“You’ll do no such thing,” Arthur interrupted loftily. “We’ve already got the supplies, might as well go for a hunt.” He turned to the guard holding the reins of his mount.“Inform my father that I’ve gone on a hunting trip, and may not return until tomorrow evening.” He swung up into his saddle before the man had disappeared into the castle, and nudged his horse into a sudden canter, laughing to himself as he heard Merlin swear and scramble to catch up. After the revelations of the past few days, it was nice to be a few steps ahead of his erstwhile servant for once.
He had planned to speak with Morgana first, and then to Merlin, but had quickly realized that this was the better path. While he knew about both of their talents, and suspected that Merlin knew the truth about Morgana’s dreams, Morgana herself was still in the dark about the raven-haired boy. The knowledge that she was not the only one who had been hiding in plain sight would either comfort her…or enrage her, once the truth was revealed.
If the truth was revealed.
Even as he laughed and crouched over his mare’s withers to urge her to a faster speed, that thought niggled in the back of his mind. Morgana had always been proud, even as a child. Imagined slights and insults to her person or status had been met either with hot rage or ice cold disdain and dismissal. Either you were with her or you were against her; there was no shades of grey in Morgana’s world of black and white, for all that she herself stood in the mottled shadows. So for Merlin and Arthur to reveal that Merlin had knowingly possessed magic, yet had left her in the dark to face her fears alone, would be a harsh and unforgivable blow to her pride and heart. There was a chance that the potential for an ally to stand shoulder to shoulder with would override the feeling of betrayal and anger, but Arthur was suddenly not willing to take that chance. Not yet.
The prince tightened up on the reins, standing up slightly in his saddle as his mare obediently slowed their mad pace, although she shook her head and jiggled at the bit, asking for permission to run again as Merlin thundered up on his bay gelding. He laughed, running a soothing hand down her neck. “Save your energy for the run back, my pretty jewel.”
Merlin snorted, a bit breathlessly, his eyes bright and his hair tousled by the wind. “You two are a right pair. Spoiled as a pampered princess, that one. Only fitting that you named her Amira. Who would’ve guessed that the high and mighty Prince of Camelot would be so doting over a horse?”
The hand that had been stroking Amira’s neck swung out and neatly clipped the back of Merlin’s head. “Shut up, Merlin. Amira’s saved my life more than once; what have you done besides cower behind trees and under bushes at the first hint of danger?” Arthur goaded deliberately, watching the other man’s lips tighten and his eyes flash, but he said nothing, only nudged his horse a bit harder than usual to move ahead of the prince.
He didn’t see Arthur’s shoulders slump slightly as he squeezed his eyes shut for a brief moment before following in the servant’s wake. A part of the prince wanted to continue poking and prodding and goading until the other man confessed, wanted to have the shroud of secrets and magic and half-truths hanging over their friendship dissipate once and for all. His eyes narrowed slightly, as anger began a slow burn in his veins.