Title: Master And CrusaderSequel to: Master and KnightUniverse: Master And... SeriesPairing: Merlin/ArthurFandom: MerlinRating: MDisclaimer: Don't ownSummary: Merlin, Arthur, Sir Percival, Sir Elyan and Sir Leon set off on a secret mission to find and claim Excalibur for Mercia and the war. They knew they would come up against powerful magic, but they never suspected the tests would so horribly overwhelm and weaken Merlin. Something else no one saw coming? The move of a desperate mother.
The only place that had room and board at the last village before they reached the last marker stone was a brothel.
Merlin was in both heaven and hell.
Percival took part in the merriment the fine ladies had to offer him, and it was without a doubt that he no longer had memory of his feelings for Guinevere. A part of Merlin mourned for the relationship that could have been.
"You should follow in his example and recharge yourself fully instead of falling asleep in your bath like a weak old man." The Succubus Queen sat on the other end of the large tub with him, her eyes narrowed. "You're being drained of your power, and if this continues, if you only allow the mortal prince to recharge you—you will be squashed like an insect at the last marker stone. He is not enough."
"I will be fine." He let out a sigh and gazed away from her. "I need rest."
"You need to recharge, and where better than a place like this?" She pointed a long, delicate finger towards him accusingly. "You need more than that boy!"
"I never have before!" He snapped.
"That is because you have never had an ancient power slowly draining you of your power through the links weaved in you!" She reached out and grabbed his hand, holding it up to show the Gebo and Tiwaz runes. "These connect you, and will continue to drain you of your powers so that at the last marker stone you will be too weak to fight back and win!" She tightened her grip on his hand. "You will recharge or you will die." She leaned forwards as her eyes flashed. "And I will not permit my son to die."
Merlin could feel something shifting within him, and he looked up at her in horror. "What have you done?"
Sadness filled her eyes. "I've saved your life."
"Are you awake yet?"
Merlin groaned and tightened his grip on the warm body in front of him, burying his face in silky locks as he pressed a sleepy kiss to the back of Arthur's neck. It was only when he moved that he realized he was hard and still deep within that ass. A smile touched his body as he slipped out slightly only to thrust back in.
"Merlin!" Arthur reached back and slapped his arm before he whimpered, in pain.
The sound made Merlin's eyes fly open, and when they did they widened as he slowly pulled out of Arthur and sat up off of the ground. They weren't in their room at the brothel. In fact, they weren't in the brothel at all. They were in the middle of the village square, and every single person of adult age (prostitute or otherwise) were naked and in various compromising states with each other. Men and women, women and women, men with men. Hell, Percival had two women sleeping in his arms as he snored close to what seemed to be the remnants of a bonfire.
"What happened?" Merlin gazed around him in confusion.
"I knew it, you were not in control last night." Arthur's voice was strained. "How about some help for a guy in pain here?"
At the words "not in control" and "in pain", Merlin blanched as he placed his hands on Arthur and allowed his magic to flow in, healing any injury that he might've sustained. "I hurt you."
"What?" Arthur finally sat up and turned to look at him. "No, sleeping on the cold ground after having been rutted until I passed out did!"
Merlin's gaze went to the remnants of what had been an orgy. "Was I the only one who rutted you?"
Arthur glared at him. "I should punch you for that." He then groaned and ran his hand down his face. "Your demon was in complete control. I did not realize what was happening as I was bringing back our food. I thought, well, this is a brothel, everything is going as normal. But then I glanced out of the window and saw that the whole village seemed to be… passionate… about each other. It was not until I reached our bedroom and found you there, wet, stark naked, and eternally golden eyes that I realized you were influencing everyone around you."
Merlin's eyes widened further. "I do not under—." And then he remembered his dream. His mother. She'd done something to him, shifted something, changed it within him to 'save' his life. What had she done to him? True, Merlin felt better than he had… for a very long time… but at what cost? What had he influenced? Whose lives might he have hurt with his unwilling actions?
