn’t want to know anything about me anymore. I was only his manservant, and a horrible one at that. And he thinks I’m courting the woman he loves. “I need you to ask specifically for Lady Morgana. You met her before so it will not seem odd that you will want a familiar face in your Court. Uther won’t think to refuse your request.”
“No, he won’t.” Hunith frowned before sighing and looking up at her son with a small smile. “If that is what you truly want, Merlin, I will write immediately.” She turned to Elsbeth, the eldest of the girls. “Elsby my love, fetch me my scroll, ink and quill please.”
Pressing another kiss to his mother’s forehead, Merlin turned and headed out of the room, Lancelot following him dutifully with a shake of his head.
Morgana closed her eyes and nearly cried in relief as she held the royal invitation to her chest. For some unexplainable reason she’d been scared that Merlin would brush off her request, but she’d been a fool. Merlin was a good friend, he was her closest confidant (for Gwen still knew not of her magic) and Morgana had known that Merlin would understand what she couldn’t write and would not let her down.
Her hands trembled, and she knew she looked paler than usual and somewhat sickly but she didn’t care, she was just so relieved.
It couldn’t be helped, not with the way she hadn’t been able to sleep, not with the terror that’d become her constant companion.
She needed to see Merlin.
She needed to get out of Camelot---before it was too late.
“My dear, you look unwell. Is it bad news?”
Wincing when she heard that voice, Morgana opened her eyes, seeing Uther and Arthur watching her oddly. Then again, they were probably wondering what was written on the scroll the servant boy had brought her during dinner.
“No, Sire.” Morgana felt ill at her stomach before forcing a smile on her face and showing the letter to the king. “It is an invitation from Queen Hunith. She asks that I be allowed to go join her in her Court. She would like a familiar face.”
Uther went over the letter, smile growing. “I see.”
Arthur on the other hand, had gone still, his features dark, his eyes harsh and angry.
Morgana lowered her gaze, feeling horribly guilty.
She knew what people were saying of her relationship with Merlin, and she knew what Arthur thought of it. She’d never seen Arthur jealous or quite so possessive of anything before Merlin had arrived, but then again, she’d never seen Arthur in love before Merlin, had she?
He’d been opening himself to his feelings for his manservant, the possessive way he openly watched Merlin, not caring who saw, was just a proof of it---and then Merlin had been taken away, had left abruptly, and news of how every nobleman’s daughter and half of the sons seemed to be in love with the sweet prince had started reaching Camelot.
During the banquets in Camelot Morgana had heard the various visiting nobility talking about having spent time in Valador, and of the gracious and charming young prince whom they were obviously trying to line their daughters with. When word of her correspondence with Merlin came to light those same nobility stopped smiling friendly at her, their forced politeness irritating.
And Arthur had sat there silently, not even pretending to flirt with the noble women all around him.
Morgana and Arthur’s relationship had always been strained despite the fact that they cared platonically for each other, but ever since this situation had occurred Arthur had taken to resenting her, and while Morgana was hurt she understood the prat as well.
As Arthur’s manservant Merlin had been attainable, but as future king, both would need to wed and have children. A relationship between them was now impossible.
While being discovered as Prince Regent was the best thing that could have happened to Merlin, it’d destroyed Arthur, taking away the only person Morgana knew he’d ever loved.
And her heart bled for him.
“This is obviously a sign of you’re winning Merlin’s attention, Morgana my dear.” Uther smiled, passing her back the letter. “You will go at once, and make sure that his attention remains on you. I have heard rumors about other ladies and lords of the court trying to woo his favor most urgently, but you’ve managed to keep his attention. He seems quite fixated on you.”
Arthur’s fork bent.
Morgana wanted to beg Uther to shut up, to scream at him, make him see how Arthur was hurting, how he had been hurting,continuously, ever since Merlin rode out of the gates of Camelot.
“Imagine, Camelot and Valador united,” Uther smiled, looking at her happily. “You would make him a fine wife, the children you two would create. Children that would forever cement our relations!”
Arthur’s face had gone from angered to disgusted and then hopeless as he suddenly got up and stormed away from the table.
Uther watched him go and shook his head. “I always knew he was infatuated with you, my dear, but don’t be troubled. He will soon find a queen and you will not have to worry about his heartbreak from your relationship with dear Merlin.”
Morgana wanted to chuck her chicken leg at Uther but only managed to smile weakly at him.
I’m sorry Arthur. I’m sorry that you’re in such pain and that I can’t help you.
“Sire,” she cleared her throat. “May I be excused so that I may begin my packing?”
Uther’s grin was large. “I see, young love.” He was so pleased with himself it was irritating. “Go my child, go and ready yourself! You will leave with Gaius first light tomorrow, he has been wanting to see his nephew.”
“Thank you, my lord.” Morgana whispered as she got up and did her best not to run away from the table as fast as she could.
I’m so sorry Arthur.
“I heard that Lady Morgana has been invited by the Queen to join her in her Court.”
Merlin turned towards the voice, surprised to see Clara, the daughter of his father’s court physician, coming towards him. Clara was beautiful and bright and Merlin had enjoyed her friendship ever since coming to Valador, and he also enjoyed the silly little spells she taught him just to pass the time.
She was blonde and beautiful and maybe a little arrogant.
She reminded him painfully of Arthur…which Merlin had to admit was probably the reason he’d been so drawn to her at first.
“Yes, my mother did invite her.” Merlin nodded, turning back to look down at the city below him. He smiled slightly. “It will be good to see her again.”
“Are you---are you planning on marrying her, Sire?” Clara asked, joining him.
Merlin frowned at the question.
“It’s just that, she’s not magical, my lord.” Clara turned to him, placing a hand on his arm. “And do we really want an alliance with the killer of our kind?”
He’d been hearing things like this from those of his Court recently. They were angry with Uther, they wanted revenge, so many of them had suffered because of Uther…and yet Merlin had glared at every single one who spoke ill of Uther, because in the past those who’d hated Uther had had no qualms of hurting Arthur, and Merlin would never permit someone of his court to hurt Arthur.
“You speak out of place.” He hated being stern, being mean, princely, but he wouldn’t allow anyone to think that he tolerated slurs against Arthur’s father, against Arthur’s kingdom. He mightn’t be able to protect Arthur physically anymore, but he could at least do this. “I will not forgive you another time.”
Clara’s eyes widened before she frowned and looked away. “I’m sorry, Sire. I was out of place, forgive me.”
They stayed in silence together until Lancelot came to take him to where his father and mother were waiting on him to better explain in private the situation.
Merlin didn’t notice the longing way the young girl watched him leave.
Lancelot noticed though, and gave her a reprimanding look before following the prince.
Truly, Merlin was terribly oblivious when it came to the affect he had on other people, on the allure his radiating power had, how it managed to entice and entrap others---especially those who had magic in themselves as well.
Lancelot sighed and shook his head, realizing with dread that if Merlin’s powers didn’t stop attracting so many potential suitors things were going to become ugly fast.
He just hoped that he could protect Merlin, and now Lady Morgana, if things continued the way they were.
Of course, it would help if Prince Arthur got off his royal ass and did something about the situation, but Lancelot had given up hope for the prince of Camelot, and it saddened him because while Merlin mightn’t have realized his own feelings by now, Lancelot knew the boy prince was in love with Arthur.
They would have found a way to be together, I just know that they would’ve.
He shook his head once more, sighing in sadness at the situation.
How can Prince Arthur not be here? He clenched his fists, feeling angered. I thought they were destined. Read The Next Chapter