Part 15: link
Almost one bulan later.
“Ah, Merlin, come in, please,” Arthur says when Merlin appears in the doorway. He and Guinevere are preparing for the selanjutnya day’s journey. “Close the door.”
Merlin closes the door and enters. “My lord?”
Gwen is seated at the table, and Arthur joins her. “Please sit,” he motions to Merlin. What is going on?
Merlin wonders. I haven’t messed anything up lately, nobody has been caught eavesdropping at their door again; everything’s been running smoothly…
“Merlin, don’t look so worried,” Gwen says, reaching across the meja to touch her friend’s hand. “If Arthur wanted to yell at you, he would have started already.”
Merlin laughs at this, grateful that his friendship with Gwen has remained largely unchanged.
“Merlin, I called anda here to… um… to let anda know that effective immediately, I no longer require your services as my personal manservant,” Arthur says.
“What? But—” Merlin shouts, looking at Gwen. Don’t worry, anda tell me?
“Please let me finish,” Arthur interrupts. “I am promoting anda to the position of Royal Advisor, Merlin. Instead of polishing armor and doing my laundry you’ll be… assisting me with matters of state, helping make decisions, that kind of thing. My personal advisor,” he waves his hand vaguely. “It is a position normally diberikan to a noble, anda know,” he adds, looking pointedly at Merlin.
Merlin sits, dumbfounded. Gwen is smiling at him. Arthur looks slightly uncomfortable at having to openly acknowledge Merlin’s worth during a time when they don’t think that they are about to die. I can’t. I
can’t. It was one thing to hide my magic from him when I was just a servant, but as Royal Advisor? No. Just, no. I won’t do it. I… I’d have to tell him in order to accept the position with a clear conscience. But do I dare? He has flashes, moments when I think I can tell him… but then something always comes along to crush those moments.
“Merlin?” Guinevere prompts.
“No.” Merlin says simply, quietly.
“Beg pardon?” Arthur asks.
“No, Sire. I cannot accept.”
“It’s not a request, Merlin.”
“Nevertheless, I cannot.”
“So you’re happy picking up after me and generally suffering my abuse?”
“I did not say that, Arthur. I’m just saying that I cannot accept the post.”
“Merlin, if this is your way of fishing for compliments…”
“No! It’s not. I… I really appreciate the offer, I really
do. It means lebih to me than I can possibly say.” He bites his lip and looks across at Gwen. She looks upset and confused, wanting to help him. “But I just can’t.
Please don’t ask me to explain.” He drops his head and a single tear falls from his eye and hits his hands, folded in his lap.
“Merlin, if there’s anything…” Gwen tries, gently.
“No,” he sniffs, not looking up, “there’s not. There’s nothing anda can do to help.”
Arthur and Gwen look at each other. They were certainly not expecting him to refuse.
Gwen rises from her kursi and walks around the meja to sit beside Merlin. She takes his hand in hers. “Just… think about it some more, okay?” she speaks softly, gently. “Give us your answer when we return from Caerleon.” She looks over his shoulder at Arthur, who nods in agreement.
Merlin nods slowly, and looks up at Gwen. She reaches up and wipes a tear from his cheek, and he says, “I cannot promise I still won’t say no.”
“I know that. This was not a decision Arthur came to quickly, so please give us the same courtesy of not making your own decision in haste, Merlin.”
Merlin stands, and Guinevere stands with him and gives him a hug. Arthur stands and clasps his hand, nodding at him.
“Get some rest, Merlin. anda can have the rest of the night off,” he says.
Merlin nods, and heads toward the door. “Arthur?”
“For what it’s worth, thank you.”
“No, Merlin, thank you.”
Merlin enters the chambers he shares with Gaius, sick. Sick with the trust he has garnered in Arthur and Guinevere. Sick with his own secret. Sick with wanting to be Arthur’s personal advisor lebih than anything. Just sick.
He closes the door and leans against it heavily.
“Merlin, what’s the matter?” Gaius asks, standing to walk over to him. “You look terrible.”
