elfflame

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Finding King Arthur - Part 18

Title: Finding King Arthur (temporary until I find something better)
Author: [info]elfflame
Fandom: Merlin (BBC)
Rating: NC-17, bebe.
Summary: Things have gone bad in Camelot.  Arthur has been missing for a year, and Uther and Gaius have been poisoned.  Merlin and the knights of Camelot set out to find their Prince before the kingdom can be claimed by Morgana.
Warnings: Death (not Merlin or Arthur), minor spoilers for season 3.
A/N: Not much written yesterday, so you get a bit more today.

Part 1 | Part 2 | Part 3 | Part 4 | Part 5
Part 6 | Part 7 | Part 8 | Part 9 | Part 10
Part 11 | Part 12 | Part 13 | Part 14 | Part 15
Part 16 | Part 17


Twenty-Six
The Beginning of the Table

"What are you on about, Arthur? What can she do? The whole country probably knows you're back after the fight today… Her knowing whether or not you remember isn't going to change that. And many of them will want you to be king, now. Isn't that what we wanted?" Gwaine was saying, sounding horribly put out.

It made Merlin wonder if they'd staged the whole fight. But that was a question for later.

"He's right, Arthur. This is what we've been working towards, isn't it?"

"Yes. But…I didn't expect her to catch on so soon… What if she tries something?"

"Like what?" Lancelot asked. "The ministers aren't going to hurry into anything, now that they know you're alive. Once the battle is over tomorrow, all you'll have to do is go to them and ask for the throne, and they'll be so thrilled, no one would dare to question…"

"Someone will. You don't know my father's ministers the way I do. Some of them will be happy…some…not so much. And they'll side with Morgana rather than see me on the throne, that I promise you."

"But the people…"

"Don't mean a thing to them, Gwen. Just like my father…it's all about protecting themselves. They couldn’t' care less what the people think. Unless they've got good reason to believe I am Prince Arthur, something that they can't refute easily… They'll do everything they can to discredit me."

"That's ridiculous! You're rightful heir!" Merlin said, scowling.

"Perhaps. But can we prove it? I mean…you said it yourself, Merlin. They know about your magic. You could have just found someone in the country who looked a bit like me, then used magic to heighten the similarities, and you've been coaching me ever since. Obviously so that you can take over the kingdom." He met Merlin's eyes, and Merlin's protests died on his tongue.

"So…what do we do, then?" Gwen asked, looking at them all. "There has to be something. We can't just let her take Camelot…"

"No. We can't," Arthur agreed, then looked around at all of them. "So…any suggestions?"

Merlin glanced at the others before wracking his own brain for ideas. "Nothing…specific."

"It would have to be something grand," Gwen said slowly.

Lancelot nodded.

Gwaine huffed. "As though winning the tournament wouldn't be grand enough?"

"Well, someone was going to do that regardless. It doesn't mean that everyone will believe he's Arthur," Gwen said. "Especially if Morgana is refusing to believe him."

Before Arthur could say anything more, there was a knock at the door. All of them glanced toward the door, then at Arthur, who looked concerned. "Right," he said softly. He got to his feet, then opened the door.

There was a guard on the other side. He bowed his head. "I've been sent to invite you to a celebration for the winners tonight, my lord," he said in a low voice.

"Ah. Well…thank you," Arthur said. "Now?"

"At sun-down, sire. In the great hall. Your…friends may come as well. If they are not otherwise needed." The look on his face singled out Gwen and Merlin, and Merlin knew he meant, 'If they aren't busy serving others.' Damned if he was going to serve even in Morgana's temporary court.

"Thank you," Arthur repeated. "We will be there." He shut the door, then turned to the others. "What do you think? Trap?"

"Well…he said we were all welcome," Merlin said. "He wouldn't say that if she were trying to get you alone, so…"

"But that doesn't mean she won't try to take us all and set us in the dungeons," Lancelot said. And if we all go…less chance one of us will be able to release the others…"

"Then…one of us should stay behind. Just in case," Arthur said slowly, nodding. He glanced at Merlin, who frowned.

"No…you need me there, Arthur. If she tries something…"

"She won't. But…fine." He glanced at Gwaine. "Would you mind, Gwaine? I'll make it up to you later…"

Gwaine snorted. "Fine. Payment in gold the moment you take the throne, then?" he said with a grin. "I'd rather go down to the pub anyway. But I expect a full report later," he said, standing. "Are we done, then?"

