DISCLAIMER: I don't own Merlin. :/
A/N: So sorry for the delay. I have the whole thing written, but I'm OCD, and I'm posting in a certain order, so until I had published chapter 5 of This Cold Land, I was determined not to post any more of this. Sorry that my OCD tendancies got in the way of your reading this story! :) I'll give you a warning ahead of time: this chapter is pretty violent. And pretty gory. So if you haven't read it already, be aware. Thanks for all the reviews so far! Please keep it up. Enjoy!
"Arthur." Morgana's voice was surprised but calm. Arthur kept his eyes trained on her face, looking for any sign of guilt. There was none. Maybe, then, she had nothing to do with this mess. Maybe she had been smiling at something else, not Merlin's predicament. Maybe… maybe, maybe, maybe. Arthur was sick of all the "what ifs" and "maybes" that were running rampant through his head, determined, he believed, to drive him crazy. He didn't want to be here, questioning the girl who was like a sister to him about whether or not she had turned in his servant for magic. No, he wanted to be on his way to rescue said servant from the dungeon, or to be talking his father out of this execution, or, better yet, waking up and finding out that this was all just one big dream. Arthur just wanted to be doing something.
He forced himself to give Morgana a grim smile and asked, "Can I come in?"
Morgana hesitated and for a moment Arthur thought she was going to say no. Then she smiled – and this smile was most definitely forced – and nodded. "Of course," she said. "Come in."
He nodded, stepped inside, and closed the door behind him. He didn't look at Morgana but felt her questioning eyes on him. Was he reallydoing this? Questioning Morgana about what had happened? Surely he was mistaken, she wouldn't…
Then he remembered Merlin, tied up and being dragged away by the guards and he strengthened his resolve.
"I suppose you're here about Merlin," Morgana prompted, the look in her eyes unreadable as Arthur's snapped onto them, surprised.
"I, er… yes," Arthur answered, a bit awkwardly. He hadn't expected Morgana to be so to-the-point about all of this. Then again, she never had been one for mincing words.
"Well, don't bother," Morgana said in a clipped tone. "I don't know anything."
"Morgana, I'm not—"
"He's going to die, Arthur," Morgana said and something in her voice sent chills up and down Arthur's spine. Her voice was dark, her eyes hard. And then she was back to normal, so suddenly that Arthur found himself wondering if she had even spoken that way or not.
"Not if I have anything to say about it," Arthur growled, determined.
"Why?" Morgana was genuinely surprised. "Arthur, you heard Uther. Merlin practiced magic, tried to kill you with it. Surely you want to see him dead, too?"
"Of course not," Arthur spat. "And he didn't use magic to try and kill me; that's just—hang on. Too? Who else wants to see Merlin dead, Morgana? Who were you talking about?"
"Your father, of course," Morgana said hastily. "As he wants to see all who practice magic destroyed." A trace of bitterness lingered in her words. Arthur felt something, a niggling of doubt, perhaps, stir in the back of his mind. Something wasn't right here…
Eyes narrowing slightly, Arthur regarded the woman that he had known for years, guilt welling up inside of him at the suspicions creeping into his mind. "Morgana," he said in a deceivingly calm tone, "what aren't you telling me?"
And just like that, the dam burst open and the truth – coupled with wild, uncontainable emotions – streamed from Morgana. All Arthur could do was stand in shock and listen to Morgana bare her soul.
CRACK! CRACK! CRACK!
The whip sliced across his bare flesh – his shirt had been torn to shreds not long after the questioning had begun – three times, each one sending a wave of agony through Merlin's body. He didn't know how long he'd been down here, chained to the wall by his wrists and neck, being subjected to these monotonous questions and subsequent torment.
"What are you and Morgause planning?"
"Where is the witch hiding out?"
"I don't know."
"Tell us how to stop her!"
"I can't – I wish I could, I swear, I want her to be stopped as much as you, I – ARGH!"
