A/N: I'm so sorry for taking so long to update. But school started up fast. Be warned, the chapter hasn't been edited for grammer or spelling yet.
Disclaimer: See previus chapter.
Outside the throne room, Arthur pulled Merlin aside, "go pack some medicines, we don't know how badly Gwen might be hurt." The warlock needed no further prompting, and Arthur silently thanked their brotherly relationship. When Merlin left, by all appearances on an errand, Arthur made his way to his room. Mentally he prepared himself for the lecture coming from Morgana, he hoped she would work it out before she began snapping at him. All records of such fights were not in his favor unfortunately.
Servants ducked out of the way as Lady Morgana swept past, they knew of her infamous temper very well. When she got mad only Arthur or Gwen could calm her down. As the latter currently lay in the hands of bandits, and the former hid in his room, no one counted on her calming down for a while.
Physically throwing the doors open, Morgana stormed into Arthur's room. "How can you be so heartless? Gwen is the most kind, loyal person you could ever meet, and she's been more than a friend to all of us, and you would leave her at the mercy of those animals!" The flustered words rattled off her tongue before she took a look at the room.
No, he would not interrupt her! She would not listen to his placating words! The level of disgust in her voice rose, "Have you no shame? Do you think of no one but yourself?"
Again he tried to interrupt her, again she cut him off. His tone was really beginning to eat at her, "I knew you were many things Arthur Pendragon, but I didn't know you were a gutless coward!" Numerous insults came to mind that she planned to use next, each worse than the last. Perhaps she could batter him in to rescuing Gwen. It worked with the Afanc, not to mention whenever she wanted something to go her way, it would work again.
"Morgana." This he said with more force, clearly irritated with her. Good, she thought, a little more work and he'd go after Gwen. "Perhaps if you stopped shouting at me for one second, you would notice that I am packing." That shut her up. To emphasize his point Arthur tossed the flap over his saddle bag.
When she found her voice again, "You're going after Gwen." She felt horrible for suspecting otherwise.
"Of course I'm going after her, what do you take me for?" To that she decided not to reply, as the answer clearly lay in her angry words from earlier. Not that she would mention it, it was a rhetorical question after all. "I Couldn't disagree with father in public," he slung the bags over his shoulder and left her standing there.
"Arthur?" she asked, voice shaking. He turned to look at her, "bring her home." With a reassuring nod, he left her standing there. Now both her friends and the man she loved like a brother would all be in danger. If she did not know about Merlin, she would have asked to accompany them. Knowing about the warlock had really eased her worries for Arthur, plus if she went Arthur might become overly concerned about her safety, that and Uther would throw larger fit than if Arthur went alone. Besides, though she would never say it out loud, Arthur had a calmer head that she did, a gift from his mother she supposed.
On the other end of the castle Merlin trotted down the stairs to his room, pack over his back. In the main room he found Gaius waiting of him. Of course the old man knew what they were planning.
"I suppose you and Arthur are going after Gwen."
"Gaius, don't even think about telling me not to go," he understood how much Gaius cared for him, but a friend in need mattered more. "There's nothing you can say that will stop me." That he'd gone behind Gaius briefly to help Morgana with her magic certainly proved that point. Even so, Gaius knew Merlin's trust in his advice never wavered.
"I wasn't going to try and stop you Merlin," clearly right then the old physician expected as much, "all I ask is that you come back safely too." Briefly closing his eyes in understanding he hugged his father figure. They parted; Merlin nodded firmly with a small smile and left.
Halfway across the castle a soft voice called "Merlin" as he walked by, the speaker hid in a shadowed alcove.
He knew who it was and approached, "Morgana?"
The noble woman moved into the light, he could see the tear stains on her checks. A strange desire urged him to wipe them away, to gather himself Merlin looked away for a second. "Promise me one thing."
The same desire spoke before his mind could, "anything." In retrospect, he would have said that anyhow.
A slight smile on her part sent his stomach into flip-flops. Within the safety of his mind Merlin wondered why he reacted so strangely. None of it made sense; she was his friend after all. "Merlin," the way she said his name seemed to imply something, by the Old Religion, what was he reading in to this? "Rescue Gwen by any means necessary."
"Morgana, there's no need for me to promise. I already intended to." The seeress visibly relaxed at that. For a moment she looked uncertain, like she wanted to say something more. For a moment he wanted to hold her close. For a moment he saw she wanted him to. Unfortunately the moment shattered when the clamp of booted feet echoed down the hall. Morgana vanished into her alcove and Merlin down the hall. The patrol had seen neither seeress nor warlock, but they nearly had.
For some reason starting a quest always seemed the hardest part; especially when a Crown Prince wanted to sneak out of his own castle. Were it not for Arthur's rank they could have left during daylight, but oh no, Merlin thought, Arthur just had to make this difficult by being himself. Then again even if Arthur wasn't Crown Prince, he would likely be stuck secretly departing the castle with someone else. On night like tonight, his destiny just seemed annoyingly inconvenient. Merlin crouched behind Arthur as he watched the guards. In all likelihood he would have to distract the guards.
