Okay, I'm going to say this, and I'm going to say this now: I'm truly sorry for the lateness this Chapter is being posted on. I had the plan done before I went for my three day trip to Paris, and when I got back, I was too tired to write. I know, more excuses, and I hope you can forgive me, and I hope this Chapter will live up to your standards. I hope it is, because today's Chapter is extremely important... and extremely long.
Disclaimer: I do not own BBC Merlin.
Black was now the only colour he knew. The darkness and peace the colour held gave him the escape from the pain he felt – well, as much escape as running away could give. His conscious state had now merged with the subconscious recesses of his mind, where the weird, wonderful, terrifying but peaceful memories and feelings hid from the world inside of Merlin. Each person's subconscious mind was different, simply because they had all experienced different thoughts, different emotions at different times and different scenes throughout their life that moulded them into who they were and, subsequently, their inner-mind. Merlin had created himself the perfect pain relief in this form after Mordred had left him shaking, bloody and weak in his damp cell, and his body had shut down in order to prepare for the repair it would have to do.
Merlin flicked through the experiences he'd done throughout his life that made him Merlin in order to ignore that thought.
First, he thought of his mother: his mind replayed a moment that he'd cherished since it had passed. His mother was sitting at their old table in the middle of their cramped room, a small fire burning next to her. She was chopping a variety of vegetables on the table, including carrots, cabbage, parsnips, and potatoes, anything that could be grown in Ealdor. Merlin, just a child at the time, was skipping up to her, his black hair slightly longer and shaggier than it was now. He wore plain clothes, not the slightly dull coloured ones he'd acquired before arriving at Camelot, but was distinctly recognisable by the red neckerchief that he wore. It hung too-big around his neck, but Merlin never noticed it. It had been a wonderful gift from his mother after all, and he would cherish it forever.
His mother looked down, smiling at the curiosity and happiness Merlin was in. "Why aren't you out with Will, Merlin?" Her sweet voice was caring, and Merlin smiled.
"Will had to go help his mother prepare for the harvest celebrations, and I'd thought I'd help you this year," he offered. It had been the first time Merlin had offered to help with preparing for the harvest festival, and Hunith smiled brighter; her boy was growing up, getting older. He was ready to help her now.
"Come here, son," she crooned, patting her lap. Merlin jumped eagerly on his mother, and they both shared a chuckle. "Now, I want you to be careful, as this knife-"she gingerly lifted the blade "-can be dangerous if you use it wrongly."
"Okay, mother. I'll be careful."
The family of two then began chopping the remaining vegetables together, Hunith's hand over Merlin's. Over time, Merlin began accustomed to the feel of the blade of the knife as he sliced through the different types of food, and he lifted his hand away from the knife, taking his mother's with him. His eyes flashed a brilliant gold, and the blade moved itself. In almost no time at all, all the vegetables were cut and ready to be cooked for the festival.
"Well done Merlin. I knew you'd use your magic carefully," Hunith praised, rubbing the shaggy hair on Merlin's hair. The boy smiled up at his mother, and the memory faded away.
Knifes still reminded him of the pain, though.
It was Gaius' turn next in the realms of the subconscious: the night sky outside the small, compact window high above the wall was black as ink, with small, winking lights glowing down below them, lighting the night sky. Merlin was sitting impatiently at the dinner table, smells of different types of food climbing inside his nose, making his stomach rumble. Gaius may not be the best of cooks, but, on that particular day after Merlin had slaved around after Arthur and saved his life from yet another, but very powerful, sorcerer, Merlin was extremely hungry, and anything that he could eat sounded appetising.
The dinner wasn't pretty to look at, but was filling and delicious in Merlin's eyes. It was a red stew, filled to the brim with the same vegetables his mother was chopping all those years ago in Ealdor, but with new food stuffs, such as onion and tomatoes. Small pieces of chicken had been dumped in the meal, and lifted the dinner that Merlin had been so craving for all day.
Gaius and he shared an eager smile as they downed their stew.
"You're very hungry today Merlin," Gaius observed.
Merlin sipped some stew away from the solid food before taking the contents off the metal spoon. "I could eat a horse," Merlin replied, chewing the chicken and tomato in his mouth.
