Frozen Revelations by Emachinescat
A Merlin Fan-Fiction
SUMMARY: When a stir-crazy Arthur decides to go on a hunt right after the biggest blizzard Camelot's seen in years, he doesn't realize that his flippant decision could mean the life of one of the people he cares most about. Requested by secret-identity-revealed. Reveal fic.
A/N: So a couple of months ago, secret-identity-revealed PMed me, asking me to write a story where:
"merlin is hurt, either
unconscious and when they try to shake him awake it happens
he has drowned and when they do CPR and bring him back with his first breath it happens
Either one u want to write.
what happens you may be asking? he reveals his magic by a huge blast of energy being sent out of him.
everyone see it, arthur, gwen, and all the knights. and possibly uther.
then u can make it how u want it, they hate him, they accept him, they fear him, what ever.
also i want a lot of badass merlin. he has to do some insanely powerful magic (possibly what makes them fear him?)"
So I took the idea, ran with it, and thought, what the heck? Why not add hypothermia to the mix? :D
Hope this is something like what you wanted, secret-identity-revealed! I'll be adding part 2 OR a sequel (see post-story note) soon!
Please review, and enjoy!
Perhaps it was his role as King of Camelot, but Arthur had a rather irritating penchant for coming up with extraordinarily terrible ideas, while citing nothing but his own royal blood as a reason why it could - and should, and would - be done. Once, when he was still the Crown Prince, he had looked at his servant thoughtfully and said, "I want you to start exercising my hunting dogs." Merlin had told him that it wasn't a very good idea; those dogs were huge, and they were mean, and he'd seen them literally dragging knights twice his size around the training grounds. "Nonsense," Arthur said. "Nothing will go wrong. You'll see. I am the prince, after all."
A few hours and several bruises and bites later, a muddy and put-out Merlin had returned to Arthur's chambers to announce that just because he was the prince, it didn't mean he knew everything. Arthur had promptly placed all of the blame on Merlin's aching shoulders ("You didn't approach them the right way, and you wore red, you should know they hate the color red...").
Arthur had undoubtedly matured a great deal since then, but he still had that troubling habit of thinking a terrible idea was wonderful just because he was the one to think of it. He'd come a long way since Merlin had first met him, but he still was, at heart, a prat. A noble prat. An honorable prat. Even, sometimes, a friendly prat. But a prat nonetheless.
Today, Arthur was in a particular kind of mood. The kind of mood where he knew exactly what he wanted to do, when he wanted to do it, and he didn't care if the whole bloody council was against it, he was going to do it! Not that it was an issue important enough to be brought in front of the whole bloody council, mind you, but even if he had asked them and they had advised that he stop and think about what he was doing, he wouldn't have listened anyway.
No, Arthur - as well as the rest of Camelot - had been cooped up for over two weeks while the worst blizzard in a century raged against the citadel. Many people from the lower town had been relocated to the castle because their homes could not stand up to the shrieking winds, driving snow, and deadly cold. Thankfully, there had been a good harvest in the fall, and there was enough food, though it was being rationed carefully by Arthur and his council.
The snow had been falling on and off for weeks, and the cold had been unbearable, but now, it seemed, the storm was finally tapering off. It had been doing no more than flurrying for the past couple of days, and the sun had made a brief appearance so the chilly air that squeezed its ways through the cracks in the walls was slightly less freezing. And so, Arthur had announced with a flourish, first to Merlin, then to the knights, that they were going on a mid-winter hunt.
"But we've got enough food rationed," Merlin protested, hands on his hips, as Arthur rummaged around in his wardrobe for something warm enough to go outside in. "We don't need to go hunting!"
"No, Merlin, we may not need the food, but we do need to get out of this blasted castle. Between another evening in the great hall listening to Gwaine's drunken stories and possibly freezing in the wilderness, I will gladly, eagerly take the wilderness."
"But it's dangerous!" Merlin argued. "And - oh, for the gods' sake, Arthur, move over. Your winter cloak isn't even in that wardrobe."
"And why," Arthur questioned dangerously, "is the king's winter cloak not in his wardrobe?"
"Because that's not your wardrobe, it's Gwen's," Merlin grinned as Arthur finally pulled out of the dresser and realized that he was holding a very ruffly, very purple, very girly dress. "Very good, sire," Merlin teased as he crossed to the correct wardrobe to fetch the king's cloak for him. "Perhaps your days in the castle have done a number on your brain. You seem to be dimmer than usual. And that's saying something!"
