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 love rivals...
Note: Icon that inspired story was created by jade_dragoness
When Morgana finally descended from the carriage, standing next to Gaius, Merlin wanted to pull her in his arms and hold her tight.
She was pale, dark circles under her eyes, and looked so frail.
But as Lancelot kept trying to get Merlin to understand, things were different, and he couldn’t show his affection in such a public way, so he stood still, nodded to Morgana as she curtsied, and hugged his uncle. He knew that his mother was looking between them with a small frown, but she didn’t say anything and welcomed Morgana to Valador and to her own private court.
Merlin waited for all the pomp and ceremony to end, pretended that he couldn’t feel the eyes of everyone on them. He could sense the women in the court glaring at Morgana, and he frowned, realizing that if they didn’t change their attitude towards the woman they all saw as some sort of threat to them because of her association with Uther, Merlin was going to put them all in their places.
Despite being a prince Merlin was on friendly terms with mostly everyone in the castle, he knew many peoples names and their family. He’d wanted to be a prince they would love and know they could go to with their problems, but he hadn’t counted on the fact that somehow his subjects had all become extremely possessive of him. They didn’t like any of the foreign lords and ladies, especially the young maidens whose fathers were trying to forge political marriages, and his people especially disliked Morgana.
He hadn’t realized that until Lancelot had made some comments here and there while they were preparing the castle for Morgana’s arrival, and Merlin had finally started paying attention. He noticed the hostility and resentment in the eyes of the female courtiers of his mother, and he stifled a protective growl.
Morgana had come to Valador for safety, for comfort, she’d been seeking a refuge, and Merlin was damned if she was made to feel uncomfortable or unwanted in his kingdom.
That was why, once they’d adjourned to the inner walls of the castle, in the presence of only his mother, father, and Gaius, (he’d forgotten about the servants, a prince was never truly alone) Merlin pulled Morgana into his arms and held her tight.
Morgana didn’t even stiffen in surprise, only melted into his arms and held onto the front of his shirt tightly.
It was only due to the fact that she was shaking terribly that he realized she was crying.
“It has been a very difficult time for Lady Morgana.” Gaius sighed, turning to Wyborn and Hunith. “Her abilities have been giving her no rest of late, her night times filled with premonitions of death and darkness.”
“Poor dear.” Hunith whispered, sharing a look with Wyborn.
“I had to leave, Merlin.” Morgana whimpered, holding tightly to the front of his shirt, the shirt she hid her face in. “I—I am a coward, I—couldn’t stay even if it meant saving their lives! I am a coward!”
“What are you talking about, Morgana?” Merlin asked. “You journeyed against Uther’s order to help my village when it was being attacked by Kainen. You are not a coward.”
“Yes I am!” Morgana’s voice broke. “I saw them coming to ask for my help, and then Uther found out and I---I was punished worsebecause my treason was high as the King’s ward! I was raped and tortured and then I was killed, Merlin!” She was shivering, seeming about to pass out. “I dreamt of it every single night! Every night Merlin! I—I couldn’t stay! Even though I knew those innocent people would come looking for me for help, I couldn’t stay! I couldn’t!”
And then the exhaustion proved too much as she fainted in his arms.
Morgana was the strongest, most capable woman Merlin had ever met, and to see what she’d become…Merlin felt his heart go out to her as he drew her up into his arms bridal-style before turning to the others.
“She must never go back to Camelot.” Merlin’s voice was fierce, and he knew that his eyes were swirling gold with his anger, protectiveness, and determination. “What can I do to keep her safe? Keep her here?”
Wyborn and Hunith shared a silent look.
Gaius sighed. “There is not much you can do, Merlin. She is Uther’s ward, and as such she must follow his orders. If he demands she return to Camelot she will have to, posthaste.”
“There must be another way.” Merlin hissed as he walked passed them, out of the room and down the halls, heading towards the room they’d had ready for Morgana.
The servants whispered in surprise and some of his mother’s attendants glared as they watched him move, Morgana still in his arms, but one glare from Merlin’s pissed gold eyes had them hurrying away, shocked and surprised to see the venom in their sweet prince’s face directed at them.
Finally, Merlin reached Morgana’s room and strode to the bed, resting her down on it and sighing as he heard the door close behind him, signaling that his father, mother, and Gaius had followed him.