"You deserve it, my boy." Gaius ate with Merlin whilst talking about the attack the sorcerer had tried to hit Arthur with and just the general day with his ward. Living a normal life was all Merlin had ever really wanted, but his magic had hindered that for him, but Gaius gave him a sense of normality in Camelot that he'd been so desperately searching for. It was this memory that Merlin cherished most; the times where he'd have a terrible day, or just a tiring one which always involved something to do with Arthur, and Gaius would be there to cook something for Merlin and provide him with some form of comfort. His mother did the same, and he was glad he had Gaius as a figure for him here in Camelot.
But that figure was not here now to guide him.
Everything that Merlin cherished wasn't there for him now, or it was now being used against him to inflict pain on him. Lancelot was the only person he could confide his magic with apart from Gaius and his mother, but he was dead now. He felt so much better when he could use magic in front of another person when they were in danger and not be hated for it, but be thanked and praised. Freya was gone too, the only other person he felt most happy with, almost complete. Arthur and he held a destiny together, but with Freya, he felt as if he could rise above his destiny and be with her and his magic. And now she was gone with Lancelot. He only had a short amount of time to spend with his father, and he kept his carving of a dragon close to him. However, his only keepsake from his father was back in Camelot, so he was left with nothing but the memory of it to comfort him. Merlin wished he could have spent more time with Balinor, but he was gone too.
Lancelot, Freya, Balinor, who else would die? Who else would he have to lose to keep his destiny alive? Lancelot got in the way of Arthur and Gwen's relationship, Freya almost halted his destiny completely, and Balinor had the Dragon Lord Powers Merlin needed to have to control the Great Dragon back in Camelot. When would Gaius, his mother or Gwaine die? Will was already dead from saving Arthur, so when would Gwaine or any of the other knights fall to the same fate? It was so cruel for him to think of these thoughts at these times, but Merlin felt he had to, to get over the fact he may never the faces of the people he loved ever again if Morgana and Mordred won.
But Merlin would not let them win. They would not rule Camelot, and they would not stop Arthur from being King. I wonder when they'll die from tampering with our destiny, Merlin thought ironically to himself.
Then something stirred in his body. Merlin crawled out of the dark spaces of his mind, and let out a wince as the pain was brought back to him. He could feel his legs moving and bending, but they were not walking along the floor: they were floating in the air, being supported by a frame or bar underneath the crook between his knees. This bar, though, was warm and soft, so not metal, and the end of the bar gripped his knees like fingers. A hand and arm; he was being lifted by a person. A similar feeling lifted his back away from the floor, and more pain flickered from where the whip had marked his back. A voice called to Merlin, but he couldn't make it out. A man's perhaps? Not Mordred, Merlin panicked, letting a scared breath escape his lips.
No, this voice wasn't Mordred's, which was filled with ice, hate and rage. No, this voice was warm, sweet, but stern and brave, and strangely familiar.
The man lifted Merlin from the ground carefully and gracefully, his arms full of strength to be able to carry Merlin. The warlock crawled back further and further to his conscious mind, letting more pain hit him like a slap, but Merlin ignored it. He had to see who this person was.
The pain grew and grew and grew until it was no longer bearable, but Merlin kept trying to open his eyes, even if they were just slits. The swaying motion his body was in didn't help, so he used his magic to numb himself, whispering quiet words to different parts of his body inside his head to get them to calm down. Over time, Merlin could get over the numbing pain, but his magic was weak, and the spell would not last for long, but he had to see.
Then, he opened his eyes.
The man was pale, but not white like Merlin. He had a healthy glow to his skin, which was now wet with sweat from the heat created by the heavy armour he was fashioning. Blonde, matted hair was sticking to this very skin, and his blue eyes were filled with concern, guilt and determination, those all too familiar eyes. His mouth was clenched as he carried Merlin, and the servant knew exactly who this person was.
He waited on this man day and night, bringing him food, tidying his room, but was also there when this man was sad, angry and confused. His life was bound to his, a bright future foretold with their friendship.