He ducked as one of Guinevere's shoes arced across the room, narrowly missing his head.
Master and servant spun around, and to their horror, the queen was standing in the doorway, eyebrows arched. Too late, Arthur shoved the dress behind his back and Merlin kicked the silver shoe under the bed. Gwen's eyebrows rose even more as she stood just inside the threshold, hands on her hips. "What," she asked, in a tone Merlin recognized as one that his mother had used on him many times as a child when he was misbehaving, "are you two doing?"
The two young men stood in stunned silence for several long seconds, then Arthur sidled over to his wife, his back to the wardrobe – he hastily shoved the dress into it as he passed – and spread his arms to his sides, forcing a grin. "Guinevere!" he exclaimed, shuffling awkwardly under his wife's gaze. "It… uh… it isn't what it looks like we were…"
"Checking for moths!" Merlin supplied helpfully.
Gwen blinked. "Isn't what you said the last time I found you going through a lady's wardrobe?" she asked, her voice sprinkled with amusement.
Arthur's eyes widened and he whipped his head around to look at his servant. "You did what, Merlin?" He looked as if he couldn't decide whether he should be reproachful or amused, so he settled on a combination of the two. "That… is impolite, Merlin," he said, his voice wobbling as he tried not to laugh. "I didn't know you had it in you. Did you find anything interesting?"
"Arthur!" Both Merlin and Gwen scolded.
"What? It's a legitimate question. I'm sure Merlin had good reason to be going through a woman's wardrobe… the real question is, did what you found match your eyes?"
Merlin's mouth dropped open. "I have never—"
"Oh, yes, Merlin, because I've never seen you wandering about the castle with a dress and some ridiculous story about how it was for Gaius."
"You know what?" Gwen said, her voice tight. "I don't care what you were doing. It doesn't matter. Just… give me my shoe." She stalked over to Merlin and held out her hand.
"Uhh…" Merlin gaped at the sudden change in demeanor. "Are you all right, Gwen?"
Snatching the proffered slipper, the queen marched to her wardrobe and all but threw it in. She put her face in her hands and gave a muffled cry of frustration. "I'm sorry," she mumbled as Arthur put his arms around her. "I'm sorry; it's just this weather. And being stuck indoors for so long… with Gwaine's stories and my brother and Percival always arm-wrestling, and the two of you always bickering like an old married couple… honestly, sometimes I think you married the wrong person, Arthur!"
Their jaws flopped open as they mouthed wordlessly at the out-of-character queen. "Guinevere," Arthur said softly, slowly, as if he were talking to a mad person, or a skittish horse.
Gwen sniffled. "I'm sorry, Arthur. I just have to get out of this castle. This confinement hasn't been good for me. I'm feeling very unlike myself."
Arthur shot a triumphant look at his servant, who scowled at his feet because he knew that now that Gwen wanted to go out, he had lost any chance of changing the king's mind. "Well, you are in luck, my dear. Merlin, some of the knights, and I are preparing to embark upon a mid-winter hunt at first light tomorrow. I know you are not fond of hunting, but—"
He never got to finish. Gwen all but tackled him. "Thank you," she breathed into his ear as she hugged tightly. "Thank you."
If Gwen wanted to go, that was it. Nothing was going to stop Arthur now. Still feeling a tangible sense of foreboding looming over him, Merlin stalked past the now giggling and smooching couple to begin preparing for the trip.
Besides Arthur, Merlin, and Gwen, those who set out on the crisp, chilly morning were the knights of the Round Table: Gwaine, Percival, Elyan, and Leon.
Gwaine was jubilant. Thrilled to be outside of the castle walls once again, he tromped around in the thigh-deep snow with child-like glee, laughing and flipping his hair. He even flopped onto his back in the snow – sinking so deeply they could barely see him – and tried to make a Gwaine-shaped imprint. He trod on it when he stood up, however, and it ended up looking like a headless Gwaine-shaped imprint.
Percival was quiet, as usual. He wore no sleeves, and his heavily muscled arms were cherry red and raw in the cold. He didn't seem to mind, or even notice, and he watched Gwaine's antics with a slight quirk of the lip. He had a gigantic crossbow slung over one rippling shoulder. Merlin suspected it weighed about as much as he did.
