A/N: Okay, I'm back, lets all have a massive party and cheer with celebration! Woohoo!
Right, down to business. I was going to post this yesterday, but decided that I wasn't going to bombard people with my awesomeness of updating more than 2 stories in one day. Yet again, this has been sitting on my computer waiting and I've completely missed it! Enjoy.
I had no idea what the time was, but it was pretty far into the night. The sky outside was dark and gloomy, a wind had picked up and the howling was making it very difficult for me to get any sleep. Even without all of that noise going on outside, I still doubted that I would get much sleep, there was too much playing on my mind. All of this stuff with my uncle was getting far too much for me now, I just wanted it all to be over. As if that was going to happen any time soon.
Arthur was being amazing, as always. He had assured my brother that I was safe, and that he was doing everything he could to protect me, plus how he would keep on protecting me for as long as needed. But that started to get me thinking, what would happen when all of this with my uncle was finally over? What would happen when I didn't need protecting any more? I think that was one of the things that was scaring me the most, the 'what happens after'. I know that I kicked up a big fuss about staying in Camelot at first, but things had changed since then, I had changed.
I glanced over at Arthur, sleeping peacefully in his bed. It was one of the very few nights where I hadn't ended up curled up in his bed with him because I couldn't sleep. Even though I couldn't sleep now, I didn't want to bother him. I relied on him for so much these days, it wasn't fair on him, he was already doing so much for me that if felt like I was starting to take advantage.
After several more minutes of wishing for sleep, I forced myself to sit up in my bed before pulling my legs up to my chest. My eyes scanned the room, looking for anything that was out of place. I was starting to get a little bit paranoid now, all because of my stupid uncle and his stupid plans. It was hard to forget everything that had happened, to put it all behind me a just move forward. It was even harder knowing what was to come.
A creak came from Arthur's bed and I sharply turned my head to investigate the noise. To my surprise the Prince of Camelot was awake, propping himself up and looking at me. Even in the darkness of the room I could tell that he was worried. "What's wrong, Isabella?" He asked me quietly, his eyes sparkling in the light that was sneaking in from the bright moon.
"Nothing, I'm just having trouble sleeping." I replied, resting my head against my knees. Of course it wasn't the whole true, but there was no point in even bothering to say it all, because he knew.
Just as I expected, he threw the covers that were over him away before placing his feet down on the floor of the room. Moments later he was sitting beside me on my bed. "I'm not surprised." He told me, before gently dropping an arm over my shoulders. Instinctively I leaned into his hold a little. "It will be all right, Isabella. We will stop him."
I closed my eyes and let out a small sigh. "Yeah, I know. There's just so much going on, Arthur, I just…" I didn't know if I could cope with it all. "I don't know, my head can't take it all right now." If only I could forget about everything and pretend that life was different, maybe that would make me feel better, but then again it probably wouldn't.
"I understand, so much has happened recently, it's hard to take it all in." It sounded like he really did understand. "But tomorrow we discuss what we are going to do, my father, your brother and us. We will find a way to put a stop to all of this, to end it once and for all. Then you can relax and live a more peaceful life, Isabella."
"Maybe I don't want a peaceful life. Maybe I sometimes like all the danger and excitement." I mumbled, knowing that I would have to leave Camelot if I really wanted to live a quiet life. As if getting rid of my uncle was going to solve all of our problems. Camelot still had its own enemies that they had to contend with, it would never completely be a peaceful place to live. But I didn't mind that, because it meant that Arthur would still be a part of my life.
"What do you want, Isabella? When all this is over, what do you want? You'll be able to go anywhere you want, you could go back home and be with your brothers, you could travel to other kingdoms. What do YOU want?" Arthur asked me, taking me slightly by surprise.
It was something I had thought about, but not a lot. Occasionally I would think about how when it was all over I could go and see my brothers whenever I liked, I could see what Elbear really looked like. I could do so much travelling, I could just enjoy life. "Right now, I don't really know. All I can think about is getting through each day." And sometimes even that was a struggle.
Even in the darkness, I could see that hint of disappointment on his face. "Maybe you should start thinking about it. I have no doubt that once this is all over that your brothers will want you to return home with them." That may have been what he thought, but I knew differently, I knew that Mitch would be much more likely to convince me to stay where I was.
"Yeah, I guess I should." I ended up saying, before squeezing my eyes tightly shut. This was not a conversation that I wanted to be having with him in the middle of the night, or at any other time really. "Go back to bed, Arthur. Something tells me that tomorrow is going to be a rather long day."
Instantly he frowned at me, he could just see right through me. "Isabella…"
I knew exactly what he was going to say, because while he knew me, I also knew him much better these days. "Honestly, I'm fine. Just go back to bed. If you stay up then you are just going to regret it and keep moaning about how tired you are later." He needed to just leave me be, to let me deal with my head by myself. There was nothing he could do, there was nothing anyone could do.