“Arthur wants me as Royal Advisor. He wants me to be his personal
advisor,” he says glumly.
“That’s wonderful news, Merlin! Why do anda look like you’ve just been dragged behind a dung cart, then?”
“Don’t anda see, Gaius? I can’t! I can’t be his personal advisor because of this—” he holds up his hand, a plume of api dancing in his palm, “—and this—” he looks at a dried herb in a jar, and with a flash of his eyes, it revives and blooms, “—and—”
“I get it Merlin, I get it,” Gaius holds his hands up in surrender, and then puts them around his shoulders, hugging him comfortingly.
“I’m just sick about it, Gaius,” Merlin says into Gaius’ shoulder. “I really want to be able to accept the position. Arthur berkata that it wasn’t really a request, anda know. But I cannot do so with a clear conscience if I have this… secret… within me.”
Gaius releases Merlin, and the two go and sit at the table, where Gaius gives him some stew. “Merlin, I admire your fortitude, but if Arthur berkata it’s not a request, then, anda may have no choice.”
“But I do. Even if… if I have to leave Camelot, then…”
“That’s a bit rash, Merlin.”
“It’s a big secret, Gaius. It’s not a little secret, like having six toes on one foot atau sneaking food out of the palace kitchens. This is a big, whopping, illegal
secret!” He sets his forehead down on the meja with a thunk.
“What did Gwen say?” Gaius asks softly.
“She told me to take some time; to give them my answer after we return from Caerleon.”
“That is good advice,” he nods.
“Gaius…” Merlin lifts his head.
“Tell Arthur?” Gaius guesses, and Merlin nods. “Oo, that is difficult.”
“No kidding.” He puts his head back on the table. “If there was a way I could show
him, let him see…
“A definite thought. It would have to be something big, something important. Like life-or-death,” he muses, and Merlin lifts his head. “And not contrived,” Gaius says sternly, looking directly at Merlin. “So don’t go cooking something up.”
“I know. You’re right. It was just a thought. And it would have to be major. Like… stopping something horrible from happening to Gwen. Not that I’m wishing anything ill on her,” he frowns.
“Of course not, but that’s exactly the kind of thing it would take.”
“And I can’t make it happen just so I can stop it?” he screws his mouth to one side, trying.
“Absolutely not. Those kinds of situations always end up badly, Merlin, anda should know that oleh now,” Gaius says, arching an eyebrow at him before taking a bite of his dinner. “And if Arthur were to find out that anda set something like that up, he’d have your head for certain.”
Merlin sighs and pokes at his stew. He sighs. “I could never intentionally put Gwen in danger anyway. She means far too much to me. So I guess I just wait around for something horrible to happen so I can try to use my magic in front of Arthur.”
“I fear anda have little choice in the matter, Merlin.”
Next morning the party prepares to head out at first light. It is a clear day, with some fog just starting to burn away. The group is small: just Arthur, Guinevere, Merlin, Gwaine and Elyan. Leon and Percival lost the toss and had to stay behind to oversee the rest of the knights.
“Great, we get to listen to Gwaine prattle on the whole journey,” Arthur mutters as the two knights ride up to gabung them.
“Arthur, he’s an excellent knight, so what if he’s lebih talkative than you’d like?” Gwen asks, smiling at him.
“I know that,” he admits, turning his head to see Merlin approaching. “I’m still not completely convinced that it is aman, brankas for anda to come along on this journey,” he tells her with a half smile.
“That’s why Gwaine and Elyan are coming too, remember?” Gwen follows Arthur’s gaze. Merlin’s face is serious, and both Gwen and Arthur know immediately that he isn’t going to be his usual cheerful self on this journey.
“All right, let’s go,” Merlin says as he rides past the four of them, not stopping his horse.
“Merlin…” Arthur says. Then he sighs, and repeats the command Merlin just gave, spurring his horse meneruskan, ke depan to catch up to Merlin and ride in front.
They ride out, Arthur and Merlin in the front, Gwen in the middle, and the two knights bringing up the rear, protecting their queen on all sides as they ride.