“Well, you have the castle in a tizzy.” Wyborn seemed amused. “People are already whispering about how you flung Morgana over your shoulder and hurried to her room to have a wild evening of lusty passion.”
Hunith elbowed her husband.
“They can’t be saying that already, I just got here.” Merlin snorted.
“They will be saying it by nightfall.” Wyborn predicted. “But this is exactly what you need. A scandal.”
“A scandal?” Merlin asked, confused.
“Wyborn, hush.” Hunith hissed.
Wyborn pouted. “But wife!”
“Hush!” She glared at him. “Don’t be giving our son any ideas!”
Wyborn pouted darker but kept quiet.
“Any ideas about what?” Merlin asked, eyes narrowed, looking from his father to his mother and back.
Gaius sighed. “Your father is simply saying that if Lady Morgana were to be involved in a scandal then Uther, to save face, would sever all ties with her.”
“A scandal like having many lusty romps with the son of yours truly without any prospective marriage in sight.” Wyborn piped up, getting a harsher elbow in his ribs from his wife for his troubles.
“Or I could marry her.” Merlin offered, wondering why every single person in that room looked horrified at the thought. “What? You can’t be against a union with Morgana! You can not be prejudiced against her! Especially not you mother!”
He was angry and protective and he was hissing.
“Oh honey, you’re not understanding us, we have nothing against Lady Morgana, especially not I. I do care for the girl.” Hunith smiled fondly at him, coming forwards and placing her hand on his shoulder, calming him with just a touch. “But marriage is something sacred and holy, and shouldn’t be entered upon so lightly. Especially not with someone you do not love.”
“I’ll need to marry sometime, mother, and I doubt that I’ll find a woman I’d enjoy as a companion than Morgana.” Merlin sighed, leaning against the wall. “I need a woman to have my heirs, and she needs my protection. It is a fair trade.”
“Well, that isn’t exactly true…” Wyborn was looking embarrassed and uncomfortable all of a sudden.
Merlin narrowed his eyes at his father. “Which part?”
Wyborn scratched behind his neck, unable to look at his son in the eyes.
And was he blushing?
“I was hoping to have this conversation years in the future…” Wyborn muttered to himself. “Possibly when you were eighty.”
Merlin was confused yet intrigued. “What the hell are you talking about?”
Wyborn cleared his throat and finally looked at his son. “Merlin, you have divinity within you, and thus, you, ah, don’t exactly conform to normal mortal rules and regulations.”
Merlin waited for his father to continue.
Wyborn didn’t, looking so embarrassed and uncomfortable.
“Father…” Merlin started.
“Please, stop, no, please!” Morgana’s cry caused them to all turn to her.
The young woman’s face was made up in terror as she thrashed in her sleep, obviously reliving that nightmare again.
“Don’t touch me! Someone help me! I haven’t done anything wrong! No! Stop! Please stop!”
Merlin forgot all about his father and his cryptic words. He sat on the edge of the bed and after a moment’s hesitation, reached down and placed his hand on Morgana’s forehead, the images assailing him immediately, and they made him sick at his stomach.
He fought with the images, drove them away from Morgana, until her sleep was only darkness. Yet he could sense them there, lingering in the background, waiting for him to be gone so they could continue their assault on the now feeble and somewhat sickly woman.
He couldn’t leave her, not like this, not knowing what would happen when he did.
“The sleeping droughts don’t help her?” He asked Gaius, gaze on Morgana’s sleeping face.
“No even the strongest.” Gaius sighed. “This has to be the first moment of peaceful sleep she’s had for two months.”
Merlin winced. “She’s lost weight.”
Gaius came to stand next to him, hand on his shoulder. “The castle has become a darker place since you left, my boy.”
Merlin felt an irrational jolt of guilt, as if this was all somehow his fault.
“I will summon food for her, she will need to strengthen herself when she awakes.” Hunith whispered, looking motherly at the sleeping girl now clinging to Merlin’s hand, before leaving the room.
“Father,” Merlin didn’t look away from Morgana. “The people in this castle might loathe Uther, but I won’t have them taking it out on Morgana.”
“Of course,” Wyborn nodded. “I shall speak with the castle staff immediately.” He seemed all too eager to leave the room, obviously glad that he didn’t have to continue with whatever it was that he’d been trying to explain (poorly) moments before.
