"I…" Emma swallowed, and took a deep breath before steeling herself and opening her mouth.
"Merlin, I know what you are. I know that you have magic."
To say that they were surprised would be an understatement of massive proportions. Merlin's mouth dropped, and Gaius just stared at her with shocked eyes.
Apparently the complete randomness of that confession had shocked them enough that it took Merlin a full minute to try denying it.
"I… I… I don't know what you're talking about. I don't have magic." Merlin contradicted, but his argument sounded weak even to her.
"I'm not going to tell anyone, I swear." Emma promised quietly, ignoring his terrible job at a denial. "I know that magic is illegal in Camelot."
"Really?" Merlin asked anxiously. All of his fears of being discovered and his desperation for acceptance just seemed to leak out in that one word.
She gave him a small smile. "Really. It doesn't bother me that you have magic, and I'm not going to tell anyone. I'll swear it on my life, or give you my word, or whatever it is that you do when you make serious promises around here."
Merlin's anxiousness calmed somewhat, and Gaius finally relaxed his shocked pose, but still looked suspicious. "How did you find out?" Gaius asked.
Well, actually she learned about them from the legends of King Arthur and they were confirmed by an overly annoying voice in her head, but she couldn't exactly talk about that at this point.
"I overheard you two talking." Emma said instead. "When we first came back to Camelot. You were telling Gaius about what had happened with the bandits, and Gaius, you were talking about something called the Purge, and how Camelot has been attacked several times because of it. You warned Merlin to be extra careful not to say anything about his magic around me, because you weren't sure if I could be trusted." She finished in a tone that was not at all accusing, but understanding.
She may not understand what the situation was exactly with magic in Camelot, but she knew enough from what she had heard of their conversation to understand why they had been wary of her.
Both Merlin and Gaius seemed to flinch at her statement. "I'm sorry about that, Emma." Merlin apologized soundly.
"You have nothing to be sorry for." Emma gave him an understanding smile. "I may not know much about the situation in Camelot, but I gathered enough to know that if the wrong person finds out about your magic, that you could be killed for it. In that case, trusting a complete stranger would be stupid on your part. I understand that, and so neither of you has anything to be sorry for. I'm the one who is supposed to prove that I'm trustworthy to you, not the other way around."
Merlin gave her a blazing grin before pulling her into an unexpected hug. Heart leaping in her chest, Emma returned the hug before pulling back to give him a confused look. "Thank you. For not revealing my secret." Merlin thanked her breathlessly.
Emma returned the grin as understanding hit her. "Of course." Then, as another thought came to her, she bit her lip before asking, "I was wondering. Could you show me? Your magic, I mean."
Merlin just stared at her wordlessly for a moment, and then his lopsided grin got even bigger. "Sure." He agreed. Cupping his hands, he whispered, "Forbearnan". With a flash of his eyes, to Emma's shock and amazement, a small orange and yellow flame blinked into existence in the palm of his hand. It jumped around merrily, like any other flame, yet it didn't seem to burn his hand.
In awe, Emma reached out a hand before she pulled back slightly. "Can I…" she motioned to the small flame. When Merlin nodded, she slowly reached her fingers out towards the small flickering flame. As her fingers got close to the flame, she instinctively flinched her hand back, expecting her hand to be burned. To her utter surprise, it didn't hurt her hand at all!
Gathering more courage, Emma held her fingers over the flame without flinching. "It's warm!" She uttered, in shock and awe at the sight of the small flame that didn't actually burn either of their hands.
Innumerable emotions flooded through her in a rush at that moment. At that moment, she realized that she truly wasn't dreaming, and she was actually in Camelot, with the wizard Merlin (who apparently wasn't actually an old man! Her history teacher was going to be shocked when he found out). Magic actually exists, she had actually met Prince Arthur, and she was actually in the past. In the past!
Although a small part of her was worried about that, and stunned that magic actually exists, most of her was concentrating on the small flame that had materialized into existence. It was beautiful!