“Don’t even ask, Arthur,” Merlin says, riding alongside Arthur.
“I wasn’t going to.”
“Yes, anda were.”
“Okay, maybe I was. anda puzzle me, Merlin.”
“You’re a terrible servant, anda know…”
“I’m not and anda know it.”
“Okay, you’re not. But still, wouldn’t being my advisor—”
“Stop, Arthur. I’m not discussing it. Not with you. atau anyone here. Not now.” His face is stony, looking straight ahead.
“I can order you, anda know.”
“You only pull rank on me when you’re backed into a corner and don’t know what else to say.” Ouch.
That stops Arthur cold.
“Besides, if anda order me and I refuse, what recourse would anda have? We’re not in Camelot. What would anda do, send me back? Oh, dear,” he rolls his eyes.
“Shut up, Merlin.” But that’s precisely why I need anda to be my advisor,
he thinks grimly, but wisely keeps the thought inside. You see things in a completely different way than anyone I know.
Arthur drops back to ride beside Gwen for a bit.
“You didn’t try talking to him, did you?” she asks.
“You did say anda wouldn’t press.”
“Well, he was so quiet. It wasn’t natural.”
“Whatever is causing his reluctance must be something deep, Arthur. We must give him time to work it out. And no, Gaius wouldn’t tell me anything, so don’t even ask,” she says. Gaius had asked her to stop in before they left so he could give her some basic medicinal supplies, just in case. Merlin has enough to worry about right now, and I trust anda with these things as much as I do him,
Gaius had said, but would say no more.
“I can’t even say for sure if he even knows what is troubling Merlin,” she adds. Her stomach rumbles loudly, and Arthur looks at her.
“Hungry, my love?” he asks, eyebrows going up in amusement.
“Apparently so. I did eat a sufficient breakfast, though,” she says.
Arthur chuckles and looks back to Gwaine.
“Gwaine, got any food handy? Guinevere is a bit peckish up here.”
Gwaine pulls an apel, apple from his saddlebag and flings it to Arthur, who catches it and hands it to Gwen.
“Thank you,” she tells Arthur. Looking down at the apple, she turns her head back at Gwaine and asks, “What, no roast chicken in there?”
“Not today, my lady,” he says, joining in the others’ laugher.
The sun is high in the sky, and they decide to stop for a rest and a bite of lunch. The men let Guinevere build a small api while Merlin starts preparing some food. She stretches and sits on a rock, watching Merlin, sad for him. He’s not himself. I wish I could help him. I wish I knew what was troubling him. I don’t like seeing him upset. Arthur and I are his closest friends; why can he not tell us?
“I’m all right, Gwen,” Merlin says, catching her watching him.
“No, you’re not, Merlin.” She stands and walks over to him. “Whatever is troubling you, anda can tell me,” she tells him.
“I can’t. Gwen, you’re one of my closest friends, anda know that. I cinta anda like a sister, but this is something I need to deal with alone. At least right now. One hari I may be able to tell you, but right now, I can’t. I know anda can’t understand it, but please accept it, as my friend.” He gives her a sad smile.
She sighs. “All right, Merlin. I don’t like it, but anda don’t seem to be budging.” She stands and walks back to her rock. “I’m surrounded oleh stubborn men,” she mutters as she walks along. Oh, great.
“Arthur?” she calls.
“Um, I’ll be… right back. I need to… ah, nature, anda know,” she stammers.
“Ah. Yes. Right,” he says, understanding. Then, much to her horror, he calls, “Elyan.”
Elyan walks up. “Yes, Sire?”
“Please accompany the queen into the… woods,” he waves vaguely.
“Arthur, I do not need an escort!” Gwen protests.
“I am not having anda out of my sight without protection, and since Elyan is your brother, he is perfectly qualified to…”
“Fine!” she stands up, exasperated. “Come on,” she says, irritated, plucking at Elyan’s cape as she stomps past him.
“Gwen, where are we going?” Elyan asks, clueless for the moment.
Once they are clear of the group, she wheels around and says quietly, “I have to pee.” Then she spins back around and stomps meneruskan, ke depan again.