Elyan looked torn between joining Gwaine in his frolicking or preserving his dignity in front of his sister and his king. He settled for something in between, ignoring Gwaine unless he came to close, and then throwing a snowball at him.
Leon was the only other person besides Merlin who looked dubious about this whole endeavor. He didn't say anything to Arthur – Leon rarely contradicted the king unless the circumstances were extreme – but Merlin could tell by the wary look in his eyes and the drawn aspect of his face that the older knight thought that going out this soon after the blizzard was foolhardy. Encouraged by the prospect of having a potential ally, Merlin accompanied the group without making too much of a fuss.
Well, he made a valiant effort, at the very least.
"You know, I really don't know why you think this was a good idea, Arthur."
"Because I'm the king, Merlin."
Aaaand they'd gone full circle.
"And then you brainwashed the queen into joining you… that's low, even for you."
As Arthur glared and opened his mouth to argue, Gwen laughed, her voice high and sweet and clear. "I'm not brainwashed, Merlin. I just needed some fresh air, and to get out of the castle, is all. I don't like feeling trapped."
Merlin understood completely, but he still felt that it was not a good idea to be traipsing around in the snow right after a blizzard.
His fears seemed unfounded, however, for instead of getting colder or snowing harder as the day progressed, the snow stopped entirely and the sun came out. By mid-afternoon, the sun was shining in earnest, and the snow, while still deep and all-encompassing, was starting to slosh instead of crunch under their shoes. Still, it was incredibly cold. Cold enough for the surface of the river that ran west through the Darkling Woods was frozen solid.
The knights didn't seem too bothered by the temperature; they had their winter cloaks, as did the king and queen. Merlin had a battered, slightly warmer fur-lined jacket that had been sent from his mother in anticipation for the cold winter ahead, but he was nowhere nearly as insulated from the cold as the others. He kept his bare hands tucked under his armpits in a futile attempt to keep them warm.
It seemed that the purpose for the trip – hunting – had been all but forgotten as the knights ran whooping through the snowy woods like children, pushing one another and throwing snowballs. Arthur and Gwen walked leisurely behind, holding hands and exchanging kisses. Gwaine made a half-hearted attempt to shoot a rabbit, and Leon actually managed to snag a few wild turkeys, but for the most part, the group were simply enjoying their time in the snow, away from the castle. Even Leon's previous reservations seemed to have faded, and Merlin found himself grinning and even throwing a couple of snowballs himself despite himself.
As evening set upon them, Arthur looked up at the sky – which was clouding over and getting steadily darker, looking precariously like more snow might be coming their way – he announced, "We should be heading back to Camelot. The weather is beginning to look stormy again."
"I've been saying that we should turn back since we set out!" Merlin complained, his foreboding back full-force. They'd ventured rather deeper into the Darkling Woods than they had meant to, and it was looking to be a cold, wet, slippery walk back to the citadel – the slushy snow was starting to freeze over into an icy film as the temperature descended alongside the sun. "This was a really stupid idea, you know that?" he griped. "The king of Camelot leaving the city for a full day—"
"My advisors and the council have things well under control for one day," Arthur retorted smoothly.
"—to go playing in the snow, and now we're lost in the woods—"
"No we're not, don't be an idiot," Arthur said, rolling his eyes. "Look, you can see the north tower from here."
"—and it's bloody freezing—"
"Don't be such a girl, Merlin."
"—and it's starting to snow again—"
"It's barely even flurrying." They had reached the frozen river now; it wouldn't be much longer before they were clear of the trees – they would reach Camelot before the world darkened completely.
"—and you're just too big of a prat to admit that you might be wrong—"
As the group began carefully walking across the icy river, the knights and queen were too preoccupied with Arthur and Merlin's banter to notice the barely audible creaking and groaning of the ice. Leon was the first to cross, stepping lightly and waiting on the other side, grinning in amusement. Although the king and his servant's bickering was an everyday occurrence, it never got old.
