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Finding King Arthur - Part 22

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: This is not quite all of it, but the rest will be posted tomorrow.  Nearly there now.  And I'm going to run over to the site and see if I've made it higher by their count.  Word and their count never quite come out the same.

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 | Part 18 | Part 19 | Part 20
Part 21


Thirty-Four
Coronation

A quick coronation was performed right there in front of the cheering crowds, and Merlin for once felt glad that the ministers didn't feel confident to make their own choices. The crowd cheered as the coronet was placed on Arthur's head.

He turned and smiled at them. "Thank you. And I promise you, Camelot, that all will be restored once more. In a few days, once the representatives from other lands can arrive, we will have a formal coronation, and there will be a great feast—to celebrate Camelot's rice once more!"

The people cheered again, then slowly began to disperse.

Morgana looked at Arthur, glowering with every bit of loathing in her. "So… now that you've won, I suppose you'll arrest your little friend here?" she asked, pointing at Merlin.

Arthur raised an eyebrow. "Why? For defacing the courtyard?" He glanced at the stone where Excalibur had rested, then back at her.

"For using magic! Which, if you will recall… is illegal here in Camelot… "

"Using magic against others… yes. Using it to help his kingdom? I don't think that is a punishable offense. Particularly since he had his monarch's permission."

"Did he, now? And how do we know you are not just his puppet?" she asked, glowering.

"Because, Morgana dear, he was the one who came looking for me. And he has nothing to answer for. You, on the other hand… refused to even recognize me when I arrived. Dare I ask why? Or do I even need to?"

She scowled. "I'm still not sure you're not just an imposter he found somewhere… "

"Is that why you're hoping to see him punished, Morgana?" He nodded to the minister who had placed the coronet on his head. "Let's move this inside. We don't need that much of an audience for this. Lancelot, Gwaine… would you make sure that Cenred and Agravaine join us?"

"Gladly, sire," Lancelot answered, his hand going around Cenred's arm.

"Let go of me! I am a king… "

"Yes… but here you are just another man who was after my Lord's throne, and until he as dealt with you, you're not free to go."

Gwaine smirked at Agravaine, who huffed. "I'm going."

The other knights followed behind, with Merlin, Arthur, and Morgana leading the way.

There was a moment of surreality when Arthur settled onto the throne. Merlin was glad that he managed without hesitation, though. This wasn't a moment for doubt. The ministers fell into place on either side of the throne, and Arthur motioned Merlin to stand behind and beside it.

Merlin didn't let himself think about it, just went where Arthur had indicated, then waited to see what he would do next.

Morgana frowned, glowering at Arthur where he sat. "Now what will you do? Do you even remember him?"

"Better than you know, Morgana," he said sadly. "I wish you'd not let her poison you this way. If you'd come to me… "

"What? You'd have told me you understand? You can't possibly," she spat. "You're just like him. Ready and willing to toss away those who might help you!"

"Does Merlin look as though I've tossed him away, Morgana? As I recall, you were the one who had wanted to do that… "

"That's because I thought he might be trying to put an imposter on the throne."

"Yes… let's look into that, shall we?" Arthur said with a bland smile, waving at the guards at the doors to the side hall. They opened them, and Hector and Kay came in. It had been a few days since they'd last been to see them. Kay looked a bit miffed, but Hector was looking rather sheepish. He bowed as soon as he was in front of the throne, prostrating himself.

"Please, your majesty… mercy… I never meant to harm you… "

"But you know who I was?" Arthur asked.

"Not… at first. Not when they brought you to me… All I was told was to keep you safe and comfortable, sire. I never meant to cause you trouble… "

"And yet you never saw fit to inform me of who I truly was. And even hid my origins from me, going so far as to make up lies about why I was staying with you… "

"Sire… please… I was told that your life was in danger, and that if you were to survive, I should keep you there, and not let you leave… "

"And who was it who told you such a thing?" Arthur asked.

