Title: Forget Me Not
Setting: After 'Sweet Dreams'.
Parings: Arthur/Merlin (eventual)
Disclaimer: I don't own the legendary characters, nor the characters/events that are depicted in the TV series Merlin. This is simply a fan story and not for profit.
Summary: When a plot to overthrow Camelot leads to Arthur developing magic of his own, both he and Merlin are forced to flee the kingdom. Can Merlin finally reveal all his secrets? R&R!
A/N: This is my first Merlin story, although not my first work on FF. Merlin is currently poking my muse at the moment, hence the beginning of this story. I aim to complete this one, so hopefully updates will be fairly regular. Please read and review, and no flames. Constructive comments are welcome, as always
o-o Chapter One o-o
Prologue and Arrival
He leaned over the lifeless body, holding the face firmly but tenderly between his leather gloved hands. "Don't do this to me. Don't you dare do this to me. I order you to open your eyes."
"You have never disobeyed an order in your life, don't start doing it now."
Still nothing. Those orbs of glittering twilight blue stayed firmly closed, the skin of the face a deathly pale.
"Please," he whispered, he begged. "Please. Please don't go. Don't leave me. I can't do this without you."
The shuffle of feet and the dry cackle of victory sounded behind him. His hand clutched the handle of the accursed sword in a strangle hold. With eyes narrowed into a death stare, he looked over his shoulder. The murderer stood there; face alive with amusement at the scene and hands hanging loosely to the side. Thin wisps of smoke began to twist their way from the porcelain skin of the hands, and he knew what was going to come next.
Keeping himself between the body and the killer he brought the sword from the scabbard at his waist, the ring of raw power echoing across the ancient stone.
"You will pay for this," he hissed, bringing the sword across his body in a deadly arc so the tip pointed directly at the killer.
The boastful cackle resumed, and the hands were raised in attack as the chamber exploded with light.
And then, only darkness remained.
A misty dawn greeted Merlin as he stepped outside onto the street. It was unseasonably cold, even for Samhain. Grabbing the sides of this thin brown jacket, he pulled them tighter around his body and buried his hands beneath his arms. Dipping his chin into the red scarf he'd tied around his neck, he began his normal morning trek to the castle.
His employer, the Crown Prince of Camelot, probably wouldn't rise for another two hours or so. Merlin knew Arthur had been drinking quite heavily during the prior evening's celebration so probably wouldn't be seen much before noon. Against his expectations, Merlin had actually enjoyed himself last night as well. With the King finding some seasonal good cheer to allow the servants the evening off, Merlin had huddled in the corner of the great banquet hall with the others. They had spent the evening drinking spiced wine and had ended up supporting a stumbling Guinevere out of the grounds when it was over.
The dull throb at the back of his head was a constant reminder of the copious goblets of wine, not to mention the sore eyes. They felt too big for his face and about ready to drop to the ground. The knowledge that the morning would only bring more work was disheartening. Uther may have been good enough to allow them the evening off, but that just meant they'd all have to work extra hard today to catch up on the mess from last night. At times, Merlin was thankful that his work was restricted to serving Arthur. As mundane as the tasks could be, it certainly beat spending the morning on his hands and knees scrubbing the stone.
Despite his misgivings of the day ahead, Merlin's step never faltered. His sense of duty propelled him down the main stretch of road to where the castle loomed in the near distance. It wasn't just duty that kept his feet moving however. Over the months of serving Arthur, the two had struck up a sort of awkward friendship. Neither forgot their place, but they had a kind of bond that was rare to find in any walk of life, much less between servant and royalty.
With a goofy half smile brightening his features, Merlin was so lost in memories of exploits with Arthur that he missed the arrival of his companion. With her shawl draped over her head and her arms folded tightly against her chest, Guinevere shuddered against the cold. Falling into step next to Merlin, she nudged him gently with her arm.
"Please tell me you are feeling as awful this morning as I am." Her breath danced away from her in cloud, her dark eyes looking unfocused and bleary. "Who knew the king's charity could lead to such discomfort?"
Merlin chuckled softly in the biting morning air. "Who knew the king had a charitable side in the first place?"