Elyan crossed next, at a run, with Gwaine hot on his heels; the knight was trying to shove a hunk of icy snow down his cloak. Percival crossed then, and the ice really protested at his chiseled bulk, but Arthur was loudly calling Merlin a petticoat and telling him that he'd met little girls with more stamina than him, and the creaking, though louder, wasn't acknowledged. Percival made it safely across and was promptly hit in the face with a frozen, icy snowball. He tackled Gwaine head-on, which was unfortunate for the long-haired knight, for Elyan had actually thrown the snowball.
Arthur and Gwen followed Percival, arm-in-arm, the king making sure his wife didn't slip and fall on the slick surface, the king looking over his shoulder to tease Merlin. "Next time you get your wages, maybe you should save them up for a new coat, then, Merlin, instead of spending it all in the tavern."
"Well, you –"
They never did get to find out what Arthur was. The ice, which had been moaning in protest ever since Leon first stepped onto it, had reached its breaking point – literally. With an ear-splitting crack, the frozen surface of the river buckled under Merlin's weight - though he was, ironically, the lightest of them all, save perhaps for Gwen – and with a splash and a spray of icy water, Merlin was gone. Gwen shrieked, the knights yelled –
There was a precious moment of stunned, horrified silence. Then – "MERLIN!" Arthur screamed, lunging forward. He was stopped by Leon and Elyan, who saved the king from following Merlin into what was surely his frozen, watery grave.
"No, my lord!" Leon grunted, struggling to keep Arthur on solid ground. "You can't go out on the ice – you'll fall in as well!"
"The water's still flowing under the ice!" Arthur shouted. "He's being swept away!"
And so he was. They could see through the semi-see-through sheet of ice the limp, colorful form of Merlin beneath the ice, being slowly dragged downstream through deeper waters that had not frozen all the way through.
Arthur wrenched free of his knights' hold and raced down the hill by the river, easily matching pace with the sluggish, icy froth carrying Merlin. Ignoring the nasty voice in his mind telling him that it was too late, that Merlin was lost, that even if they saved him from drowning, the cold would kill him, Arthur bolted downriver. He could hear the knights crashing through the foliage behind him, could hear Gwen's panicked cries of, "Arthur, you mustn't!"
Over his shoulder, Arthur yelled, "The river empties into a small pond at the bottom of this ravine, but it narrows just before! If we can make it to where it narrows before Merlin does, we can break through the ice and pull him out without having to go out onto the ice!"
Gwaine panted some yards behind him, "Bloody good idea, princess. Didn't know you had it in you!"
The slope steepened, forcing the men to slow almost to a crawling pace. "We're not going to make it in time!" Leon called out desperately. Even though the river was moving much slower than it did during the spring and summer months, they could still see the blurry dark shape of Merlin trapped in the current moving steadily toward the pond a few yards ahead of them, while they had to systematically stop and start again to keep from falling.
Arthur knew that Leon was right, but he wasn't about to accept it. Ignoring the awful whisper in the back of his mind that reminded him too much of his father, telling him that he shouldn't risk his life for that of a servant's, Arthur threw caution to the wind and lunged down the steep hill. He made it all of two steps before his ankle twisted and he pitched forward, plummeting the last several yards of slick snow and scrubby brush, rolling and scraping against the ground.
"Arthur!" he heard his companions shout over the throbbing pain in his ankle, and the bruises and scratches forming all over. When he finally came to a rest at the bottom of the ravine, he wanted nothing more than to lay there on the ground and catch his breath. Instead, he forced himself onto his knees and crawled for the narrowest stretch of the river…
Unsheathing his sword, he used the hilt to desperately hack away at the ice, thicker than that over the wider sections of the river. Small cracks were beginning to appear, much too slowly, and so Arthur leaned every ounce of his weight into his next hit, and—
The ice gave a final protest and split, right as Merlin's cold, limp body came within reach. Arthur tottered precariously on the edge of the river, knowing full well that if he lost his balance and fell in, they were both dead. As soon as Merlin's arm was within reach, Arthur plunged his own arm down into the stream – gods, was it cold! – and latched on to his servant, throwing himself backwards. He let momentum take care of the rest. Arthur and Merlin flopped back on the snowy riverbank, Arthur's heart drumming frantically, his breaths coming in staggered rasps as he strove to catch his breath.
Merlin lay limp beside him, and after Arthur got his breath back somewhat, he realized that he was the only one who was gasping for air. He was the only one who was breathing. With a grunt, the king rose to his knees beside his servant. "Merlin?" he asked warily.
