I don't own Merlin. I wish I did, it was an amazing series and it spoke of the kind of quality the BBC is capable of, although I wish Doctor Who received the same treatment.
Please let me know what you think.
He's his Father's son alright - Arthur's a murderer.
Frozen in horror as he gazed down in shock at King Carleon's rapidly cooling corpse, Merlin couldn't believe it, he could not believe what Arthur had just done. No, not even he could have been so brutal, but he had, and Merlin was having issues believing what he had just seen. It was like something out of a nightmare; Arthur had only been a King for a short time, but the man was still acting much like a prince instead of the ruler of a whole kingdom, and taking instructions and believing them only because Agravaine was the one who was giving them. Arthur had always thoughtlessly done what family members dictated without realising what he was doing at first, and would only do so in hindsight.
Not a good quality in a Prince, but for a King? What Arthur had just done because of Agravaine's meddling and poor advice... it was unthinkable, especially since the King had foolishly thought about what he perceived his father would have done rather than see the reality, and hadn't bothered to think of the consequences; even when Merlin had been a young kid, he would have known without a shadow of a doubt what the result of this cold-blooded murder would do. Arthur was just too foolish and thickheaded to see it.
It was moments like that which made Merlin question whether or not Arthur was indeed the Once and Future King. Just because he'd been born because of magic - which should have ensured Arthur's own execution long ago since he had been touched by magic thanks to Uther's bargaining with Nimueh - did not make him the Once and Future King automatically, regardless of how close Merlin had become to the man. But the warlock regularly became fed up with having to repeat himself, give warnings to Arthur and tell him whenever someone was a threat. Only to be mocked and ignored in turn.
It was times like that Merlin considered just stepping back and letting Arthur pay the price instead of stepping in while keeping his magic hidden and saving the day. Anything just to make Arthur wake up and face the consequences for a change.
Merlin was just not one hundred percent certain what it was about the man which made his skin crawl, but there was just something about the man which rubbed Merlin the wrong way, whether it was Agravaine's insincerity, the way he looked at Arthur with loathing whenever the young king was not looking, or how the man had not even been near Arthur for the entirety of the young monarch's life until recently when Uther had been left a shadow of his former self following the monumental mess when Morgana and Morgause had both taken over Camelot.
Morgana's betrayal had shaken and shattered both Pendragon men, which had only made Merlin feel physically and mentally sick since it was because of him following the advice of Kilgharrah and Gaius which had made him reject Morgana out fear for that stupid prophecy where they would both be terrible enemies, that the prophecy was almost certain to come true. Sometimes Merlin wondered if Kilgharrah was deliberately trying to force through the worst aspects of the prophecy concerning him and Arthur, and he had fallen into it. The warlock might be closer to the Great Dragon now, but Merlin knew how selfish Kilgharrah was at times, and his age sometimes made him set in his ways. In an ideal world, the dragon would have told him of the potential outcomes of a choice, for instance, he could have told Merlin there was a chance Morgana and Mordred would have risen up to threaten Arthur, but there was a chance Merlin could respond more positively rather than everything being set in stone, and because of that attitude, or partly, Merlin had ensured Morgana was an enemy when she had once been one of his best friends, and a lot more besides, to say nothing of Mordred.
Merlin could understand how Arthur felt at the moment; his long years of serving the King and former Prince had taught him that Arthur was under constant pressure, Gaius had been right shortly after Merlin had become Arthur's manservant, but that did not excuse Arthur following Agravaine's advice in this case.
Surely Arthur knew this was not going to go the way Agravaine said it would? Why the hell did Arthur have to be told Uther would have done it, like it was - ironically - a magical spell, and he would do it, without thinking about the consequences? Merlin had been a manservant to Arthur for a long time now, and he had gained enough insight to know the killing of a royal, especially in cold blood was a bad mistake.
What made it worse was how Agravaine played up to Arthur's weaknesses, saying how Uther would have killed Carleon, to send a message, when Arthur should have known and realised cold-blooded murder of a royal would have been the last thing Uther would ever have done. Merlin had despised the murderer that Uther had been, and that was what Uther was. A murderer. He had hounded magical creatures, all but wiped out the dragons and massacred hundreds of sorcerers, ignoring his laws and losing all sense of logical reason whenever he heard the words magic or sorcery. He had even gone after people who were suspected of using magic when they didn't even know the simplest incantation, never mind having the knowledge needed to do the thing they'd been accused of doing.