Arthur shook his head ruefully. "You know you're not getting out of a knighthood, right?"

"What use do I have for that, anyway?"

Merlin grinned. "Good excuse to stick around?" he asked.

Gwaine grinned back. "It is, isn't it?"

Arthur chuckled. "Good. So…now that that's sorted…"

"I should probably…see what needs to be done, Arthur. But…if I can…I'll be back."

He smiled softly at her, and Merlin had to look away, seeing his own discomfort flash across Lancelot's face. Still, at least Lancelot was lucky that Gwen wasn't royal. Made his hopes less implausible, at least. Not like Merlin's, which would have been no more than daydreams even if he were a noble.

"All right, Gwen. We'll see you at the gathering, at the very least, all right?"

"Right. See you all then."

Once the other two had left, Lancelot looked around, then glanced at Arthur. "I…should probably go make preparations as well. Will you two be all right?"

"I think we can manage, Lancelot, thank you," Arthur said, his voice dry but amused.

"Right. I'll see you, then." And then he was gone as well.

Arthur sighed, then settled at the table again. "I hate this. Hate her." He put his head in his hands, hiding his face.

After a moment, Merlin moved to his side and squeezed his shoulder. "I'm so sorry, Arthur…"

"Me, too." Arthur leaned into his touch. "Father and I often had disagreements, but…" He let the sentence dangle, not quite able to finish it.

"But you still loved him. Believe me, I understand. I only got to meet my father once…but…I miss him every day."

Arthur looked up at him, frowning for a moment before asking, "You did? Last you mentioned him…I thought you'd said you'd never gotten to meet him."

Merlin looked away, biting his lip. He supposed it wouldn't make much difference now, and Arthur deserved to know. "We…met him together. The…Dragon Lord. Balinor? He…stayed in Ealdor for a time before he had to run again," he said softly.

Arthur watched him, wide-eyed. "Why didn't you…" He sighed, realizing, then tugged Merlin down into his lap. "You and your secrets. Anything else I should know? Is that why you can talk to the dragon?"

"Uh…maybe?" To be honest, he'd never given much thought to why the dragon had called him, and not someone else. Especially after it had started spouting all that prophesy at him. "Just…happened, really. Never thought much about that bit."

"Just…happened…" Arthur shook his head. "The number of things that 'just happen' to you is rather terrifying, Merlin, do you know that?"

Merlin felt his ears burn. "Yeah, well…it's not like I ask for it, do I?"

Arthur smiled. "No…I don't suppose you do."


Twenty-Seven
I Could Have Danced All Night…

When the three men (minus Gwen, who had never reappeared) made it down to the Great Hall, there was a party in full swing. Knights and nobles and the men who had fought and won that day mingled together, dancing and drinking and talking. Morgana was moving through the room, barely touched by the chaos around her, and for a moment, Merlin could forget that she was out to get rid of them, and remember the girl he first met when he came to Camelot.

Then she turned and saw them, and a sneer flitted across her face before she moved to greet them, holding out her hand towards Lancelot for him to kiss. "Welcome, guests. I do hope you'll take the time and enjoy yourself tonight. This party is in your honour."

Lancelot graciously took her hand and kissed it lightly, his voice formal when he spoke. "Thank you, my lady."

Morgana glanced at Arthur, then nodded to him as well, but didn't proffer her hand to him. "Well…do enjoy," she said with a sickeningly sweet smile.

"I'm sure we will," Arthur said, his face a careful mask. Merlin could almost feel the anger pouring from him, and he imagined Morgana could as well. He knew he was right when she smirked.

"Well, I'll just…leave you to your revels, then," she said with a nod, and moved off into the crowd.

"If she wasn't here tonight…" Arthur glowered at her back as she moved away from them. "Still, it means that she can't poison us…right?"

"I wouldn't be too sure of that," Merlin said softly. "I'll keep an eye open, just in case."

"Good man," Arthur said, nodding. He glanced around the room, then moved towards some of the knights he'd already spoken with, obviously feeling most comfortable talking to them over others in the room, and he and Lancelot quickly got goblets and began to drink, laughing and arguing with them, their voices getting louder as the night went on.

