“It doesn’t matter who I am!” He said, almost yelling. He took a deep breath, and continued, quieter. “There shouldn’t be one rule for me, and a different one for someone else.”
He leaned back in his chair, a bitter look on his face. “And who knows? People would be happy, seeing as so many would love to see me killed.” He didn’t wait for Merlin to respond before he said more.
“And what if…” He hesitated for a second, leaning forward once again and watching the flames dance. “What if you’re tribute?” He nearly whispered. Shaking his his head, he looked at Merlin. He tried to not look worried, but he failed miserably.
It was just like Arthur to be so honourable. So noble. So willing to lay down his life for everyone else. Didn’t he understand that he was the prince? His people needed him here.
Merlin knew better than to try and explain this to him. Instead he bit his lip, considering the other point Arthur made. What is he was the tribute?
“I’m no one,” he said, finally. “It doesn’t matter if I’m the tribute.”
Except it did. He was loathe to admit it, but he was important. He had a destiny. A destiny he needed to follow. He couldn’t do that if he was killed in the arena.
If Merlin was the tribute he could use magic, raising his chances of survival to level with District 3 and District 10, where magic wasn’t outlawed. But what good would that do? If he was victorious he would return to District 7 to hatred and his execution.
But if Arthur was the tribute… well. There was nothing Merlin would be able to do to help him. They would all be doomed.
Merlin closed his eyes and prayed to every god he knew that Arthur wouldn’t be chosen.
It took Arthur a moment to register what Merlin had said. Right. Merlin wasn’t important. He was just a servant. A horrible one at that. But that just made it worse, somehow.
But would it be better if someone else, someone he didn’t know, was tribute? Maybe. Except, the best choice for tribute would be himself. No one else would have to get hurt. Well, that wasn’t really the truth, but it was better than watching Merlin fight, or try to, and die.
“If you’re tribute, I’m going to blame you when I have to get a new servant.” He smiled weakly, observing Merlin’s look of distress that appeared on his face.
He looked back into the fire, shaking his head.
Neither of them were going to be tribute. The odds were in their favour.