Merlin remembered the times Gwen had nearly been killed by Uther's stupid prejudices - the time when Merlin had foolishly healed Gwen's father, and suspicion fell on her, the poultice Morgana had used to frame her as a sorceress (Merlin still wasn't sure why Morgana had done that, and why she had targeted her old friend in such a malevolent manner; it was just another tally of guilt about his own inactions; if he had only told Morgana the truth about himself, then maybe what happened would never have gone the way it had) - and at the time he had wondered just how many others had been killed because suspicion had fallen on them, and Uther had just ordered their execution.
But of course, like most royals - Will had a point about royalty even if Merlin had known his friend was mostly against them because of his own prejudices - Uther hadn't bothered to realise the reason why so many sorcerers tried to destroy his precious kingdom, piece by piece, was out of fear and hatred for what Uther had done to them.
It was out of fear that Merlin had managed to keep his head still attached to his body, despite one or two close occasions - the troll, the Witchfinder and the goblin sprang to mind as close calls - and those moments where he had been incredibly thoughtless and accidentally revealed there was a sorcerer living in Camelot.
It was fear of Uther which had been one of the reasons why Morgana had become an insane shadow of the once kind, compassionate, and generous woman she had once been.
But while Merlin had despised Uther for the insane rampage to stamp out magic throughout the kingdom, even taking his vendetta as far as Cenred's kingdom where Balinor had fled to after Uther manipulated him into trapping Kilgharrah in that stinking cavern beneath the castle, Merlin had known Uther would never murder a royal. He'd go to war, perhaps, but he would never cross the line to cold-blooded murder, not like this. So how could Arthur believe this was what his father would have done? Why listen to a man who hadn't been around for twenty years? It was insane.
What upset Merlin the most was Arthur had indeed become his father, in Uther's thoughtlessness and lack of foresight about the long term consequences. In a way, Arthur had become nothing more than a murderer, and the young warlock knew Queen Annis would certainly feel that way soon about Arthur Pendragon.
Arthur was now a murderer. He had listened to the worst kind of advice, instead of listening to his better judgement, and now the whole of Camelot would pay the price. Merlin knew of Queen Annis' reputation. She was not the type to overlook something like this, and he knew mercy would be the last thing on her mind when she declared war.
And Merlin didn't blame her.
He also would not blame her in the least if the soon to be enraged Queen ordered a non-magical equivalent to the Great Purge, and ordered the merciless murder of all of the people in Camelot's kingdom. What was worse was, when he thought that about Camelot's citizens, a cruel part of Merlin believed the people of Camelot deserved it for the crimes committed against the magical world.
And this time there might not be an easy way out.
For the rest of the day, Merlin kept away from Arthur as they rode back to Camelot. The warlock had kept his mouth shut on the journey back to the citadel, not even complaining once as he thought about the plans going through his mind about how to deal with the monumental mess Arthur had just landed them in thanks to Agravaine.
But one of Merlin's biggest headaches was wondering what he was going to do about Arthur's uncle. He knew Agravaine was Morgana's little agent, and he knew the woman who had once been a dear friend had something to do with this, which made him wonder if the witch had come up with a plan involving Carleon flouncing the treaty between his kingdom and Camelot just to make Arthur's army look weak which would make it ripe for conquest by the witch.
He wouldn't put it past her, either. Morgana knew Arthur well. She knew about his strengths and his weaknesses, and she knew Arthur would be more concerned about losing face in front of a family member than thinking about the greater good and the consequences of what might occur. If Morgana hadn't somehow been behind this mess, Merlin would be surprised.
Night fell and the riders were forced to make camp. It was a pity because Merlin really did not want to play the part of a servant, not in his current frame of mind, but he swallowed his annoyance and his feelings and he focused on the job. Arthur had wanted to sleep a fair distance from the other knights - Merlin was thankful Leon and Percival, two of the more thoughtful of the band, were looking deeply disappointed and disturbed by what the King had done, and although he hadn't had the opportunity to do so just yet, Merlin wondered if they knew Arthur's supposed attempt at looking strong was going to explode in his face very quickly.
