Love and Lakes

Grievous Mistakes

When Merlin finally woke up, he was sitting against a tree again. Arthur wasn’t eating anything: he was staring straight ahead with a hand supporting his head. When he saw Merlin was awake, he lifted up his head and rubbed his temples.

“Good, you’re up.” Arthur seemed much too tired or out of it to annoy Merlin. “I have the worst headache.” Merlin felt instantly guilty, and his eyes flickered to the ground. “All I can remember is walking to go to the lake with you, and then everything just went dark." After a short pause, Arthur continued. "So what happened between you and Freya?” Merlin felt uncomfortable, but he decided to tell him some sort of truth.

“Something happened while I was at the lake, I don’t know... but I think she was coming back to life.” He broke into a smile and rubbed his forehead, finally taking it in that he would have his Freya back. And maybe Arthur would accept her for who she was...

Arthur got up and walked to Merlin, where he clapped him on the back. “That’s great, Merlin. I’m really happy for you.” And he went off into the woods, just putting up his hand and saying, “Getting some firewood. You should keep the fire going, by the way.”

Merlin watched Arthur walk away, and then waited a minute or two afterwards until he was certain Arthur was gone. Then he hunched over the fire and whispered, “Forbearn.”

The flames leaped, and Merlin jumped backwards, watching as the flames calmed down and became totally normal. And then, suddenly, he felt the tip of a sword against his back. Bandits.

Afraid for Arthur, who was definitely not in the best state, Merlin shouted out, "Arthur!" There was no response for a while, and then, suddenly, a quiet one came.

“You lied to me.”

And Merlin, turning around, knowing what he would see but dreading it, saw his best friend with tears in his eyes and the tip of his sword held between Merlin’s shoulder blades. “You lied to me for all these years. And I thought you were my best friend.”

Merlin drew in short breaths and his eyes watered and turned red. “I - I wanted to tell you, Arthur. I-” but Arthur cut him off.

His face was set, and he let a small tear run down his face. His lip was trembling with both fury and sadness. “No. You are a sorcerer. You have betrayed me. Everything we had, everything you did, everything you said isn’t true. You have lied to me, Merlin.” As he went on, his words held more and more venom.

Merlin was crying now too, and drawing in short gasps of breath. “I - I’ve never u-used magic to hurt you, Arthur. I-I’ve only used it f-for you.” For a moment it seemed that Arthur was softened, but he renewed his betrayed expression and Merlin lost hope.

“You have betrayed your people. How does it feel, Merlin? To know that everything you’ve done in the past years has been only to hurt the people who cared for you?” Merlin drew in another sharp breath at his words, but didn’t respond. Arthur gritted his teeth. “How-does-it-feel?!”

Merlin looked up at Arthur, the pain excruciatingly visible in his broken blue eyes. “I never betrayed you.” He forced the words out of his mouth, but he gulped back his tears and gasps. “I would never betray you. I’ve only ever used my magic for you, Arthur, and for Camelot. I would never, ever hurt you.” The words were said so strongly, with such confidence, that Arthur was almost surprised out of his anger.

“I have sacrificed so much for you, Arthur.

I lost Freya. I didn’t tell you, but the reason she’s dead is because you killed her. She’s dead because of you, Arthur, and yet my loyalty never wavered. And William! William was my childhood friend, and he sacrificed himself for you. He died for you. And he told you that the magic you saw in Ealdor was his only to protect me, because he knew that if my magic was still present, you might live more days than you would have. And I still remained loyal to you, after these people died on your behalf.” Arthur was stunned. He hadn’t known any of this, but he felt the guilt rising in his gut.

“The list goes on, Arthur. Balinor, the Dragonlord, died to save me. You know why? Because he was my father. If I had been evil, would all of these good people have died for you and me? Do you think they would have given their lives to betray you? I have lost so much, keeping you safe, risking my own life countless times just to make sure that Camelot still has a King! I have been poisoned, stabbed, hit, punched, stung, kidnapped, tortured, possessed, and pelted with fruit! All to secure the future of Albion. So when I say that I am loyal to you, Arthur Pendragon, I mean it.”