“Gaius, I want you to tell me all that has happened in the castle since I left, and why Arthur let Morgana get this way.” Merlin whispered.
Gaius sighed, and began telling him of Camelot.
Considering that Morgana left a whole week before him Arthur should have been further behind, but whereas Morgana was slowed down by a heavy carriages and knights, Arthur could race with his stallion and since he hadn’t been able to sleep he’d continued riding until his horse was nearly faint.
He’d then traded in his stallion for another at a village, this one with far lesser pedigree than his own, but he didn’t care. All Arthur needed was a strong, fast horse to take him to Valador Castle.
He was already in Valador itself, and the kingdom was thriving. He’d seen the way the villagers laughed and had plenty, not fearing the knaves or bandits, because, as the farmer boy had told him with a laugh when he’d asked, there weren’t any bandits.
Arthur had been shocked, as he was as he’d noticed more and more that people in the whole of Valador were practicing magic.
For the first couple of days in Valador, while traveling, he’d been completely wary, on the alert, but these magicians and sorcerers couldn’t have cared less for him, and were using their magic to help with their crops and make sure there was plenty of fresh, clean water in the wells.
Valador was a kingdom of magic, and it was unlike anything Arthur had ever imagined.
This was a world in which sorcery was not condemned, it was a way of life.
It was so different from Camelot.
Arthur truly didn’t know what to believe anymore. He’d only seen the ugly side of magic, and yet these days traveling he’d seen the innocent side to it as well.
He wondered how Merlin was doing with the readjustment to this himself.
It was in an inn, a two days ride from the castle, that Arthur first heard about Merlin form his subjects.
“He’s such a nice young man.” The elder woman serving the ale was telling the man in the table to Arthur’s right. “Prince Merlin is every bit the prince we’d hoped he’d be and more. He’s so humble, not afraid to get down from his horse and help us in our fields.”
“Aye.” The man she was serving nodded. “We should all be grateful that they didn’t corrupt him in Uther’s court.”
Arthur lowered his gaze, fist clenched at the disgust in the man’s voice as he spoke about Arthur’s home.
“But we haven’t been able to get rid of the plague that is Camelot, have we?” A third joined the conversation. “What about this LadyMorgana? She’s been in the castle nigh three days and the prince is besotted with her!”
“No!” A serving wench cried out in horror. “You’re lying!”
“No, I swear it on me mother’s grave.” The man shook his head. “My sister’s daughter Maud, lovely girl, works in the castle. She sings praises of the prince, yet says that the moment this Lady Morgana arrived the prince took her to her room and hasn’t left it since.”
“She’s bewitched him, obviously!” The serving wench cried out, horrified.
Arthur felt his stomach grow queasy.
Merlin and Morgana…were they…had they…?
“We don’t need any ties to those murdering bastards.” The older woman announced, angrily. “Camelot is filled with nothing but murderers and hypocrites!”
Arthur clenched his fists harder.
“Don’t get me wrong, I can understand why Uther would be angry with magic, after what happened to his wife and all, but it was his fault she died!” The woman snapped. “Don’t go blaming magic when you were the one who ordered it be done!”
Arthur’s whole body went frozen in fear and confusion.
What were they talking about?
His father? Mother? What--?
His father had never spoken about his mother’s death, only saying that it’d happened on his birth and that magic was at fault.
Arthur had been too frightened of his father to ask further.
But now, now he wondered what more there was to that story.
“Prince Merlin needs to find a nice young princess from some other country.” One of the men announced.
“We have nice women from here he could choose too!” The serving wench was obviously offering.
The men snorted.
Even the older woman shook her head.
“Anyone but someone from Camelot would be acceptable.” A newcomer in the conversation announced. “They are killers of our kind, and they aren’t welcomed here.”
“Here here!” The people nodded.
Arthur was never so happy that no one had figured out his identity as yet. It was probably because of the robe he had on that covered the Pendragon symbol.
He frowned as he got up, put down enough money to pay for his bills, and went out to get his horse.
It was imperative he get to the castle before Morgana continued to use her feminine wiles against the idiotic Merlin and secured a wedding.
And while the situation with Merlin was ever present in his mind, for the rest of the journey Arthur couldn’t banish the questions arisen as to why his father might be at fault for the death of his mother.
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