Characters: Merlin, Arthur.
Can Merlin convince Arthur to defend his kingdom?
For the first time in a month, Merlin had a purpose. He was going to convince Arthur to fight Kinsley, he was going to help him find his spark again, and perhaps – just perhaps – he was going to win Arthur’s friendship back. He was practically running to Arthur’s chambers, desperate to put the plan in his head into action, desperate to fix the mess he had made. Finding himself at Arthur’s door, however, Merlin was suddenly tentative. Overcoming his nerves, he knocked twice.
It struck Merlin how pleasant Arthur was. That’s the first time he’s spoken to me like that, without disgust in his voice. I’d almost forgotten how he sounded.
“Hello sire.” Arthur’s body instantly tensed at Merlin’s words, the first he’d said to the King in a long time. Merlin noticed Arthur’s hand subtly grip the dagger on his table.
A silence grew between the two men, almost tangible in its density.
“What do you want?”
“I’ve come to ask… I’ve come to ask you to fight.”
“Fight, Merlin? I didn’t know that was your style. I thought you just used magic from a distance so they can’t fight back.”
“I mean, I’ve come to ask you to fight Kinsley. You know he’s a threat, you know -”
“He’s disgraced, he can’t raise an army.” Arthur replied, the words sounding hollow and rehearsed.
“Arthur, you know that’s not true.”
“No Prince will respond to his call, they would not risk their honour.”
“As you said in court. But he’s not asking men, Arthur, he’s making them. He’s -”
“They will fall at the walls of Camelot, he’s not got a big enough force.”
“He’ll wait. He has no rush, he’ll wait until he has ten times more men then us, and he’ll burn your land and kill your people as he advances.” Merlin was worried by the growing despondency of the King, who actively enjoyed debate and was always open to being convinced by the merits of an argument.
“Arthur, you must realise this.” Merlin pleaded, desperation rising in his voice.
“How dare you? A servant, telling the King of Camelot how to run his kingdom? Insolent fool.”
I’d forgotten how much of a royal arse he could be. Merlin could feel his anger growing, reminding him of the times the King used to wind him up.
“Why are you getting angry at me, Arthur, and not the man who is actively threatening you with war? This is not the Arthur I know.”
“YOU KILLED HIM.” Arthur exploded, his whole body shaking with rage. It was a truly terrifying sight to behold, and Merlin took two steps backwards. “YOU KILLED ME.”
Suddenly, two guards burst in, swords drawn.
“Sire, we heard a commotion, are you harmed?”
Arthur took a moment to compose himself, before dismissing them and lowering himself onto the side of his bed. The King looked tired, weak.
“How can I fight him, Merlin? How can I fight an army built on magic, when I couldn’t even fight off one servant? Magic killed my mother, then it claimed my father. But I thought I could beat it, that having magic didn’t mean one was invulnerable, that I would always be able to escape a situation. Then you came along, Merlin, and you shown me just how powerless I really am. Now, a month later, you want me to fight an army of magic? An army of things like… like you? I can’t Merlin, and I will not take my knights to their death. I cannot.”
“Like me? Arthur, I am not like -”
“Don’t you dare, Merlin, don’t you dare tell me what you are. I know what you are, and what you did. We are defined by what we do Merlin, our actions. Nothing more, nothing less. We are defined… and you broke me. You destroyed me. You took away everything I ever had. This castle used to be my home, I used to feel safe here. Now, I’m… I’m nothing, I’m a mess, I’m not living, I’m coping. I’m coping with what you did to me, Merlin. I am coping with what you did. So don’t tell me what you are like, because I know. I will never forget.”
At that moment, true realisation hit Merlin. He knew what he had done had been so wrong, so unjustifiable, so destructive and now he had to live with the pain.
No. It’s not my pain that matters. Why am I so selfish? Arthur has opened his heart to me and I focus on how terrible that makes me feel. No, not this time. I will make him feel better.
“Arthur, I’m sorry.”
“They’re just words Merlin. They’re meaningless.”
“I know. So, I want to help you.”
“I want to help you. I have magic, nobody else does. Or, if they do, your laws prevent them from being open about who they are.”
“Merlin, you’re the only person I know who can make an apology turn into a sarcastic political comment.”
Was that… was that a joke? Is he joking with me? Merlin decided to try pushing his luck.
“I suppose laws are only as good as the man who makes them.”
Instantly, Merlin knew Arthur didn’t find him funny at all.
“If you’re just going to make jokes, Merlin, fuck off.”
“I’m sorry. I am trying to help. I will protect you from his magic.”
Merlin’s solemn tone forced Arthur to believe him. Fighting his better judgement, he allowed himself to get excited about the possibility of defeating Kinsley.
“Are you powerful enough?”
Must not make a joke like “well, you should know”.
“Yes. I promise.”
Arthur stood up and looked at Merlin.
He looks like a King again. He looks like Arthur.
“This doesn’t make… it better. This doesn’t mean I forgive you.”
“I know. But I promise, Arthur, I am sorry. So sorry.” Merlin found himself closing the distance between himself and Arthur, until they were mere inches away from one another. “I will fight for you, I will defend you, and I will make sure you’re safe.”
“Thank you Merlin. You were always a good friend, until, well, until you were not. I just want to ask you… why?”
Merlin hesitated, he lips barely two inches from Arthur’s. Now or never.
“I love you, Arthur. I’ve already told you, perhaps you didn’t believe me. I love you. I always have.”
For a second, Merlin thought he was going to kiss the King. For a second longer, he thought Arthur would kiss him too. For a second, he hoped it was all forgotten.
“That’s not love, Merlin. That’s not.”
The moment was gone, and Merlin turned to leave before Arthur could notice his tears.
He’s right. What I did, it’s not what you do to someone you love.
Just as Merlin reached the door, Arthur commanded him to wait. Despite his better judgement, Merlin began to imagine Arthur was going to run up to him and kiss him, like in the fairy tales.
“Merlin, after the battle everyone will have knowledge of your magic, and you will be banished from Camelot for life.” It wasn’t a gloat, nor was it an apology. It was a statement.
If we are judged by our actions, I have been dealt my punishment.
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