“Oh. Glad I asked.”
She decides they are far enough away and goes behind a tree.
“You don’t need to tell me not to look, Gwen; I’m not going to,” Elyan chuckles, his back already to her.
A few menit later she walks back out, punches him lightly on the shoulder, and strides past him.
“Hey!” he calls, walking up behind her.
They reach the edge of the camp and Elyan hears something off to his left. He turns his head. “What…”
There is a small muffled yelp from Guinevere and he looks back to see she’s gone.
“Gwen!” he looks, running forward. “Guinevere!” he yells.
The others come running at the sound of Elyan’s yells.
“Where’s Guinevere? What happened?” Arthur yells, drawing his sword, looking carefully around, eyes darting. Merlin watches, eyes scanning.
Gwaine and Elyan draw their swords, spreading out.
Arthur whirls around to see Guinevere being held from behind oleh Bertrand. He is holding a sword in front of her throat and his arm is around her middle.
“You!” Arthur shouts, stepping meneruskan, ke depan instinctively. Bertrand tightens his grip on Gwen and Arthur stops.
“Take one lebih step and I kill your precious serving girl,” Bertrand says.
“You’re a fool,” Arthur says. “There are four of us and one of you.” He is outwardly calm, but Gwen can see that he is seething with fury.
“Don’t be so sure about that,” Bertrand says, and a dozen men emerge from the forest, dressed in the warna of Odin’s kingdom. These are not Odin’s men,
Merlin thinks, looking carefully at them. This is someone wanting us to think that they are Odin’s men.
His weapon of choice at the moment is a cast iron skillet, blunt and heavy.
Arthur watches Guinevere. She is looking pointedly at him, intending to catch his attention. She seems calm,
Arthur notes. Then he notices her right hand moving slowly up under her cloak, creeping over to her sabuk on the left side. His eyebrows twitch up just a touch. She nods slightly. Keep him distracted.
“So, what, it’s…” he looks, “Twelve to four? Pssh. Big deal,” he says, swinging his sword in a circle, rotating his wrist. He just knows
Gwaine is grinning like an idiot behind him. Just the kind of odds he likes.
Bertrand’s arm is high on her waist, above her belt, so she able to slip her dagger out of its sheath fairly easily.
Gwen’s hand appears below the hem of her cloak, clutching her small dagger. She’s not holding that right,
Arthur worries, watching while also keeping his eye on the other men, stalking meneruskan, ke depan slowly, awaiting orders. Something’s not right about these men,
Just then Gwen’s hand moves, fast enough to impress Arthur, and she stabs Bertrand’s sword hand solidly, causing him to drop the sword with a curse, and he releases Gwen to grip his injured hand.
She wheels around and brings her knee up sharply into his groin and he falls with a strangled groan.
At that, the other men attack. Gwen hangs to the side, dagger ready, and Merlin rushes over to her, gripping his skillet.
Arthur lunges meneruskan, ke depan and dispatches two men easily and immediately, wheeling in time to see a laughing Gwaine push one man into another with his foot, landing both against a large tree, where they fall unconscious.
Elyan spins and slashes, taking out another, and Merlin clobbers still another with his pan.
“Nice weapon, Merlin,” Arthur calls. Merlin actually smiles, spinning the skillet around in his hand. “Behind you!” Arthur shouts, pointing, and Guinevere turns faster and stabs one man in the stomach. He blinks in surprise at his brave little queen and turns with a smile on his face as he drives the butt of his sword into the bridge of another assailant’s nose, sending blood squirting everywhere.
Elyan and Gwaine fight back to back, a flurry of swordplay. “These guys are no good at all,” Gwaine comments, dispatching yet another. Elyan laughs, then sees Bertrand pindah behind Gwen.
“Gwen!” he shouts, and she turns to see Bertrand on his knees, sword clutched in his left hand. Now’s my chance,
Merlin thinks, and, standing behind Gwen, he glances over his shoulder to make sure Arthur is watching.
