chicago_ruth: (bondage is canon)
[personal profile] chicago_ruth
Title: Power of Blood
Fandom: Merlin
Pairing: Arthur/Merlin
Word Count: ~3,100
Rating: NC-17
Content: NON-CON, slavery, bit of mind control, minor character death
Spoilery warnings: Non-Con is between Arthur and Merlin; there is no happy ending for Arthur and Merlin.
Summary: AU. The druids and Camelot are at war, and Merlin discovers that Arthur's blood carries a secret.

Thank you to [livejournal.com profile] xsmoonshine for the beta!

Now also up at [AO3].




"Don't--" Blood gurgles from Balinor's mouth.

Merlin presses his hand against the open wound, shouts words of power over and over and the blood doesn't slow, doesn't stop. He can barely see, the entire world is blurred and red.

"It's yours now," Balinor whispers. Merlin doesn't care, he doesn't want the power, he wants his father to stay alive, he wants his father's life energy to stop flowing out.

"Don't let it consume you," are the last coherent words Balinor manages.

--

War has consumed the land. No druid settlement is safe, no sorcerer or healer free of danger. Uther Pendragon’s vengeance ravages the land with steel, while Nimueh’s anger counters with magic.

“We fight for our right to live!” Nimueh declares. Merlin watches the villagers shift as they listen to her words. Some will join them; others will run to Camelot and warn of their approach.

“Do we not all have the right to a healer? Why should Uther’s hypocrisy continue? He has used magic in the past, to ensure his son grows able and strong. Now that son leads his armies, and would deny you the same right to see your children prosper!”

Merlin loves hearing her speak; Balinor is never present.

--

Even as the tears stream down his face, Merlin knows now what secret his father had kept.

He knows, because he can feel the faint buzz of magic around his father's murderer. He can see with clarity that Uther Pendragon's son bears the blood of dragons in him, that with a single command the man will bend.

What he does not know is why his father didn't make use of this power. What he does not know is why his father had let the war come to this, when he could have easily, so easily, brought a kingdom to its knees.

Merlin won't make the same mistake.

--

"Your destiny starts today," Nimueh had told Merlin. She had kissed him softly, so unlike her, but the war had done strange things to all of them.

"I'm sorry," were her last words that morning, and they hadn't made sense.

--

"You killed him!" Merlin shouts at the murderer. Both of them have Balinor's blood on them, their hands dripping with his father's life. With his father's death.

The murderer's expression shifts, just for a moment, before hardening to steel. "And you'll be next. Prepare yourself, wizard!" He lifts his blood-covered sword and readies his stance. Merlin has seen many of Camelot's knights take on this same stance, right before they bury their swords into another of his friends' -- family's -- bodies.

The knights are fast: fast enough that most wizards can't utter spells in time to defend themselves. It is a good tactic in the middle of a battlefield.

It is useless against Merlin. The murderer takes two steps; Merlin says, "stop," and the man stops. The look of confusion that crosses his face could almost be amusing, if it weren't the face of the man who murdered his father.

"Drop your sword and don't move," Merlin commands, every word imbued with magic. He can almost see the order wrap itself around the prince, tighten and chain itself around his free will.

--

Merlin has always been powerful. He has commanded the winds and the rain, he has shaken the very earth and let his enemies drown in fire.

Yet power has never felt this heady before.

--

Of course the prince struggles, tries to disobey. But the old magic is absolute. "Do you know who I am?" he demands, his lips contorted into a sneer. "Once I'm free of your spell, sorcerer, you will wish you had died in that man's place."

The statement is so ridiculous that Merlin laughs. "Of course I know who you are, Arthur Pendragon, son of Uther Pendragon. You are the man who killed my father."

Everything else the man might be -- prince, warrior, knight -- no longer matters. The man is reduced to the blood on his hands.

"You can never escape my hold," Merlin tells him. And then, his mind runs wild with the idea. "That's an order. Arthur, you are forbidden from trying to escape."

Arthur's body stills, rooted in place. Merlin walks up to him and removes the man's gauntlets. Underneath, his hands are clean. Merlin clasps their hands together, until the red from his own hands is smeared and transferred onto Arthur's.

