Arthur jolted awake suddenly, jumping up to a sitting position. Immediately he was forced to screw his eyes shut as the light hit him, but after a moment, he forced them open again. He did not have the time! Pushing himself up till he was standing, Arthur took in his surroundings. He was in a strange room, it was small, square and the walls were painted a blinding white. Glancing around it took Arthur only a second to know that he was the only one in the room. Knowing he had a time limit, he headed straight for the door. There was no door handle, and Arthur silently thanked the gods that the door was slightly ajar – he certainly could not afford time to break it down.
He entered into a long hallway, which seemed to go on endlessly at either side. Again, the walls here were white, and the corridor was lined with hundreds of doors on both sides. Arthur cursed under his breath – how the hell was he going to find Merlin, he could be anywhere!
He turned to the door nearest him, and peered in through the tiny window on the door. Inside was another room exactly like the one he had woken in. What is this place? Arthur wondered. He turned away from the door, turning to look through the window of the door opposite. Again, it was a similar room, only this one was occupied. A young girl, who could only have been around 6 years old was huddled into the corner, knees held tight against her chest and head bowed. Arthur took a moment to take this in, then turned away, guiltily. He didn't have time to save her – he needed to get to Merlin.
Arthur started down the corridor checking the rooms as he went. Some were empty, some were not. Every time he came to an occupied room Arthur forced himself to look away; the people were always different – young, old, male, female – but each one was either injured or acting like the first little girl, huddled into themselves, their own personal traumas showing on their faces. As he continued on Arthur got more and more nervous, he didn't like this place, and he was desperate to find Merlin.
When he eventually did find him, he almost missed it. The room was the same as ever, but Arthur was about to move on believing it unoccupied before he realised there was someone in there. It was the first time the occupant had been restrained, hidden away, and it was the first time the room had been unlit. Once Arthur noticed the figure in the corner it only took him a split second to realise it was Merlin.
Without a second to lose Arthur pushed against the door, desperate to gain entry. The door refused to budge, so Arthur moved back to inspect it. There was a latch at the top and the bottom, but it did not require a key. Interesting, Arthur thought, obviously they only expect people to break out – not in. Hurrying, Arthur reached up to undo the top latch, before dropping to his knees to unlock the lower one. As soon as this was done he pushed the door, and this time it opened. As soon as Arthur stepped into the room lights flickered on, startling Arthur. He froze, sorcery!. But nothing else changed, so he rushed to the man in the corner.
He gasped as he took in his manservants form. He had seen most of the injuries on his body back in Gaius's chambers, but then they had been treated, and here they hadn't. Merlin was still hanging from his wrists, fresh blood pouring down his arms and pooling just above his clavicle. His clothes were ripped revealing more injuries: burns, bruises, and deep knife wounds. Some were fresher than others, but some were older, and the blood had dried. Even by looking Arthur also noticed that in some of the deeper stab marks infection had begun to set in.
It hurt, seeing Merlin in such a state. Gently, Arthur reached his hand to touch Merlin's cheek. Merlin shifted a little but did not lift his head. Arthur moved closer, wrapping his other hand around Merlin's waist. 'Merlin.' Arthur's voice broke as he leaned into talk in Merlin's ear. 'I'm here...I'm getting you out of here. But you need to hold on. You just need to hold on a little longer.'
Merlin gave no reaction, which scared Arthur. Reluctantly he let go of Merlin, and turned to the room looking for something which he could use to let Merlin down from his restraints. It took him a second to spot a tray in the corner full of metal contraptions and covered in blood. Arthur resisted the urge to vomit – they had clearly been used on Merlin. Looking down at the tray Arthur selected a small knife – the only one that had no blood. While some of the others may have been more suited to his purpose Arthur could not bring himself to use them.
Returning to Merlin, Arthur went to work removing the restraints. When they finally broke Merlin collapsed completely, and Arthur had to dive to catch him. Kneeling on the floor Arthur held Merlin to him. 'Merlin, can you hear me?'
Merlin's eyes flickered slightly, opening a little before sliding closed again. Before Arthur could let out a stream of panic Merlin attempted to speak 'Ar'thur...you came'. His voice was quiet, barely making any sound at all, and it was thick with effort and pain. Arthur clutched him tighter to himself
'Of course I did you idiot, I always will. And we should be getting out of here...any time now' Arthur glanced around the room expectantly, waiting for something to happen. He frowned ; he was well aware that his time should have been up by now.
Suddenly the door flung open, hitting the wall behind it with a crash. Arthur's hands gripped Merlin tighter reflexively as a man stormed in, standing menacingly over the two men. He took in the situation, and then he smiled. It was a chilling smile, which creeped over his face in a sinister way.
'Arthur.' He clapped his hands together. 'I was told you would soon be joining us'.
Oh, thought Arthur. This is not good.