Harlequin's Slash Fic

The King’s Will

Title: The King’s Will
Author: Harlequin
Universe: Merlin
Characters featured: Uther/Arthur
Category, Word count: Short story; 2703 words
Rating: NC17
Summary: Arthur has been thrown in the dungeons, and discovers to his horror just how Uther punishes those who oppose his will.
Warnings: Please be warned this contains father/son incest, totally non-consensual sex (actually it’s rape), and the death of a main character!
First published: 27 December 2008 on Harlequin’s Slash Site

 

The King’s Will

♦ 

Arthur had only just managed to fall asleep, stretched out on too little straw strewn across the cold dungeon floor, when a hand shook at his shoulder. The prince shifted, curled up, groaned. ‘Go away, Merlin…’ This must be a bad dream. He’d wake up in his bed in a moment, in his warm safe comfortable bed, with nothing worse to fear than a reprimand from the king for sleeping late.

‘Come on, sire,’ came a quiet, firm rumble. An unfamiliar voice. ‘Get up now.’ Hands were pulling at his wrists, and there was the feel of cold metal. An ominous double-click as a manacle was secured.

Arthur opened his eyes to see the other wrist encircled as well. The manacle snapped shut. The dungeons, yes. All right. But why was he being shackled? ‘What’s going on?’ he asked suspiciously.

‘Jed!’ An urgent mutter from the smaller of the two guards, who was keeping his distance. ‘Not the prince, Jed.’

‘Everyone,’ the burly one replied. ‘No exceptions. That’s the rule.’

‘What the hell’s going on?’ Arthur asked in his clearest, most authoritative tone.

But there was no response. The two guards wouldn’t even look at him. The manacles were attached to chains, which in turn ran through an iron ring in the ceiling above him; the burly guard hauled on the far end of the chains, forcing Arthur to stumble up to his feet; the chains were then fixed to a hook on the wall, allowing him very little slack.

‘Berend!’ Arthur called out commandingly. ‘Captain Berend!’

‘He’s not here, sire,’ the burly one said.

‘God – let’s go, Jed,’ said the little one, hovering anxiously by the door now.

Jed stepped closer to Arthur, considered him carefully. ‘You’re a very different man to your father, sire.’

The other one uttered a strangled protest, deathly afraid. As well he might be: Jed’s statement came perilously close to treason. Arthur eyed the man, weighing him up. He seemed the sincere, decent sort.

‘You’ll remember, sire.’

‘What will I remember?’ Arthur asked in fairly reasonable tones.

‘That you’re the better man. That your people have suffered.’

‘Jed, for God’s sake, he’ll remember that you chained him to the damned wall! – That’s what he’ll remember!’

Arthur’s gaze hadn’t left Jed’s. ‘Orders, I suppose.’

Jed nodded once, curtly. ‘But I know that’s no excuse, sire. So when you are king you may do with me as you will.’ And he strode out, leaving the door unlocked. The other guard was right on his heels.

There was something about the dungeons then that convinced Arthur he was alone. It was deathly quiet. Nevertheless, he tried once more: ‘Captain!’ There was no reply but a futile echo of his own voice.

The manacles were secured too well for him to loosen, and indeed he knew of no prisoner yet who had managed to break free of Camelot’s shackles – at least, not without the aid of sorcery. Arthur tugged at the chains, and then pitted his entire weight and strength against the fastening that held the iron ring to the ceiling. It was no use.

On a surge of anger he cried, ‘Then damn you all to hell!’

The echo mocked him. Arthur sighed, and settled in. Hoping for nothing worse now than a sleepless night.

Heavy footsteps woke him from a fitful doze. It was dark but for one torch burning in a sconce on the far wall of his cell. Arthur lifted his head from his arm, tried to shake out the kinks and cramps. When he was surer of his voice, he called, ‘Captain! Guards!’

There was no response, but for the footsteps steadily approaching. The prince was not above admitting to himself that he was getting a bit freaked now. He expected something awful to appear. A black knight risen from the dead. A demon or a sorcerer. A doom-burdened apparition of some kind.

But then a swirl of purple robes and a glint of gold announced the king.

‘Father!’ Arthur cried in relief.

Uther paced down the cell, passed him. Turned back with his gloved hands securing his robes at his sides. Fully in control. He considered Arthur coldly.

‘Father, I am heartily sorry that I disobliged you, yet I cannot –’

‘I am not your father; I am your king.’

‘Sire, it is true that I am in some discomfort, but if you expect me to beg for your clemency, I’m afraid that…’ Arthur trailed off.

Uther seemed completely uninterested in anything Arthur might have to say. Apparently he wasn’t here for an apology and he didn’t expect a retraction. He walked slowly around Arthur, circling him widdershins. And again. Stopped just in front of him. Lifted a gloved hand to Arthur’s chin, and turned his face this way and that, examining him in the flickering torchlight.

‘Sire,’ Arthur whispered. Starting to feel a little freaked again.