Merlin looks him straight in the eyes and delights at the fear he finds within.

"From now on, Arthur Pendragon, you are mine."

--

Nimueh suggests he order Arthur to kill himself.

"That's disappointingly unimaginative of you," Morgause comments. "And a waste of a good resource."

"So what do you suggest?" Merlin asks, curious.

--

Arthur is ordered to sit on his knees, naked, and watch as Nimueh and Morgause pleasure Merlin. It is the first time they've come to him at the same time, though neither has made it a secret that they covet his power.

Merlin near forgets that Arthur is there, until by chance he catches his gaze -- after that, Merlin finds his attention focused solely on all the small shifts in Arthur's posture, on every twitch of his half-hard cock. If he could move, would he be touching himself with his blood-caked hands?

Arthur's eyes narrow at him, all that hatred concentrated in his stare, and Merlin finds himself overtaken by bliss.

--

The first night, Merlin wakes to dry, blood-caked hands on his neck.

"You said not to escape," Arthur whispers, "but I don't need to escape to kill you." There is no glee or victory in his eyes, only determination. Merlin gasps, breathes in the scent of his father's dried blood.

Panic fills him, enough that it isn't a conscious thought that sends Arthur flying into the side of the tent. Merlin heaves, struggles to find his voice while Arthur leaps to his feet and lunges at him again. Merlin rolls out of the way, falls off the short cot, but it's not far enough. Arthur grabs him again and covers his mouth.

"As long as you can't speak, I'm safe," Arthur murmurs into his ear. He tightens his hold on Merlin's mouth and torso.

Merlin wants to laugh. How little Arthur Pendragon knows of the enemy! He doesn't need words to fling the chair across the area, straight into Arthur's side. Arthur drags Merlin down with him when he falls, but it doesn't matter. His hand is off Merlin's mouth.

"Stop!"

Immediately, Arthur's body stills. Merlin scrambles away from him, shouting, "Don't move!"

He takes a moment to catch his breath properly, smirking at Arthur all the while. Even in the dark he can see Arthur's revulsion.

"Don't ever try to kill me again," Merlin says. It's hard to keep his voice steady, when there's a hysterical laugh buried just underneath. "In fact, I order you to protect me. Protect me with your life, if necessary."

"No!" Arthur cries, and the edge of desperation in his voice is such a victory that Merlin lets him cry all night.

--

After three days, the blood on Arthur's hands has completely rusted and flaked off, indistinguishable from regular dirt and grime. Merlin inspects his fingers, angry at how quickly proof of his crimes is gone, angry that nature has deemed fit to forget.

"Come with me," Merlin orders, and Arthur just follows silently. He has given up protesting the simple orders, saving all his anger and rage for other opportunities.

Merlin leads Arthur to the nearby stream, strips him, and tells him to get in the water. "Bathe yourself," he commands, and immediately changes his mind when a flicker of relief passes Arthur's face. "Wait. Hold still. Let me bathe you."

"Is there no end to your depravity?" Arthur barks out, though the magic keeps him in place. Merlin ignores the comment. He pushes Arthur down to his knees, so he is waist-deep in water, and then uses his magic to build a wave that washes over Arthur. It leaves Arthur drenched: his hair flattens against his skull and he starts to tremble slightly in the cold.

Merlin takes a small, white cloth out of his pocket and begins scrubbing Arthur. His neck, his shoulders, his back. Arthur's breath catches when Merlin lets his fingers trail over Arthur's abdomen. "Stand up and hold still," Merlin says, and he can see Arthur flinch just before the magic takes hold and forces him to obey. Merlin continues washing, getting just a little thrill to see Arthur's body tense more and more with each stroke between thighs and buttocks.

"Why are you doing this?" Arthur asks, voice low and cracked.

"To humiliate you," Merlin answers. He stands and takes Arthur's hands into his own. "I'll never forget what color these hands really are."

He scrubs Arthur's hands until they are raw and pink.

