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Loaded March is a Merlin (2008) fanfiction series written by Footloose. The series re-imagines the original as a modern military fic, where Arthur is the Captain of a military team called Excalibur, and Merlin is their newly appointed Communications Officer. The team go on missions and uncover secrets that ultimately lead to their being assigned to take down a terrorist group called the NWO. At the same time, the series explores the relationships among the different characters, especially the growing attraction between Merlin and Arthur.

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The series is a sprawling epic, exceeding 1,000,000 words in 16 instalments. And that's not counting the extras.


This fanfic provides examples of:

  • Accidental Public Confession: During an argument with Gwaine in Collaborations, Arthur accidentally lets slip that he and Merlin had gotten married.
  • Action Fashionista: Morgana. She can scheme, connive, and shoot like any member of Excalibur - Arthur jokes that the war would have ended early if Morgana had gone on a tour with them. She's also an impeccable fashionista, to the point of managing to find a perfect wedding dress and jewelry in the middle of nowhere during an apocalypse.
  • Ambiguously Evil: Mordred initially came off as this. In Collaborations he acts as if he's genuinely concerned for Merlin's well-being and helps him escape, but his behaviour is still somewhat suspicious. It turns out he's been The Mole for the Druids with the NWO all along, ever since he was a student.
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  • Ambiguously Human: It's never stated exactly how Nimueh looks the same after decades. She might use enchantments or potions to preserve her youth and beauty, or hail from a species that ages differently.
  • Almighty Janitor: Merlin, sort of. He has immense magical powers, and it's heavily implied that he's the most powerful sorcerer of all time, but his military rank isn't that high, and he still takes orders from Arthur. On the other hand, Merlin's security clearance is initially much higher than Arthur's.
  • Amicable Exes: Arthur and Gwaine used to date, but it didn't work out. They remain teammates and friends.
  • Anything That Moves: Gwaine has "equal-opportunity indiscretions". He finds a long list of features attractive, as proven in "Not Every Scar is Hidden" wherein he ogles Excalibur.
  • Asskicking Equals Authority: How Arthur and Uther got their respective positions in the military.
  • Badass in Charge:
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    • Arthur. While he doesn't have any magic, he's earned Excalibur's unconditional trust for a reason. He has a facility for predicting people's moves that borders on telepathy. His contingency plans have contingencies. He has a near-eidetic memory, is fluent in French and German with passable Dutch, is proficient in multiple forms of combat, and has been remarked to have a noble bearing and commanding presence resembling a knight or a king. He was given command of the entire British Army while General Tachnathar is fighting in dragon form. Oddly enough, it's Cedric Walsh who provides a sarcastic-but-completely-accurate overview of Arthur as this trope:
    The great Arthur Pendragon, Captain of Excalibur. How we'd all be best off following him. He knows his shite, doesn't blink no matter how fucked up things are, and if we follow his lead, we'll get out of this mess in one piece.
    • There's a bunch of actual fire-breathing dragons in human guise with high security clearance and authority positions in the British army: General Tachnathar, Colonel Locher, Colonel Mandrake, and Major Kilgarrah. They fight for the army in both their human and dragon forms, with Kilgarrah being shown attacking the unnamed dragon menacing London and successfully driving it away.
    • Olaf is the MI-5 representative, officially retired but still involved in the military and field work, to the degree of getting shot at one point.
  • Battle Couple: Arthur/Merlin, Perceval/Gwaine, and Lamorak/Gareth.
  • Badass Crew: Excalibur, comprised of the best the British Army has to offer, hand-picked by the best Captain.
  • Badass Normal: The entirety of Excalibur, being human soldiers compared to any given magic user. However, Arthur's facility for tactics and commanding in general is the reason he heads Excalibur, and not the technically strongest Merlin.
  • Beta Couple: Gwen and Lance, Morgana and Leon, and later Perceval and Gwaine, and Lamorak and Gareth.
  • Big Bad: The NWO. Their game plan is to Take Over the World and establish a new world order where magic will rule.
  • Big Badass Battle Sequence: Usually once an instalment, which is expected since the series is a military fic.
