Okay, we are back with your regularly scheduled episodeness... Enjoy!
I do not own the characters of BBC's Merlin.
Merlin jerked awake and looked around the room. It was just past dawn. Thankfully Arthur was too busy training the knights today and Merlin had the morning off of working for him. Normally he would have slept longer, but this morning he felt the faint tendrils of magic. He pushed himself out of his bed and tried to locate the source of the magic. Yet it had been so faint and fleeting that now he couldn't sense it at all. His brow furrowed but he pushed it aside as he began to get dressed.
"Merlin." Gaius called from the workroom. "I need your help."
Apparently something had happened in the lower town that required Gaius' attention and he had taken Merlin along to help.
Merlin's eyes landed on the body of the person, something didn't feel right about it. He could almost feel to soft traces of magic drifting off the man. Gaius crouched down next to the body to examine it.
"Aren't you scared?" Merlin asked curiously.
"Scared of what?" Gaius asked glancing up at Merlin.
"That you might catch whatever it is?" Merlin didn't like the small nagging feeling that whatever it was, it wasn't natural. This place though was not were he should voice said thoughts. There were too many people around to ask why he thought it wasn't natural.
"I'm the court physician, it's my job." Gaius said turning the man over now. The pale blue tint to the man's skin and the fact that his eyes had turned completely white made Merlin take a small step back. Normal illnesses didn't do that did they?
Both Merlin and Gaius pulled the cart that had the man's body on it towards the castle and Gaius' own workroom. Gwen caught up with them having seen Merlin. "What are you doing?" She asked noticing the cart.
"Moving something." Merlin said quickly getting between Gwen and the cart.
"Looks heavy." Gwen said trying to get a look at whatever it was.
"Nothing really." Merlin said trying to find a way to distract her. "Someone got you flowers!" It was weak, but it seemed to work, Gwen was distracted.
"Oh, no." She said shaking her head. "Would you like one?" She was looking the small bundle over and pulled out a light purple one. "A purple one!" She handed him the small sprig of blooms.
Merlin smiled taking it and looking it over. "Purple suits you." Gwen said. "Not that I'm saying red doesn't suit you…"
Merlin looked at her and held back the small laugh, though the amusement was clear in his eyes. "Thanks, well, ah…" Merlin said now trying to find a place for the flower. He tucked it into his neck scarf and held his arms out. She seemed pleased and even blushed a little bit. "See you."
Gwen nodded as Merlin was off again with Gaius and the cart. "Bye!" She called to them as they left and she continued on her way to Morgana's chambers.
Having taken the body to the workroom they put it on one of the tables. Gaius was closely examining the body. Merlin was trying to feel that magic trace again but it was gone, just like this morning. It was odd; maybe he was just getting paranoid with two attacks on Arthur's life in such quick succession.
"Do you think this is some kind of plague?" Merlin asked.
"Something like this could never come from nature…" Gaius muttered.
"So I was sensing something…"
Gaius looked up at Merlin. "Since when?"
"This morning, I felt the faint traces of magic and it woke me up." Merlin explained. "Then when we found him there were even more faint traces of that same magic. It faint and fades quickly though. I can't pinpoint it."
Gaius nodded softly. "It could just mean it is very complicated magic with a cloak." He said. "You are just too inexperienced to be able to see around it fully."
Merlin looked down at the body between them again. "Right…"
"You're a warlock Merlin, this is to be expected." Gaius said as some token of reassurance.
"Merlin!" Came Arthur's voice from the hall. Merlin went to it only opening it enough to stick his head through.
"Don't worry, I'm on my way, sorry I'm late." Merlin said on opening the door.
"It's alright, I'm getting used to it." Arthur responded blandly before noticing the flower tucked into Merlin's scarf.
Merlin noticed where Arthur's attention had gone and plucked the flower from its place. "Gwen, she gave it to me." He explained with a shrug.
"Tell Gaius my father wants to see him now." Arthur said before walking away.
"I heard." The older man said.
"Why couldn't he tell you for himself?" Merlin asked, seriously nobles and royals only confused him.
"Because that's the way it is, you're a servant." Gaius replied calmly.