--

They hold a celebratory feast, in honor of Merlin and the latest victory over Camelot. They are slowly gaining ground, aided by Camelot's loss of their best general.

"They are pretending their prince isn't missing," Nimueh tells him.

Merlin snorts a laugh. "To keep their soldiers' morale up? Perhaps we should bring him into battle with us. Force him to kill his brothers-in-arms."

They both look across the bonfire to where a small crowd has gathered. Arthur is the main entertainment for the night, forced to act like a dog and follow all the usual commands. Sit. Bark. Roll over. Heel. Will seems to be taking a particularly perverse pleasure in it, though Merlin can't fault him. Will's parents have both been killed by knights.

And then, somehow, despite being naked and dirty and bound by magic, Arthur bites Will in the leg. Will shouts, and of course all the others are on Arthur immediately, pulling him away, but all Merlin can do was laugh. "He has balls," he says to Nimueh, who is barely concealing her own amusement.

"Better get over there and rein him in, or your toy will be broken."

A fair point. Merlin strides over and commands Arthur to take a spanking from Will.

Arthur growls at him the whole night, even after Merlin rescinds the order to act like a dog. Merlin can't help but admire his willpower, just a bit.

--

The next morning, Merlin finds Arthur with thin red lines across his wrists. Blood pools in his blankets, and there is a defiant grin on his pale lips. "Don't ever try to kill yourself again," Merlin orders, then rushes to get Alice.

Arthur's howls in frustration when Alice heals him. "Just let me die," he begs the entire time.

Strange, but Merlin's chest tightens at the sight of Arthur's blood contrasting with his golden skin. It looks almost as grotesque as Balinor's blood on his hands did.

--

Merlin spends the day watching over Arthur, checking over his wounds and keeping him from scratching them open.

"I thought you were stronger than this."

Arthur shrugs. "I'd have expected you to be happy about this," he says, and digs his nails into his skin again.

Merlin gently pulls the fingers off. "Your suffering won't end so easily."

They sit with their hands clasped until evening.

--

"What do you think you're doing?" Freya asks.

"I'm doing laundry?"

"No. You are making Arthur do laundry." Freya points at Arthur, dressed in nothing but breeches and a collar, scrubbing Merlin's linens in the stream.

Merlin shrugs. "Well, same difference."

"You know, there's a reason your father refused to use his power," Freya says quietly. "He was a good man. A better man than you, apparently."

Merlin has to rein in his anger, the desire to lash out at her overwhelming. "What? All this over linens?" he says with an affected calm.

"It isn't about the linens! It is about what you make him do, night after night. How you treat him, how you let the others treat him." Freya looks him straight in the eye, so unlike her that Merlin finds himself shrinking back. "You are cruel, Merlin."

She leaves before he can respond.

--

"Why does Camelot hate sorcerers?" Merlin asks that night. "Answer truthfully."

Arthur twists around in his sleeping bag, perhaps trying to buy for time. The magic doesn't let him stall for long though, and the words are soon flowing out of his mouth. "Magic killed my mother."

The answer is disgustingly simple. It is a sentiment Merlin understands. "Steel killed my father."

Arthur scoffs. "Steel is used to protect."

So is magic, but Merlin doesn't feel like arguing. "Go to sleep," he orders.

--

The question nags at him. For all that magic may have killed Uther's wife, there is no denying that magic flows through Arthur's veins. The blood of dragons is not commonly found in the sons of mortal men.

Nimueh refuses to speak with him on it, but Morgause is more forthcoming.

"Twenty years ago, when Uther was young and reckless, he desired a son above all else. But his wife could not conceive. So he found a sorceress to help him, one who did not understand the consequences of life magic. She used the blood of dragons to ensure the birth of a child, and the death of a mother."

"Is she still alive, this sorceress?" Merlin asks, and Morgause laughs. "Oh yes. She lives with her guilt every day, knowing that she has rained more death upon her people than any one enemy warrior alone."

"Isn't it really Uther's fault though? Was he not warned that it was impossible to create life from nothing?"

"He believed some peasant would die, not his beautiful young wife. A tragedy born of his and the sorceress's arrogance."

--

Merlin tells Arthur the story.