"You know what I found more interesting than Percy sleeping his way through the whole brothel and town?" Arthur raised an eyebrow, smudged in dirt and yet still incredibly beautiful. "You never took anyone else." His lips twitched. "Even when your demon was in control, he only wanted me—even when others offered—he snarled at them." Arthur was visibly smug and in a much better mood than he'd been in a long time, while naked in the midst of the sleeping members of a town-wide orgy. "I mean, I know that I am the best looking one here, but it was still… well… it was interesting."
Merlin cast his glance around the sleeping village. "I have never done something like this before."
"I thought you have had orgies before." Arthur frowned.
"Yes, but I have never… influenced them… not in this scale at least…" Merlin licked his lips. "And I have never fed from people without actually rutting them."
"I had noticed that," Arthur admitted. "I was going to ask you about it later." He stood in all his naked glory, backlit by the rising sun. "Let us get dressed. If we ride within the hour we will be at the last marker stone by midday."
Merlin looked around him once more before he too rose, confusion still warring with worry within him. Just what had his mother done?
Arthur, on the other hand, didn't seem too worried as he went towards Percival and nudged his foot to wake him up.
Merlin's gaze lowered to his hand, covered by the Gebo and Tiwaz rune, and stared at them in worry. He had a feeling that when they returned from this crusade, none of them would ever be the same.
"Last night's bacchanal was quite refreshing." Percival grinned as they rode towards the last marker stone. "I feel like all of the stress has lifted off of my shoulders. Quite a couple of the village people who awoke while I did commented the same way." He cast a glance towards Merlin. "I can now see what King Simon's men, as well as those from Mercia, have been talking about. We do not, as a culture, do such things in Escetia."
"Neither us in Camelot," Arthur agreed. "While I have tasted some of the differences between our realms' sexual tastes, that was one that I had yet to discover."
Merlin was a little taken back by the way both Percival and Arthur were taking this whole occurrence. Despite the fact that Merlin had apparently pheromoned everyone in taking their clothes off, so far the ones he'd heard from hadn't minded. If anything, Percival (and the villagers who'd awoken and come to talk to the warlock before Merlin could escape) sounded like they were wondering when the next "bacchanal" would take place.
Most of all, though, Merlin was shocked at Arthur. Then again, he had trained Arthur to be his sex slave, his lover, and Arthur had hinted before at a threesome. He'd thought the idea odd before but now wondered whether Arthur was becoming bored with their sex life and was looking for ways to spice it up. That hurt somewhat.
"I felt highly uninhibited last night," Percival sounded embarrassed. "I do believe I tried things I never would have had Merlin's magic not opened me to certain possibilities."
Merlin lowered his head in shame.
Arthur, on the other hand, snickered. "Considering you went through the entire village last night, one can not help but wonder what exactly you would not have tried." There was a pause. "Or who." Arthur raised an eyebrow. "You might have fallen asleep with those two farm girls, but they were not the ones who dominated your night."
Percival grinned a grin that reminded him very much of Gwaine. "We should return through that village once we have finished the trials."
Merlin gazed between the two friend curiously but didn't ask who they were referring to. Percival had given up his feelings for Guinevere, and while Merlin was guilty as hell that he hadn't been able to keep it from happening, and then had unknowingly "encouraged" Percival into sexual encounters just after… But at least Percival looked happy. Maybe it was better this way since he'd had yet to cement ties or even a relationship with Guinevere. Still, though, the guilt made it hard for Merlin to look at him long.
"We should keep from being distracted," his words were a little sharper than normal. "We're almost upon the third marker stone."
Arthur and Percival shared looks but nodded nonetheless.
Merlin urged his horse onwards and moved ahead of the two, conflicted. Was he the only one worried or bothered by what had happened the night before? Or by what could've caused it? What had his mother done? And was this how feeding would be like from now on?
Either way, it'd backfired on the Succubus Queen considering that apparently, even after she'd done whatever it was that she'd done, he'd only been with Arthur. No one else. Arthur had seemed somewhat surprised as he'd told Merlin, and while he hadn't shown it, Merlin had been surprised as well. While he'd known that his demon preferred Arthur over any else, he hadn't trusted it to just stick to Arthur in a situation like that.