It didn't take much more to convince him, and soon enough he was sound asleep. I, on the other hand, was still wide awake. I couldn't stop thinking over everything, my uncle, Arthur, Merlin, my brothers. There was a tornado crashing around in my head and there was nothing that I could do to calm it. That was probably one of the reason why I was not happy when Merlin came cheerfully bouncing into the chamber when the sun had finally risen over Camelot.
"Good morning, Isabella. How are you feeling? I bet you're glad that your brother is here." He said, dashing around the room and picking up the dirty clothes that were strewn all over the place.
Before I could get a word out to answer him, a groan came from the Prince's bed, followed by a voice. "Merlin, do you have to be so loud?" Arthur asked, quickly grabbing a pillow and shoving it over his head to try and block out the noise.
"Arthur, I… I don't feel too great." Although I had said it rather quietly, I knew that he would still hear me, and distract him from the noise that Merlin had made to disturb him. I had been right, and a second later he had tossed the pillow to one side and was gazing at me. "My head is hurting and… I feel sick." My head was probably hurting from the lack of sleep, and the sickness could have been from a number of different things.
The next thing either Merlin or myself knew, Arthur was out of his bed and perching on the edge of mine. "Have you been awake all night?" He asked me, tucking a strack lock of my hair behind my ear. Bashfully, I nodded at him. I hadn't wanted him to know that while he had gone back to sleep I had stayed awake the whole times. "Why didn't you wake me?"
I wanted to shrug my shoulders at him, I really did, but I didn't. "I didn't want you to stay awake just because I was awake. It isn't fair on you." I was more than happy to just watch him while he slept, when he was so peaceful and look so free of all worries.
"That doesn't matter, you should have woken me, Isabella." There was a hint of disappointment in his voice, but I knew that I need to ignore it. "Do you want me to send for Gaius?"
Of course he was going to ask me that. "No, don't bother him. I'm sure it will pass soon enough." There was nothing that he would be able to do anyway, so it was pointless even thinking of letting him know how I was feeling. "We've got a busy day today, we can't keep everyone waiting." I just wanted to get started on this plan to finally take my uncle down.
When Arthur looked at me, i could see how concerned he was. However, my eyes were pleading with him to leave it be and listen to me. "If you start to feel any worse then you let me know straight away, okay?" He said, resulting in me nodding at him. "I mean it, Isabella, you have to tell me."
"I will, Arthur, I promise." There was no way I could have said anything else. He cared about me and how I was feeling, just liked I cared about him. I know that if it was him who wasn't feeling all that great then I'd be doing everything i could to make things better. "Maybe I just need something to eat."
He nodded at me and glanced over at Merlin, who was doing his utmost best to look like he was busy and not show that he was concerned as well. "Merlin, make sure there is something at breakfast that Isabella will eat. I am not going to be happy if all that is there is food that my father and King Dominic will enjoy."
With a quick nod of the head, Merlin ducked out of the room, sending me one last worried look as he went. "There is no need to make such a fuss, Arthur. I've felt worse, so please, stop worrying so much."
"I am always going to worry about you, Isabella." He told me, before leaning over and lightly kissing my forehead. "Now, get dressed, and then we can meet my father and your brother for breakfast." I had forgotten about that, the fact that all four of us were eating together this morning. I had to admit, I wasn't really looking forward to it.
Soon enough, the pair of us were both ready and heading to the council chamber where we were to having breakfast before starting to discuss how we were going to deal with my uncle. My grip on Arthur's arm was like a vice, my head was still pounding and, although I wasn't feeling as sick, my stomach was still churning. Maybe it really was the lack of sleep, or the need for food, but something was telling me it was going to last alot longer than just the day.
The guards opened the door and I let the Prince of Camelot lead me inside. My brother was already sitting there, discussing something. The moment the pair saw us, their conversation halted, and Dominic swiftly stood up and headed our way. "Good morning, Bella." He called out, taking me from Arthur and giving me a hug. "Are you okay?" His voice was a whisper in my ear, clearly he could see that something wasn't right.
"Morning, Dom. I'll be better after we've eaten." Lie. Complete and utter lie. I really wanted to go back to Arthur's chamber and curl up in bed, with him holding me tightly and reassuring me that everything was going to be all right. "I'm just glad that you're here."
He finally let me go and Arthur took my hand, leading me over to the table. Like a gentleman, Arthur pulled out the chair for me, letting me sit down before he sat beside me.
Arthur was doing his best not to look too concerned in the presence of my brother, but I could see he was worrying. "I hope you had a pleasant night, King Dominic." The Prince said, as the servants, including Merlin, began filtering into the room and placing food on the table before us.
