19 January 2009 @ 01:04 am
To Be King  
Title: To Be King
Author: [info]lilithilien
Fandom/Characters: Merlin, Arthur/Merlin
Word Count/Rating: 1325 words/R
Summary: Merlin is Camelot, distilled in physical form.
Disclaimer: This incarnation of Merlin belongs to Auntie Beeb. Definitely, definitely not mine.
A/N: Chronicling a fangirl's demise: "No, never -- Merlin is faaar too cheesy. OK, yeah, it's cheesy, but it is fun. And by fun, I of course mean I can't believe there's so much slash! I'll read just this one story on my flist, but I don't have time for another fandom. Look at all the shiny comms! And wow, what great stories there are. But I'll never write in it, ever. Oh, hells." This started out as a short character study of Arthur and somehow turned to smut. I blame Bradley James and that ... thing ... he does with his voice. Huge thanks to [info]sarcastic_jo for beta and enabling. (Posted at merlinxarthur and merlinslash.

Magic is returning to Camelot.

For over two decades, Uther Pendragon has sought to rid it from the kingdom. For a time he seems to succeed. The King's feast days replace the old festivals that celebrated the turn of the seasons, now noting nothing more than a mark on a calendar. Druids no longer set up their odd encampments within Camelot's borders; no more do their eerie songs ride the wings of dragons over the castle walls. Even the executions that King Uther orders are lessening, although there is no greater tolerance for crimes of magic. Punishments are still meted out for the most trivial matters: charms that drive wolves from the livestock or love potions to turn a suitor's eye. For these offences the headman's blade flashes, sharp and swift as lightning, a dazzling reminder of the penalty for any form of sorcery. A price no man wants to pay.

For a time, Camelot bends to the King's will.

For a time, Arthur believes this is so.

Arthur Pendragon was born to serve Camelot. This his father tells him often, usually before decreeing a new levy on an already struggling village or demanding more men be trained for battle. Knowing nothing else, Arthur does not question how the will of Camelot so closely resembles that of the King. It sometimes gives him pause when the condemned accused Uther of betraying Camelot, when they lament the time when King and land were truly one. He sometimes wonders how their families fare, and whether his father's fulgurant justice might not leave on the people's spirits the same charred wounds he finds on hilltops after a lightning storm. But such notions pass quickly. When he ascends to the throne, Arthur is certain he will serve Camelot just as Uther does, dispensing favours with mercy and justice with strength.

And then, one day, that changes.

It is an inauspicious beginning to be sure, a chance meeting with a scrawny peasant who's no doubt headed for the stocks, if not the chopping block. Who could have foretold that the stranger's arrival would augur such upheaval, that with each stumbled step he took down Camelot's broad streets another bit of magic would be unleashed?

The figure beside him shifts in sleep, his murmur indecipherable, but Arthur imagines he is answering the silent question: "Morgana could have… or the dragon… or Nimueh…"

Or perhaps it's simply a slumberous protest that he is not the one who unleashed the magic. Merlin indignant even in sleep would not surprise Arthur. Deference does not come naturally to him. He has learned to avert his eyes before the King, to bow his head when it is expected, but Arthur knows his servant can never blend into the shadows like those born to service. He knows Merlin cannot trust his tongue not to lash out with the certainty that he's the equal of any man, even the heir to the throne; he knows Merlin's voice will never simper with cloying praise. He knows this, and because of this Arthur trusts him above all others.

Because of this, Arthur keeps him safe.

That day had seen another execution. A woman this time, a mother, whose youngest daughter was despoiled by bandits. A sentence that Uther insisted was just punishment for the incurable pox she conjured on the men. Prince Arthur stood beside him in his rightful place as heir, his duty to bear witness to the King's power and the justness of the sentence. Lightning-quick it came, the silver flash of an axe followed by the wail of orphans, and the crisp bite of ozone flooding the back of Arthur's throat. It pained him that he could not even grant the family any dignity in recognising their anguish. He was fighting too hard against his own treasonous thoughts, against the image of Morgana's pale neck flattened against the wood and of Merlin's tattered scarf curling in flame, against his repeated mantra that when I am King it will be different.

When it was over, Uther announced that magic had once more been banished from Camelot. Arthur remembers hearing that many times before, but always it returns.