"Arthur," Merlin managed to groan before the pain returned to him, and his mind flooded back to his subconscious, but it was okay now.
Arthur was here to rescue him.
Only animals seemed to stir as Morgana looked through the forests of Camelot. The tracks she followed were too obscure for her to know whether it was truly Arthur and the knights, or a herd of deer, but she followed them anyway. In fact, she followed several different tracks, all leading her to dead ends where no man or animal could climb out of, especially with horses, or to places where no animals would set foot, so hunting would be out of an option.
Morgana huffed and pulled her dress up to her knees as she crossed a river, hoping some new tracks could lead her to Arthur. There were none at all, and Arthur was nowhere to be found.
"Argh!" She shouted. She needed Camelot soon, and Arthur was not helping her. Merlin would be punished for Arthur's appalling punctuality later tonight if Mordred hadn't done a good enough job on the manservant, and a smile crept up on her lips at the guilt Arthur would feel if he knew Merlin's injuries were caused because of his actions. More fuel for the fire, and more fire in her influence on Arthur.
Morgana decided she was truly lost, and Arthur was nowhere near her, so she picked dropped her black, laced dress, and sat on a dry log in the forest.
Dawn was breaking, and purple, orange and blue shades were beginning to paint the sky that morning. In between the branches of the trees that grew in the area, the bright spokes from the sun shone through, almost blinding Morgana as it gave her light to her bleak, dark world. Her eyes adjusted, and she looked properly at this part of the woods: small flowers, with pink and white petals, were dotted all over the grass, which grew long, but thin and fine. Moss wound up the thick branches along the trees, accentuating the height the trees grew to. The crisp colours of the sky, mixed with the flowers, grass, moss and the many dew drops which coated the forest floor – but not the log – all created the perfect picture of heaven.
But it wasn't heaven for Morgana. No, heaven for her was having Camelot under a firm grip, the people accepting of her and magic finally free and rid of Arthur Pendragon, and she would not rest until she had her heaven in her hands.
She looked down to the golden bracelet on her wrist. It had been one of the few things Morguase had left to her before she passed, and she wore it every day and every night in memory of her. She once tried to swap it in exchange for information about Emrys – or Merlin, as she now knew – which she knew she would regret, and she did. Thank Gods the man was kind enough to realise that it had meant a lot to her, and let her keep it, for now she needed the comfort that Morgause was watching her, praising her that what she was doing was the right thing to do.
Now, Mordred was the only family she had left. He wasn't a brother, or her son, but he felt like one. Morgana felt a protectiveness over him, something she'd never felt over anyone else before. He shared her thoughts and ideals, and was open about his own, as well as being a powerful warlock. She wanted to go back to the castle, to make sure he was okay, and that Merlin was still under control, but she needed some time alone in this forest, with the presence of Morguase all around her.
Maybe this place was heaven.
"Arthur won't be here, Morgana. You can wait a few days until he returns to Camelot," Morgana told herself. "Besides," a small smirk flashed along her face. "You can have some fun with poor Merlin while Arthur is away."
She stood up, chuckling, and prepared herself to return to the castle. "Bedyrne mé! Astýre mé þanonweard!" The long grass began to entwine around her billowing dress, and the petals form the flowers were ripped away from their bodies as the sky became lighter and bluer, and the magic flowing from Morgana's veins spread outwards, encasing her, and dragging her mind, body and soul away from the forest, and back to the dark ruins of the castle.
The sky was the same at the forest at the castle, but things were not so heavenly.
Mordred was stumbling in the courtyard, four men attacking him with their swords. His young body was so much smaller than theirs, even if he had aged, and he was too panic stricken and shocked to use his magic. Instead, he was blocking all their attacks weakly with his own sword, unable to do much more. Hatred and anger boiled in Morgana's blood, which was still infused with her magic, and the full force of her mother-like instincts blew and snapped at the four men, who she seemed to recognise. The fighters fell down like rag dolls as her eyes flashed gold and her hand wiped them clean away. Mordred panted, still blindly swinging his sword, vulnerable without his magic.
Morgana ran over desperately to him, and cupped his face.