"Please, just call me Dominic. We are all friends here, there is no need for such formalities." My brother responded, glancing at me out of the corner of his eye. "From what I have seen so far, Camelot is a wonderful place. Isabella is lucky to have already spent so much time here."
"And we are lucky to have her here." Uther finally spoke, beaming away at myself and his son. "She has brought out the best in my son, and things have certainly been brighter with her here." I wondered what that last part mean, about things being brighter, but i just didn't have the energy to ask about it.
Finally, Merlin came over with a bowl of oats for me, and a plate with three apples on it. I ended up pushing the bowl away and picking up one of the bright red apples instead. Just looking at the oats made me feel even worse, but I knew I had to try and eat something. Just taking a bit of the fresh, crisp fruit was difficult for me, but I forced myself to swallow it.
Unfortunately, Arthur was keeping a very close eye on me, and he noticed what I was doing. Dom was too busy tucking into all the food that had been placed in front of him, as was Uther, but he was spending more time glancing at me and checking on me. There was a very worried look on his face, he hated it when I didn't eat properly, it just made him worry even more. I didn't want him to do that, I didn't want him to keep worry about me at all.
It didn't take long for the men to finish their food, and for me to eat only half an apple. As soon as the plates were cleared away, it was right down to business. It was clear that my brother and Uther had many ideas on how to tackle my uncle, they were straight into discussing where he was last sighted, what we knew about his plans and his followers and what resources were available.
"As you know, we have had men in and around Camelot for some time now, and we are confident he is still in the area." Dom said, a map of the lands now spread across the large table. "We've had sighting reports from several locations by our men, all relatively close to Camelot." He placed some small markers on eight different places on the map.
With the markers in place, I took a quick glance and my stomach twisted a little. "Yes, we received the reports and our own men can confirm the same thing. However, there are a few more sightings to add." Uther added, before placing a few more of the marks, which looked to be made out of clay or something, down on the map. It made my stomach turn even more now.
"He knows Isabella is here, if anything, he will plan to strike Camelot to get to her." I didn't like the fact the my brother was talking as if I wasn't even in the room. "As discussed last night, if he brings the fight to us then there will be many casualties, many innocent people will suffer at his hand. If we are to take the fight to him, then the first thing we need to do is work out exactly where he is."
Uther nodded in agreement. "I agree, but the question is, how do we find him?" The question was, when would they notice what I had already seen on the map? "Camelot could send more men out to begin scouting the areas close to where he has already been spotted. Then we could get a more accurate idea of his current location."
"Isabella, are you okay?" A voice suddenly called in my head. When I looked up from the map I saw Merlin gazing at me, a worried look on his face as he began filling goblets with water for us all.
"I'm fine. It's just… all this… it scares me, Merlin." I knew I could be honest with him, he would understand, he was one of my closest friends in Camelot. "It really scares me."
I watched as he gave me a slight smile, "I know, but you've got me, and you've got Arthur. We will both protect you. We will end all of this, Isabella. We will find him and stop him." He was doing his best to reassure me, and that was one of the things that made him such a great friend to me. He would never really know how much I valued his friendship.
Somehow, I managed to give him a slight smile in return. "I know, Merlin. Thank you, for everything, and for just being you." He smiled at me once more, before heading out of the room, off to complete the chores that Arthur had set him, and most likely help Gaius as well.
Although I wanted to just block everything out, I knew that I needed to listen. I wanted to be a part of the discussions and plans, I needed to make sure I was paying attention. "His followers has grown in great numbers. Originally there were only a few, it soon grew to just under one hundred. Now we believe it is far more than a hundred, many of whom practice magic." I could tell by the way my brother was speaking that he was far from happy with what he had to say.
"Anyone who practices magic is an enemy of Camelot and will suffer greatly for it." That was the kind of reaction I had expected from Uther, but not the slightly concerned look that Dominic threw my way. "We must be prepared to fight them as well as the traitor."
It was strange, I was glad that even Uther was not saying the man's name. It made me wonder if maybe Arthur or my brother had said something to him, warned him not to say the name in my presence. "My men have been training hard and are all willing to stand against him and his followers." The man beside me said, speaking for the first time since this whole conversation started. "They are experienced with fighting magic and are great warriors."
"We also have men who are ready to fight against magic." Dominic announced, before trying to turn the conversation away from the whole magic thing. "So, we have the men. The main problem we have is actually finding him. While we can send men out to look, how quickly can they send a message back with a location? How long will it take us to be ready to take the fight to him."