  • The Big Damn Kiss: Merlin and Arthur in Avalon when Merlin's giving Arthur CPR. In the very next installment Intermission, Arthur chooses to kiss Merlin when Merlin reveals that he has magic.
    • Merlin and Arthur again when Arthur rescues Merlin at the end of Collaborators.
  • The Big Guy: Perceval.
  • Bouquet Toss: Morgana specifically chucks hers at Arthur and tells him it's his turn. She (and the rest of Excalibur) doesn't know that Merlin and Arthur got handfasted, and Arthur proposed again, well before her wedding. Arthur only breaks the news over the radio (after putting himself and Merlin at a safe distance from Morgana) and after Leon and Morgana has returned from their honeymoon to avoid stealing her thunder.
  • Break the Cutie: Merlin and Kay when they get captured. They get tortured, interrogated, and forced to do Aredian's gang's bidding.
  • Breather Episode: R&R. As the name implies, Excalibur gets some rest and recreation while Merlin and Arthur's relationship develops.
  • Brought Down to Normal: Merlin after the events of Means to an End; he's unable to access his magic for the bulk of Desperate Measures.
  • Buffy Speak: Crops up from time to time.
  • Cannot Spit It Out: Merlin and Arthur mutually don't act on their attraction because of their uncertainty towards one another's feelings.
  • Cast Full of Gay: Nearly the entirety of Excalibur. Leon and Lance are exempted because of their relationship to Morgana and Gwen, respectively.
  • Chekhov M.I.A.: Balinor, Merlin's thought-deceased father, is actually alive and went into hiding to protect his son.
  • Childhood Friends: Will and Merlin, Arthur and Leon.
  • Crazy Jealous Guy: Arthur admits to being a possessive, jealous prat with a habit of turning up to save Merlin from unwanted attention. He cranks it up a notch for his undercover role as a Spoiled Brat weapons dealer and physically/emotionally abusive boyfriend.
  • Crazy-Prepared: Arthur has been stated as having up to a Plan D at times.
  • Crouching Moron, Hidden Badass: Merlin's cover as the team infiltrates the NWO is to be a technological wizard who's inept at everything else.
  • Dark and Troubled Past: According to Arthur, all members of Excalibur has stained records, Mordred more than most. In addition to the trauma they have undergone as active service members, the majority of the team has troubled home lives as well.
  • December–December Romance: Gaius and his on-again-off-again girlfriend Alice.
  • Disappeared Dad: Balinor, Merlin's father; Merlin believes that he's dead. He's not.
  • Distressed Dude: Merlin and Kay when they get captured. Neither are completely helpless however, seeing as they are still elite soldiers.
  • Distracted by the Sexy: Merlin and Arthur towards each other. Frequently.
  • Dreaming of Things to Come: Morgana glimpses the future initially as nightmares and then as waking visions.
  • Dreaming of Times Gone By: Morgana dreams of a young Captain Uther's past in the military, and later sees Neil Sigan's past as a young, unpossessed man as a waking vision.
  • Early Installment Weirdness: Some characters' names are spelled differently in early and later chapters. Perceval's nickname went from Percy to Perce, Major Thomas Kilgarath became Kilgarrah, Lance and Gwen's surname went from Du Lac to Dulac, and Morgana went from Ms. LeFay to Ms. Pendragon.
  • Earn Your Happy Ending: After a tour abroad, a grueling undercover mission, and an apocalypse, Excalibur gets their happy ending.
  • Empathic Environment: In the end of Means to an End it rains when Arthur visits Hunith to tell her that Merlin's been captured, and to ask about Balinor.
  • Erotic Dream: Gwaine mentions that Merlin's (very audibly) been moaning and calling out Arthur's name in his sleep.
  • Even Evil Has Loved Ones: Tristan is a bully, no more and no less, but he helps Excalibur foil the NWO plot solely because of revenge. The NWO killed Tristan's son, who never knew his father, as punishment.
  • Everyone Can See It: Merlin and Arthur are so obvious about their attraction to one another.
