Title: Heads and Tales: Part 2
Rating: PG at the moment, might become PG-13 or even 15 at a later date.
Summary: Merlin and Arthur; two names that are heard together throughout history. But both are falling into easily laid traps as well as love, and it seems that they might not ever reach their destiny.
Disclaimer: Not mine – if it was then I wouldn’t be posting on here, now, would I?
A/N: Chapter index is here. This fic will now be updated every two weeks, on a Friday. Unless something happens, like it did this week - hence the lateness. Sorry about that - hope you like :) Also, the "translations" of "Emrys" are not meant to be accurate, call it artistic licence. :P
A time of fear and hatred and burning will last a reign
But out of the ashes a new king will rise
He will unite the kingdoms of Albion
And a golden age will dawn.
And yet his destiny will not rest in his hands alone
For Emrys Ambrosius, born of magick
Shall take his side and friendship
For fear of all the world
If the king does not rise
Will fall into darkness
and black magick.
Mylan’s brow furrowed as he read the old, runic language, his fingers skimming under each line without touching the ancient parchment. Emrys Ambrosius… the new boy was called Emrys. Well, hardly new now – he’d been living at the druid’s camp for three months. But where he had gotten the name from? In the runes it could be translated as one, unique – it could even just have been a comment from a stranger, a reflective of the boy’s odd nature. Nothing to do with the old prophecies. Just… a coincidence.
There are no coincidences. Nature will have her way, magic even more so. Destiny cannot be avoided.
The voice of Mylan’s old tutor echoed in his mind. He frowned, thoughtful. Then someone called his name from outside and he carefully wrapped the old parchment back in its leather binding before leaving his tent.
The dark dungeon dripped, impossibly cold – no, Merlin realised, what was impossible was imagining that outside of this dungeon was the warm summer’s night and the soft half moon. His flicked around the dungeon again, impatient, waiting for something to happen.
Suddenly there was a clag of metal on stones, and the sound of heavy feet on the steps. Arthur, Merlin and the four knights stood, Arthur foremost and Merlin hovering just behind his right shoulder, his every nerve on edge.
Three heavy-set men stood outside the iron bars. The man in the centre spoke first, with a deep and calm voice.
“My men found you on our land. Name yourselves, and tell me now if you be friend or foe.”
Arthur stepped forward and Merlin recognised the familiar, proud tilt to his head.
“I am Arthur Pendragon, Crown Prince of Camelot,” he said. “My men and I were out hunting when we lost our way in the darkness. We had no intention of trespassing, I assure you – and for that you have my apologies.” His voice was controlled, diplomatic, sincere; Merlin knew that no one else would notice the slight impatience in his stance.
“So a friend,” said the man, his voice gruff but not angry. “Then I hope you forgive this,” he gestured to the dungeon, “but my men are few in number, and as such we are forced to resort to such regrettably backhanded techniques to keep our land secure.” He nodded at the man to his left, who produces a heavy set of keys and unlocked the cell door. It swung open with a creak.
“Please, dine with us. It is nearly noon, and after the meal my men will show you back to your home.”
Arthur nodded politely and followed the as-yet unnamed man out of the dungeon, his four knights and Merlin following. An air of ease and goodwill fell over them as they entered the main part of the small castle, but something in Merlin’s heart still felt twisted, uncertain.
It can’t be this simple.
“Merlin, run, just get out!”
“Arthur, I –”
“Don’t worry about me, you idiot, just do as I say for once and RUN!”
“But Arthur –”
“Emrys! Emrys, wake up! Merlin! Wake up, you’re –”
“- having a nightmare again!” Merlin’s eyes jerked open to see Jethar leaning over him, shaking his arm. He forced himself to relax, to calm, and gave Jethar an embarrassed half-smile.
“Sorry,” he said. Jethar shook his head.
“It’s alright – hardly your fault. I just wish you’d let me ask Deira to brew you something for them, it can’t be fun always having nightmares.”
Merlin just shrugged.
“They’ll go in their own time,” he said as he reached for his shoes. Jethar paused for a moment, clearly not satisfied, but he left the tent as Merlin began to dress. Sorry, Jethar, Merlin thought. He hated having to lie here, but how could he explain to Jethar that he didn’t want the nightmares to stop? That although every night he relived every horror he had seen, he would lose himself without them? That though each nightmare was terrifying, they were his only way to see Arthur…
He glanced up at the sky. Not for long now, though. It would be a full moon tonight.
The meal was simple, but good, and the company polite, but Merlin barely noticed. Arthur and the knights were in good spirits though, and when Arthur saw how serious Merlin’s expression was he had given him a look as if to ask him why he was being such a spoilsport.
“You can’t be still sulking that you got knocked out, Merlin?” he asked as he watched Merlin saddle his horse. Merlin shook his head. Arthur raised his eyebrows.
“Come on, you can’t sulk all afternoon.”
Merlin still didn’t answer. Arthur glanced around, and seeing that the stables were otherwise empty took a step closer and placed a gentle hand on Merlin’s arm.
“Talk to me,” he said quietly. “What’s wrong?”
Merlin looked up at him.
“I don’t know,” he said after a moment, holding back his urge to grab Arthur and just run, to get as far away from this place as possible. “It just feels… wrong, here.”
Arthur raised his eyebrows again, sceptical.
Merlin shrugged, and continued to busy himself with the straps and the saddle. Arthur watched him quietly for a moment, but Merlin could tell he thought his manservant was being ridiculous, and he didn’t blame him. He had no idea where this feeling had come from, but it was strong and it had to mean something. Eventually, Arthur just clapped him on the shoulder.
“We’ll be out of here soon enough,” he said, and left to speak to the four knights who were waiting outside.
“And try and hurry up, Merlin!” he called over his shoulder as he left.
“What’s going on?” Mylan asked. Deira and some of the others were deep in discussion, almost argument as he approached them. Deira turned to him.
“Mylan, you trust Emrys, yes?” she asked. Mylan nodded. She turned back to the others.
“This place is not a prison, everyone here is free to wander where they will,” she said. “What’s the harm in it?”
“A harmless walk is one thing,” Farson said, frowning, “but regular trips in the same direction that one tells no one about are something quite different.”
Mylan glanced at the expressions of the others. It seemed most were on Farson’s side, not Deira’s.
“Emrys left the camp in secret for the second time yesterday,” Farson continued. Deira interrupted him.
“In secret? He’s old enough, must he explain himself to everyone? That boy has been through much fear,” she turned to Mylan, “you can see the sadness in his eyes, the loss in his face. And we are supposed to turn on him because he enjoys his own company occasionally?”
Mylan raised his hand as the others started to speak, and they fell quiet.
“Has anyone asked Emrys where he goes?” he asked.
“He just says ‘walking’,” Jethar answered from behind Mylan, who turned. Jethar and Isa had approached the group as they had been talking. Jethar spoke again.
“He doesn’t cover his tracks very well,” he said hesitantly. “If you don’t think that you can trust him, then why not let me and Isa follow him, see where he goes?”
There was silence at this for a few moments.
“We should just be able to trust him,” Deira said softly.
“We do,” Mylan said to her, “but if others have doubts, then I cannot fault them. These are dangerous times, and I understand their fears. I also believe – ” he raised his hand gently again, and Deira did not interrupt, “- that Emrys would understand this. Jethar and Isa can follow him next time he leaves.”
There was a general nod of consensus. Jethar spoke up again, quietly.
“Emrys watches the sky, the progress of the moon. He leaves the day before the full moon, all but one of the months he has been here,” he said.
“Then we must wait in patience, and in acceptance,” Mylan said softly.