There was a curse close behind him as Elyan stumbled, and scuffling sounds of the other knights trying to catch him. Arthur ignored them, putting all of his focus on Merlin. With trembling fingers, Arthur dug two fingers into the artery below Merlin's jaw, relieved when he felt a pulse – slow, erratic, and incredibly weak – but a pulse nonetheless. How long had Merlin been trapped under the ice? Three minutes, four? How long had he been conscious but unable to do anything to escape? Had the cold knocked him out instantly? How long could someone survive underwater without serious damage?
Perhaps more troubling still was the problem of Merlin's not breathing, and his body temperature, which was so cold that it burned Arthur's hand just to touch him. Merlin's lips were tinged blue, and his fingernails were purple. The tips of his fingers were dark blue. But most disturbing of all was the fact that, despite how bloody frozen the young man was, he was completely still. No shivering, not the barest hint of a tremble. Arthur wasn't a physician by any right, but even he knew that it was an extremely bad sign if someone this cold wasn't shivering.
"Arthur, is he—?" the knights had finally caught up with him, and were kneeling anxiously around the king and his friend.
"He's alive, Percival," Arthur responded tightly. "He has a pulse. But he's not breathing, and gods, he's too cold." Arthur felt giddy with exhaustion and pain. Tears were branding the backs of his eyes, but he refused to give them passage. Even so, his voice warbled with emotion when he spoke.
Arthur immediately began pressing down on Merlin's skinny, too-cold chest. "Come on, you idiot," the king grunted between compressions. "I refuse to let you get out of work this way, you lazy bum. You're going to live, and d'you know why, Merlin? Because I'm the king, and that's an order."
"Arthur—" The pain in his wife's voice was palpable. He didn't turn to look at her; he kept pressing Merlin's chest.
"He's not breathing!" Arthur growled, slamming a fist down as hard as he dared over Merlin's heart.
"Arthur, move," Gwen ordered, falling to her knees next to her husband. "You have to give him breath too."
Without actually waiting for Arthur to move on his own, the queen of Camelot knelt over Merlin's head, squeezed his nose, and put her lips over his.
Leon put his shoulder on Arthur's shoulder, shaking his head. "Look."
Gwen was breathing for Merlin. She was puffing lungfuls of air into his body. After several intense moments, she sat back, now gasping for breath herself, and indicated that Arthur should resume compressions.
One. Merlin was still cold as ice, still not breathing. Two. Merlin was dead, or was going to die, and for all the power he had as king, he could do nothing about it. Three. Gwaine was never going to forgive him, and, gods – he was going to have to tell Gaius that Merlin was dead. Four. He was going to have to tell Hunith that her son was dead, all because of Arthur's flippancy. Five –
Something changed in the air. Gwen and the knights felt it too; collectively, they stiffened as a pulse of something radiated through the air. They couldn't see it, or feel it, only sense it. Something was about to happen.
Arthur brought both fists down on Merlin's chest and –
Merlin's back arched, his head hitting the forest floor. His mouth opened in a silent scream, and his eyes flew open – eyes that were molten gold, seething with power, brimming with… magic.
Arthur's mouth flapped open and he stared at this strange creature, this being that looked like his servant – his friend – but glowed with the radiance of a thousand suns. Merlin's back arched until he was almost off the ground, and his mouth stretched wider as he tried to scream. His eyes flared so brightly they were almost white and then a beam of golden light, warm and surprisingly comforting, and somehow embodying everything that Arthur had come to know Merlin to be, pulsed forth through the knights, through Gwen, through Arthur's very soul.
It was hard to comprehend, this force. It was strong – the strongest magic Arthur had ever encountered, no doubt – and it had the ability to snap him like a twig, or fling him across the ravine, or kill him without so much as a word. But it didn't want that. Arthur wasn't sure how he knew, but this power was kind, and gentle, and, somehow, awkward and clumsy, friendly and deeply, deeply caring. It was Merlin.
Everywhere the light touched, snow melted, ice sank back into the water, snow clouds dissipated, and it was warm.
It was beautiful. Terrifying, but beautiful.
And then suddenly, without warning, it was gone.
The light disappeared, Merlin's eyes rolled back in his head, and he went completely still.