Uther’s hand fell, and he paced around behind Arthur. Grasped a handful of Arthur’s shirt at his nape, tugged at it – tore it with a hard yank that had the collar briefly choking Arthur’s adam’s apple – ripped it right down the length, so the shirt fell open, exposing his back. Cool air stole around his torso.

‘Father…’ Expecting a whipping now, but still he would not beg. Though he remembered vividly the broken bleeding skin he’d witnessed at whippings carried out in the forecourt. The weeks of slow recovery. The stoop in a man’s back ever after. Had Arthur’s offence really been so great?

And why was the king conducting the punishment himself? Surely the guards, the soldiers, the executioner… Perhaps they could not be allowed to hurt the crown prince.

Except the guard who’d strung him up had said: Everyone. No exceptions. That’s the rule. And then they’d left. And the king had come.

‘Father!’ Arthur cried in confusion and outrage. ‘What are you doing?’

‘Exercising a king’s prerogative,’ came the silkily authoritative voice. ‘Imposing the king’s will.’

‘Why? Is not imprisonment enough?’

‘It is not always enough to break the spirit. You will learn this.’

‘You want to break my spirit, father? You want to break the heir to your kingdom? Why?

‘I am not your father,’ Uther repeated distantly. ‘Tonight I am your king.’

And those hands circled his waist. Unfastened Arthur’s belt with cool efficiency, and let it drop. Undid his britches. Then the hands ran down his hips, and his britches and linens fell down round his legs, and Arthur was as good as naked. ‘Father…’ he whispered, still not quite believing.

But a gloved thumb forced its way inside him, making Uther’s intent quite plain. Arthur choked back a protest, and his knees gave way so that for a moment he hung painfully from the manacles.

He regained his feet, but he would not make this easy for the man. As soon as that thumb withdrew, Arthur clenched every muscle in his body, so that when Uther tried to enter him he met nothing but resistance.

Uther had the answer to that: a finger jabbed hard at a certain spot over Arthur’s kidneys, and the sharp pain made him let go with a cry. By the time he could gather himself again, Arthur had been penetrated, and Uther was forcefully thrusting in his full length. The hurt of it burned within him.

Arthur hung his head, wanting oblivion – but Uther grabbed a handful of his hair, pulled it back, turned him so his face could be seen. Arthur closed his eyes as his last and only defence.

‘You will abide by my will,’ Uther ground out.

Arthur growled his disagreement. Thinking: Everyone. No exceptions.

‘You will never disoblige me again.’

Everyone. That meant all his friends. So many of his people. Everyone he cared about. They’d all taken a turn in the dungeons at Camelot. It had become something of a running joke between them, that everyone must spend at least one night thrown in a cell, for good reason or not – at least, it had become a joke among those who were yet to take their turn. In all probability, Uther had done this to everyone Arthur cared about, and a great many more beside. And they had all taken great care that Arthur should not find out. It was…

‘Do you hear me?’ the king insisted.

It was by far the most horrible thing Arthur had ever known. He hadn’t even conceived there could be such horror in the world.

‘Do you hear me?’

But the guard had said: You’re a very different man to your father.

‘You will tell me that you understand. I don’t care how long this takes.’

‘You disgust me,’ Arthur said, quite clearly.

A moment’s stillness. ‘I hold your very life in my hands, and you dare say such a thing?’

‘You are evil. More evil than any demon. More evil than any sorcerer.’

Uther cried out in rage, and withdrew.

The sudden emptiness was surprisingly painful, but Arthur ignored it. ‘I never quite understood why the people hate you so much. But now I do. I despise you.’

Uther tore a wide strip off the tail of Arthur’s shirt, and gagged him with it. And then he shoved himself inside Arthur again.

Worked and worked away at his task until with a dry sob he came, his hands crushing Arthur’s face back against his own. Another sob wrenched from deep within Uther as he pulled away.

Small mercy: he flung the chains off the hook on the wall, so that Arthur collapsed to the stone floor. And then Uther strode out.

And Arthur felt truly alone for the first time in his life.

Dawn was a long cold agony away. But by then Arthur had at least managed to take the gag out of his mouth, use the straw to wipe the blood and semen off his thighs, and pull up his britches. He could do nothing about the wreck of his shirt. He lay there on the stone for what seemed like years.

But eventually there were footsteps on the floors above the dungeon, and out on the forecourt. And then the murmur of voices. People stirring, and beginning the day’s business.

After a short while, there seemed to be some urgency. Footsteps suddenly pounded across in a ragged run, and voices became cries. Wails of confusion, and grief. Arthur shifted himself, struggled to sit up. Tried again to wrench his hands out of the manacles, though his wrists were already bleeding from his previous efforts. But if there was an emergency – an attack? – he must be there to help.

A cascade of feet crashed down the stairs to the dungeons. Arthur dragged himself up, stood propped heavily against the wall. The guards rushing in. Soldiers. Knights. A few regular folk. Most of them hanging back once they could see Arthur. Staring at him agape with shock.