Arthur stepped back, dazed. He had never known his manservant had lost and undergone so much, just for his own sake. Hell, Arthur had even told him to stop crying over his own father’s death! Arthur had thrown things at him, called him names, made fun of him, and made his life difficult, and he never had the decency to realize all that Merlin had done for him.

Merlin rose to his feet, simply shaking with anger. “I wield magic, Arthur, only for the sake of you and Camelot. So kill me, if you want, but know that you will be killing a loyal subject, for that is what I am more than anything.”

Arthur stepped forward, sword still out and pointing towards Merlin despite the fact that his heart wasn’t fully in it. “I don’t understand, Merlin. Why would you choose to study magic, knowing that it is against the law? It is treason!”

Merlin looked at him, and shook his head. “I didn’t choose, Arthur. I was born a sorcerer. I am a warlock, and a powerful one if I do say so myself.” Arthur backed away from him, deterred by how forward and forceful Merlin was being about the whole situation.

Merlin calmed down a bit before saying: “I am Emrys, Arthur. The most powerful sorcerer to ever walk the earth. I know it’s... hard to take in, but it’s true.” Arthur took another step back and shook his head, before raising it to stare at him with newfound terror and fury.

“Emrys.” Arthur said, all the venom back in his voice. “I have heard people refer to the evil sorcerer, Dragoon, as Emrys. You - you are Dragoon! You killed my father!”

Merlin, realizing that the scenario was getting out of hand, was the one to step back this time. “No, I didn’t kill him, I swear-” but Arthur talked over him again.

“Then who did? I know it was Emrys who killed my father, and you are Emrys! You have betrayed me, and committed treason by killing the King!”

Merlin’s eyes widened in horror as he realized that Arthur’s rage was out of control. “No, I swear - I tried to heal him, but it was Morgana - she was the one who killed him! She placed an amulet around his neck that reversed any healing magic! I didn’t know, I swear! But I would never have killed Uther - I would never, ever hurt you, Arthur.”

But Arthur tossed aside his arguments as one would toss aside a used toothpick. “Lies,” he spat, “all lies. You have betrayed me, your friend, and you have killed my father. You will pay, Merlin.”

Merlin felt his anger taking control as well. “Then maybe you shouldn’t have trusted Agravaine! He is the one who really killed Uther as well!” Then he realized the mistake he had made: blaming Arthur for the death of his father.

Arthur dropped his sword, but the look of fire in his eyes burned bright and furious. He stomped towards the retreating figure of Merlin, who was looking very sorry and suddenly helpless.

He punched the side of Merlin’s head, hard, and Arthur’s ring hit his cheek even harder. But when he saw what look was on Merlin’s face, he suddenly realized that he had made a grievous mistake. Merlin was putting his fingers up to his temple, and when they drew away, they were soaked in scarlet blood. He brought his gaze up to Arthur’s guilty face, who wearing a sorry expression and finally sensing that perhaps Merlin was right.

One punch had taken all of the anger and fight out of Arthur, one punch. He remembered the way that the sorcerer who tried to heal his father looked scared, and confused when his father got worse. If that had been Merlin... oh, the eyes. They had the same eyes. It was Merlin, and Merlin really had tried to save him. And Arthur had repaid him by drawing blood.

How could he have done such a thing? Merlin was his faithful friend, one who had gone into battles and fights with him numerous times, one who had sacrificed himself for Arthur more times than Arthur was sure about, one whose loyalty had never wavered for a second, one who he knew was destined to be by his side as long as he lived. And Arthur had believed this one true friend to be a traitor, and by doing so, he had cost himself the most loyal and brave friend he would ever have. Ever.

Merlin’s expression was almost unfathomable. His eyes were cold, dead and hard, and his fingers were still halfway between where his knees were squatting on the ground and the injury on his face. His face was pale, and his mouth was set in a straight line. “Goodbye, Arthur.” He muttered.

And then, the most important man in Arthur’s life got up and walked away.
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