It took a moment for the silence to get to Merlin and when it did he turned his head to find Arthur and Percival gone. There was no trace of them to be seen.
"ARTHUR?" He yelled out, but his voice echoed around him, unanswered.
Narrowing his eyes, Merlin felt a shift in power, similar to the night he and Arthur had been out in the woods together. The horse must've felt it as well because it reared on its hind legs. The unexpected movement sent Merlin flying off and as he hit his head on the found, everything went black…
When Merlin opened his eyes the first thing he saw was Arthur's worried blues as he leaned over him. A look around him proved that it was dark and they were at a camp, next to the fire as it roared. The horses were tied up, and although Percival was missing his things were by the fire. He'd probably gone out looking for more fire, or possibly hunting for something to cook.
With a groan Merlin sat up and brought a hand to his head, which hurt like hell. "What happened?"
"I do not know." Arthur looked highly disturbed. "One minute you were on the horse in front of us, and then Percival and I turn to look and your horse kicked you off. You hit your head, it bled quite a bit. We decided to make camp until you woke up."
"The third marker stone—."
Arthur pushed him back down when he tried to sit up. "We will get to it in the morning. It makes no sense to go when you are in this condition. You need your strength."
At the mention of strength Merlin looked down and palmed the symbols on his hand. "The longer I wait, the more energy he is able to siphon out of me. We need to go. I will be weaker tomorrow."
"At least wait until our friend returns with something to eat." Arthur shook his head. "We all need to consume something."
That was true, so Merlin relaxed as best as he could.
Arthur stared at him in silence. "Sometimes I wonder whether it is worth the effort."
"Whether what is worth the effort?" Merlin asked curiously.
"This crusade." Arthur's eyes darkened as he frowned.
"Arthur, of course it is." Merlin stared up into his prince's face. "We need the Dragonblade. It is our only hope of winning the war and keeping our people safe. And not only ours. If we lose, the people of Escetia, Caerleon and Northumbria will be in peril as well." He sat up, hand to his head but eyes on his prince. "You know that war has never been my choice, but it is at our gate, and if we do not have the sword with us so many more innocents will perish."
Arthur took in a deep breath. "I am worried about what that blade will do to you." At Merlin's confused look, he frowned. "I have heard of the legends. I know what that sword has done to its former owners—the reason why it had to be hidden away the way it was." He licked his lips. "I am worried—."
Merlin reached out and cupped the boy's face, caressing his thumb against his cheek. "You are worried that my demon side will overrule."
Arthur sighed and nodded.
Merlin reached out and kissed his lips softly before he pulled away. "I do not plan on being the one to use the blade, Arthur."
Arthur's face was a picture of confusion. "Then who?"
"You." Merlin was surprised that Arthur hadn't figured it out yet. "Only the worthy can remove Excalibur from its hidden place, and I am not worthy. Not with my demon side. I do not trust myself not to use that power for selfish reasons, that the power of the blade will, as you have worried, bring my demonic side to the fore fright and turn me into someone I am not. The fact that I have such genuine a worry means that I am not worthy of the responsibility of wielding the blade."
"Neither am I!" Arthur's eyes widened.
"Arthur, I know that while you want to avenge your parents' deaths, what you truly wish with this war is to save and protect your people." Merlin smiled up into his face. "You are a true prince, you are worthy of the power, and capable of holding the burden that Excalibur will bring."
"I never once wanted that sword," Arthur hissed.
"I know." Merlin smiled. "It's another reason why I know you're worthy."
"That sword has corrupted people in ancient times, Merlin." Arthur shook his head. "I—I do not trust that I will not be swayed by it as well. I—I do not want—."
"Arthur." Merlin reached for his face once more and brought it to face him. "If I see that the power of the blade is too strong for you, that it is corrupting you, I will take it and hide it once more."
Arthur's eyes widened. "Do you swear that?"
Merlin nodded. "I swear it upon my mother, Hunith."