Merlin refused to drink, looking over the crowd and hoping to find Gwen somewhere in the press of people. It worried him that she hadn't even sent word. What could have happened to her?

There was an immediate relief when he saw her pouring wine across the room, and whispered to Arthur that he would be right back. Arthur nodded distractedly. Hopefully Lancelot was a bit more aware of what was going on around them, because Merlin wanted to make sure Gwen was okay. He caught Lancelot's eyes, and smiled when the man nodded to him, then hurried across the room, just in time to hear Gwen let out a soft shriek.

When Merlin managed to get to her side, she was struggling with an unfamiliar man who was trying to draw her into a kiss. "I'd advise you to leave her alone," he growled, glowering at him.

The man turned to look at Merlin, startled at first, then snorted. "And a puny runt like you's going to stop me, eh?"

"Yeah. I am." His eyes must have flared, because the man's eyes widened, and his arms dropped from around Gwen. She hurried to Merlin's side, flushed, her hair and dress mussed from the man's pawing. "Now…unless you want trouble…I'd back off. Clear?"

The man's face went ruddy, and he reached for his sword. "I think you need to be taught a lesson, runt," he growled, then found himself falling to the floor from the spell Merlin had cast to make his sword heavier. "What'd you do?" he shouted, tugging uselessly at the sword. "Stop it now!"

"Stop what?" Merlin asked him. "I can't help it if you're too drunk to pick up your sword…"

A guard appeared, and Merlin quickly cancelled the spell, which suddenly had the man flinging himself backwards at how light the sword suddenly was. "Is there a problem, sir?" he asked.

"No problem," Merlin said, shaking his head.

"Yes!" the man said, scrambling to his feet. "He's a warlock!"

The guard looked at Merlin, who was now doing his best kicked-puppy-dog expression. "Merlin…?" He glanced back at the man who had assaulted Gwen. "The Prince's servant…? You think he's a…warlock?"

The man paled. "He's…the Prince's…"

"Servant, yes. I would think that the Prince would not have hired a warlock, sir…"

"But…he used magic! I saw him!"

The guard glanced at Merlin again. "Oh? What sort of magic, sir?"

"His…eyes glowed. And then…I couldn't hold my sword…"

The guard's mouth narrowed, and he glanced at the spilled goblet the man had knocked over when Merlin had released his spell. "I see. And…how much wine have you had tonight, sir? Perhaps…"

"I wasn't just seeing things!" he shouted. "I saw him!"

"Well…did anyone else see it?" The guard looked around, but the few people who were watching shook their heads. He glanced at Gwen. "And you, miss? Did you see Merlin use magic?"

"No. I didn't. He just…came and told the man off for bothering me, that's all," she said.

The guard nodded, then turned back to the man. "I think perhaps it's time for you to get some rest, sir. I think you've had enough for the night." The guard pulled him away, still arguing loudly, and Merlin turned to Gwen.

"Are you okay?" he asked her softly.

She nodded. "Thank you, Merlin."

"What happened? Why didn't you meet us?"

She scowled, then glanced towards where Morgana was holding court near the throne, as though already proclaiming it hers. "She did. She told the castle steward to make certain all the servants would be helping out tonight, regardless of other duties. When I tried to slip away…" She sighed. "Well, it didn't happen, let's just say that."

"Damn." He glowered at Morgana, then turned back to Gwen. "Well…be careful, okay?"

She sighed again, then nodded. "I should get back to work. Wouldn't do to give her any reason to question my place here at Camelot. Not yet."

Merlin nodded. "Best not to give her any reasons to push for change. Not until tomorrow, when…" He trailed off, realizing anyone could be listening. "Not until everything's over, anyway."

She nodded. "I'll be careful, Merlin. Go keep watch over Arthur, okay?"

He nodded, watching as she turned away, then headed back towards where he'd left Lancelot and Arthur.


Twenty-Eight
A New Day Dawns

They stumbled to bed well after midnight, and Merlin did his best to get Arthur to drink some water before they tumbled half-dressed into bed.

Obviously, whatever water Arthur had managed had not been enough, from the groan that came from under the sheets the next morning when Merlin tried to wake him.