"You're lying! My father would never--"

"Believe me," Merlin says, dismissively, and suddenly Arthur is sobbing.

"No! How could he... how could he?"

Believe me. Merlin hadn't meant it to be an order, but the power he holds over Arthur is absolute. Merlin hadn't realized that it would force Arthur's very beliefs to bend themselves to his will. How far does it go?

Merlin orders Arthur to sit next to him on his cot. "Trust me," he whispers, and Arthur's shoulders relax slightly. "Forget about how much you hate me."

It is glorious, watching panic flash across Arthur's face before it is replaced by a deep confusion. "Why am I here?" Arthur asks.

Merlin could so easily break Arthur.

"Kiss me," Merlin says instead, and revels in how tender a lover Arthur can be when he believes himself safe.

--

Merlin lets Arthur regain his true feelings soon after; something inside him balks at the easy trust Arthur displays. Merlin tries to imagine truly being friends with Arthur and fails -- he can't bring himself to force this twisted vision on Arthur.

It does not mean he is done with Arthur.

"Get down on your knees and suck me off," Merlin orders. "Enjoy it. Let arousal fill every inch of your body."

And that is the best, watching Arthur flush even as his eyes narrow in hatred. He is talented with his tongue, now that Merlin has ingrained the proper technique in him, and knowing how powerless Arthur is in all of this makes it all the more glorious.

He orders Arthur to come just after he splashes his seed across Arthur's face.

--

"Either do something productive with him or let him go!" Freya yells. "Right now, you're more of a monster than I am!"

--

Morgause and Nimueh are no help. They both want to keep the prince. Freya's stance is clear. Will believes the prince deserves death -- and he isn't the only one.

But Freya's words remind him of his father. Of his father's last wishes. Don't let it consume you.

"If you were in my position, what would you do?" Merlin asks Arthur. "Answer truthfully."

More than usual, Arthur attempts to choke off his words. "I--"

Merlin waits patiently.

--

They go to Camelot. Arthur is hailed as a hero, the cunning prince who deceived the sorcerers and escaped their grasp. Merlin is the noble servant who helped him.

Arthur does not remember it is not true until he and Merlin are alone in his chambers.

--

"Bend over the table and beg me to fuck you." After a day of being treated like a servant, Merlin feels he is justified in asking this.

Whatever Arthur may think, he does as he is commanded. "Please, please. Fuck me." His voice is toneless; nothing in him belies any sort of desire.

It annoys Merlin more than usual. "Beg like you mean it. Feel that desire, the need to be fucked."

Arthur's demeanor changes, and for a while it does seem like he truly wants Merlin. It almost soothes the day's irritation.

--

With his people, Arthur is gentle. He treats even the servants as near equals; it is not hard to see how devoted the common folk are to him. Arthur truly listens to their worries.

Merlin can't remember the last time Nimueh or Morgause listened to any of their followers.

--

This is the last day, Merlin promises himself. He knows, has known, that the hold he has over Arthur is corrupting his soul. After this, he will part from Arthur. The temptation to continue would be too great otherwise.

--

Arthur cannot hold back the choking sobs. "Stop, please. Don't make me. Stop!" Tears stream down his face in a way they never did when it was only his own dignity on the line.

But it is too late. "Finish him off. Push your sword through his heart."

Uther Pendragon whispers, "The crown is yours now," to his son. "Don't let its power corrupt you as it did me."

The blood gushes from his chest, over Arthur's hands as he attempts to stop the flow. Merlin walks over and presses his hands down over Arthur's. The blood feels no different than Balinor's did.

"Our hands will always be the same color," he says to Arthur.

Arthur bares his teeth at Merlin. "So help me, one day I will kill every sorcerer in Albion. Your heads will all be mounted on pikes."

Merlin smiles ruefully. "No, you won't."

--

Arthur's rule brings an age of peace between Camelot and sorcerers. "My father's war is not my own! We must learn to forgive the mistakes of the past!" he says. The crowds cheer when a formal peace treaty is drawn.

Merlin watches from the shadows, and remembers his last order: forgive me.

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