Jed coming in quickly with his head down, the keys in his hands. Unlocking the shackles from Arthur’s wrists. Then falling to his knees, falling further still, pressing his face to the stone floor at Arthur’s feet.

Arthur looked around at them all, and belatedly in a shambles everyone fell to his knees.

But he’d already figured it out by then. He didn’t put it into words yet, but he looked around at his people, and he knew, and he tried to feel something other than numb.

Eventually Arthur forced himself upright, made himself take his own weight. He bent down, and grasped one of Jed’s shoulders. Encouraged him up to a kneeling position. Rested a palm on his head, and forgave him.

‘Sire…’ Jed whispered with a profound devotion.

‘Help me up the stairs,’ Arthur said. And Jed did so, with an arm round Arthur’s waist and the other hand propping him up by his elbow.

By the time they reached the forecourt, Arthur could manage on his own, though it was more of a shuffle than a walk, and Jed stayed just behind him, ready to catch him if need be. Everyone fell silent as they saw him, and drew back. Everyone got to their knees, bowed their heads. Arthur looked round at them all, and he began to feel a little gratitude through the numbness. He began to feel a little warmth.

Gaius met him at the door to the king’s rooms, barred his way. ‘Arthur,’ he said gruffly, the grief and strain and worry plain on his face. The old man was going to fall to his knees, too, but Arthur reached out and grasped his arm. Kept him upright. ‘An accident…’ Gaius murmured, drawing away to one side, revealing a dark heap on the floor in the middle of the room. Morgana weeping, but standing tall and true by the empty mantel. Merlin hovering just behind Gaius, anxious, but also afire with the future.

The future had arrived.

Arthur took a step inside. Reached a hand back to bring Jed in, too. A moment later, the door was closed behind them, and Arthur walked over to the body of his father. Curled on the stone floor. Arthur bent down to draw the covering cloak away.

‘An accident,’ Gaius tried again. ‘While he was cleaning his…’

It had been no accident. The king had inflicted his own punishment. His father had fallen on his sword.

And likely the last words Uther had heard were: I despise you. From his only son. Tears ran down Arthur’s face. The numbness was beginning to wear off, but he almost didn’t want it to. There would be so much grief to deal with. So much fear. So much pain and confusion. And he was only twenty-one, God help him. ‘The king is dead,’ Arthur quietly said. ‘My father is dead.’

With Merlin’s help, Gaius finally got to his knees, and then the others did, too. ‘Long live the king,’ the four of them murmured.

Arthur acknowledged them with a nod. Indicated Gaius, Morgana and Merlin: ‘My best counsellors and advisors.’ Indicated Jed: ‘My most trusted bodyguard.’ Then he lifted his hands, asking them to stand. ‘What do we do first?’ he asked Gaius.

‘We must lay him out, sire. Prepare him for burial. And the people will need to hear from you. The news will have travelled already, but they will want some kind of declaration from you, to reassure them.’

‘Of course.’

‘Sire, if you will let me take care of Uther, will you allow Merlin to take care of you?’

Arthur looked down at himself: he was filthy, bruised, and his clothes were torn. ‘Of course.’ He closed his eyes for a moment. ‘All of what you say is to good purpose, Gaius. But will you let me have a moment alone before we begin?’

They murmured assent, and began to file out.

Except for Jed, who did not move. When Arthur looked a query at him, the guard said, ‘I beg pardon, sire, but I will not leave you alone if –’ He grimaced, and tilted his head towards Uther. ‘If there’s a chance the same accident might befall you, sire.’

‘It will not,’ Arthur softly replied. ‘You know very well – don’t you? – that I do not carry the same burdens.’

‘Yes, sire.’ And Jed dared to add, ‘You have been our hope for the future.’

‘I promise you that I will do my utmost to repay the faith of my people. And that includes living a long and useful life.’

Morgana came over and pressed a kiss to Arthur’s brow. The others followed her out. Jed was the last to go. Arthur imagined him standing solid guard at the door.

Arthur walked over to where the king lay, and stiffly knelt down. Lay down. Tried to curl up within his father’s cold embrace. ‘You will not suffer any more, father,’ he said. His voice cracked. ‘Your people will not suffer any more. Your debt is paid in full. But mine is not.’ He murmured, ‘In the end, you were brave enough to do what must be done. I love you for it.’ He pressed his face against Uther’s. ‘But now who will forgive me for driving you to it?’

King Arthur wept.

Posted in: Merlin, Slash fic

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2 responses to “The King’s Will”

  1. avatar firewolfsg says:

    My gosh that was brutal.

    I can’t say Uther didn’t deserve Arthur’s disgust and words. But poor Arthur to be raped by his father then having to live with the knowledge that his disgust drove his father to suicide.

    • avatar Harlequin says:

      Yeah… Brutal, it’s true. I don’t know whether to apologise or feel pleased that this fic obviously had the intended effect. It has been said that my ‘Harlequin’ pseud is very apt, as I tend to write earnestly about true love and all… but as Willow once said, sometimes I can be callous and strange. Thanks for commenting!

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