Smiling conspiratorially, Guinevere pulled up the hem of her lilac dress as she stepped a water filled puddle. "The next time he decides to share the celebrations with his servants, remind me to make my excuses, Merlin. It feels as though I have a fire burning behind my eyes."
With an understanding expression on his face, Merlin solemnly nodded. "Of course. No fun for Guinevere." Merlin knew if she'd been feeling better, she'd have punched him. The glare was enough to get her point across. "We had a good time, didn't we? I don't think I've drunk as much in my entire life."
Guinevere scowled, immediately regretting it as the spear of pain pierced her between the eyes. Touching the tips of her fingers to her forehead, she trudged across the road to where the gates to the castle stood. "Nor me. Father and I only really had spiced wine at Beltane, and never in such amounts. I must have had a barrel to myself, surely."
"Oh yes, surely. I had to help you across the courtyard or were you too drunk to remember?" Merlin grinned at Guinevere who returned the smile. "Poor Morgana was left to attend to her own needs. Not that she was in any fit state herself."
A look of regret and panic slackened Guinevere's features. "Did I really leave her? Oh please don't say that Merlin. That kind of offense is usually dealt with in public lashings. And that's nothing compared to the shame of being too drunk to tend to her. How awful."
Merlin sighed, shaking his head. Risking his fingers to the cold, he stretched his arm out and wrapped an arm around her shoulders. It was just like Gwen to be more concerned with failing to perform her duty than of being publically punished. In many ways, her relationship with Morgana reflected his own with Arthur. Both servants, bound to serve nobility yet treated as more.
"Don't worry," he said. "Morgana was the one who insisted you be taken home in the first place. She's hardly going to be angry with you." Guinevere's face brightened. "Besides, you know she'd never have you punished for a little merriment. She thinks far too much of you."
"You really think so?" Guinevere turned to face Merlin as they stepped beneath the arch that held the main gate to the courtyard.
"I know so. Now come on. We need to sort ourselves out. There's plenty to be done and important people to be fed and clothed."
Merlin turned to the guard, who recognised the pair on sight. In a swirl of red cape, the guard motioned for the gates to be opened. Gwen smiled her thanks to the attending guards, as Merlin tilted his head in response. Before them, the heavy black gates parted inward. They both walked through into the main courtyard, hearing the gates beginning to close behind them.
The spectacle of the castle never failed to leave Merlin dumbstruck. The proud, towering stones built a huge fortress that watched over the even the furthest villages and hamlets that Camelot had responsibility for. It was impenetrable to mortal forces, yet tempered with humanity and life. It was a centre of power and authority as much as it was a home for a father and son.
The early morning bustle seemed just a little more subdued than normal, as servants ambled to and fro carrying and cleaning and performing their duties. Merlin even spied the head cook, a woman named Anna who looked worse for wear. Sat on a stone outcropping that branched off the kitchens, she looked positively ill.
As was the way of the serving classes everyone was still about their business and attending to their duties. Despite their discomfort this morning, Merlin knew the servants weren't soon going to forget Uther's charity. It was the kind of actions that whilst Uther displayed occasionally, Arthur had in abundance. Arthur would take the best of his father and become a better king, of that Merlin was sure. And it was on the shoulders of the young Warlock to ensure that Arthur succeeded the throne.
Turning to Gwen, Merlin sighed. "I suppose we'd better get to it. Will you ask Anna for salted meats and cheese for Arthur's breakfast, please? He prefers something bulky and salty when he's been enjoying the wine. I'll get it once I've picked up his shirts from the washer women."
She nodded agreeably. "Of course. I'll see you later Merlin, perhaps for lunch?" Merlin smiled his agreement, and squeezed Gwen's hand back as she briefly held his tighter. Pulling her shawl a little more closely around her, she took off toward the kitchen where the cook was trying to rouse herself from her misery. Merlin smiled briefly, before turning on his heel toward the section of the castle where the women washed and dried the clothing.
He hadn't travelled more than five paces when all at once he dropped to his knees, hands pressed firmly to his ears. With his eyes screwed tightly shut, Merlin's mouth twisted into a silent grimace of agony. He couldn't see for the noise that pounded in his skull, a high pitched squeal that threatened to make him scream in agony. Each pulse of sound tore through his body with an agony he had never known. The flash of a face crossed his vision for a moment, but it was too brief for Merlin to recognise, yet he knew deep down it was familiar to him.