"I-I don't know what happened, Morgana. One minute I was heading to my bedroom, and the next they were on me. I couldn't do anything," Mordred stuttered.
"It's okay, Mordred, I'm here now," Morgana comforted. Her hand gently stroked his cheek
"I managed to get them outside, though," he said, moving his finger towards the castle. The front door had been completely blown off, a larger, newer pile of rocks at the foot of the castle.
"You see, you did do something," Morgana praised. "Just make sure you're ready for another attack."
"Don't worry, I will be. They won't know what's hit them," Mordred smirked, magic at the ready and growing inside him. It was then that they both noticed a movement in the shadows to the sides of them. It was only small, but it was enough to make the protective instincts flare up again inside Morgana. Her stomach churned and Mordred eyed her curiously, wondering why a shadow was making her so on edge.
Morgana couldn't even explain that herself.
Suddenly, the body – no, two bodies – came out from their hiding place behind the foliage. Dark, bloody fabrics were being carried by shiny chain mail, and something rose in both Morgana and Mordred. Instantly, their magic clicked and became one, uniting to throw the two men – well, one man – of their feet. The man in chain mail was Arthur, who was carrying a lifeless Merlin.
But he wasn't carrying him anymore.
"Let's finish this, Arthur Pendragon."
No one really knew what to do when the screaming had ended; hearing their friend shriek and cry in scrutinising pain was almost unbearable. Both Arthur and Gwaine had risked the element of surprise by nearly charging into the castle below their makeshift camp, but Leon had held them back, claiming that their entire rescue mission could have been jeopardised if they ran down to the castle now with Morgana still torturing Merlin. Not only would the surprise be lost, but she would have the advantage of having a weak Merlin in her control, thus controlling Arthur.
It hadn't been the time then, but now that the screaming had stopped, both Gwaine and Arthur were growing impatient.
"How long is it until we destroy her?" Gwaine growled, sword ready in his hand. The blade on his sword had been polished to an inch of its life over the course of the night. Since he hadn't been allowed to go in and get Merlin before any life threatening injuries had been given to his friend, he'd had to resort to doing the jobs Merlin had done under the knights' service: cooking and cleaning; polishing armour and swords; making sure the horses were rested and well fed. The little things made him hope Merlin would be alright, and appreciative of what Merlin did every day.
Arthur should be lucky: a servant's job was no easy task, and he felt his blood boil at the memory of what Arthur said to Merlin before Morgana took him. It was as if Arthur didn't realise what Merlin did every day that made him so tired, so hungry and so late to everything, and Gwaine hoped Arthur realised that now.
Meanwhile, Arthur was stepping back and forth, every inch of his body ready to run inside the huge, menacing Castle of Albion below him. After long observation, Arthur had noticed miniature black flags, which would be large and beautiful up close, with tiny silver markings in the middle. Rips and tears were noticeable along the fabric of the flags and banners that held the crest of Albion and the destroyed areas of the castle showed Arthur that a large and brutal battle had torn the castle and the family inside their home, to shreds. Now, it was his turn to rip Morgana to shreds for all the violent things she had been doing to Merlin over the night, and to reclaim his friend. He was so desperate to apologise to him for all the stupid, arrogant things he said to him that night, and he knew today would be the day.
Well, he hoped so anyway.
Arthur's muscles stiffened when the screaming eventually stopped. Both he and Gwaine looked straight to Leon for assurance that the surprise element would still be with them if they moved now. Leon nodded, and Arthur and Gwaine were the first two to charge down the dense forest and to the castle.
Hold on, Merlin, we're coming for you.
Miscellaneous twigs and sticks stuck out from the body of trees they grew on, and whipped Arthur's face ever so slightly. What if Merlin was whipped? Arthur suddenly thought to himself. His stomach churned at the thought of Merlin's body with large gashes from a deadly whip held by Morgana's ice-cold hands, and he wretched ever so slightly as he ran. Gwaine was necking ahead of him, and the rest of the Knights were following suit a few feet behind him, swords at the ready. Gwaine was clutching a large brown-string bag, no doubt housing the Powder Bombs and Colour Sticks he'd been bragging about on the first night of their departure.
