A/N: Hello everyone! After watching Merlin (which, of course, is totally awesome!) I knew I just had to write some fanfic. So, here it is, hope you enjoy! Thanks to JustBlossom for beta reading it!
Of Magical Stones and Idiot Princes
Riding a horse for four hours straight in the pouring rain and freezing cold without any rest— ("Stop being such a girl, Merlin!") was miserable as it was. And that was without the fact that Arthur was feeling grumpy and irritable after receiving some large bruises from an encounter with bandits while the two of them were riding home. Add bad weather and the fact that they had gotten lost and headed in the wrong direction for almost an hour before realizing their mistake, and the King was in a downright foul mood.
All Merlin wanted was to devour a hearty meal while drying off by the fire in Gaius' chambers, safe and content. But instead of being curled up in his own bed, warm and full— ready for a good night's sleep— he was stuck in the back of a loud and raucous tavern, sopping wet and shivering.
And it was very hard to rest when a strange old lady with an ugly wart on her nose was staring at him intensely from the corner of the room. He looked over to where Arthur was sitting beside him— wearing a bright red cape with a shining gold dragon on the front. Maybe not the best outfit to act inconspicuous in, he thought to himself as he tapped his fingers on the rickety table in front of him.
Merlin glanced back at the old lady and started when he realized she was no longer there. Where had she gone? Had she noticed that Arthur was a knight of Camelot? Had she gone to alert Morgana or some other evil psychos plotting against the king? What if—
Arthur's voice startled him out of his panicked thoughts. "Merlin, you look as jumpy as a mouse, what are you so terrified about this time?"
"There was a woman," he replied unsteadily as his eyes searched the bar.
"A woman." Arthur stared at him skeptically. "I see."
Merlin zoned back into the conversation. "No, I mean, yes, but not like that, it was—"
He stopped as he noticed a man walking towards them. Arthur turned around and narrowed his eyes, hand straying to his sword hilt.
"Who's that?" Merlin asked quietly.
"Trouble, most likely." Arthur picked up his mug and took another gulp. They both watched as the man stumbled towards them, weaving through the crowd, clutching a small leather pouch to his chest. His clothes were torn and travel stained. His eyes darted frantically around the room as he shuffled over to the table.
The man sat down on the bench across from them. He leaned forward, glancing at the other people in the tavern one last time before whispering, "Arthur Pendragon, am I correct?"
He wheezed as he spoke and his breath stank of old liquor.
"What do you want?" Arthur stared at him from across the table, face unreadable.
"I have a gift."
The wind howled outside the door. The rain pounded relentlessly on the roof, drowning out other evening noises, as the man slipped his hand inside the leather pouch and drew out a stone.
"A rock," Arthur replied, sounding rather skeptical.
Seeing that Arthur did not understand the significance of his token, the man continued, "Tis not just any rock, Arthur Pendragon, but the stone of Bethendral!"
Merlin fought the urge to laugh as he watched Arthur stare at the man like he was completely insane.
The man coughed slightly, waiting as if for a gasp of shocked realization. Seeing the blank look he received, he finally exclaimed, sounding quite exasperated, "The stone will glow when touched by anyone who possesses magic!"
Trying to stifle his gasp, Merlin choked on the gulp of liquid he had just drank from his cup. Coughing, he sputtered, "Arthur, I don't think this is a good idea— what if it's cursed or something?"
Ignoring him, Arthur continued to study the man. "Why are you giving this to me?"
"And who are you?" Merlin added, eyes narrowed.
"My name is my own." Seeing the looks of suspicion he received, the man continued, "I ask for nothing in return and only hope that you may use my gift wisely." He dipped his head. "I have no wish to harm you, Arthur Pendragon!"
And with that, turning away, he slipped into the crowd and disappeared.
"Are you sure we should be bringing that thing back to Camelot?"
"As I've told you multiple times, I want it to be inspected by Gaius; it could prove useful to us."