And so it had went for minutes, hours, days… no, not days. Because Uther was going to execute him at noon the next day. As the whip cracked across his skin yet again, Merlin let a sob escape his lips. He didn't know, he really didn't know… but they didn't believe him. He dreaded hearing the captain of the guard's words, feared being asked a question, because he knew what it would mean for him if he didn't answer the way his interrogator wanted him to respond.
With each labored breath, each drop of blood, a little more of Merlin's hope died. He had thought that maybe – maybe – Arthur would come for him, maybe he wouldn't believe Morgana's lies – well, half lies, really; while he was a sorcerer, he would never use his powers to harm Arthur. He'd put far too much energy into protecting the prat to do that. Even so, Merlin wondered what point there would be if Arthur didn't care enough to try and save him from this torment.
The whip made contact yet again, and Merlin cried out, no longer able to contain it. He hadn't even heard the question. Instantly, he babbled, "I d-don't kn-know… I… I…"
And then – mercifully – he lost consciousness and the last thought, the last prayer in his coherent mind was, Arthur… Please don't leave me here…
Then he was gone and for the time being, the pain was put on hold.
"Yes, I was the one who told Uther that Merlin has magic," Morgana said, her voice thick with emotion. "When I found out, I had to tell him, didn't I?" Arthur opened his mouth to answer but Morgana plowed over him, her voice angry. "And so what if he dies? Why should I care? He obviously didn't when he poisoned me!"
Arthur gaped. Merlin… poisoning someone? It… it didn't make sense. How could Merlin, stupid, idiotic, peaceful, harmless Merlin try and kill someone, especially one of his friends. "What are you talking about, Morgana?" Arthur asked, his voice hoarse."
"You should ask him yourself," Morgana spat, making no effort to disguise the hate in her voice. Arthur felt a bit ill at the sound of the sweet girl he had grown up with speaking with such malice, "although he might be hard pressed to answer."
Suddenly, Arthur's mouth went dry with fear even as a small part of his mind tried to tell him that he should not be worrying about someone, especially a magical servant, who had tried to kill Morgana. But somehow, Arthur couldn't hate Merlin. At least, not yet. He needed to know more, not just Morgana's side of the story. But the way Morgana's eyes had gleamed when she'd said that Merlin probably wouldn't be able to answer struck a chord of fear in his chest.
"What are you talking about?"
"Didn't you know?" Morgana asked in a sickeningly sweet, oh-so-false tone that frightened Arthur more than he'd care to admit. He couldn't believe how much she despised Merlin and even more surprising was that she had managed to hide her loathing for so long. "Your father is under the impression that he is working with the witch, Morgause." Arthur felt the blood drain from his face.
"Uther is having your servant 'questioned' by the captain of the guards as we speak." Arthur's heart thudded uncomfortably fast and loud. The captain was known to be brutal, able to extract answers from almost anyone.
Without another word, ignoring the part of him that said Merlin was a traitor and a murderer, Arthur spun on his heel and dashed for the dungeon. He had to stop this. He didn't know if what Morgana said was or was not true, but he couldn't just stand by and let his father torture Merlin, especially for something that he knew couldn't be true. Merlin wasn't evil, he wouldn't work with Morgause. But he poisoned Morgana… No, he didn't know that. But what if he did…? Then… then he had had a good reason… What 'good' reason could there possibly be for killing a friend?
"Shut up," Arthur muttered to the little voice of doubt that continued to nag at him. "Not Merlin…"
He simply had to glare at the guards and they all but leapt out of his way as he strode purposefully for the dungeon. He bypassed all the initial cells, knowing that Merlin wouldn't be there if he was being interrogated. Stomach doing flip-flops, Arthur pelted around a corner and skidded to a stop in front of the cell that most of the prisoners' screams emanated from. He gaped, eyes wide, stomach churning, and couldn't believe the scene laid out before him.
"Merlin?" he said, almost tentatively.
Merlin didn't answer.
A/N: Please review. Next update will come as soon as possible!