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A Word for Forgotten Songs (20/20)

Title: A Word for Forgotten Songs
Fandom: Merlin
Characters: Merlin, Arthur, Uther, Gaius, Gwen, Morgana, Leon, OMC
Rated: PG-13
Word Count: 1,857 (total 23,633)
Summary: A strange warrior arrives in time to save Arthur and Merlin from bandits. He is wounded and falls ill. As Gaius cares for the wound, he knows the blade was dipped in a potion that only affects those with magic. After he heals, Merlin talks with him of magic and Arthur spars with him. They then learn that the bandit attack was not random.
Author's Note: This has been sitting on my computer for over 3 years! It's still not done but I couldn't put off the posting any longer. The original character is from one of my series and I kinda place him in lots of fandoms. His original series starts here. The story is set in series 2, somewhat early on. It's unbeta'd so all mistakes are my own.

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Merlin slipped into his room quietly so as not to wake Alan. He tripped and knocked into his bed, causing its legs to scrape across the floor. He froze and looked down at Alan, afraid he had awoken the older man. Merlin needn’t have worried as he was like the dead.

Merlin smiled as he thought of the visitors Alan had had. At one point, Merlin half expected to see Uther come through the door. Thankfully, that didn’t happen. Merlin had been in the king’s close proximity enough over the past few days to last a lifetime. He still refused to call him by name yet he used Alan’s. No, he wasn’t jealous of Alan. Envious, perhaps. He had to keep to the shadows. If word got out he had saved Arthur in some near-impossible way, then everyone would want to know how.

There would come a time when he wouldn’t have to hide his talents and everyone would know what he had done for Arthur and Camelot. According to Alan and Kilgarrah, stories would be passed down for generations. That more than made up for hiding right now. He fell asleep with a smile.

******************


The next day everything returned to normal. Merlin rode out with Arthur to show the populace he was still alive. Alan stayed with Gaius doing Merlin’s chores. They told everyone who asked that he was still recovering when, in reality, he was hiding.

As they rode back from the outlying villages, Arthur brought up the topic of Alan – and magic. “Do you know why he did it?”

“Why did who do what?” he asked, feigning ignorance.

“Why did Alan save my life like that? I mean, all the other magic users I’ve encountered have been trying to kill me.”

“Not everyone with magic is evil,” Merlin said slowly, not wanting to stop Arthur thinking positively about magic. “I think that the ones bent on revenge are the ones that come to Camelot. The others stay away and do magic quietly, helping who they can. That’s why you’ve never met one. They’re afraid to reveal themselves. You wouldn’t have known about Alan if Ayburn hadn’t said anything.”

Arthur stared at him, a puzzled look on his face. “You’ve thought a lot about this.”

Merlin shrugged. “I grew up with magic.”

“You knew he had magic, didn’t you?” he accused. “You’ve been sharing a room all this time. You had to have known.”

“I may have…suspected.”

“Merlin.”

“I didn’t really know and I couldn’t just turn him in after he had saved our lives.”

Arthur gave an exasperated sigh. “No, you’re right.”

Merlin turned his head quickly, not believing what he heard. He smartly kept his mouth shut as Arthur continued.

“I guess we’ll just have to keep quiet about it while he’s here. My father can’t have another reason to suspect him.”

“I don’t think we’ll have to do it for long,” Merlin stated. “If it weren’t for the feast, he would have left today.”

“Why would he leave? He can do practically anything he wants.”

“If things had turned out differently and we didn’t know about the magic, maybe he would stay.”

“He doesn’t want us to worry about keeping his secret. Well, in that case, you and I are going to make this the best farewell feast ever.”

Arthur galloped off and Merlin urged his horse to catch up.

********************


That night at the feast, Alan was seated at the table closest to the dais. Everyone wanted to talk to him and Merlin thought he was being rather gracious considering his earlier confession that he didn’t like all the attention.

As Merlin refilled Arthur’s goblet, the prince spared a glance at Morgana. The king’s ward glared at him before sweetly resuming spooning her soup. “I thought you explained everything.”

“I did but she’s just as mad at all of us for keeping it secret from her,”

“Didn’t you tell her I made you keep the secret?”

“Yes, but she said it was no excuse.”

“She’ll never let it go, you know. She’ll bring it up whenever she wants something.” Arthur looked over at Alan who was being chatted at by a woman who wanted to hear his life story. “I think you’d better rescue him from Lady Arwyn before she latches her claws into him.”

At that moment, Alan knocked over his wine, spilling it down his front. He stood and backed away from Lady Arwyn as she reached out with a napkin to help wipe him down.

Arthur chuckled. “Go on. Help him.”

Merlin grinned and set down the pitcher before going to Alan. “C’mon, you need a change of clothes.”

They made it to the hall without being stopped. “Do we have to go back?” Alan questioned.

“Yeah, but we can walk really slowly there and back.”

“Brilliant idea, Merlin. Maybe we can take the scenic route.”

******************


Alan surprised them by staying for a couple of days after the feast. He made a point of apologizing to Morgana and Gwen while defending it as the right decision. They both forgave him! They hadn’t done that yet for him or Arthur.