They neared the castle, and slowed their pace down, making sure their footsteps were silent, to not disturb the animals or Morgana. With every step, Arthur grew more impatient, but held his nerve. Gwaine's hand was tensing over his sword, and Arthur noticed: he wanted to run with just the same ferocity as Arthur did, and just the same amount of impatience. Stealth took over their bodies, though, and they drew closer without drawing attention to themselves.
Leon stopped the group just outside the castle. "Gwaine, I think it's time you showed us how to use those rocks of yours."
"Colour Sticks and Powder Bombs, Leon, not just rocks of mine," Gwaine started. Leon moved his head slightly lower, and Gwaine reacted by giving him an apologetic look. "Sorry, I just want to get in there as soon as possible."
"We all do," Elyan comforted.
Gwaine dove deep into his bag, and handed out Powder Bomb and Colour Sticks to everyone. "You've all got two each, just in case, but I think we'll only need to use one of each," Gwaine began to explain. "For the Powder Bombs, we light up the powder inside the bag, throw it, and let it work its magic."
"I thought you said there was no magic involved?" Arthur protested.
"Sorry, wrong choice of words – we'll just let them work their... stuff?" The knights all laughed at Gwaine's new choice of words for his inventions, and their thoughts were lifted for just a second. "Okay guys, you can shut up now."
"Hey, come on, do you want to rescue Merlin or not?"
That made them quiet.
"Good. The Colour Sticks are meant to be lit at the end of this piece of string." His index finger and thumb grabbed the tiny end of the oily string at the end of the badly carved sticks of rock. "The fire will burn inside the stick, until sparks of colour are released. It'll distract Morgana, along with the smoke from the Powder Bombs, and act as a flare in case one of us gets separated or injured. They're also pretty damn good at marking the ground if you get lost."
"Never knew you were the type to be interested in rocks," Percival said, still smiling. Leon sniggered.
"Let's just get this over with," Arthur intervened, watching Gwaine preparing for a sarcastic-line-off with the others. There was just no time now.
Natural instincts crawled back again into their bodies, and they moved like lions on a hunt towards the castle. As they drew closer, Arthur could fully identify the state of the castle: bricks had crumbled away from years of erosion, but looked as if they had been helped by the force of catapults, and Arthur took in the huge boulders that covered areas of the castle that were heavily damaged; the flags had begun to rot away, and had been torn through the middle of their material from sharp swords in battle – their tares looked like the cuts you would find on someone who had been mortally wounded; weeds, roots and other dark, ugly plants had grew and weaved away into the very heart of the castle's walls, making it even weaker than it already was. All Morgana would have to do was click her fingers and the whole place would fall to pieces in a matter of seconds.
Arthur gulped away his nerves, and continued. His back became firmer, and his shoulders stiffened as he prepared himself for an attack. They entered the courtyard, hiding behind awkwardly growing trees and broken pillars to near themselves to the castle's broken front door. Huge boulders lay scattered at the entrance, but it was an easy job for them all to clamber over them. Carrying Merlin, however, would be a much more difficult task.
"Remember, only use Gwaine's toys if we absolutely must," Arthur whispered. Gwaine glared at him, but gave him a forgiving smile: Merlin was the main priority now.
All five knights crept around the castle, looking out for Morgana. They all clutched their Colour Sticks and Powder Bombs in waiting, swords held in their spare hand. Gwaine had managed to slip them all four matches each, if anything were to happen to the other matches of course. Also, his weapons would be useless without fire to light them.
The castle was like a labyrinth: too many passages led away from one corridor, and the stairs seemed to entwine sideways rather than upwards, like a normal staircase. However, it may have been from the age of the castle, and the fact that people had left it to the dangers of the environment for too long. Many more corridors, passages and wrongly-winding staircases led them to believe that they were lost.
"It's no good, Sire, there has been no trace or sign to the whereabouts of any kind of dungeon. I think we-"
"Shh!" Arthur said, halting Leon's notion. Silence.
Elyan stepped forward. "Arthur I don't hear-"
The silence lasted longer than last time, and they all heard what Arthur's heightened senses picked up before them: footsteps, and growing ones. They weren't the sound of dainty, female shoes or heels, but of heavy boots, boots that men wore.
