Author's Note: And this is it! The final chapter! I hope you guys liked it! Sorry for the monumental wait between the first chunk of the story and this second chunk. Yikes. But, it's finished now. Read, review, and enjoy!
Arthur paced the small space of the physician's quarters. The knights were all recovering in the Great Hall and Arthur had reluctantly allowed people down into the dungeons to treat the injured sorcerers, but there was one person here who Arthur was particularly interested in. Merlin. He'd been dragged into chains and carried back unconscious. He never woke up or even twitched the entire journey back. Arthur tried to tell himself that he wasn't worried about the sorcerer's life.
Suddenly, the door to the physician's chamber flung itself open. Arthur spun around, but relaxed when he saw it was Morgana. He relaxed further when he realized that it was just the Diamond of the Day members, including Vivian. Then his shoulders slumped as he realized what this must mean.
Sure enough, Morgana gave him a very gentle look and said, "Uther is dead. They will be ringing the bells for his death soon." She paused slightly before she said, "I am sorry."
"Don't be," Arthur said roughly, "It was for the best." Morgana grimaced but didn't correct him.
Then, suddenly, Gwen noticed the figure lying prone on the bed behind Arthur, "Merlin! Oh goodness, is he alright?"
Arthur caught Gwen as she tried to rush past him. He couldn't help the bite to his voice when he snapped, "Don't go near him!"
"Why not?" Lancelot asked, stepping closer.
Gwaine frowned from where he was near the door, "Why is he cuffed?"
"Arthur?" Morgana asked, stepping forward just the slightest bit. She'd paled as soon as she saw the cuffs.
Arthur gritted his teeth together and managed to get out, "Merlin is a sorcerer. He will be detained here until his trial. The only reason he's not in the dungeon is that… he was fighting against the Resistance. I don't want them to take advantage of him while he's unconscious."
Vivian sighed and floated past Arthur, ignoring his noise of complaint. She rested a hand against his forehead before she looked over to Arthur, "Did you know, he's the one who told me about the Resistance?"
"What?" Morgana breathed before Arthur could.
Vivian gave the room a sad smile, "He told me that they exiled him from the group when he decided to side with Camelot. That same day, you all came to him and asked him to join the Diamond of the Day."
"He said his father gave him some bad news," Gwaine said softly.
Arthur's eyes lit up in horror, "His father? Vivian, I saw him talking to Balinor and Nimueh before he killed them. Was Balinor – the Dragonlord – his father?"
Vivian sighed, "I'm sorry to hear that he had to be the one to kill them. Yes, Balinor was his father. And Nimueh was his step-mother. Poor Merlin. That must have been a hard battle for him."
"For him?" Arthur all but screeches, "He's a sorcerer! It doesn't matter! How long has he been lying to all of us? What was his plan when he came into the kingdom? Was he purposefully insinuating himself in the court?"
Vivian pinched her mouth shut for a moment before she frowned and went to open her mouth. It was Morgana who spoke first, though. She glared at Arthur, more furious than he had ever seen her, "I have magic."
Vivian went as white as a sheet and Gwen skittered away from her. Vivian breathed out, "Morgana…"
Morgana clenched her jaw and continued, "I didn't choose it. I was born with it. It just took a long time to manifest. That's what the nightmares were about, though. They were the dreams of a Seer who couldn't control their powers. Merlin was helping me learn control." She lifted her chin, staring down her nose at him.
Arthur opened his mouth, too stunned to really know how to respond to that. He didn't get a chance to try before a voice in the doorway said quietly, "I have magic, too."
Vivian let out a quiet sob and rushed over. She tucked Mordred behind her and glared at Arthur. Her fists were shaking when she said, "You won't hurt them. You won't hurt either of them. Neither of them chose magic, Arthur. You have to believe that. They aren't a threat, either! Magic will not make them evil. That was a lie your father purported to ensure that people went along with his Purge. They aren't evil."
"Do you have magic?" Arthur asked Vivian, body numb. She shook her head. He nodded dumbly and said, "When you said that you were getting freedom out of Uther's death, you meant this. You meant that, with me on the throne, there was a chance of your children being free."
"Yes," Vivian said firmly, throat working as she swallowed nervously.