Suddenly Arthur grinned. "Correct answer."
Melin blinked. "Arthur?"
Arthur rose, a smirk on his face. "Someone who could give up on the power of the blade as you have, while having it in your possession, proves that you are worthy of it."
Merlin eased to his feet. "You're not Arthur."
"No." 'Arthur' shook his head. "But I needed you to believe I was. I needed to see the truth through your eyes as I have through the others'." He tilted his head to the side. "Your men would sacrifice themselves to save the other and trust you to save them. They would also sacrifice their own love so that you could have yours. You and this prince command such respect from your people. Of good people."
"Not one of them are Mercian," Merlin corrected. "They are not my people."
"I have realized that," 'Arthur' admitted. "It is what makes it even more interesting. If these are not your people, imagine how loyal your kingdom must be." His gaze went to the Gebo and Tiwaz runes. "By now you must have realized that these trials were odd, but they were not designed merely for you, and they were not designed to test your magic nor your fortitude in battle." His blue eyes rose to Merlin's face. "They were to test your minds, your intentions… they were designed to probe the very souls of the crusaders after Excalibur." He reached out and held Merlin's symbol-covered hand. "When Excalibur was hidden away, it was prophesied that a King of Desire and a Prince of Magic would one day unleash its power, and I now know that that prophecy spoke of you and the prince." He watched as the Gebo and Tiwaz rune glowed. "Next time you do an oath, swear it by your mother, your true mother." His gaze rose to Merlin once more. "The one who gave up her power in an effort to save your life."
Merlin's eyes narrowed. "What?"
"What do you think she did when she touched you that night? Why do you think you can now feed the way you do? The way only she could?" 'Arthur' drew closer. "The way only the monarch can?"
Merlin's eyes widened.
"She abdicated in your favor, Emrys, to give you the power to be able to make it this far. Otherwise you would've been nothing but a weakling unable to lift yourself from that tub you'd fallen asleep in." He smirked. "Eventually, after a couple of days of feeding not being enough, you would've died. Quite painfully. These runes connected you to Excalibur's power, and it would've overwhelmed and destroyed you had you not strengthened yourself the way you did."
Merlin's heart raced as he remembered something 'Arthur' had said earlier. "King of Desire."
"All bow to the Crown Prince turned King." 'Arthur' gave a bow before he straightened. "Now joint master of Excalibur."
"Joint?" Merlin frowned. "I don't want—."
'Arthur' nodded. "To keep my powers from corrupting, the burden and responsibility will be shouldered by both your shoulders."
"Your powers?" Merlin's eyes widened. "Are you saying that you—?"
'Arthur' merely smiled. "Find me." And with that, everything went black.
"Merlin!" It was to Arthur's voice that Merlin awoke.
Merlin blinked his eyes open and stared up at Arthur as he hovered over him. It was nearly identical to what had just happened to him that disorientation filled him. "Are you really Arthur?"
Arthur blinked. "Who else would I bloody be you ridiculous—!"
Yep. It was Arthur. Merlin wrapped his arms around the boy prince and pulled him close in a kiss.
Arthur yelped into it in surprise before he returned the kiss just as hungrily… until he pulled away and narrowed his eyes at Merlin. "Wait. Did you ask me if it was me because while you were gone that being came to you as me?" His eyes narrowed further. "Did you kiss him? Did that bastard—?"
Merlin merely laughed and kissed Arthur harder. This was definitely the genuine one.
"Well, I am glad to see that all is well." That was Percival, sounding highly amused.
Merlin pulled away from Arthur and, once on his feet, hugged Percival.
"What the—?" Arthur asked.
Percival snorted in amusement and patted the warlock's back. "I have a feeling you already know what I am about to say."
Merlin pulled away. "You have found the sword."
"It, uh, found us." Percival pointed behind them to the last marker stone. Embedded within it was Excalibur. "I tried to pull it out, but I was unable to. It's in really deep."
"Have you tried?" Merlin asked Arthur.
"Of course not. I was tending to you you idiotic—."