  • First-Name Basis: When Excalibur isn't referring to each other in an official situation, they mostly use this. Arthur (Pendragon), Merlin (Emrys), Leon (Cross), Lance (Dulac), Gwaine (Taggart), Kay (Lawhead), Perceval (Dane), Bohrs (Hellswege), Gareth (Mallory), Owain (Yates), Geraint (Keynes), Elyan (Smith), Will (Kendricks) and Mordred (ap Aneurin) note  go by their first names. Averted with the Last-Name Basis team members: Daniel (Bedivere), Gaël (Lucan), James (Galahad), Aidan (Pellinor) and Julian (Lamorak).
  • Gayngst: Thankfully averted.
  • Genius Ditz: Just like in the source show, Merlin's abilities come from simple instinct, not years of patient study. However, this is subverted somewhat in that his control gets significantly better after training and studying with Gaius.
  • Good Is Not Dumb: Excalibur. They're thoroughly on the side of the angels, but they're still elite soldiers. Even Bohrs, who is portrayed as the Dumb Muscle, is still highly capable if a bit slow on the uptake on some things.
  • Good Is Not Soft: Just like in the source series, Merlin and Gwen are two of the nicest, sweetest people in the series and both are shown to be extremely reluctant to pick up a gun and shoot people. However, Merlin didn't hesitate in killing to save Arthur's life in Avalon, while Gwen doesn't take fools or villains lightly.
  • Happily Adopted: Morgana.
  • Happily Married: Gwen and Lance.
    • Arthur and Merlin. Well, happy with each other. The bulk of their time as a married couple unfortunately coincided with Merlin's capture by the NWO.
  • Heartbroken Badass:
    • Merlin, briefly, when he sees Arthur kissing Sophia. Later on, the fact that his family - Hunith, Gaius, and Balinor hid so many things from him gave him a fair share of heartache.
    • Gwaine as well, shortly after realising that he and Merlin aren't going to happen. He gets over it really quickly.
  • Heel–Face Turn: Gilli gets one. Granted, he was Just Following Orders when he was being annoying and obstructive to the team, but (according to Merlin) he had the strength of character to admit that he did Excalibur a great disservice. He becomes much more helpful to the team afterwards, giving them intel and helping Merlin raid the Directory for weapons.
  • Heroic BSoD: Arthur goes through one when the NWO captures Merlin, Kay, Morgana, and Gwen.
  • He's Back!: Arthur on the phone with Daly and Baker, without the stress put on him by the role and the undercover mission (which was rendered moot by the world going to pieces).
  • Hypno Trinket: Morgause tries to control Morgana with a bracelet. The control took, but Excalibur foiled her plans before she could get very far.
  • I Have Many Names: Nimueh went by several surnames that start with M, all of which are variations of names for the goddess Morrigan.
  • I Know Your True Name: Dragons cannot conceal their true names from Merlin. Even if they introduce themselves using an alias, he will still be aware of their true names.
  • I Love You Because I Can't Control You: Some of this goes on between Merlin and Arthur.
  • I Owe You My Life: Lance notes when Excalibur is discussing what to do after Merlin's accidental reveal of his magic that Merlin's probably saved Excalibur more times than they can count.
  • I Will Wait for You: In Intermission, Arthur confesses to Merlin that he fell in love him but that they can't engage in a relationship under the military. Merlin's response is that he's willing to wait. They don't have to wait that long. The rule is suspended for them the very next installment, but it took some more time until Merlin finds out Arthur snuck that clause into the paperwork.
  • Jerk with a Heart of Gold: Uther is a very stern, very strict man whose own children refer to him as The Colonel. However, he's also shown to be loving towards his children as he was mildly resigned towards Arthur's homosexuality (though not without holding some bigoted beliefs initially, such as asking whether Arthur was gay because Uther didn't pay enough attention to him), and immediately sought to have Morgana adopted after she discovered she wasn't his biological daughter. Unfortunately, Uther's actions regarding magical artefacts and during the apocalypse soured his relationship with his children.
  • Just Friends: Merlin and Gwaine, though not without having Gwaine be really flirty towards Merlin first. Their friendship becomes much closer when Gwaine stops trying to get in Merlin's pants.
  • Kissing Under the Influence: Arthur was charmed to be interested in Sophia.
  • Lethal Chef:
    • Pellinor can tear kitchen after kitchen apart making horrible food because no one has the heart to tell him the truth.