You've got someone to work with you? Didn't realise you still had allies left alive, Arthur said inside his head. It wasn't a sarcastic comment. No, this was far too serious inside his head. The prospect of Morgana having someone working with her meant she had more power to fight with, be it a sword or magic... or both. Arthur kept his head close to the edge of the wall, and the knights stood behind him, barely breathing. The steps grew and grew, and Arthur's heart nearly jumped out of his ribcage as the figure with the footsteps passed their hiding place, blissfully unaware of the knights standing shocked and still behind him. The man was wearing a green cloak that seemed too short for him, and too worn, like he'd owned it since he was a child. His hair came just below his ears, and was dark and black. Perhaps it was his imagination, but Arthur thought he recognised the figure, yet he hadn't had a good look.
With specific motions of his hands, he sent Gwaine and Elyan to follow the figure. Gwaine looked unhappy that he couldn't rescue Merlin himself, but Arthur noticed an angry smile arise as he realised this was the person who had been torturing Merlin. Morgana wasn't standing with him, so Arthur assumed she was still with Merlin.
But where were the screams of torture?
Thanking his graces that Merlin wasn't being tortured, he turned down the corner the man had walked down, Leon and Percival walking right behind him. There was a boyish scream, but it wasn't Merlin; not too long after, smoke began to fill the corridors, and the angry shouts of Elyan and Gwaine were now resonating through the broken corridors of the castle. If Morgana had heard that, it wouldn't be too long until she went to find her ally.
"You two should go help Gwaine and Elyan," Arthur suggested.
Leon stopped in front of Arthur, worry taking over his face. "But Sire what if Morgana's there?"
"Don't worry, I don't think she will be, not if she cares for her ally," Arthur said. "Go," he ordered.
Leon and Percival curtly nodded their heads in unison, and ran through the smoke back to Gwaine and Elyan.
Arthur was on his own now.
He traced the wall with the blue Colour Stick Gwaine had given him, and he marked his journey. This castle was far too complex for him to get lost in, and he hoped Morgana wouldn't notice his markings if she passed through one of the corridors he was walking down. His pace picked up into a fast jog, then increased to an all out sprint. The stick rubbed gently against the wall when he walked, but was now grinding hard against the stone, making awful shrieks that almost bled Arthur's ears with annoyance. But he could live with it: it was the route to Merlin and then to freedom, after all.
The clashes of swords had faded away long ago, now, and the dampness in the air was rising. Moisture was becoming thicker as he made his way down more awkward staircases, and moss had began to grow on most of the walls and paved the floor a gross green colour. Advantages came from the moss, though: footprints and scuffs indicated that someone had walked down this corridor often and not long ago, so he must be close to Merlin now. He didn't realise how close, though.
Two corners and there he was: Merlin.
The smell in the corridor was vile and disgusting; blood was running along the ground and onto cold stone which looked dirty and muddy from where moss had been ripped from its home.
It wasn't the site of the dungeons that caught him off guard though. No, it was the site of Merlin that made tears well inside his eyes, that made guilt rush over him like a wave and that made him want to kill Morgana and her accomplice right then because of what they'd done to Merlin.
His manservant was lying oddly on the floor, but still. Too still for Arthur's liking, but the slow rise and fall of Merlin's chest was enough to send relief through his guilty veins. His clothes were ripped and torn, and the King was surprised at how much of Merlin's skin wasn't showing from how damaged his clothes were, but they weren't what made him wretch in that dungeon: Merlin's skin was bloody, and large gashes, such as the ones Arthur had nightmares off whilst running to the castle, were covering the skin along his stomach, torso and back. His dark blue shirt was now near black from how much blood it had absorbed and dried, and made a definite contrast against Merlin's pale skin colour, which was much whiter than it usually was. His raven-black hair was longer than before, but matted with blood, and one of his arms was glowing red with sharp cuts, which were starting to gather white matter around them. This was what Gaius had described to him as infection, when he was a young boy and cut his arm while training to be a knight. Merlin's injuries were not from training, though: they were from cruel torture which shouldn't have even come to pass if Arthur hadn't been so arrogant and rude to Merlin in the first place.