"Try." Merlin motioned to the sword.
Taking in a deep breath, Arthur moved to the sword and tried to yank it out, but nothing happened. He turned to Merlin. "You are obviously the one who can remove it."
Not quite sure about that, Merlin moved to the beautiful sword from which he could sense all sorts of amazing, ancient magic. He placed his hand on the hilt, took in a deep breath, and then pulled… the sword didn't budge.
Percival cleared his throat. "Now what?"
"Maybe we can chip away at the rock somehow…" Arthur mused.
Remembering Excalibur's words to him, Merlin tightened his grip on the hilt. "Arthur, I need you to pull it out with me."
Arthur blinked. "What?"
"Put your hand on mine," Merlin instructed as he sent him a glance over his shoulder.
Curious, Arthur reached out and placed his hand over Merlin's, and suddenly the runes on Merlin's hands glowed so brightly they were visible despite Arthur's hand covering them. The warlock and the prince shared a look, both crusaders at the end of their crusade, and as one they slipped the sheathed sword easily out of the rock. It hung in their joined hands, a most magnificent blade, and while Merlin was sure Arthur couldn't feel it, the warlock could feel the magic of the blade entering them both and joining them to it. It was the same jolts of magic he'd sensed sporadically during their crusade. Excalibur itself had defended its location and investigated the crusaders after it. Only after it had accepted them as his new owners had he allowed them to see the third and last marker stone.
The power and magic and wisdom in this sword filled Merlin with wonder and humility.
Suddenly magic erupted around them and in the blink of an eye Sir Leon and Sir Elyan appeared, seated on the ground, both munching on apples and looking as shocked to be there as the others were to see them.
Sir Leon smiled and stood to his feet. "I knew that you would free us."
Sir Elyan merely snorted and bit into his apple. "What took you so long?"
Laughter filled the air as the men embraced and rejoiced.
Finally Merlin turned away and smiled at them all as Arthur tied the sword to his saddlebag. "It is time we return to Mercia, my friends."
They might've been victorious in their crusade, but the war was still upon them, and even with the Dragonblade they were highly outnumbered. It would be a hard fight in which many would die, and while they hurried back to help their friends, the mood grew more sombre. They spent the night in the village with the brothel once more. Elyan and Leon were quite happy in the company of the women around them but Percival was no where to be found. He'd obviously snuck off to find the person he'd spent most of the other night with. Arthur wondered how that would go now that Merlin's pheromones weren't giving everyone a push, but he wished his friend luck, especially considering the sacrifice he'd made for their cause.
He, though, had himself to worry about right now and not others. Well, not himself, but his relationship. When they'd started off on this crusade he'd admittedly gotten insecure by the way Merlin had pulled away that night in the woods. King Simon's words had come to haunt him of how Merlin would get bored of him, of how Merlin would one day leave him due to how Arthur couldn't satisfy the demon within. He hadn't wanted to let the words get to him but they did. They really did. And when Merlin had pulled away that night it was as if Arthur had seen the beginning of the end. It was why, despite the fact that Merlin was his and only his, he'd tried to be accommodating. He'd tried to instigate a threesome with that woman, just to give Merlin variety. Even though it would kill him to see the sorcerer with her he would've allowed it. But Merlin hadn't accepted… and then… in the orgy… Arthur had resigned himself to seeing his warlock exchange partners, of maybe even having to do so himself, but unlike the others he wasn't affected by Merlin's lust magic, not really. And the demon, well, Merlin's demon self never changed with anyone. He stayed within Arthur all night long, and while his body had been sore from the many different places and positions, well, Arthur had loved it. It'd been one of his favorite nights ever. Merlin had chosen him. He really had. Even with the orgy. And maybe Arthur gotten off a bit on the whole orgy thing, he might even try it again—just as long as he and Merlin stayed together during it.
"If you're looking for the… for Merlin…" Elyan knew better than to use titles while out in the open and vulnerable like this. "He went outside."
