Arthur could barely contain his excitement, finally they had reached Camelot. Their entire group had been marose ever since Merlin had laid into them about their place in the kingdom but now they were just inside the tree line surrounding his home and he couldn’t wait to finally be back within the citadel. Looking around he searched for signs of this person Merlin had said would be there to help them, and yet still could not detect signs of any other life. He was beginning to worry that they had been tricked and that maybe Merlin was working for Nimuhe all along. They were both magic users after all.
Glancing at the others he found that at least a few of them were beginning to share his unease with every moment they just stood here watching as the Great Dragon circled their home from above. The smoke that rose from Camelot told him that the dragon had, at least at first, taken his anger out on their home. Now though he just seemed to be waiting for something, them most likely.
“Alright Mer-lin where is this help of yours? That dragon isn’t going to just die of old age.” That earned him a look of such exasperation he was tempted to duck his head like he used to when he was a boy. He felt like he’d just been scolded without any words having been spoken.
“I never said that Kilgharrah would die. I only said that he would not be a problem for you. I will send him where I sent Mary when we first met.”
“What! Why would you think to spare the life of such a mindless monster?” That thing was a ravaging beast, why would anyone spare it?
“He isn’t mindless, he’s justifiably angry, and more than anything he deserves peace after being imprisoned for so long and I will grant him that. I know of a place where he will be safe and happy. A haven for all those that Camelot has broken.” Without another word he walked away from them and into the clearing just beyond right into view of the dragon.
He knew that Merlin was stupid he just never thought he was that stupid. Just as he was preparing to draw his sword and try to defend the fool Merlin opened his mouth and let out a mighty roar to rival any beast he’d ever hunted. The sound caught the attention of the dragon overhead and sent it hurtling towards Merlin who was just standing there waiting for it like he didn’t have a care in the world. He felt the tension in the group and tried to figure out what their next move would be. They needed Merlin if they wanted any hope of winning and the fool was just standing there about to get himself killed.
Just as he was about to grab his sword and do something drastic and reckless the dragon slowed it’s descent and landed smoothly just in front of Merlin with a look of wonder on his face.
“Dragon Lord.” It could speak?
“Kilgharrah, I feel your agony and I have come to help you. I apologize for not doing so sooner but I was not strong enough before and many told me the story of your imprisonment was a myth. I did not know enough to save you and my heart bleeds for having failed you so.”
“You did not fail me Dragon Lord, you live that is enough. I cannot abandon my vengeance, my kin are all lost to me, this is the only path left to me. Destruction is all there is.” The beast sounded so resigned, as though he truly had no choice.
He saw the tears in Merlin’s eyes and found them mirrored in many of his companions.
“Not the only path no, just the only one you know, I have another for you. Two years ago a man came to me seeking my aid to gain a dragon egg. I went with this man and found exactly what he’d said, he wanted it for his own to have a dragon at his command to help him rule the world, I disagreed. You have kin Kilgharrah, her name is Aithusa and though she is young yet I know she would benefit greatly from having you by her side. Will you go?”
“Where?” The dragon sounded raw and ragged as though it were being offered a helping hand in the darkness that it never thought to see again.
Overcome with emotion the dragon did no more than fly away towards this Aithusa and his new life.
Arthur wanted to be angry, the plan had been to kill the dragon, but he knew that this would work just as well. All they really needed was for the dragon to be gone, he wouldn’t argue about how when they were this close to regaining all that he had lost.
Merlin watched Kilgharrah leave and tried to put him from his mind, there was still so much left to be done. Turning back to the group he had traveled so far with he raised a brow in question.
“Well, what are you waiting for?”
He watched them all move quickly towards Camelot and tried to make a decision with every step he took. He would not help Uther Pendragon, he couldn’t, not if he wanted to be able to look at himself in the mirror come the morning. Yet, he had made a few friends and he couldn’t just leave them to die, and die they would, Nimuhe was just too powerful for them to defeat without him.
He knew she would never go to Haven, her self-hatred too great to allow that, she blamed herself for what Uther had done. If he did this it could only end with her death and he didn’t know if he could do that. Not for Uther.