Merlin watched Emma's face carefully as he brought the flame jumping to life in his hand. All of his life, whenever anyone without magic had seen any type of magic being done, there was usually screaming, running, and/or yelling for guards involved. At the very least, most people were afraid or wary whenever they saw anything like magic.
But with Emma, there was none of that. There was absolutely no fear running through her face, just a look of awe and wonder. Something in that gaze gave Merlin a sense of happiness, and he decided to take it another step further to see what she would think.
With another flash of his eyes, the fire condensed and shifted to form a small curled up dragon the size of a golf ball. A touch of magic, and the fire dragon began to uncurl, spreading its wings and stretching out its neck before taking off in flight, flying circles and fancy acrobatics in front of them.
"Wow. It's beautiful." Emma breathed, watching the tiny dragon flying fancily through the air. After a few more turns and spins, the small dragon of fire blinked out of existence as Merlin ended the spell.
"That was amazing!" Emma gushed happily, grabbing at Merlin's arm. "I've never seen anything like it. Thank you."
"No, thank you." Merlin replied, a happy smile forming and refusing to leave. "It's great to use magic in front of someone without them yelling for guards."
"Believe me, that's that last thing I'll be doing." Emma looked thoughtful for a moment before she asked, "I know next to nothing about Camelot and its history. Why is magic illegal? What was the Purge? Merlin, why are you even here if magic is illegal and you could be killed for it if caught?"
"Eat your supper, and then we can talk." Gaius motioned to the forgotten food in front of them, finally joining in the conversation.
Both young adults quickly dug into their food so that they could get to the story. Once they were done, the story of the Purge came out. Merlin and Gaius took turns telling of the death of a queen, the grief of a king, and how that grief had cemented into rage against anyone with magic. Then Merlin told her about how he had been sent to Camelot when his powers had grown. How he had saved Prince Arthur's life at that first banquet, and how he had been given a job as Arthur's manservant by the king as a reward.
"And so I've become Arthur and Camelot's secret guardian, defending the city from the shadows against magical threats, or threats of any kind really." Merlin finished solemnly. By this time, the sky outside was black, and several candles were sitting on the table, giving light to the area.
"Wow." Emma said simply, her mind still in the process of being blown. Learning about history in a musty old classroom is so much different from experiencing it, and hearing about it from someone who was actually there. Emma mused.
"Now, Emma, you should get some sleep. While you may not have had any serious side effects from your concussion, you still need to get plenty of rest." Gaius ordered, shifting into the in-charge physician tone, complete with the raised eyebrow.
Emma tried to argue, considering she never went to bed so early back home. "But…"
"No, I won't hear any argument. You two can talk about magic at another time, right now, you both should get to bed." Gaius said sternly, throwing a glance at his ward.
Although she wanted to argue more, Emma got the feeling that she was being ushered out so that Gaius and Merlin could talk on their own, without her listening. "Yes, sir." Emma sighed petulantly.
"The room up those steps is mine. You can use my bed." Said Merlin, motioning towards the right door for emphasis.
"No buts, Emma." Merlin told her firmly. "You are the guest. Besides, I want to."
Giving up on arguing when it obviously wasn't getting her anywhere, Emma just shook her head slightly and smiled. "Thanks, Merlin." She replied, grabbing her backpack to take with her. She trudged up the steps and closed the door behind her.
Merlin and Gaius watched as Emma tiredly plodded up the stairs and quietly shut the door behind her.
"She really is something." Merlin said quietly, mindful of the fact that the door to his room wasn't very thick. "How was she this afternoon? What did you think of her?"
"She seemed like a very sweet young lady." Gaius replied. "Very curious, and with a bright mind as well. We were talking about medicine for some of the time, and she even seemed a little knowledgeable on it."
"When she went to see Arthur this afternoon, she told Arthur about where she came from. From what I've heard, she's had a rough time of it. Both of her parents are dead; apparently she came to escape a war, and to start over." Merlin explained.
