A/N:Another one-shot! Please comment and tell me what you think!
Merlin's departure from Camelot hadn't been a quiet one. Even those that hadn't been in the courtyard when it occurred knew that whatever had happened wasn't a trifling occurrence. Still, no one expected the King to take Merlin's leave from the castle as hard as he did.
Worse still was the mood that descended over the castle in the wake of that day. It was quiet, almost unbearably so. King's face remained thunderous, and the Knights remained tight lipped, so that no one truly knew what the cause of the rift truly was. One maid slipped up and mentioned the absentee manservant to her friend in hushed whispers only to turn and find herself face to face with the King himself.
A very angry King.
It was perhaps the only time that those in the castle saw the true resemblance between father and son. Though the King had apologised to the woman later, the damage had been done and the entirety of the servants walked on eggshells around the King after that, much to his frustration. As a result, the tension seeped into the practice courts, where the King would train his Knights and new recruits with such brutal precision that it was considered an opportunity lost if one was able to actually walk off the field in one piece – more or less.
Usually, Gwaine wouldn't hesitate in addressing the King's behavior, but if he were honest, no one knew this Arthur. No one could understand who walked the halls of the Castle, calling himself their King, but behaving nothing like the man they'd sworn their allegiance to. The man Merlin had convinced them to put their trust in, the man he'd told them to have faith in.
By the time two days had gone by, it was impossible to understand him, even after an attempt at normalcy by trying to patrol the outskirts of Camelot, they'd been forced to call it a day. There had been a blow out between Gwaine and Arthur. It left all more confused than they'd been to start with. Since then, Merlin's name was forbidden in the castle or anywhere near Arthur. Every memory of the man had been purged, from the materials he'd used to clean the King's armor, to his rooms in Gaius's quarters. Everything was cleaned out, despite the old man's protests and shoved into the cellars in the kitchen. It seemed that no matter how much the King insisted that the manservant was a traitor and an enemy, his heart couldn't bring itself to consider him such.
After three days of insufferable quiet, stifling rage and suffocating betrayal, it all came to a head when the Queen, the only person in the castle unafraid of the King's wrath, confronted him.
The morning it happened was a particularly slow day for court matters. There weren't many locals seeking an audience with the King and no Lords or Kings were due for a visit for at least another fortnight. The guards had been slightly confused when the Queen motioned for them to vacate the great hall, even more so when she dismissed the servants inside.
They'd barely closed the doors before Arthur started to speak.
"What the hell, Gwenivere?"
"Don't 'what the hell' me, you know exactly what this is about, Arthur."
The Knights chose this moment to approach the Great Hall only to be stopped by the Hall guards, who shook their heads silently, indicating that now would not be the best time to interrupt. Leon, looking confused, began to ask what was going on, when suddenly Arthur's voice filtered through the door, clear as crystal and unhindered by the walls.
"If this is about - "
"Merlin - "
"I warned you, Gwenivere. I told you, I don't want to hear his name again for as long as I live. Do not make me repeat myself."
"Shut up, if I were scared of you, Arthur Pendragon, we would never have gotten married in the first place, and I'm not about to start being frightened of you now. We are going to talk about this, whether you like it or not."
"He is exiled, and that is all I will say on the matter. As a practicing sorcerer, he knew it was treason but he continued with his witchcraft. The fact that he is alive and only exiled is in itself a boon. You know what the punishment for his crime is, that I let him live and escape with his life is a blessing."
"And what of Gaius? Hunith? What will you tell them?"
"Gaius will have to be told the truth of course. Hunith will be informed that her son - " Gwaine's fists clenched and unclenched in impotent fury as the word was sneered like some kind of insult, "has sought employment elsewhere."
"He saved your life Arthur!" The pure exasperation in the Queen's voice was palpable to the audience that had amassed outside the hall, though the Knights got rid of them quickly, before the nature of Merlin's exile could be revealed.
"I never asked him to!"
"That's the point!"
" Wha -" There was a tinge of furious indignance to the King's voice now.
"You don't think that fool knew exactly what would happen the moment he did it? Of course he did! He probably expected to be burned that day, but he did it anyway. He risked everything and lost everything for you!"
"If you're trying to make me assume responsibility for his ridiculous actions, then let me tell you right now, that it's not going to happen. Everything he's done is entirely on his own head, and he alone is responsible for this mess!"
"WHAT MESS? That he saved you? I heard what happened from Lancelot, Arthur! If it hadn't been for Merlin -"
There was a roar and the sound of a fist being slammed on to a wood table.
"I TOLD YOU NOT TO SAY HIS NAME!"
Gwenivere continued regardless, speaking over the King's snarled yell. Gwaine looked at the other Knights, all of them looking equally as pale as he probably did.
"- you would have been dead. You're holding the man responsible for treason because he saved you!"
"I'd rather be dead than acknowledge that a man I considered to be my - " here his voice sounded suspiciously thick, like he'd been crying. " My friend practised such a corrupt thing as magic and used it to save me."
"You can't truly mean that." The King's wife's was soft now, like she couldn't reconcile this man she was speaking with to the man she'd married.
"There's nothing I wish for more, right now, Gwenivere. I wish I was dead, I wish he was dead -"
"Anything to escape this. Anything."