    • Morgana's lasagna is disgusting, and she nearly burned down the house making it once. She has since sworn off making it.
  • Like a Son to Me: Gaius sees Merlin more of a son than his nephew.
  • The Lost Lenore: Ygraine to Uther.
  • Love at First Sight: Arthur and Merlin, pretty much. It started as mere physical attraction, took a detour as each were annoyed by the other's personality (especially Arthur acting belligerent towards Merlin's efforts to make nice with him), then steered itself towards love.
  • Love Triangle: A very mild one among Gwaine/Arthur/Merlin. Gwaine expresses some interest towards Merlin, while Merlin is only interested in Arthur, who reciprocates Merlin's feelings. However, neither Merlin nor Arthur act on their feelings for a while.
  • Loveable Rogue: Gwaine. He's an equal-opportunity flirt, and handy with a joke as he is with a gun.
  • The Magic Comes Back: The ultimate goal of the NWO, to the detriment of everyone who is not magically gifted. The dragons are also interested in this, as well as the Daughters of the Old Religion, Morgause's cult.
  • The Maiden Name Debate: Arthur and Merlin jokingly squabble over this a few times. By the end of the series, there's still no consensus on what they will do: take each other's names, hyphenate, or go with a Portmanteau Couple Name (which would not be Pendemrys, as Arthur thinks that sounds like a disease.) Gwen took Lance's surname, Dulac. Her maiden name is Smith. Morgana hyphenated hers as Morgana Pendragon-Cross, while Leon keeps his surname.
  • Meaningful Name: While the word mandrake has a different etymology, Colonel Mandrake is a drake (dragon) masquerading as a man. Additionally, both mandrakes and Mandrake are living organisms associated with magic.
  • Men Don't Cry: Averted. Men on both sides of the conflict do cry in moments of high emotion and aren't shamed for it.
  • The Mentor: Gaius to Merlin, and mildly to Gwen on a tech side. Cennydd to Mordred, in a "familiar, instructional way".
  • The Mole:
    • Gilli is planted by the Directory to spy on Merlin.
    • Will becomes one for the Directory as well, as he's tasked with infiltrating the NWO.
    • Mordred had been a mole within the NWO since he was a student. He later finds out Cennydd was the same, working for Olaf Niedermann.
  • Never Give the Captain a Straight Answer:
    • Bedivere tells Arthur and Merlin that there's something they've got to see on the television. Subverted, as Bedivere walked in late, was told to get the two, and really had no idea what the telly was showing.
    • Later played straight when Bran finds out the fake Red Team is on the telly.
  • Not Distracted by the Sexy: Lance and Leon by the "bar bunnies", as they're both in happy relationships.
  • Official Couple: Merlin and Arthur as of Intermission.
  • One Steve Limit: Excalibur (the sword) exists in this continuity, but is only ever referred to as "the sword", most likely to avoid confusion with the team, who are - for all intents and purposes - the modern-day incarnation of Excalibur, as they are wielded by Arthur and became complete under the auspices of Merlin.
  • Only Friend: Will to Merlin and vice versa.
  • Only One Name: A man named Kanen is mentioned to have no surname.
  • Our Dragons Are Different: Kilgarrah can shape-change into human form, is highly intelligent and calculating, and talkative, if sometimes as oblique as his canon self.
  • Out-of-Character Alert:
    • In Avalon, Gwaine cottons on that something's wrong with Arthur when Arthur kisses Sophia. Arthur is gay and very much not interested in women in any shape or form.
    • In At the End We Begin Again, Merlin realizes Lucan was helping him escape the stag do because he directly apologized to Merlin for leaving him out in the cold.
  • Papa Wolf: Olaf snapped when he thought Arthur was being inappropriate with his daughter Vivian, then got even angrier when he thought Arthur was saying she wasn't good enough for him.
  • Parental Favoritism: Uther clearly favors Arthur over Morgana. He's the golden child: male firstborn and heir apparent of the Pendragon fortune, military like Uther, and actually Uther's biological child, to boot.
  • Photographic Memory: Arthur has a "near-eidetic" memory, followed closely by Merlin, who would never forget a code or number.