Hearing his name he looked up to see Gwen a few feet away with a small smile of gratitude on her face waiting for him. He would not help Uther himself but he could not leave his friends to die. With every step he told himself he was doing this for the innocents of Camelot and for no other reason, he told himself that Uther didn’t matter, he told himself that he would believe it if he said it enough.
Arthur found himself at a crossroads so to speak. His father was in the dungeons to the left while Nimueh his enemy was in the throne room to the right. Looking at Merlin he silently asked what to do, hoping no one else saw his moment of indecision and weakness.
“You go to your father, I will not help that man, I will deal with Nimuhe. Do not search for me once this is done, I will not be here.”
For a moment he saw indecision on the faces of every member of their group until everyone was forced to make their choice of who to follow. Unsurprisingly Gwaine immediately followed Merlin. He and Leon moved towards the dungeon, stopping after a few steps to look back at the remaining three who still stood stock still at the center looking from right to left.
“Are you coming?” That seemed to spur them on and they followed him towards the dungeon and their king. The whole way he couldn’t help but feel as though he was going the wrong way.
Arthur raced into the dungeon looking for his father, he found him in a cell of his own chained to the wall.
“Father!” Do see the man he had admired his entire life treated so callously was nearly too much for him, he was shaking with rage. If he said it enough he would believe it he was sure, fear was never to be given into after all.
“Arthur? No son you must flee the sorceress will know you are here.”
“Don’t worry father, she’s been handled.” Well she would be at least, he hoped. It hadn’t occurred to him before that Merlin might lose in his fight with Nimueh, but for some reason even with that fleeting doubt in his mind his faith in their victory was unshaken.
“Handled? How?” Taking a deep breath he told his father everything as he worked to free him from his bonds. He could hear the others working to free the rest of the knights and couldn’t suppress a smile of victory. If Merlin succeeded then their home would be their’s again.
“You sided with a sorcerer.” The scorn in his father’s voice wiped the joy from his face.
“Father we had no other choice.” He pleaded his case, trying to make him understand that there had been no other way.
“What if he joins forces with her? What if he betrays you?” While the words should have been questions they sounded more like fact to his ears, as if Merlin’s defection was a foregone conclusion with the only fact in question being how long it would take him to do so. Was that true? Would Merlin’s greed and lust for power inherent in every magic user overtake his conviction to help them?
“He won’t.” Merlin would never do that, he was a magic user but he was honorable, something he had believed impossible before now.
“He will! He is a creature of magic betrayal is all they know. Gather the knights we must make haste to the throne room and try to salvage this situation.”
No he was wrong Merlin wouldn’t betray them. Would he?
Gwaine didn’t know what to do, he found himself useless during the whole fight between his friend and the sorceress. So he just stepped back out of the line of fire and watched. As terrifying as the sight was it was also completely mesmerizing. He had never seen such power used so casually before, and part of him hoped to never see it again.
“Why are you, as powerful as you are, helping the Pendragon?” She seemed genuinely curious, and even slightly hurt by the fact that Merlin was standing against her. It reminded him a bit of Merlin’s own hurt after being forced to stand against Edwin.
“I’m not helping Uther, I would never help that mad man, no I’m helping the innocent people here, the ones you would kill out of spite.” His friend spat the king’s name as though having it on the tip of his tongue caused him physical pain. There really was no love lost there for Uther.
“How do you know they’re innocent?” In his opinion no one over the age of sixteen was ever really innocent, but he managed to bite his tongue and keep that to himself, no reason to distract his friend during a fight with that altogether un-helpful little fact.
“How do you know they’re not? I may not like them or what they stand for, but I would hate it even more if I were to become them. I will not turn a blind eye.” His words seemed to shake the woman, her face became pale while her eyes sparked with her anger.
She threw spell after spell at his friend and he just shrugged them off as though they were nothing at all. She grew weaker, angrier, and more frustrated with every deflected attack. She’d even tried throwing a few his way, but apparently his friend had already been prepared for that and they never even got close to him before they hit some sort of invisible barrier. To be honest the first spell that was sent his way made him want to check his trousers but now it was more funny than anything watching everything she tried bounce off in a shower of sparks without even getting close enough to make him worry.
“Join me Merlin, with your power we could rule this world together, you would be a king, a god among men.” After seeing their fight he believed her too. He held his breath waiting for his friend’s response, though he didn’t know why, he’d only known the man a few days and he already knew him well enough to know that the lure of power held no sway over him.
