Surprised by the abrupt and harsh command, Merlin protested, “But—“
Arthur’s gaze was hard, unyielding as he met Merlin’s stare. “Morgana is ruthlessly unforgiving to those she feels have betrayed her. She and my father are very much alike in that regard, for all that they are opposites in everything else. Revealing to her that you have knowingly have had magic the whole time that you have been in Camelot, yet never reached out to her or made a move to help those my father has persecuted will only make you an enemy in her eyes.” Merlin tilted his chin up mutinously, and Arthur growled. “Merlin.” He was going on nothing more than a gut feeling, but he knew better than to ignore it.
Merlin paced some more, needing to expand frustrated energy. “What if…what if I don’t help her as myself?” He finally burst out. “What if I disguise myself, create a separate persona? That way, if the king ever did find out, that person could disappear, and I’d still be safe.”
Arthur mulled it over. It wasn’t a bad idea, but…”It’s too risky right now.” He shook his head. “Besides, didn’t Gaius mention something about Morgana sleeping through the night without her sleeping draft? Maybe it was just a phase.”
That earned him a sardonic snort from the warlock. “Magic isn’t just a phase that you go through. She’s a witch, Arthur. Morgana was born with magic, just as I was. The dreams didn’t just stop suddenly, on their own.”
“Well then, what happened?” The prince demanded. “Did Gaius try some new mixture—“
“I don’t know, Arthur.” Merlin interrupted crossly, sitting down on the log with a huff. “We were a bit distracted by the bloody quest Morgause sent you on, and the ensuing revelations that were divulged. Morgana wasn’t exactly a priority.”
“Well then, until we know more, we do nothing.” Arthur replied with a note of finality in his voice, going over to his bedroll. “Get some sleep. We have much more to do before we return to Camelot.”
The next morning both men were up early. Arthur went hunting this time, hoping to bring down something larger than a couple of rabbits, while Merlin gathered some herbs and plants that he knew Gaius would send him out to replenish anyway. Both prince and warlock were successful in their endeavors, and returned triumphantly to the campsite at about the same time.
It was still early morning, so there was no need yet to rush back to Camelot. They settled back into their spots for lunch, which this time was a couple of fish from the nearby stream that Merlin had speared—without magic.
They ate in silence, delaying the inevitable. And then they made plans, continuing the conversation from the night before. The military man in Arthur wouldn’t be satisfied until there were back up plans for the back up plans.
The sun was turning the sky a glorious red and gold when Arthur finally stood up and silently began breaking down the camp. Merlin followed suit, dissolving the shield spell and burying the fish bones so that there would be no trace that anyone had been there as Arthur saddled the horses.
The prince mounted up, and Merlin followed suit. Side by side, they began the trek back to Camelot. Just before they left the forest, Merlin pulled his horse to a stop.