Merlin huffed as he readjusted his position on his horse, his back still sore from yesterday. After the man had left, his mind had been in a flurry. What if, what if Arthur discovered his secret? What would he do? Would he hate him? Want to kill him? Banish him? Or, maybe Arthur would understand, would still respect Merlin, maybe they would have a friendship not clouded by lies and deceit.
"Merlin, quit daydreaming! We still have a good seven leagues until we reach the city gates." He glared at his servant over his shoulder. "And you're in charge of the maps!"
Returning a raised eyebrow worthy of Gaius to his master, Merlin lapsed into silence once more. The only sound was the soft clop of horses' hooves and the whisper of wind in the trees.
"And why are you so paranoid about this rock anyways?" Arthur broke the quiet of the forest as he reined his horse in to ride beside Merlin.
His servant stared at him for a moment before replying. "Well, I don't know, what if it's dangerous, or cursed, or something? I mean, why should we trust that man?"
"I know, I know. But so far it hasn't done anything bad, and that's why I'm getting it checked out by Gaius when we return," Arthur said, unconvinced. "What makes you so sure it's evil?"
"I can, um, feel it!" he coughed slightly, staring at the road.
The king scoffed, "Well in that case, we had better rid ourselves of it as fast as possible— Merlin feels that it's cursed!"
Merlin glared. "Dollop head."
He laughed. "Clotpole."
Both grinning now, they continued down the road.
"You know," Merlin started, sobering up, "you should really listen to my advice,"
Arthur chuckled. "I don't think I'm that desperate yet."
Merlin sighed as he urged his horse forward. "I'm being serious! I mean, everytime I tell you you shouldn't do something and you don't listen to me, you end up in a heap of trouble!"
Arthur raised his eyebrows as he looked over his shoulder. "I don't understand why you're so afraid of a rock! Here," he said, rummaging through his pack. "Take a look for yourself!"
And with that, he uncovered the stone and tossed it to Merlin.
Before he even knew what was happening, his hands reached out instinctively to catch the object flying at him. He could sense the magic emanating from the rock, calling to him, begging him to grasp it in his hands, let his magic connect with its own. In the moment before it touched his hands, he remembered that Arthur was but a few feet away. Arthur, the king of Camelot, who had placed a ban on magic and executed those who did not uphold it.
Merlin tried to pull his hands away, but it was too late. He stared, wide-eyed, as the round, smooth object sailed towards him. As it fell into his palms, for an instant, he had a chance to study it, feel its cool, grey sides, and wonder at how such a small thing could ruin his life. But then the split second passed, and he was suddenly blinded by a flash of excruciatingly bright light as the stone burned as if on fire.
His horse reared and he was thrown off, the stone flying from his grasp, landing on the path beside him. Merlin hit the ground with a thump, blinking rapidly to clear his eyesight. It took a moment for him to realize what had just happened. The rock still lay on the road, glow growing fainter and fainter as he gasped for breath. It couldn't have been plainer had he had a huge blinking sign placed over his head that read 'Merlin has magic!'
He gulped, trying to think. Arthur knows, Arthur knows! His mind reeled and finally he stuttered, "Arthur, I'm, I know, I'm sorry, I was… it's just, I thought, and then—"
He was interrupted as Arthur dismounted his horse and bent over the stone, finally reaching down to pick it off the ground.
Merlin waited, not sure what to do. What would Arthur say? What was he going to do?
At last, Arthur broke the silence, huffing as he glared at the object in his hand. "What a piece of junk!"
Merlin stared at him, dumbfounded.
"I mean, who was that guy anyways, giving us some faulty scrap of rubbish!" Glaring at it once more, he tossed it into the underbrush. "What a waste of time!"
The king then strode over to where Merlin was sitting on the ground, who was staring almost concernedly at Arthur, as if he were mental. Hauling him to his feet, Arthur watched as Merlin walked, dazed, towards his horse before mounting. Finally, they were both riding once more, Arthur muttering about never trusting sorcerers, which, undoubtedly, the man must have been to have tricked them like that.
He frowned as he contemplated this mysterious gift from the strange man. "The stone will glow when touched by anyone who possesses magic."
But Merlin, magic? As if.