Arthur knows what Merlin would have said, knows it as well as his fingers know the edge of Merlin's sharp hipbone still jutting out in open defiance of Arthur's insistence that he eat more. His hand curls around Merlin's hip now, the skin surprisingly soft there, such a contrast to the bitterness Arthur feels weighing heavily in his ear. "Magic never left Camelot. Uther just didn't look in the right places," it says in that impudent tone that Arthur brooks for none other. "Neither did you." An affectionate "you prat" slips out as a natural coda; then, realising he's just insulted himself, Arthur squeezes Merlin's hip too hard in retribution.

But he is right; Arthur is sure of that, as Merlin rolls towards him, reaches for him across the covers, his eyes still heavy with sleep. Arthur might be the heir of Pendragon, exalted by birth, tested in trials, proven countless times over, but until Merlin arrived he never understood what it would mean to rule Camelot. The kingdom that his father reigns is little more than lines drawn on a map through treaties signed in ink and blood. Uther has grown too distant from his people, his duty to protect them a mere abstraction. Arthur could have followed in that vein, would have followed, were it not for Merlin.

Merlin is Camelot, distilled in physical form. Not his magic, not just his magic, although in listless moments like this it becomes almost inseparable from his body. It pours through his veins just as it runs in the rivers of Albion; it shines golden in eyes gazing up at Arthur, reflecting the morning light like the glinting mirrors that adorn the farmers' ploughs. Magic thrums, unbridled in repose, tickling Arthur's hand as it glides along Merlin's side. It curves like the boughs of an ancient oak, chasing the line of his thumb along the furrows of ribs under warm skin. It crackles between them as Merlin presses against him, their bodies straight as rowan staffs, entwined like the land and its King.

Merlin slithers a hand under Arthur's night shift and drags it over his head, laughing insolently when the prince gasps at the shockingly cold air on newly bared skin. He gasps again when Merlin's thin fingers encircle his hardness, this touch that commands such power now calling forth the dragon coiled inside Arthur's belly. But this is no conjurer's trick. This is Merlin's length pressed flush against his, their flesh sliding together, thrusting at their too-human pace, irregular and imperfect and magnificent. This is Arthur's hand wrapping around Merlin's, banishing the rift between master and servant, peasant and king, the two of them moving with such symmetry that it's not long before the dragon roars and Arthur shatters. Tucked inside spiking flashes of pleasure he hears his name whispered through Merlin's shuddered climax. The word holds more reverence than it ever has uttered outside his chamber, the weight of the obeisance leaving the most powerful sorcerer this isle has ever known curved bonelessly against his chest.

Arthur drags Merlin closer, the lithe frame fitting within the span of his arms as if Merlin had been custom-made for him. In Merlin, he has discovered the care he must have to rule, the compassion that he has never known before. His sword-callused fingertips slide over skin as familiar as his own, drawn to the blemishes he knows are there. Some are old cicatrices brought from Ealdor before, other scars he has earned fighting by Arthur's side; each serves as a reminder that Merlin is nowhere as frail as he looks.

But each reminds Arthur of what he must protect.