Arthur glanced around the room. Gwen had reacted with skittishness at Morgana's announcement, but she'd crept back over to Morgana in the time that had passed and now had one of Morgana's hands clenched in her own. Everyone else was looking at Arthur in fear, like he was the one with magic, like he was the evil one. They were afraid that he was going to kill their friends. They were afraid that he was going to make them have to hide again. It hurt something inside of Arthur, to see that. Some of these people were still just acquaintances, but some of them were friends. Some were family. They were the last people he wanted looking at him with fear. It made him feel like his father. After all the work they put into placing Arthur on the throne, the last thing he wanted was for them to look at him like nothing had changed with his father's death. He didn't know what to say, though, didn't know how to express that, didn't know how to push past a lifetime of propaganda. What were they expecting him to say? What were they expecting?
A sound from behind him caused Arthur to whirl around. The whole room froze as they realized that Merlin was starting to wake up, bleary-eyed and slow. Merlin blinked at them for a long, long moment. He didn't even seem to notice the shackles keeping him chained to the bed. He gave Arthur a stupid, dopy grin, and asked, "Did Camelot win? We didn't lose anyone, did we?"
"No," Arthur mumbled back. He licked his lips and said more confidently, "No one died. Well, my f- ah, Uther died. But the rest were – the rest… you protected us."
Finally, Merlin shrunk back from him, pushing himself into the cot as if he could escape through there. The same fear that had shone in the eyes of the others shone in Merlin's eyes and Arthur wanted to die. Merlin's voice trembled when he asked, "Are you going to kill me?" Arthur didn't even get a chance to answer before Merlin shook his head, "No, that's a stupid question. It's the law. I – I… can I make a request? Can you – use the chopping block? I don't want to burn. I'll do it, if I have to. I'll do it for you, but… I don't want to burn." His voice was small and scared when he said the last sentence and Arthur felt like part of him had been ripped out.
Without thinking about it, Arthur dropped to his knees next to Merlin's cot and caught one of Merlin's hands in his own. He let out a shaky breath and said, "You won't burn, Merlin. I promise. You won't go to the chopping block, either. I won't let you die for protecting us. I know that the battle was won because of you. I know that. We – we need to have a long conversation about this, though. About magic. About how you and Morgana and Mordred were all hiding it. How Vivian was hiding it. We'll discuss it and look at the laws."
Merlin's eyes widened, a sort of wonder and awe overtaking them that Arthur didn't feel he deserved. Merlin swallowed before he asked quietly, "Will you wait to judge the Resistance members until we've have that conversation?"
"What?" Arthur asked, rearing back slightly, "They tried to destroy Camelot!"
"No," Merlin said fervently. Arthur was abruptly reminded that Vivian had said that Merlin had once been a part of the Resistance, that Merlin's parents had been the leaders of it. Merlin continued talking, "They weren't trying to destroy Camelot. They were just trying to be free, Arthur. You don't know what it's like. I was born with magic. I could move things with my mind before I could even speak. Because of that, I've been on the run my entire life. I knew that the moment I was found by someone from Camelot, I would be killed. Did you know, they tell the children in the Resistance that the men in red capes are the ones we have to be afraid of? Camelot knights are to our children what sorcerers are to yours. I know people here in Camelot tell their children to behave or else the sorcerers will take them away. It's the same with us, but with knights. We just wanted to live in a world where things weren't like that. We just wanted to live in a world where we didn't have to hide such an integral part of ourselves. That's it."
"Okay, Merlin," Arthur soothed. Merlin was getting worked up and Arthur didn't want that. He still didn't really know why Merlin had fainted and he didn't want the idiot to go and hurt himself further. Arthur swallowed and said, "I won't judge the Resistance members until we've had a long conversation. I promise."
"Thank you, Sire," Merlin said. He gave him that smile again, the one that said that he was completely loyal to Arthur. The one that said that he would do anything for Arthur.
Arthur was starting to see that that was true. The Shadow was willing to give up his family, his biggest secret, and his life all for Arthur.
Huffing out a laugh as he ran his fingers through Merlin's hair, Arthur smiled to himself. He would do better. He would change things and do better.
Unbeknownst to him, the tides of Destiny settled at his thought, at his decision. Things were finally, finally as they should be.