"Thank you, my friend." Arthur clapped him on the back and exited the whorehouse. The previous night they'd spent there the prostitutes had thrown themselves at him and Merlin nonstop, but tonight they merely smiled at him but otherwise ignored his presence. They did the same with Merlin. He wondered if it had something to do with the orgy. They must've seen that Arthur and Merlin had stayed together the whole night. A brand of ownership was marked in their eyes. He kinda liked that.
Outside, Arthur searched for his warlock, and when he finally found him he paused. Merlin wasn't alone. He was in the shadows speaking to a village boy Arthur had seen participating in the orgy. Arthur frowned. The boy was around Arthur's age, with dark eyes and hair, and ears that were similar to Merlin's.
In the darkness Merlin's eyes flashed and the boy's eyes flashed as well.
A sorcerer. This boy had magic.
Merlin reached out and touched his head in a soft caress before passing him something.
The boy nodded, bowed his head, and then turned and raced away.
Merlin watched him go.
"Who was that?" Arthur made his presence known as he emerged from the shadows to join Merlin at his side.
Merlin didn't look away from the boy, proving he'd known Arthur was there all along. "His name is Gilli. He's a warlock."
"I noticed," Arthur declared. "How do you know him?"
"He came to offer support. He realized who we were and wanted to offer his services. Apparently his father told him stories about Emrys, the one who would help bring magic to the whole of Albion." Merlin finally turned to Arthur. "I've sent him on a mission. He knows of a village of druids whom he says will rise to the call. They are to make their way towards Mercia, as we are." He took in a deep breath. "I have communicated with Mordred, it is much easier to do so since…" he looked away, down at his palm. The other symbols had been replaced by the Ehwaz rune, which was identical to the rune that now was on the back of Arthur's palm. "Mordred is returning with his druids to Mercia."
Arthur took in a deep breath. "The war is truly beginning."
"Yes." Merlin continued to stare ahead of him. "We will win the war, Arthur."
"After we win, I will fulfill my obligation to King Simon, but that will not be the first thing I do." He took in a deep breath before he turned to Arthur. "My mother did something to save my life during the last trial."
"Hunith?" Arthur's eyes widened. "But I thought you said she was in some sort of magical coma?"
Merlin took in a deep breath. "Not her."
It took Arthur a couple of seconds to understand what his warlock meant by that, and when he did he was floored by it. "The Succubus Queen."
Merlin nodded. "Excalibur said she abdicated in my favor. It means she isn't the Queen anymore."
Arthur couldn't believe what he was hearing. "So what is she?"
"I do not know." Merlin ran his hand over his head. "But I intend to find out."
Reaching out, Arthur placed his hand in Merlin's as he rested his head against the warlock's shoulder.
"I never thought she would do something like this," Merlin whispered. "Why?"
"She is your mother," Arthur whispered back. "No matter what else she was, it does not take away from the fact that she birthed you. She must have loved you, even if in her own way."
Merlin closed his eyes tightly.
Arthur could see how conflicted Merlin felt about this whole thing, and he felt so sorry for him, but he knew that Merlin would get through this.
They were making their way back towards Mercia, towards the war that was about to start, and while their future was definitely more promising now that Excalibur was in their hands, there was still so much uncertainty. But as Arthur stood in the shadows with his warlock, hands entwined and his cheek resting against Merlin's skin, he was not worried. War had brought them together, and he knew without a doubt that like all the many obstacles they'd faced this far, they'd stand tall, stand united, and they'd beat it.
While Excalibur made them stronger, Arthur felt that the journey to finding the blade had done more than the actual blade itself. It'd tested them all, and had made them stronger, made all of their relationships stronger. Many of the insecurities he'd faced coming into this crusade were now gone, burnt away. All that was left in their place was the rune on his hand, the one that was identical to Merlin's, the one that (he felt) proved even more just how connected he and the warlock were.
No matter what happened in the future, Arthur refused to believe that anything would be able to separate them. Not now.
And so, despite all the hardships that were coming their way, Arthur smiled and reached for Merlin in the darkness, secure in the certainty of a future with the warlock in it.