"If he knew who I was, I'd be-"
"A dead servant." Gaius finished. "Right, cover this up."
"I'm not your servant."
"No, you're my dogs body." Gaius said. "Come on hurry up."
The matter Uther needed to address was about a servant who had collapsed dead in the throne room. Merlin and Gaius looked at the body, all the signs were the same as the one why found in the lower town.
"What's happened?" Uther asked a slight tinge of panic in his voice.
"I don't know sire, it's the second case I've seen today." Gaius answered.
"Why didn't you report it to me?" Uther asked watching as Gaius stood up.
"I was attempting to find the cause."
"What did you find?" Uther knew that wasn't a natural color, his suspicions were leaning towards magic.
"Nothing of note yet." Gaius answered. "The scientific process is a long one."
"What are you hiding from me?" Uther asked, he knew, Gaius could tell that he knew.
"Sire I have seen nothing like it." Gaius said trying to avoid saying it. "The victims are dying within twenty-four hours and it's spreading fast."
"What is the cause?" Uther said firmly.
"The most likely cause is sorcerery." Gaius said in mild defeat. Arthur glanced quickly at Merlin, the boy didn't seem to know much about what was going on and that worried Arthur just a little bit. He didn't show it though as he kept his face neutral.
Uther pulled Arthur to the side. "I want you to find whoever did this."
"I will." Arthur answered.
"Search everywhere." Uther said finally. "And lend Gaius your servant."
"Merlin?" Arthur said another small dose of panic rising in him. How could he keep the boy safe if he wasn't with him?
"He needs all the help he can get." Uther urged. "If Gaius is right, believe me, the city will be whipped out. This is the kind of magic that undermines our authority. The people might turn to magic for a cure. Now, find the sorcerer."
"Yes father." Arthur said simply. This couldn't be Merlin's plan could it? Make people question just how safe they were in the face of a magical attack without magic at their side? It made Arthur wonder just a little bit himself.
The hunt was on. Merlin stayed close to Gaius as they saw Arthur enter another house to search for any signs of magic. Gaius pulled him away and Merlin noticed a man leaning against a beam. He had the same pale blue skin color, but he was still alive.
"Gaius, this one's alive."
"There is nothing we can do for him without more information." Gaius said trying to pull Merlin away.
"But what about magic?" Merlin asked. He could heal the man, he knew he could.
"Merlin!" Gaius said looking around quickly and pulling Merlin to his feet. "You do anything and your head is on the chopping block, even if you are trying to help."
Gaius dragged Merlin along with him forcing Merlin to follow.
"What's that?" He asked when they were back in Gaius' chambers. Gaius had a vile of a strange liquid.
"The contents of the man's stomach." He said. "It could possibly tell us how it is spread."
Merlin nodded slightly watching Gaius work. "I don't understand how anyone could do this with magic…" Merlin said getting Gaius' attention.
"Magic, just like any sort of power corrupts." Gaius explained.
"Surely not all magic is bad." Merlin urged.
"Magic is neither good or bad. It is how you use it." Gaius said just before Arthur marched into the rooms with a pair of guards. It made them both look over in shock and confusion.
Arthur quickly strode over to Merlin's room. He would look inside himself; it was the only thing he could think of to prevent any mistaken identity. Having thought about it for a bit Arthur could only conclude Merlin hadn't started the plague, if anything the boy would be trying to stop it. Arthur just needed to make sure Merlin's head remained where it was so he could do just that.
"What have you done with the magic book I gave you?" Gaius whispered to Merlin. Merlin looked at the door Arthur just walked through. This was not good.
Arthur looked around the room and raised an eyebrow. The place was a mess. He saw the magic book quickly and held back a sigh. It was a good thing he was searching and not one of the guards. Hopefully this would teach Merlin to not leave such a thing on the floor and in the open.
He walked over to the cupboard and opened it up. "Merlin, come see what I found." He called out.
Merlin was in the room in seconds, good that had the desired effect; he could see the small spark of fear in the boy. He hated seeing it, but it needed to be done. "I found a place you can put things." He said watching Merlin relax. "It's called a cupboard." He moved away from it and was looking through other things avoiding looking at the book.