Arthur got over the nauseous feeling in his stomach, and he slid over to Merlin's cell, which had been locked. He pressed his head between the bars, and frowned. "I'm so sorry Merlin," he whimpered to the sleeping servant. "I was so stupid, and arrogant and selfish, and I wish I could take back what I said that night. I hope you can forgive me for all that's happened, and I promise you that when we get back home, that stupid law dictating servants can't eat Knights' food will be abolished and you can come on hunting trips without having to worry about yourself. We'll look after you better in the future," Arthur promised. Weariness and sorry were beginning to shadow him.
Arthur rose from his position, and thrust out Excalibur – Merlin had decided to call that sword its proper name after Arthur had pulled it out from the stone. It had brought him good fortune, and he hoped that if, magic had been used on the lock, he would be able to free Merlin with it. His gloved hand gripped the hilt of the sword, and he lunged on the lock, forcing it open with his perfectly-balanced blade. Golden sparks flew from the gate, and the door was realised. Arthur quickly returned his sword into its leather sheath, and ran full force at Merlin.
"My God, what has happened to you Merlin?" Arthur said, trying not to hurt Merlin by touching his wounds. "I'll get you to Gaius. He'll know how to make you better," Arthur promised again.
He fixed his hands underneath Merlin's light, limp body, and slowly, but gently picked him up from the floor. Once his legs were lifted from the ground, Merlin's leg twitched in pain. A gasp flew from his mouth, but his eyes never flickered open, and Arthur could feel something inside him cry out for Merlin, wanting his pain to end. His other hand then took his back away from the floor, and Merlin let out another, louder gasp accompanied with a painful groan, but, again, his eyes never once moved, unless to be contorted in pain. Arthur quietly repeated whispers of 'I'm sorry' to Merlin in the hope he'd wake.
Arthur raced with Merlin, still clutching onto Gwaine's gifts underneath Merlin's weight. As he was running, Merlin groaned his name. It was so quiet that Arthur didn't register it at first, but when he caught a small glimpse of Merlin's eyes closing shut, he knew Merlin was still fighting inside. With new found strength, he followed the blue line he'd drawn on his way to find Merlin, until he came to the point where he'd first caught his glimpse of Morgana's ally. The fight wasn't in the corridor anymore. Flashes of red and orange were the only thing to guide him through the grey tunnels, littered with black flags, and out to the courtyard where Arthur began to observe the fight taking place.
The man was stumbling in the courtyard, his Knights attacking him with their swords. His young body was so much smaller than theirs and he was too panic stricken and shocked to fully fight back. Instead, he was blocking all their attacks weakly with his own sword, unable to do much more. He was about to place Merlin behind cover, and silently knock the man out when he wasn't looking so they could escape, when something snapped at Gwaine, Elyan, Percival and Leon. The Knights fell down like rag dolls, but the man was panting, still blindly swinging his sword. It couldn't have been him to cause that fall.
Then, the figure of Morgana ran over desperately to her ally, and cupped his face. He was more than just an ally. Arthur managed to get a better look at his face in the light, and the adult face of Mordred was now looking up shocked and vulnerable to Morgana. They were almost like a family.
Arthur took his chance, and bolted for the first tree when they were too busy fussing over themselves. Merlin still hadn't said anything more, and he hoped his idiot of a friend would stay quiet until they'd escaped and found shelter. Arthur would return to the knights once Merlin was safe. Morgana and Mordred still hadn't noticed Arthur, so he took his second chance, and ran stealthily to a half broken pillar in the courtyard. He was about to run for the last tree before the gate, until Morgana began to look over where Arthur was hiding.
It's now or never. Arthur ran into nearby foliage, where the most cover was available, and then ran straight for the broken gate. Then, a cold, powerful feeling erupted in the courtyard square, and Arthur was knocked off his feet, Merlin flinging away from his grasp.
Morgana then walked closer to Arthur. "Let's finish this, Arthur Pendragon."
Phew, this was probably the longest Chapter I have ever written in my life. I hope it was worth the effort – and the lateness.
Thanks for reading!