"I'll fetch the horses, you distract the guards." Just as he figured, at least he could use magic once Arthur left.
"Well how do I do that?"
"I don't know; do I have to think of everything?"
Yes, Merlin thought humorously.
Well, now he had a problem. Blowing out a heavy sigh he looked for something to use. The large collection of conveniently placed barrels over to the side offered the perfect solution.
"Bihne toveone," one of barrels rolled towards the guards.
Curious and concerned the guards moved to inspect it, one going so far as to lower his halberd at it. The moment it rolled close enough Merlin bid it to stop again. Now both walked towards, halberds lowered.
"Arisia." The guards jumped back as the barrel righted itself. Merlin found their reactions highly amusing. Perhaps he would do this every so often, just to practice. The grin faded when he thought of the tongue lashing he would receive from Gaius if he did, and if the physician found out. As they approached again, Merlin muttered 'swife', intending for the barrel to roll down the drawbridge. No such luck, all the barrels rolled instead and knocked the first one over, and the Guards out in a clatter of metal. Surprisingly, the clatter failed to draw the attention of other guards.
"What did you do? I said distract them, not knock them out." Arthur protested as he came along with the horses.
Merlin, on the other hand, had been smiling slightly at his handy work. "There's no pleasing you sometimes." The smile faded as he shook his head slightly at Arthur. The prince gave him a look that implied he thought Merlin crazy. Which was nothing new; he got that look nearly twice a day.
For Guinevere he'd ride day and night. Arthur loved her so deeply he knew that, if given the opportunity, he would gladly die for her. If Merlin did not die in his stead that was; he found Merlin's loyalty surprising at times, and he wanted to know why. Merlin practiced magic, yet lived and worked in the heart of anti-magic sentiments. Why? As much as he wanted to know, he could not ask. Perhaps when they rescued Guinevere he would. Perhaps he wouldn't, until he had her back he would say nothing. Likely he would never say anything, he realized then that he while trusted Merlin, Guinevere mattered even more. Silently he vowed to ask when he came to the throne. A day that hopefully lay in the very distant future.
Behind him he heard a horse whinny and a thud. Arthur reigned in his mount and turned about, his spoke with an annoyed tone, "what are you doing Merlin?" Then again times like this made him question where or not Merlin had magic at all, surely a warlock could say awake and not fall off his horse. Then again, warlock or not, he was still Merlin.
The servant lay on the ground and looked up at him, "I must have fallen asleep." He didn't move, "Uh, I'm exhausted." Arthur rode over to him. He muttered something or another as Arthur uncorked his canteen and dumped water on him. The water hitting his face woke the warlock instantly.
"Thank you, I feel so much better." He clearly was as the old sarcasm reappeared.
Unfortunately for Merlin, Arthur was in no mood for jokes, "Guinevere's life is at stake, we cannot afford to waste a second." Leaving Merlin there he turned his horse and continued riding. A grumbling servant followed on foot until his horse was caught and calmed. They rode on until sunrise. To rest the horses and keep Merlin from falling out of the saddle again Arthur permitted a short break. "We'll rest here for a few hours."
"Sleep sounds lovely." Merlin nearly fell from his horse, unpacked his blanket and settled against a tree. "What about you?"
By the horses Arthur unstrapped his own blanket, "go to sleep." The prince knew he'd find little sleep that morning. Until Guinevere returned to Camelot safe and sound he knew he would find sleep in short supply.
Close to four hours later Arthur decided to stop brooding and get a move on. Looking over at Merlin he wondered if the boy did anything but sleep.
"Merlin," the snoozing servant didn't move. Briefly he wondered how Merlin could sleep so soundly knowing Gwen was in trouble, so once again he poured water on the servant's head. The method worked once, and did exemplary well again. Of course he protested; while half-awake attempting to find the source and knock it away. Arthur returned to his horse and Merlin's mind cleared.
"How long was I asleep for?"
Any sleep was to long for Arthur, but he couldn't say that, "Long enough."
"Did you get some rest?" After nearly two years in his company Arthur knew that question would come. He also knew that if he didn't answer honestly, Merlin wouldn't believe him and then spend the rest of the day pestering him. Some days the idiot servant felt more like an annoying little brother. Or a nat that insisted on bugging him, he mentally amended.
Of course if he answered honestly Merlin would bug him about his health instead. All the same, he replied, "Couldn't sleep."
"I've never seen you like this about anyone."
"What are you talking about?"
"Gwen; you really care about her don't you." Damn it, Arthur thought, did the idiot have to hit the nail of the head at times like this?
"What I care about is not wasting anymore time talking." Even to him the excuse sounded lame, but he was Crown Prince and if need be he could order Merlin to shut up, "let's get moving." Not that ordering him to shut up did any good for very long.
A/N: Ok, so it's not as long as the last one, but a good deal of episode at this point is Lance/Gwen scenes, so I don't use them. As you can tell I'm experimenting with a Merlin/Morgana relationship, it may or may not go anywhere. I hope to update in a week's time, and as always please review.