"Arthur…you have to get up. The tournament…"

Arthur mumbled something into the pillow, and Merlin tugged it away from him. "You shouldn't have drunk so much last night," he said. Ye yelped, suddenly finding himself pinned under Arthur, who was looking down at him with dark eyes.

"Merlin, shut up and let me get five more minutes at least, before you start nagging at me?"

Merlin blinked up at him, speechless at first, especially to find Arthur suddenly so close. "I…I…but…"

Arthur kissed him, and for the next few minutes, Merlin lost all track of time as Arthur distracted him from any thoughts of the tournament that was to take place that day. He was far too good at it, and while no more sleep was gotten, neither did Arthur get out of bed.

By the time they were done, Merlin was wrung out and panting, and it took a knock at the door to remind him of why that had been a very bad idea. "Damn it, Arthur," he hissed, glowering at him. He sat up and cast a quick cleaning spell on them both before tugging on his shirt and trousers and hurrying to the door.

Where he found Agravaine waiting once more.

Merlin frowned, but bit back the question of why he'd returned, and not sent someone else. "He's…not ready yet. We'll be down shortly. We know the way."

Agravaine raised a brow. "I can wait."

"Well…it…might be a while," Merlin said, wishing he could just tell the man to bugger off. He doubted that would go over too well, though. Hopefully he could convince him to leave?

Apparently not. "I'll wait," Agravaine said again, his expression made it clear that he wasn't going to be chased off easily.

"Fine." Merlin closed the door on the man without another word, then glanced at the bed…which was empty. "Fuck…Arthur…?" he hissed, looking around for him. Where the fuck had Arthur gotten to?

Arthur stepped out from the bathing alcove, trousers on, his face and hair damp. "Yes?"

"Fuck, don't do that!" He hurried to Arthur's side. "Agravaine…"

"Is outside. Yes, I heard him. Help me with my undershirt? And the armor…?"

"Is already down at the tent."

"Good. So all we have to remember is Excalibur, then."

"Yes." He finished helping Arthur with his shirt, then proffered the sword and belt. "I…think that's everything…"

Arthur shook his head, then pulled Merlin against himself. "Need one more thing…a kiss for good luck. Isn't that the tradition?"

Merlin's eyes widened. "Arthur…Agravaine is waiting.

"He can wait another minute…it won't kill him…" He smirked, then kissed Merlin, lingering and slow, and apparently doing his best to wring a moan from him.

When Merlin pulled away, he knew he was flushed, but he couldn't quite bring himself to scold Arthur for it. It had felt too good. "Good luck, Arthur," he said instead. "Not that you'll need it."

"No. Not with you and Lancelot on my side," he said with a smile.


Next Part


32033 / 50000 words. 64% done!

Comments

Nov. 20th, 2010 11:24 pm (UTC)
looks good. *snugs*
Nov. 21st, 2010 12:12 am (UTC)
Thanks. I'm hitting the wall. :P
Nov. 21st, 2010 12:14 am (UTC)
I'm not even half way through my effort and hit a wall. I think real life doesn't want me to write a book in a month. something comes up each year.
Nov. 21st, 2010 12:14 am (UTC)
it's not a simple thing, definitely. :P
Nov. 21st, 2010 12:17 am (UTC)
The one time I finished, I had a great plot bunny and no family obligations. This year is a so-so plot bunny along with work and family stuff. I may go crawl under my bed and hide. :)
Nov. 21st, 2010 12:34 am (UTC)
I got an entirely different bunny yesterday while I was writing, and wanting to already be at the theatre for a certain movie didn't help, either. And now my brain's full of HP, and it's really hard to hold on to Merlin... :P
Nov. 21st, 2010 12:41 am (UTC)
sounds like you need to shove those HP bunnies into a box for a few days. That or we need to let Remus and Severus have another play date in the near future.
Nov. 21st, 2010 03:23 am (UTC)
Well, actually, that one was another merlin story, but yeah...they all need to shut up and cooperate. :P

But we definitely need to allow the boys another date. ;)
Nov. 26th, 2010 10:21 pm (UTC)
Damned Merlin, makes me all nervous all the time with his worrying! *shakes fist* But I do love the boy.
Nov. 26th, 2010 10:24 pm (UTC)
Yes. As I said... 30% worrying. *sighs* He likes it better when he has something he knows he can do to fix things. ;)