Merlin approached Arthur's part of the camp. The moment he saw the other man, Merlin mentally sighed when he saw the dark brooding expression on the King's face. Whenever Arthur was in this kind of mood he was virtually unmovable even if he was conflicted inwardly. Merlin said nothing as he placed the plate of stew in front of the King, and he was just about to leave when Arthur spoke up.
"You were very quiet today. I half expected you to have a go for killing Carleon."
Merlin was surprised Arthur had even noticed his silence. He turned around and looked down at the King. "What would be the point? You didn't bother listening to me before, why would you listen to me now?"
"No, I'm not wasting my time giving advice to someone who refuses to heed it," Merlin knew he was being a hypocrite especially since he had listened to the advice Kilgharrah had handed over to him, and he'd refused to listen when it came time to use the advice. Now he knew how the Great Dragon had felt, but at the time he had believed the decisions were justified.
But in this case, Merlin knew the consequences for Camelot were serious.
"Don't take that tone with me, Merlin. I am the King-."
"Yes, you are," Merlin interrupted softly, annoyed with how Arthur, as always when he was stressed or annoyed, submerged himself deeply in his stupid titles and expected everyone to back off as if they were an enchanted blade more powerful than Excalibur. Merlin knew he would need to tread carefully here, knowing from experience Arthur would lash out if he had gone into an argument too strongly the other man would overreact. And he didn't want to do that especially after how Arthur had crossed the line and murdered a man in cold blood. "You're the King of Camelot now, Arthur. I know you're under a lot of pressure, but did you really have to kill Carleon?"
"I had to be strong, Merlin," Arthur said woodenly, but Merlin knew Arthur well enough to know he was shaken by what he had done. "My father would have done the same-."
"Would he really? Arthur, if you had a daughter, a princess, and she was killed in cold blood because she'd accidentally crossed the border into another kingdom, and the prince of that kingdom killed her… what would you do?"
"That is a hypothetical question-."
"Just answer me," Merlin pressed before he answered his own question. "You would have gone to war. Not only had your heiress been killed, but it had also been done without provocation. I know the situation with Carleon's different, he frequently crossed the border deliberately, but things could have gone differently, Arthur. I only hope you're prepared to accept the consequences of your actions and think twice before you listen to the word of a man who hasn't even seen you for twenty years!"
Arthur was instantly on the defensive. He looked up and glared straight into Merlin's face, the light from the fire making his features more ghoulishly angry than they would have been in reality. "Have a care, Merlin. Lord Agravaine is-."
"Someone who hasn't been there for you for years, Arthur. Why is that?" Merlin completed before he closed his eyes and he shook his head while biting back the long stream of abusive things he had longed to say about Agravaine ever since the slimy man had first entered his presence while he lorded himself over everyone like he expected servants and nobles and knights alike, treating everyone like he owned them all simply because of his relation to the new King of Camelot when the sad truth was he hadn't been there for years since Ygraine's death. Sometimes Merlin dearly wished Arthur's mother had survived in some way, he would have liked to have met her, and he would have wondered what kind of people her son would have been had she been in his life, instead of being dead because Nimueh had chosen her life to maintain the Old Religion's balance. "I've had enough of this. Listen to him if you want, but don't bother to come crying when everything blows up in your face."
Merlin stalked away, muttering, "Honestly, stick a crown on someone's head, and they stop thinking…"
He knew he was playing a dangerous game by saying that, but he was just sick and tired of how Arthur refused to listen to advice even if the idiot knew, deep down, it made so much sense. He also knew he had made a mistake by going for Agravaine like that. But he hadn't been able to help himself. There was something about Agravaine he did not like, and he didn't like the way the man simply waved away the fact he hadn't been in Arthur's life for two decades, and barely hid his dislike for the King.
It was slightly petty, but Merlin just did not like how Agravaine had turned up, and within a few moments of being in his presence, Arthur had transformed the man into the one main advisor he had, especially when Merlin went out of his way to give Arthur advice while showing great patience whenever the King refused to listen to him, which happened frequently.
Merlin sighed as he accepted the inevitable. He was going to have to think of a way of protecting Arthur from his own mistakes, even if he wanted nothing more than to shove the mistakes the King had made until he couldn't ignore them.