He also copied some of Gaius’ notes on herbs and healing in quite decent penmanship. Merlin tried to teach him a spell or two but no success. As they were simple ones, it just proved that Alan’s magic was different.

He even got in some time on the practice yard with Arthur. Alan had a smile the whole time, immensely enjoying the situation. And Arthur, despite being beaten again, was laughing. The knights weren’t sure how to handle it. Arthur being beaten was a rare thing. Arthur laughing when it happened was even moreso. It wasn’t long before they were trying to copy Alan’s moves in the hopes of besting Arthur themselves.

Being the only one who knew where Alan was from, Merlin understood that he was spending time with each of them to build memories before he went back.

Returning to his room after cleaning up after Arthur, Merlin found Alan packing a bag. The clothes were all gifts as he had had nothing when he came to Camelot. “Were you planning on leaving without saying goodbye?” He tried not to sound hurt.

“No, of course not. I was gonna wait for you. I thought you might want to go with me – at least to where we met up. I know you won’t leave, destiny and all.” He stopped and looked at Merlin. “There’s something I want to say to you without anyone else around.”

“It’s about what you know, isn’t it? About me and Arthur?”

“Yeah. Um.” He took a deep breath. “Arthur dies in battle. Don’t ask me where or when ‘cause I can’t tell you. His body is taken to a sacred island where he will wait until he’s needed again.”

“The Once and Future King,” Merlin said softly. Even though he wasn’t sure he wanted to know, he still had to ask. “What about me?”

“One of the more popular versions is that you wander the earth while you wait. That’s what I want to talk about. I’m guessing that at some point you’re going to come into your full powers, and, if you can figure out how, contact me.”

“Are you sure?”

“Yeah. I’ve a feeling that you’re going to want to talk about the ‘old days’ and no one else will be around.”

The fact of Alan offering his help struck Merlin more than his wandering or even Arthur’s death. He really didn’t know what to say. “Thanks, Alan.”

“Merlin? Alan?” Gaius called from the main room.

“Guess it’s time to start the goodbyes.”

**********************


They rode out of the gate a little later than intended. Alan was riding the same horse as he had earlier despite his protest that he wouldn’t need one where he was going. Arthur had told him that it would not do for him to ride double with Merlin when there was a stable full of horses.

“There’s not much daylight left,” commented Alan as they trotted along. “At least it’s not too far to go.”

“That wouldn’t have been a problem if you hadn’t decided to say goodbye to everyone,” complained Arthur.

“Everyone’s been so kind to me and I didn’t want to leave anyone out. Morgana and Gwen were the hardest. I could barely get a word out over their pleading.”

“I think Father was upset to see you go.”

Merlin couldn’t hold back the laugh. “I wouldn’t say upset. I think it was disappointment.”

“I was merely a novelty,” Alan said. “In a few months he won’t even remember me.”

Merlin wondered if that was a comment on Uther’s fickleness or a hint of some deeper meaning Alan wouldn’t share.

“You’re probably right.”

They reached the clearing after another twenty minutes. The three men dismounted and stood awkwardly, not sure of how to say goodbye. “So,” said Merlin.

“So,” Alan repeated.

“I think we did all our talking on the way here.”

“Do you think you’ll be by again?” Arthur asked, trying to hide the hopefulness in his voice. Merlin could tell the prince had taken a liking to the older man.

“I can’t promise, but I’ll try. Just make sure it’s here for me to come back to. Listen to advice but trust your instincts. Above all, know who your friends are and who you can trust.” Alan looked at Merlin as he shook Arthur’s hand.

Arthur followed his eyes. “Merlin?”

Merlin didn’t like how the men were looking at him. Alan wouldn’t reveal him now, would he? He shook Alan’s hand absent-mindedly.

“From the stories you both have told me, Merlin’s been with you on every hunt, every quest, every moment you’ve left the castle. How many personal servants would do that?” Alan mounted his horse in one swift movement.

“Merlin?” Arthur was incredulous. He looked at his servant again and Merlin noticed something different this time. It was as if Arthur had realized the truth in Alan’s words; how unusual a servant Merlin was.

“You both have come to rely on each other, to lean on one another in support. Two sides of the same coin.”

“I’ve heard that before,” Merlin said.

“Really? Who?”

“My mother.” And Kilgarrah.

[Remember what I said], Merlin heard Alan’s voice in his head. [Keep your head down so you can help Arthur.]

“Ah, well, then. If your mother said so…” There was no malice and only slight teasing.

“Right. Guess it’s time I was off.”

Merlin watched as Alan reached for the leather strap on his left wrist, tapped his fingers against it and both he and the horse disappeared.

“Did he just…”

“Yeah.”

“Was it...”

“Looks like it.”

“I guess we’ve no reason to lie about him anymore.” Arthur swung into the saddle. “Time to get back to Camelot and continue to protect it so it will still be standing when Alan comes back.” He turned his horse around and galloped back down the trail.

With a heavy put-upon sigh, Merlin followed his prince. Something he would continue to do until death.

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