All thoughts of recognition eluded him as pain gave way to darkness, and Merlin was lost to the watery blackness.
On the edge of Camelot, a cloaked figure sat proudly astride a beautiful palomino mare, his hand raised as though in salute of a distant friend. The horse whinnied gently, her breath clouding the air before them. Glancing down into the gentle incline, the figure smiled as his eyes followed the wisps of early morning smoke that rose from the huts and homes that dotted the countryside in small collections. They had finally made it to Camelot.
Sliding off the horse, the man pulled the hood back to reveal of mane of thick dark hair that hung down in loose curls to his shoulders. He was incredibly handsome, almost in an ethereal way. He was dressed in the luxurious fabrics and colour of nobility, his clothes marred to suggest a long travel from a distant land. His large dark eyes glanced to the left where the horse stood. She looked skittish, alternatively lifting her left and right hoof and kicking them forward gently.
"Oh all right," he muttered. Pushing his cloak back over his shoulders to free his arms, the man kept his eyes trained on the animal. Taking several paces back from the horse, his hand found its way to a pendant hanging at his neck. The thin black string clutched to a shard of a brilliant blue crystal that seemed to catch all the light around it and glow with some force from the beyond. Lifting his left hand, he extended it toward the horse and exhaled slowly as his right hand closed around the shard.
The air around horse and rider seemed to cackle with an unseen energy. "Newid." The rider uttered in a commanding tone. Before his eyes, the horse became engulfed in light from within. The shape of the horse seemed to collapse in on itself, twisting and writhing until it found a new form; that of a young woman. The glowing light faded, leaving a young girl of no more than seventeen winters.
Her slight frame was covered in a flowing white dress that danced over her in the freezing breeze. It was open at the neck, exposing the rounds of her shoulders. The neckline and bodice were trimmed in delicately detailed gold lace that wound its way around the loose sleeves.
She appeared unaffected by the cold air, and made no attempt to catch the waterfall of her mahogany hair as it was caught in the wind. Her green eyes gazed for a moment at the pendant latched to the rider's neck, and she could not disguise her longing. As though he recognised this, he tucked the shard of crystal away in a measured movement.
The spell was broken and the girl folded her arms, gazing out into Camelot's lands, her face returning to its impassive normal. "Is it wise to announce your arrival so soon Merrick? You know the Quickening will draw the attention of many."
"You let me worry about the attention the call brings, Deidre." His broad smile displayed his complete lack of concern. "You focus on the goal of this journey. You know what you have to do, and what will happen if you don't." Deirdre stiffened, and her body visibly flinched when Merrick's hand drew a languid line down her arm. His voice was a frigid whisper in her ear. "You also know the benefits of performing your task. The choice is yours."
Fighting back the tears that sprang to the corner of her eyes, Deidre forced out an audibly shaky breath. She knew what would happen if she completed the task her keeper had set her. And yet she also knew what would happen if she failed. There were too many lives at risk to allow that to happen. She would have to do as Merrick commanded, regardless of what it would do to Uther's kingdom.
"I will do as you wish," she whispered into the chilling air. "Just as I expect you to do as you promised once I have." Deidre turned to face him, her expression bleak. "You know what will happen if you don't. That necklace won't protect you forever."
Merrick's face looked positively pleased. "Oh I know what that gaggle of hags would do to me if they could get close enough. We'll just have to make sure they don't. Now, onward to Camelot."
Fully expecting Merrick to whisper a word of power to make her shift back into the form of a horse, Deidre was genuinely surprised as the enchanter began the trek down into the valley of the kingdom. Following in his footsteps, she kept close to him as they made their way to the heart of Camelot – the Pendragon castle.
Ignoring the churning fear that settled uncomfortably in the pit of her stomach, Deidre kept her eyes firmly on the back of her keeper. It made it easier not to think about what she was going to do, yet felt like a coward for doing so. She only hoped her sisters would forgive her for what she was about to do, because she knew she could never forgive herself.
I am sorry, Prince Arthur. But I have no choice. A life must be sacrificed to preserve the lives of my sisters, and that life has to be yours.
May the Morrígna forgive me.