Hector was silent for a moment, and then his eyes landed on Cenred. It hadn't been who Merlin had expected, but it wasn't exactly a surprise. He and Morgana had obviously planned this together. Hector pointed at the man. "Him, sire. Or at least, his men. I believed they were your friends, and wanted to see you taken care of until they returned. I did not know who you were, sire, I swear."

Arthur frowned, nodding. "Thank you, Hector. I will… take that into consideration when you are judged." The man paled, but nodded. Arthur looked at the guards. "The room near the dungeons. She that they are treated well, comfortable and fed. But they are not to leave the room until I say."

The guard nodded, then led them from the room, and everyone's eyes turned to Cenred.

"I know why you did it, Cenred. Your ambition to take Camelot yours has long been an issue between us. But I am also certain you could not have pulled off the magic that hid my memory from me. If you wish to take the full blame, so be it. But I would suggest you tell me who else has plotted against me."

Cenred sneered at him. "Or what?"

Arthur met his eyes. "Or I assure you, expulsion from Camelot will become the least of your worries."

Cenred scowled. "And why should I worry about your threats, Pendragon? It's only because of magic you sit on that throne now. Magic fades. And when your people realize what you've done to get there, they will desert you."

"I see. So you won't tell me who has been plotting with you to take my throne? Perhaps even poisoned King Uther herself?"

Cenred faltered at that. "'Her?' And what makes you think I would work with a woman?"

Arthur flashed his teeth in what would normally be a smile, but even from beside the throne, Merlin could see it was a grimace. "Because I know my sister, Cenred. And you fought for her as her champion. Why else would you have done such a thing?"

Cenred glowered at Arthur. "I assure you, it is pure coincidence, Pendragon. I have no master."

"No. Just a mistress. I notice she's kept carefully away from things, and left you and Morgana to take the fall for her… as usual. But then, she is a good example why my father distrust magic users. Using her magic to twist the truth… and letting others take the blame… " His eyes moved to Morgana, who looked furious. "And where is she, Morgana? Do you know? Has she been staying here in the palace? Feeding you more venom to increase your hatred even of the things you once loved?"

"I don't know what you mean. No one has been 'feeding' me anything I did not know before. That your father was more interested in protecting himself and his own secrets to worry about others' feelings."

"Don't you mean our father, Morgana?" he asked, his voice soft, but still somehow filling the hall so that no one could fail to make out the words.

"My father died in a war Uther sent him to fight. My father is dead," she said, eyes flashing.

"So you felt it necessary to bring him down to avenge the man you consider your father?"

"At least he died doing something he believed in. Uther died in his lies. Alone!"

Merlin stepped forward. "He wasn't. Gaius might have been sick by that point, but after he fell ill… I never left his side."

She glowered up at him. "How could you? Don't you understand that he would have killed you in a moment? Why do you stand with his son, who will eventually lead you to the same fate? You are a fool, Merlin. And it will be your downfall."

"I stood with him because despite everything, he was the rightful king. And his son will be the greatest king that Camelot has ever seen. All of England, in fact. And I told him so before he died. That I would stand by his son, and use all my skills to make him the best king ever to rule this land."

"You are a fool," she repeated, raising her chin. Her gaze shifted back to Arthur. "Do your worst. It will change nothing."

Arthur sighed. "If you will not give her up… I suppose you are right. I do wish that I had been able to stop her from poisoning you against us. I know you and father often had disputes, but I had hoped that eventually… "

She huffed. "Uther Pendragon never cared for anyone but himself. You were living in a fantasy, Arthur. I'm the one who knew him for what he truly was. A monster."

"A man," Arthur countered, sighing. "A man who made regrettable choices, and who let anger rule him." He looked sad. "But despite his mistakes, he did care, Morgana. Your loss is that you can no longer see it. Because you let your anger rule you as he did."

"Never! I'm nothing like him," she hissed.

Arthur shook his head, then sat back. "As you are both leaders in your respective lands, for now you will simply be escorted to the borders. But should you try to return, or worse, attempt to wrest this kingdom from me once more, you will pay. Don't doubt that I will be swift and fierce against those who hurt mine."

He glanced to the knights, then scowled. "And you, Agravaine? What was your part in this? Was she to give you your own dukedom? Make you her consort? What did she promise you?"