“I don’t want to rule.” With that said and her offer rejected, the fighting began again, though by now she was so exhausted and strained it was rather pathetic and sad to watch.
When it was finally over Merlin stood unscathed among the rubble and Nimuhe lay at his feet exhausted and bleeding.
“What will you do warlock? Will you kill me or leave me for Uther? Either way how will you ever clean your hands of the blood of your kin that stains them?” Now that was just cruel to say something like that. He thought to speak up, to help his friend but it would seem his moral support was as unneeded as his sword skills. In response to her vicious words he just smiled.
“You did this to yourself. You were always going to end up here, you know that as well as I do. No one can derail the prophecy of the Once and Future King, not even you priestess.”
“Uther is no King!” The very idea of Uther being who they were talking about seemed to fill her with rage, but the look on her face spoke more of nausea. The thought of it seemed to make them both sick.
“No, but Arthur will be. As for your question of your fate, that is for you to decide. If you swear to not attack Camelot again fo-”
“Never! They deserve to be brought low, just as we were. We were once a proud strong race, looking at you I see you are yet too young to remember this but we once stood tall side by side with these citizens of Camelot. They were our friends, for some even our families, then Uther’s plague of hatred and fear began to spread and we lost everything. Why should they have all they want and we be left with nothing, not even the right to live out our days without being hunted and caged like animals?” He had never heard it put quite like that, but looking at Merlin and his quiet acceptance of the facts laid before him he knew it was true.
While all those without magic looked at Uthers efforts to eradicate it as extreme, none had ever truly stood and told him so to his face. They were right, everyone did turn a blind eye to the madness of Uther Pendragon. Not anymore though, now that he had a friend he would stand by him through whatever came their way, and he would face it all head on like it seemed that Merlin did every day.
“Like I was saying if you agree to not attack Camelot again for six months then I will let you go, by the time Uther reaches the throne room you will be long gone and free to fight another day.”
“Why would you do that? You fight for them now, why would you let me go?” Good question, why defeat her just to let her go and allow her to do this again.
“Because they need to learn, they bring attacks like this on themselves and if I just make it all go away then they learn nothing. Do you give me your word?”
“I do. I will not attack Camelot for six months, this I swear.” Somehow this vow seemed to have an almost physical weight to it, like breaking it would bring more than just shame upon the oath taker.
“Very well go in peace.” With a wave of his hand she disappeared before his eyes with a look of almost manic joy on her face, well of course she was happy she got to live to fight another day with a near built in grace period to plan a better attack for her next salvo.
“So Gwaine, do you intend to stay in Camelot?” Oh yeah, right they probably had to leave soon if they wanted to keep their heads, didn’t they?
“Stay here? No! This place is too stuffy, far too many rules for me, no I’ll find somewhere else to be.” Hopefully without touring any of the dungeons here first.
“Would you care to see my home then?” Of course he would, anywhere Merlin laid his head had to be full of wonders after all. He had heard enough about this Haven he was eager to see it for himself.
“Thought you’d never ask. When?”
Just then the door burst open and dozens of knights filled the room followed closely by their King.
“Works for me, let’s get out of here.” With a wave of his hand they were both engulfed in swirling lights and colors that seemed to dance along his skin. He was right, this was wonderful already.
Arthur, Leon, Gwen, Morgana, and Gaius all made it to the room just in time to see Gwaine and Merlin disappear in a flurry of light much like Mary Collins had when they’d first met him. He was gone, as was Nimuhe, just as he said he’d be and Uther was livid.
“Someone send to our allies, tell them we need to convene a war council, there is a threat to our Kingdoms.”
They all looked at one another unsure about what to do. Merlin had just saved their home and now Uther wanted to destroy his. What do they do now?
Merlin stood on the balcony that overlooked all of Haven and tried to reign in his racing thoughts. Uther had declared war against him and was calling a council with all of his allies to try and destroy him and everything he had built here. He’d been neutral for so long he didn’t know if he remembered how to be anything else. All he knew for certain was that he would not give up his home without a fight. Uther had destroyed his home once, engulfed it in flames, he would not allow him to do it a second time.