  • Power Glows: The eyes of magical people/creatures briefly glow during spellcasting.
  • Power Incontinence:
    • Merlin initially. At the beginning of the series, he's never studied magic, or knows any spells, but his power just sort of happens. And once his fetters break, he spends some time bleeding out too much magic for everything he does.
    • Morgana had no control over her seer powers until she started studying with the Druids.
  • Pregnant Badass: Gwen. She underwent her entire captivity pregnant and at no point lost hope.
  • Really 700 Years Old: Kilgarrah is not only an Army Major, but also a dragon in human form.
  • Red Is Heroic: Excalibur wears red scarves, but not during undercover missions.
  • Religion Is Magic: Merlin and dragons (as well as various magical beings) are creatures of the Old Religion, which appears to be a form of paganism.
  • The Reveal Prompts Romance: Merlin's confession of having magic in Intermission is basically his way of telling Arthur that he loves him, which in turn encourages Arthur to finally act on their feelings. Somewhat played with, in that Arthur was aware of Merlin having magic by the end of the previous chapter Avalon.
  • Secret-Keeper: Only Hunith, Gaius, and Will are aware of Merlin's magic. Initially.
    • Arthur becomes aware by the end of Avalon but Merlin actually only confesses this to him in Intermission.
    • The rest of Excalibur becomes aware by the end of First Contact and agree to protect Merlin's secret in Groundwork.
    • Balinor, Hunith, and Gaius are the only people who initially knew about the fetter on Merlin's magic, which Balinor had placed on him as a boy.
  • Secret Relationship: Played with. Leon assures Arthur that the whole team would keep a relationship between Arthur and Merlin a secret so that they don't get reprimanded by their superior officers. This becomes moot once they're enlisted by the Directory, as the particular rule on fraternising gets suspended for the purpose of their mission and maintaining their cover..
    • Played straight when Merlin and Arthur get engaged and then married without telling anyone (aside from Gaius, who presided over the marriage). Arthur rationalises that Morgana will kill him if she finds out that he got married before her.
  • Sensitive Guy and Manly Man: Merlin's the sensitive guy to Arthur's manly man.
  • Shipper on Deck: Morgana, Gwen, Lance, Leon, Perceval, Gwaine, Kilgarrah... practically the entire cast for Merlin/Arthur.
  • Ship Tease: Merlin/Arthur, Merlin/Gwaine, Lamorak/Gareth, Will/Kay.
  • Sins of Our Fathers: Balinor distrusts Arthur because of his experiences with Uther. West and his cohorts similarly brands Arthur as "Pendragon" because he's Uther's son, and Uther had done terrible things.
  • Staged Shooting: Cennydd orders Merlin to shoot him and make it look good.
  • Straight Gay: Merlin, Arthur, Lamorak, Gareth.
  • Supernatural Gold Eyes: Merlin when using magic.
  • Supreme Chef: Major Hunith Emrys can whip up culinary masterpieces that can (hypothetically) end world peace talks and cause wars to break out just to get at her food.
  • The Swear Jar: Aithusa starts one, which grows rapidly because of her exposure to Excalibur.
  • They Do: Merlin and Arthur.
  • True Companions: Excalibur.
  • "Well Done, Son!" Guy: Just like in the source show, Uther's relationship with both Arthur and Morgana comes off as this way, but it's also apparent that he does indeed love them both.
  • Wham Episode: Means To An End. Merlin and Arthur have an impromptu wedding, but the instalment ends with Gwen and Morgana captured by Morgause, Kay suffering grievous injuries, Merlin unconscious, and then both Kay and Merlin get captured by the NWO. Then the dragons reveal their existence. Then this is followed by Arthur going to Hunith with his suspicions that Balinor's still alive.
  • Will They or Won't They?: Merlin/Arthur. They do.
  • World of Badass: Practically everyone has to be one, given that most of the main cast are officers of the British Army.
  • You Are Not Alone: Arthur subtly wakes Merlin up for the latter to overhear Excalibur speaking about him after the magic reveal to assuage his fears that he'll be abandoned again.
  • Your Terrorists Are Our Freedom Fighters: The NWO see themselves as this.
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