Agravaine's eyes narrowed. "I don't know what you mean, my lord. I was merely taking part in the tournament. Surely that was allowed?"

"And the dagger that my man found on your person? What had it been dipped in?"

Apparently, Agravaine had hoped that the dagger had simply vanished. Merlin was glad it had been found near the stands later by one of the knights who had supported Arthur. "I don't know what you mean, sire… "

"No… I'm sure not." He sighed again. "I had hoped, being cousins might mean more than petty rivalries. Very well… as you made an attempt on my person, you will be banished from Camelot for life. Should you return, you will be put to death. I will offer you no second chance to try to take my life."

Agravaine opened his mouth to protest, but Arthur shook his head. "I do not know if your ambitions were your own, or if you were helping Morgana take my kingdom, but either way, the sentence is the same. My trusted men will take the three of you to the border, and once you leave Camelot, none of you are to return." He met their eyes. "I will not be so merciful next time. Regardless of rank."

He looked at the knights who stood behind them, and Merlin was glad that most of them met Arthur's eyes easily, even eagerly. Most would stand by him. The ones that wouldn't… well, they could work on that later.

"Bors… Leon… escort these three and their people to the borders? Take as many guards as you need."

The two knights bowed low with a murmured chorus of "Yes, sire." Then they were leading the three, still glowering, from the hall.

Arthur stood. "We will need to make plans for a proper coronation, but for now, I would like to retire. Merlin?"

Merlin stepped to his side. "Yes, sire."

Arthur smiled softly at him, then looked out over the small crowd who had followed them in. "Gwaine… Lancelot… and Guinevere… If the four of you could follow me? I'd like to speak with you all in private." The other three moved to walk beside him as he left the hall, and led the way up to his rooms.


Thirty-Five
Private Arrangements

Once inside the room, Arthur looked around at them all. "I wanted to thank you personally before I offered you each roles in my new kingdom. You've all done more than I can repay… but I'm afraid I need to ask you all to sacrifice a bit more."

Merlin frowned, looking down. Hadn't he already given enough? Of course, he'd known that he would give anything for Arthur, even before they'd found him again.

Arthur looked at him, then glanced toward Gwaine. "I need more knights, Gwaine. Those currently here at Camelot will never be enough. I need men like you and Lancelot that I can trust."

"And you trust me?" Gwaine said, looking slightly startled.

"Well… with certain things," Arthur said, smiling. "You're an excellent fighter, and after I knight you tomorrow… "

"Whoa… wait… who said I wanted to be knighted?"

"As I said… we'll all be making sacrifices. Surely it's better than being banished?"

"I was doing just fine being banished," Gwaine said. "Maybe I even enjoyed it… have you thought of that?"

"Then why did you come help search for me?"

Gwaine glanced at Merlin, then met Arthur's eyes once more. "I always help out my friends when they ask for it."

"I see… well… your choice. Do let me know by tomorrow whether I'll be banishing you as well… ?" Arthur said, and Merlin thought he could see a slight smirk around the corners of Arthur's mouth.

Gwaine glared at him for a minute, then sighed. "Oh, very well. Where is it you need me to go, exactly?"

Arthur grinned, then clapped a hand on his shoulder. "We'll discuss it tomorrow. Go relax. Find someone to flirt with. I need to talk to these three… if you don't mind?"

Gwaine bowed mockingly low, then smirked. "As you wish, sire… " He glanced at the others. "I'll see you all later, I suppose… "

They all nodded and smiled as he left, but Merlin felt his stomach twisting. He had a feeling he knew what would come next. And he wasn't going to like it. He supposed he and Lancelot would be asked to stay to witness his betrothal. It wasn't something he was looking forward to.

Arthur waited until the door had closed behind Gwaine before looking at the three of them each in turn. "I… have something I need the three of you to help me decide on," he finally said. "As king… I will need a queen. And an heir." Merlin's heart sank at the words, gritting his teeth for what would follow.

"Guinevere… You are so patient and kind… and I know you will be a good queen."