Merlin mutters a word, his eyes flash, and a large branch drops from the pohon above, landing on Bertrand’s head, knocking him unconscious. Gwen yelps and jumps backward, bumping into Merlin.
Merlin turns around again, jantung thumping its way out of his chest, only to see Arthur locked in a tussle with one of the last remaining attackers, a very large man who is carrying no visible weapon. He missed it.
He slumps his shoulders, and idly whacks another attacker with his pan, almost sadly.
Arthur finally subdues the huge man oleh climbing on his back and wrapping his arm around the man’s thick neck until he passes out. He then turns his attention back to Gwen.
“Are anda all right?” he calls as he runs up the bukit, hill to where she and Merlin were standing.
“Yes,” she says, wiping the blade of her dagger clean using Bertrand’s jubah before replacing it in her belt.
“What happened?” he asks.
“That branch fell on his head,” she says, furrowing her brow. “Odd, I know.”
“So he’s not dead, then?” Arthur says grimly.
“I don’t know.”
Gwaine and Elyan approach, putting their swords in their sheaths. “This is the man, the one that tried to accost you?” Elyan asks.
“Yes,” Gwen says simply, nudging Bertrand with the toe of her boot.
“Oh come on, anda can give him a better kick than that, Gwen,” Gwaine teases her.
She laughs. “Wouldn’t serve any purpose. He can’t feel it,” she says, walking away.
“Merlin,” Arthur says quietly.
“Keep her away from here,” he says grimly.
“Yes,” he says, understanding. He jogs down the small slope of the bukit, hill to gabung Guinevere. “Gwen, anda were brilliant,” he starts, looking furtively over his shoulder.
He notices Gwaine studying him, an inscrutable look on his face.
Arthur steps to Bertrand and kicks the branch away from his head. Bertrand groans very slightly. He looks back at Elyan and Gwaine, who in turn look down to see Merlin keeping Gwen occupied oleh the fire, giving her something to drink, making sure she sits with her back to the three others. Regardless, the two knights stand with their bodies between Gwen and Bertrand’s unconscious body, blocking as best they can.
His eyes cold yet fiery, Arthur raises his sword, and with a great sweep, lops off Bertrand’s head. Then he kicks it away slightly, and it rolls to rest a very short distance away, stopping to rest against the hand of another assailant, one that is alive but unconscious.
“Leave that one alive,” he says harshly, pointing. “He can bring the news back to Lord Roderick and Morgana.”
Arthur stoops and wipes the blade of his sword off on Bertrand’s jubah in the same way that Gwen did her dagger, and re-sheaths it.
He strides away to rejoin Guinevere and Merlin oleh the fire. She is sitting motionless, contemplating the flames and willing her heartbeat back to its normal rate while Merlin resumes lunch preparations. Assuming they still wish to eat,
he thinks. Arthur reaches his hands down for Gwen and pulls her to her feet and into his arms, smoothing her hair and resting his cheek on puncak, atas of her head. If I could kill that idiot again I would,
he thinks, carefully packing his rage away, saving it up for when and if he sees Lord Roderick again. atau Morgana. Either would suffice.
He reaches one hand up to her chin, tilting her head this way and that before holding her at arms’ length to check her over.
“Wow. It’s like someone has pulled a lever inside him,” Elyan observes in a whisper to Gwaine. Both knights are surprised and impressed at Arthur’s ability to change from a man who just recently executed someone rather gruesomely into a loving and gentle husband, concerned about his wife’s well-being.
Seemingly satisfied that she is unscathed, Gwen watches as Arthur’s face clouds again and he pulls her once again into his arms, tightly, clinging to her, his eyes squeezed tight.
Merlin goes about his cooking and the two knights decide to continue their survey of the casualties.
“Arthur,” Gwen says softly. She tries to pull free from his arms, only to find herself locked in a vise-like grip.
“I’m all right,” she says, leaning up to ciuman him softly.
He reluctantly loosens his grip on her and she sits again. Arthur sits beside her, his arm around her, and she rests her head on his shoulder.
“Arthur?” she asks.
“Don’t anda dare say ‘I told anda so.’”
Part 17: link