Merlin stood off to the side as Arthur began to look around a bit more. He used a bit of magic while Arthur's back was turned and a shirt that was on his bed moved to the floor to cover up the book. Just in time too as Arthur turned around and looked under the bed.
He was a bit surprised to see a shirt over the book, but decided to leave it as it was. It was hidden at least a little bit. He just hoped Merlin would find a better hiding spot.
Arthur stood up again and took one last look around the room. At least Merlin only had that one book, though that one book could get him killed.
Arthur left the room. "How soon do you think you can find a cure?" He asked Gaius. He wanted Merlin back at his side where he could keep an eye on him.
"Depends on how many interruptions I get." Gaius answered.
"Of course." Arthur said glancing around the room. "We're finished here." He turned and left the guards following him.
Once they were gone Gaius rounded on Merlin. "We have to hide that book."
"No, we must use it." Merlin said. If he could help the people they would be able to see that while magic could do bad like starting the plague, it could also do good, like ending it.
"Are you crazy?" Gaius asked lowly.
"You keep telling me to use my magic for good." Merlin urged. "What's better than stopping whatever this is?"
"Merlin you could get yourself killed." Gaius snapped. "It won't matter to the king. He will think you started the plague and then when things didn't go as you had planned you reversed it. He will not spare your life."
"People are dying." Merlin urged. "Innocent people who had nothing to do with this besides being a citizen of Camelot."
"No Merlin." Gaius said firmly. "It is too dangerous."
Merlin frowned at Gaius. "But I can help…" He said softly. He wanted to help.
"I know, but not now." Gaius said placing a hand on his shoulder. "Not in a time when your gifts would never be appreciated as they should be."
Merlin looked down with a sigh. "Fine." He muttered before looking at the dead man again. "Where were we anyway?"
Gaius sighed in relief as he picked up the bottle again and continued his work.
The body count only continued to grow over the next few days. Arthur entered the throne room to a pacing Uther. "We searched everywhere and no sign of the sorcerer." He said.
Uther spoke after a bit. "Impose a curfew, no one is allowed outside after the final bell. Close the gates to the lower town."
"What about the people down there?" Arthur asked his concern for them showing.
"We need to stop this from spreading." Uther said looking at Arthur. "I don't want to do it, but that is where this started."
Arthur sighed as he turned to inform the guards of the new rules put in place. 'Come on Merlin, figure this out already…' He thought as he walked.
"What's different about this victim?" Gaius asked Merlin as they looked over the latest person to die from the plague.
"She's a woman?" Merlin guessed looking at the person.
"Sometimes I wonder if your magical talents were given to the right person." Gaius said raising an eyebrow at Merlin who was clearly tired. The boy took a deep breath and looked at the person again. He took in the material of her clothes. "Anything else?"
"She's a courtier." Merlin said finally. It seemed to be the right thing.
"Correct!" Gaius said. "What does that tell you?"
"She doesn't spend a lot of time in the lower town…" Merlin said thinking it through. "Meaning she doesn't breath the same air."
"Right, this isn't airborne then." Gaius said urging Merlin on.
"She wouldn't the same food as the people in the lower town." Merlin said it slowly starting to click. "Meaning it isn't something in the food."
"But what do they al share in common?" Gaius knew he was just about there.
"The same water!" Merlin exclaimed proud of himself. Gaius held a bucket out to Merlin who took it to go and get some from the pump just outside the castle.
Merlin was nearly done when he saw Gwen run past him, tears streaming down her face. "Gwen?" He asked concern lacing his voice. "Gwen!" He took off after her bringing the bucket of water with him. She was heading for Gaius' chambers.
Merlin arrived just in time to hear Gwen begging Gaius to do something for her father. He felt his heart clench seeing her so distraught. She was his first friend here in Camelot; he couldn't bare the thought of her being so sad.
She left crying even more now that she knew nothing could be done. "There must be something we can do." Merlin said looking at Gaius.
"We can only continue to study how this thing works and hope we can find a cure." Gaius said taking the water from Merlin and beginning his experiments.
"But by then it could be too late for Gwen's father!" Merlin protested.
"I fear you may be right." Gaius said barely glancing as Merlin ran to his room and closed the door. He just hoped the boy wouldn't do anything stupid.