Meriln heard her intake of breath through a rushing in his ears.

"Arthur… "

"Wait… I'm not done. The problem is… I thought I'd loved you, but… well… I think you have the same problem as I? Well… perhaps not the same… "

Merlin frowned. What on earth was Arthur talking about? He looked up to see Arthur looking at Lancelot. "Do you love her."

Lancelot's answer was startled. "I… do, sire."

"And you love him, Gwen?"

She was silent for a long time before she answered. "Yes. I am sorry, Arthur."

He smiled sadly, then nodded, then looked at Merlin. "You have no need to be sorry, Gwen." He held out his hand to Merlin. "Come here, Merlin. Stop looking as though I'm about to put you to death."

Confused, Merlin moved closer, though he didn't take Arthur's hand. He felt too awkward in front of Gwen and Lancelot. "What… do you need?" he asked, the words automatic after years of taking care of Arthur.

Arthur smiled a bit wider, and slid his arm around Merlin's waist. He didn't bother answering Merlin's question, but rather, looked at Lancelot and Gwen. "As you can see… my… choice… makes it difficult to ensure an heir. I know it is… too much to ask… but will the two of you help us?"

Gwen's eyes grew round. "Merlin?" After a moment, she smiled, then moved to hug him. "Of course we will," she said, then faltered, looking back at Lancelot before meeting Arthur's eyes again. "You… still want me to be queen, don't you?"

He nodded. "I know it is not a simple choice. But Camelot has been too long without a queen… and Merlin here simply won't do. It is not a simple choice, but there is no one else I can trust with this secret. And no one else I would be willing to make queen." Arthur met Lancelot's eyes. "Forgive me, my friend?"

There was pain in Lancelot's eyes as he answered. "There is nothing to forgive. We would do anything to assure Camelot's peace." His arm slid from around Gwen's waist. "She… has promised me nothing. If she wishes to be your queen… "

"You misunderstand, Lancelot. I need you both. You to stand as the leader of the knights. The best of my men. The only one with a chance to truly best me… " He smiled. "In private… she is yours. And… if you should have a son… I will make him my heir."

"Arthur… " Gwen's eyes went wide. "What are you saying?"

"Be my queen, and my wife… and your children will be my heirs. Only the four of us will know who their father truly is."

Both Lancelot and Gwen looked stunned.

"You… would make a commoner your heir?" Lancelot finally asked, the shock still plain in his voice.

"No. Because he won't be raised a commoner. He will be my queen's son… and that is all anyone need know." Arthur smiled. "Take the night. Talk it out between the two of you. You do not have to answer right away. Come back in the morning and tell us?"

Merlin couldn't help but wonder what he would do if they said no. But he bit his lip and kept quiet.

"But… " Gwen started, but Lancelot cut her off, pulling her close once more.

"We'll do that, Arthur." He smiled. "Thank you."


Next Part


45025 / 50000 words. 90% done!

Comments

Nov. 28th, 2010 06:47 pm (UTC)
Aw, Arthur! <3

Such an intense chapter! Gosh. Lots going on! I have to say, though, that the conversation just as Arthur sits on the throne is very confusing at first and parts later on in that segment is also kind of hard to follow. But I managed! :-) So that's a note for when you edit.
Nov. 28th, 2010 06:49 pm (UTC)
*nods* It is kind of all over the place...which is how I am right now, so I suppose that's not a shock. :P Sorry about that.

<3 Does your Arthur approve of this one's solution?
Nov. 28th, 2010 06:54 pm (UTC)
*nods* That makes sense.

<3 He does! But mine is a bit miffed that he won't have his own kids. It does make sense, though.
Nov. 28th, 2010 07:04 pm (UTC)
Yeah, we can't blame him there. *snugs*
Nov. 28th, 2010 07:03 pm (UTC)
She that they are treated well, comfortable and fed. But they are not to leave the room until I say."
See instead of she?
~~
But then, she is a good example why my father distrust magic users.
Should this be past tense instead of present?

~~
and the rest looks great. :D


Nov. 28th, 2010 07:04 pm (UTC)
Thanks, hon! :D