Arthur knelt beside him in a patch of warm grass that had, just moments before, been frozen wasteland.
Gwaine was the first to react. He lunged forward, nearly knocking Arthur over, and joined his king and queen on the forest floor next to his friend. "Merlin?" he entreated, laying a hand on Merlin's arm. Merlin didn't stir. Gwaine felt for a pulse, listened for breathing.
Sitting back, he sighed, "He's alive."
There were a few sighs of relief, followed by an extremely awkward silence.
Finally, Gwaine jumped to his feet and announced, "Well, let's get him back to Gaius. Lucky thing, really." He scooped Merlin into his arms as if he were a helpless baby.
Arthur struggled to his feet, leaning heavily on Percival and Elyan for support as his ankle – probably sprained – protested any weight he tried to put on it. "Lucky?" Arthur repeated. "Lucky that Merlin has – that he's – well, you know?"
Gwaine's eyes were completely serious. "Yes, Arthur. If he didn't have magic, he would be dead, so, yeah, I'd say it's pretty lucky."
"But he's a sorcerer," Leon pointed out, and he looked almost as confused and conflicted as Arthur felt. "It's against the law."
"Is that going to be a problem, Leon?" The threat loomed obviously in Gwaine's words and tone.
Arthur helped Gwen to her feet. "Gwaine's right," he interrupted. Now that the light had gone, the warmth was waning as well. In fact, after being immersed in the amazing warmth of Merlin's… well, Merlin's magic – Arthur's emotions were in such turmoil about this revelation that he honestly had no idea what he thought, no idea what he was going to do with Merlin; he just knew that Merlin couldn't die, not here, not now, not like this – Arthur now felt colder than before.
Arthur reached out tentatively and felt Merlin's forehead and cringed away at the skin colder than ice and whiter than marble. "He needs warmth, now," he ordered. "At this rate, he won't make it back to Camelot. There's a cave not too far from here; I remember passing it on our way. We'll camp there for the night, build a fire, and keep him warm. We'll ride for Camelot in the morning." As he spoke, Arthur took off his winter cloak and handed it to Gwen. Wordlessly, the queen helped Gwaine wrap the servant in it. The knights unclasped their respective cloaks and did the same, each solemnly sacrificing their own comfort and warmth for that of a servant's. A sorcerer's, apparently.
It really said a lot about them, Arthur thought as he watched them swaddle Merlin in so many cloaks he really did look like an infant, that they were going to such lengths to save the life of a man who, according to the laws of the land – the land of which Arthur was king – should be killed.
What it said about them, Arthur wasn't sure. Were they mad? Sentimental? Biding their time? He didn't know, really, but he did know that this wasn't just some sorcerer. This was Merlin. Merlin wasn't evil. Was he a liar? Most definitely. A fraud? Maybe. A friend? Arthur hoped. An enemy? Never.
Arthur didn't know what he was going to do about this earth-shattering revelation, but he refused to make any major decisions until Merlin was well on the road to recovery and the two had had a good, long talk.
Though Arthur would never admit it, Merlin had become much like a brother to him – and Arthur wasn't ready to lose his brother.
Merlin was going to live to explain himself to Arthur.
Arthur was certain of this, for Arthur was the king, and he simply refused to be wrong.
The group set off silently into the night, in the direction of the cave, carrying their wounded, their fallen, Merlin completely oblivious to the fact that his darkest secret was now out.
He would be in for one hell of a shock if – no when – he woke up, Arthur thought wryly.
The thought somehow made the king feel a bit better, imagining the indignant look on his servant's face when it was revealed that Arthur, Gwen, and the knights knew all – it almost made him believe that somehow, this would all be okay.
So... This could stand alone, but I am planning on writing a second part. On the one hand, I like the ambiguity the end of this chapter leaves, but on the other hand, I'm a sucker for bromance and reveal scenes and such. So I'll ask you all (especially secret-identity-revealed) what you would like: Would you like this to be the whole story, or would you like another chapter with Merlin's POV and healing and more whump? Or, would you rather I write a second part as a separate story, a sequel? That way, this story can retain its ambiguity for those who like it the way it is, and for those who want more (like me!), the sequel will be available. Just let me know what you'd like. Either way, the next part should be up within the month at the very latest. I've been working on this story every free chance I get!
Please review and let me know what you think and what you'd like to see! :)