Magic is returning to Camelot, resuming its place alongside the rule of men. With Merlin beside him, Arthur knows what it means to be King.

~~~~~ The End ~~~~~
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[info]sarcastic_jo on January 19th, 2009 12:23 am (UTC)
enabler? mwah?

*snogs lewdly and then throws merlin and arthur at you to keep you entertained and enabled for weeks*

this is just gorgeous - showcasing how arthur's changed because of merlin and really, how *aware* he's become, not only of himself (yay self-awareness) but also of Camelot, her people, and really, his father.

because he's just defined himself by being everything his father wasn't.

and then the allusions with the land and the scars and the magic and the protecting and mmmnnnguhgh.

mmmmmmmmand the porn. i'm so glad you decided to go with the porn. because there can never be too much porn and merlin/arthur just makes it so easy.

you are never leaving, do you hear? cause well, no. you're stuck in here with me now. forever and ever.
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Lilith: merlin-the royal ass[info]lilithilien on January 19th, 2009 01:04 am (UTC)
There's just something wrong with writing a character study that won't let you stop until it veers toward smut! Down, boys, down! Thanks for your patience as the story shaped and grew!

Arthur's growth in the series is I think the #1 reason why I love it so much. Well, and it's awfully pretty. ;) But the journey Arthur takes from being a royal ass to Gedref is so amazing. It just makes me want to know so much more!

Stuck, eh? At least until I write my Gwen epic and you finish PILE!
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[info]animeartistjo on January 19th, 2009 02:21 am (UTC)


I love it when Arthur finds himself in Merlin. In more ways then one. ;DDD
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Lilith: merlin-merlin approves[info]lilithilien on January 19th, 2009 02:53 am (UTC)
Thank you! And I agree -- so much of the show is on Merlin figuring out that he's the brighter side of the coin, and I love seeing Arthur come to realise that too.

Thank you so much for your comment!!
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(Anonymous) on January 19th, 2009 03:07 am (UTC)
that was amazing!
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Lilith: merlin-morgana's lovely hair[info]lilithilien on January 19th, 2009 03:09 am (UTC)
Thank you so much!
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[info]sffan on January 19th, 2009 05:39 am (UTC)
This is lovely. So very powerful and sexy.
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Lilith: merlin-girls[info]lilithilien on January 19th, 2009 10:42 am (UTC)
That's so sweet, thank you! :)
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[info]dameange on January 19th, 2009 08:04 am (UTC)
so lovely, thank you for writing it.
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Lilith: merlin-swordy[info]lilithilien on January 19th, 2009 10:43 am (UTC)
Thank you! I'm really happy that you enjoyed it!
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{Johnny Angel}: m- nighttime castle[info]omarandjohnny on January 19th, 2009 09:57 am (UTC)
Arthur's drags Merlin closer, the lithe frame fitting within the span of his arms as if Merlin had been custom-made for him.

::draws hearts in the air above their bed::

This was just lovely, darling, lovely!!
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Lilith: merlin-merlinxarthur[info]lilithilien on January 19th, 2009 10:44 am (UTC)
Aw, thank you!! They love the hearts!

Are you catching up on the series then?
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andreth_47: Antichrist[info]andreth_47 on January 19th, 2009 12:14 pm (UTC)
Oh my, that was nice! And this is (bar the textual sexual) the gist of the show?

Oh bloody hell, now you've done it. You and that cursed video you linked to! *shakes tiny fists* Before I get sucked into this fandom, tell me: is the dialogue any good, or is it awful? I just wanna be prepared.
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Lilith: merlin-subtext[info]lilithilien on January 19th, 2009 12:25 pm (UTC)
It's good! Really, it's very quite good. (And dude, the slash! In the very first ep Arthur boasts that he can take Merlin in just one blow! *flails* What are you supposed to do with that?) You do have to suspend your belief at some of the plots, but it's worth it, honestly.

I will say one thing: abandon everything you know about the Arthurian myths before you watch it. I watched the first episode and it hurt. It took a while (and nudges from several folks on my flist) to give it another chance. But I am so, so glad I did. The story develops amazingly well and the characters actually grow (something I'm just not used to, as a Stargate fan!). They don't try to be historical, not really. They're creating a new myth that's slightly off-kilter, but cleverly comes at what you know from a different direction.

Do, give it a chance, I need more IJ people to squeee with!
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(no subject) - [info] on May 9th, 2009 10:43 am (UTC)
Lilith: merlin-arthur[info]lilithilien on May 9th, 2009 11:28 am (UTC)
Thank you so much! Yes, the characters are developing so wonderfully. I really hope they don't screw it up in the next series! And I think because they are keeping the show light (for kids, you know) but dealing with often very dark themes, it gives lots of leeway for fandom to fill in the blanks. In any case, I'm so happy that you enjoyed this!
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queenbarwench: autumn leaves[info]queenbarwench on January 19th, 2009 12:18 pm (UTC)