Gaius looked thoughtful for a minute. "Well, she knows about your magic now. You'll have to make sure to keep an eye on her, just in case." He put a hand up to quell Merlin's reply when he opened his mouth indignantly, and continued, "I know that you believe she is trustworthy, and I believe that too. Her reaction and words seemed genuine, and she seems like a very sweet person. But you can never be too careful, especially with a secret like yours."
"Yeah, you're right." Merlin sighed. "I should also get some sleep, Arthur wants to be woken up early tomorrow for training."
"All right, my boy. Good night." Gaius said, offering him a blanket.
"Good night, Gaius." Merlin said, grabbing the proffered blanket and yawning into his hand as he also walked up the stairs into his room. He knocked lightly, just in case, and when no sound was heard he opened the door.
Inside, Emma had conked out on his bed, already breathing deeply and sound asleep. She was laying on her stomach with her head to the side, and her hand was on her pack which was laying against the left side of the bed.
"Good night, Emma." Merlin whispered softly, spreading out the blanket on the hard floor and using bags as a pillow. Not too much later, he also fell asleep and entered the land of dreams and infinite possibilities.
The next morning, Emma awoke to a stream of sunlight hitting her square in the face through the open window. She smiled dreamily for a moment before sitting up in bed, panicked. "My alarm! Why didn't…"
Her voice trailed off as she looked around the room, and remembered where she was. "Right. I don't have an alarm. Because I'm in Camelot, and electricity hasn't been discovered yet. And I'm staying with Merlin, the wizard." She giggled madly. "Merlin! A real life wizard! Oh my gosh, I still can't believe it! Even though I'm trapped in the past, and may never go home," A pang of sadness rushed through her at that thought, but she pushed it down, "which totally sucks, that is still so cool!"
Looking around the room once more, Emma realized that she was alone. Although she briefly wondered where Merlin was, that gave her an opportunity to look through her backpack without anyone seeing what was inside.
Picking up her bag, and dumping out everything inside onto the small cot. There was her water bottle, some food that had gotten slightly squished, the pain meds that she was thanking God for, and a few other items. But the thing that made her the most nervous about anybody finding tumbled out last. It, like the knife, had been a gift from her father that she carried around with her almost everywhere. What was it that made her so nervous?
It was a history book.
Her father had always been a history buff. He absolutely loved learning and quoting facts and dates at her even if they didn't fit the situation. The book was supposed to be an 18th birthday present, although he hadn't had a chance to give it to her before…
No, don't think of that right now. Emma told herself.
The book itself was rather plain looking, with only a light brown leather cover that made it look rather like many of the books in Gaius's chambers. But inside was a rather comprehensive overview of the important events in history, from the Egyptians to the attack on the World Trade Center. It was a thick book, and heavy, but Emma couldn't bear to part with it. So she had carried it around with her nearly everywhere.
And apparently, everywhere included medieval times in Camelot and the time of King Arthur and the Round Table.
Opening the book up, Emma trailed her fingers over the page as she read over the short message written inside the front cover in her dad's handwriting. In her father's messy handwriting, it said: May the mistakes of the past light the way to a brighter future. Happy 18th birthday. Love, Dad.
Emma smiled softly, before she packed everything back into her backpack, making sure to keep the book on the bottom. I can't let anyone see that book. She thought with a put-upon sigh. Who knows what they would think about something like that?
Putting the backpack in the corner of the room where hopefully nobody would notice it, Emma finally ventured out the closed door and into the main room.
In the main room of the chambers, Gaius was working at one of the tables on some sort of experiment, and Merlin was nowhere to be seen. "Morning, Gaius." Emma greeted cheerfully.
Gaius looked over his shoulder to see her standing there. "Good morning, Emma! How are you feeling this morning?"
"Great! My head is a little sore, but nothing like it was yesterday." Emma grinned. "What are you doing?"
"Just running a little experiment. There's a bowl of porridge for you by the fire, if you're hungry." Gaius offered, motioning his head in the direction of the fireplace.
