“You were born of magic.”
Igraine is still speaking, but Merlin only distantly hears the rest, his entire being caught up by that one revealing sentence.
You were born of magic.
It explained so much. He had sensed that connection, the meeting of two kindred spirits, from the first time he had met Arthur, though they had both recoiled rather violently from the recognition. Yet still their paths had crossed, twisted and turned until now they finally ran parallel, side by side, headlong toward their destinies.
He had always been able to subconsciously sense Arthur’s emotions, but the talent had grown stronger over the months he had spent in the prince’s service and company. He had just never realized that it was his magic intuitively responding to the magic in Arthur’s veins, answering his need quicker than thought, with a speech of quiet faith to bolster the spirit or a snarky retort to give him a moment to breathe and regroup and sort out his feelings as the world he knew is torn down and remade by a serving girl with a secretive smile and quiet, deceptive strength.
Now, as he races up the stairs to the throne room, Arthur’s pain thrums through him like a live wire.
“Arthur, don’t!” he shouts, appealing with both voice and magic. It is a tangible thing between them and Merlin focuses, slowly drawing the emotions–hate and rage and betrayal and grief–out of his friend and liege and into himself.
One day it wouldn’t be enough and Uther would die, but it would not be today, not by the hand of his son.
He uses his voice to soothe, to bring reason and order back to a world turned upside down and inside out, even as he continues to drain the emotions away, weaving another lie into the shroud of destiny and mistrust hanging over their friendship. He almost chokes on the words, has to force them from his lips, but he can feel Arthur’s attention, knows he’s listening and trembles as he adds a soothing spell around his voice and wishes furiously for Uther to shut the hell up as he slowly, slowly, calls Arthur back into himself.
They stagger at the same time, Arthur dropping to his knees beside his father’s throne, and Gauis and Sir Leon catching Merlin by the elbows and gently helping him out of the room.
Sir Leon helps Gaius carry the exhausted young man to his quarters before returning to check on king and prince. They are gone as well, but another quiet check reveals that Arthur has retired to his chambers. The knight assumes that Uther is with him, comforting his son as Gauis is doing with Merlin, and thinks nothing more of it.
Arthur paced his chambers, alone and lost in thought. He had claimed exhaustion, which had allowed Uther to withdraw without confronting the lines that had been drawn that night.
The prince frowned, settling into his chair and turning inward for a moment. He felt surprisingly…drained of emotion. “That’s not right,” he murmured aloud. He had nearly murdered his father not even an hour ago; surely he should’ve been feeling something in the aftermath. If it hadn’t been for Merlin…As if thinking his servant’s name had been a signal, there was a…spark of gold and a flare of recognition and an insistent tugging at his mind. Follow me.
Wary yet somehow intrigued, he did so, and suddenly he could feel again, was bombarded by emotions both his own and not. Grief, anger, and betrayal swirled around him in a dizzying kaleidoscope, still familiar and raw, yet somehow muted. But beyond that…Arthur paused.
Grief. Remorse. Despair. Guilt. Relief. And the familiar sense of stubbornness and honor and faith that was the cause and effect of most of their day to day interactions and arguments. These weren’t his emotions–they were Merlin’s, Arthur realized.
“I had to do it.” Merlin’s voice echoed in Arthur’s head, more felt than heard, still charged with tightly leashed emotions. “Killing his father would have destroyed Arthur. You know that, Gauis.”
“Yes.” The physician acknowledged grimly. “But the longer Uther lives, the bigger the chance that someday, Arthur is going to be forced to choose between the two of you. Even more than king and prince, you and Uther cannot co-exist in the same world for much longer.”
“I trust Arthur with my life.” Merlin stated quietly, and Arthur felt the strength of truth in those words. “He will make a great king, and I will do everything in my power to put him on the throne. Beyond that, I have not seen, nor have the fates–or the Great Dragon–seen fit to enlighten me as to what will happen. All I know is that my destiny is entwined with his. We walk parallel paths towards the future–whatever it may bring.”
Arthur retreated back to his own mind, dizzy with revelation. The link between him and Merlin stayed open, however, and he could feel the younger man focusing his attention, though he could no longer hear his thoughts. There was another spark of gold and the link was severed abruptly with a flash of fear, leaving the prince alone in his head.
Arthur lay awake in the darkness for a long time, staring up at the ceiling of his four -poster. Finally he cursed in frustration and threw the covers off. He dressed easily without a candle, a sardonic smile twisting his lips at the reaction his man servant would have had if he had been there to witness such a feat.
The smile quickly disappeared as he buckled on his sword belt. He and Merlin were long overdue for a conversation about a few things–but first, he was going to go have a little chat with a dragon.