Ooh, this is gorgeous! Lots of very nice imagery, not least at the the end ;) Of course, now I need to go and find some Merlin icons...

I think I also have to claim a teensy bit of credit for assisting in your downfall *grin*
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Lilith: merlin-morgana's lovely hair[info]lilithilien on January 19th, 2009 12:28 pm (UTC)
You bet you do! I had actually given up on the show after seeing the first episode and being physically pained. If not for your nudging, I would have missed all this fun! *shudder*

Thank you so much for your comment -- I'm so pleased that you liked it!
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Aldi: Isabella is blurry[info]aldiara on January 19th, 2009 01:36 pm (UTC)
I do NOT have time for another fandom, so don't even look in my general direction with a link ;), but this was gorgeous. Such lovely, lush descriptions, insightful characterisation as usual (I mean, I don't know the canon characterisation, obviously, but this was beautiful and thoughtful). And mhmmmm, the porn was sweet!
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Lilith: merlin-girls[info]lilithilien on January 19th, 2009 02:12 pm (UTC)
What? Who me? Give you links? I don't know what you're talking about!

Thank you so much for reading it -- I'm so glad that you liked it! (Even if I can't suck you into another fandom. Not that I would ever do such a thing!)
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Aldi: Snow White[info]aldiara on January 19th, 2009 02:18 pm (UTC)
Uh huh. You are innocent as the driven snow, if snow is driven by porny & coercive urges, which I suspect it is.
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Lilith: animals-snow cat[info]lilithilien on January 19th, 2009 02:23 pm (UTC)
It has been awfully blizzard-y around here lately... *shivers* Porn really is a great heat source, you know.
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lilian_cho: Merlin approved[info]lilian_cho on January 20th, 2009 03:07 am (UTC)
Yessss. Write MOAR pls.

The Merlin = Camelot paragraph has pretty imagery <3

Arthur's drags Merlin closer -- Arthur, you mean?
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Lilith: merlin-once & future king[info]lilithilien on January 20th, 2009 08:09 am (UTC)
Re: <3
Oh, yes, thank you so much!

And thanks, I'm so glad you liked! I'm poking at something else -- true to form, I'm going from one-shot to epic, so it might be a bit unless I post as a WIP. I do wish I wrote faster!
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lilian_cho: : D[info]lilian_cho on January 21st, 2009 03:37 am (UTC)
Re: <3
Whee, epic story is epic! =D

I don't mind WIPs, but do whatever you're comfortable with =)
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(Anonymous) on January 21st, 2009 03:15 am (UTC)
Oh, Lovely. =)
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Lilith: merlin-arthur[info]lilithilien on January 21st, 2009 08:36 pm (UTC)
Thank you so much!
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Sebastian: Merlin - A/M I believe in you[info]kabal42 on March 4th, 2009 06:23 pm (UTC)
Gods, I love your metaphors. Seriously. I want to wrap myself in this language and hope it rubs off. Mmm. Lush and beautiful.
I also believe it's true. With or without sex, Merlin is what/who will teach Arthur how to be king, will show him compassion and care.
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Lilith: merlin-merlinxarthur[info]lilithilien on March 4th, 2009 08:13 pm (UTC)
Wow, what an awesome compliment -- I'm blushing like mad right now!

Yep, I totally agree -- Arthur's got such a protective streak, but he hasn't had anyone, really, to protect. Without that, he could easily turn mean, I think. The legends are all about nobility and all that, but that seems like such a meaningless abstraction compared to having a real person to love and protect. (Yes, I get sappy about these two, shup.)
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[info]femmefest on May 12th, 2009 04:50 am (UTC)
What a way with words!
This was delicious and incredibly written.
Thanks for sharing :)
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Lilith: merlin-once & future king[info]lilithilien on May 13th, 2009 11:58 am (UTC)
Thank you so very much -- I'm so happy that you liked it!!
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[info]spidermoth on September 8th, 2009 08:44 pm (UTC)
I had to read... It crackles between them as Merlin presses against him, their bodies straight as rowan staffs, entwined like the land and its King... 3 times for it's earthy beauty. Good fucking Christ! Did you do that? Where do these magnificent brushstrokes made by words come from? They are not of mortal (wo)man, surely.

E. Voc. A. Tive.

And this...

Tucked inside spiking flashes of pleasure he hears his name whispered through Merlin's shuddered climax. The word holds more reverence than it ever has uttered outside his chamber, the weight of the obeisance leaving the most powerful sorcerer this isle has ever known curved bonelessly against his chest.

I weep at the sensual beauty of your prose. Truly, I do.
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Lilith: merlin-merlinxarthur[info]lilithilien on September 9th, 2009 05:03 am (UTC)
Oh, what a brilliant comment -- you should see how I'm beaming here. Thank you so, so much. I haven't exercised my writing muscle in far too long, but it's encouraging words like these that make me think I should try to drag the muse out from under the bed. Thank you so much!
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[info]spidermoth on September 9th, 2009 06:42 am (UTC)
Oh yes! By all means, drag out the muse. *cheers*

Or... If dragging doesn't work, try cookies. :D
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