"Thanks, Gaius." Emma said, heading to the grab the bowl. Although once she saw what was in it, she nearly took back what she said. In the bowl was what looked like a runny version of oatmeal. Grimacing, Emma brought a spoonful to her mouth to discover that it tasted about what it looked like, bland and lumpy. What I wouldn't give for pancakes or an omelet right about now. Or even a bowl of cereal. She thought longingly.
After she forced herself to eat the porridge, Emma quickly washed the bowl and spoon and set it up to dry.
"Got any plans for today, Emma?" Gaius asked curiously.
Emma thought for a moment, before she said "I thought I'd use some of that money that the prince gave me to get some clothes of my own, that way I can give Gwen back the dresses that I borrowed. Is there something that I can do for you?"
"No, no, I am fine for now. If I were you, I'd find a good way to hide that money while you're shopping. Although thievery is severely punished, pickpockets do roam the market." Gaius suggested.
"Thanks, that's a good idea." Emma said, running up the steps to grab the sack of money that Arthur had given her. Because it was much too large to be carrying on her belt, and apparently actual pockets hadn't been invented yet, (she had to stop herself from rolling her eyes at that thought. How could they not have thought of pockets yet, especially for girls! It made no sense!) Emma split some of the money into two smaller sacks. One of those she broke up into smaller amounts, which she tucked into her hiking boots. She had refused to take off her boots in favor of the dainty shoes or high heels that the women around the castle normally wore.
Although it felt a little uncomfortable for her ankles, it would keep her money from getting stolen by pickpockets.
"Thanks again, Gaius." Emma said, turning back to wave. But as she turned, her foot caught on the leg of one of the benches, which Emma proceeded to stumble and nearly fall over. Luckily, she had fairly fast reflexes, and she managed to catch herself on the table.
Smiling sheepishly after that little accident, Emma told Gaius goodbye and left the physician chuckling under his breath. She left the physician's chambers, only to find she had no idea of how to get out of the castle, or where exactly the market was. She hadn't exactly been conscious when she went though the town.
"Great." She huffed under her breath. She was about to cross her fingers and set off in a random direction when she saw a familiar head of dark hair turning around the corner.
"Gwen!" Emma exclaimed loudly, rushing to catch up with her.
Gwen poked her head back around the corner, giving the other girl a smile when she recognized who it was. "Hello, Emma." She greeted with a smile, although there was a hint of sadness behind it.
"Hey Gwen! I am so glad to see you. I'm kind of a bit lost. Or really lost, actually."
Gwen gave her a friendly smile. "That's alright, plenty of people lose their way at some point, especially if they don't have that great of a memory for directions. Not that I'm saying you don't have a good memory, not at all! I mean, you were unconscious, so of course you wouldn't remember, but it's just…"
Biting her lip to keep from laughing, Emma put a hand up to stop her. "Its fine Gwen, I know what you meant. Do you have time to help me find my way out?"
"Sure, I have plenty of time." Gwen assured her. "I found out that I'm not needed in the palace today. I'm heading home to work on some seamstress jobs that I do on the side, so that I can earn some money."
"You work as a seamstress?" Emma asked curiously.
"Yes, I do. It's a way of earning money other than my job as a servant." Gwen explained. "You said you were heading somewhere?"
Emma started, having forgotten the reason she stopped Gwen in the first place. "Right!" She agreed, laughing at her own forgetfulness. "I thought I'd head to the market to buy some clothes and supplies of my own. But, I realized I have no idea how to get there. Any way you could help?"
"I can show you how to get to the market. I'm heading that direction myself." Gwen offered, motioning up the hallway. The duo started walking in the direction that Gwen had
Giving Gwen a sideways glance, Emma smiled and said, "Gwen, how would you like to come with me? I know you said you have sewing to do, but I could honestly use the help picking out clothes. It would be fun! Please?" Emma pleaded.
Gwen gave her a friendly grin. "That sounds like fun." She replied as they made their way through the castle.