As much as I wanted to be a part of everything, I just couldn't take it. I reached out and grasped the goblet that Merlin had filled, my hand actually shaking as I did. To my surprise a hand reached over and clasped my shaking one, leading me to turn my attention to the owner. Arthur was now looking at me, worry and concern etched all over his face. The look I gave him said it all, I wanted to get out of there.
Without a word, he took the goblet from my hand and placed it back down on the table, before rising from his chair. The noise drew the attention of the both Kings, a bemused look appearing on their faces. He said nothing as he reached down and took my hand, helping me to stand. "Excuse us, Isabella isn't feeling too well. She has hardly slept and did not eat much at breakfast. I believe it would be best if she had some rest. Carry on without us." That was all he said, before swiftly leading me out of the chamber, not even waiting to hear a reply from the two men we left behind.
The moment we were away from that room, I let out a long breath of relief. "Thank you." I said, so very glad that he had been able to know exactly what I was trying to convey to him.
"If either of those two had paid attention then they would have seen that you were not feeling too well." There was a hint of annoyance in his voice. "You need to get some rest and not worry about anything."
If only it was that easy, I was certainly going to worry from what I had seen. "If either of those two had been paying more attention, they would have seen what I've seen." I said, causing Arthur to look at me in a bit of a weird way. "You didn't notice it either, did you?" I wanted him to tell me that he did notice it, of course he noticed it.
"Notice what, Isabella?" Not the answer I was looking for. Instead, I let out a heavy sigh and turned on my heel, forcing the Prince to turn around as well. There was only one way I could make him understand, to make him realise what I had realised, and that was to take him back and show him.
He kept quiet as we walked back the way we had just came, with me half dragging him. Inside, I was a little disappointed that he hadn't spotted it, I was so certain that he would be paying more attention. It appeared that I had been wrong. Now I was going to show him, I was going to make him understand why I was so worried, and why having a little more sleep was not going to make a difference.
When the doors were opened, both of the Kings stopped their talking and turned to face us, both surprised and a little bemused. "Isabella, is everything okay? Has something happened?" My brother asked me in a hurry, springing out of his seat and rushing over to me.
"No, everything's not okay." I said, still marching over to the table, only stopping when I was in front of it. "Take a look at it, can none of you see what he is doing?" Now I wasn't just speaking to Arthur, but Dominic and Uther as well. I was surprised that neither of them could see. "Look at all the sightings, where we know he has been. Can you not see it?" There was a blank look on all of their faces. "He is surrounding the city. He is going to attack from all sides, unless we strike first."
Now they were all paying very close attention to the map, leaning over and following the ring of markers. There was a perfectly formed circle around the city, and even I knew that it wouldn't be long until the man decided it was time to attack. If he did make the first hit, then Camelot was pretty much doomed, so many innocent people would die because of it, and there was no way I was going to let that happen.
It was plain to see that all the men were stunned. "We need to decide on a plan, and we need to decide now." I ended up saying, trying to bring them all back. "He could attack at any moment, we have to move now and take the fight to him." Even though I was actually feeling pretty rough still, I knew I had to do something. "There is only one way we are going to get him into the open."
Finally, I had their undivided attention. "Bella, no. That is not going to happen." Dominic said firmly, his eyes boring into me. "Not in a million years. No."
"You are not the boss of me. He is after me, the only way to draw him away from Camelot is to make sure that he sees me out in the open." With every word I said, more fear and panic grew within me. But I had to stay strong and stand my ground. "Now that we have a rough map of his plan, we can use that as a trail to draw him out. If we follow this ring of sightings, he is more likely to see me and make his move then."
My brother stood up sharply and stormed over to me. I could see the anger in his face, he really wasn't happy with me. A moment later and he was grasping onto my arm tightly, dragging me away from Arthur. "What the hell are you thinking?" He hissed at me, trying to keep his voice down so that the others didn't hear him. "You are being completely stupid. There is no way in hell you are going to offer yourself up as bait, not in this lifetime or the next." Oh he was way past being angry now, there was no way to describe the mood that he was in.
"Shut up, Dominic." If being in Camelot had taught me anything, it was that I needed to stand up for what I believed, as well as myself. "You have no idea what I've been through recently, and I don't just mean here in Camelot. You haven't got a clue what he put me through before, when you were all gone." Now it was my turn to start showing my own anger. "I used to be terrified of that man, there would have been a time when I would happily run away and hide from him. Not any more. I am done with hiding, I'm going to end this, whether you like it or not."
"That is never going to happen. Do you understand?" There was full fury on his face now and I could see that he was trying his best to not completely explode. I didn't care, this was my life and for once I wanted to be in control if it.
I wasn't scared of his anger, being scared was no longer an option. "This is my life, do you understand that? I will do what I want, because you are not the boss of me, you do not get to tell me what to do. Do you understand that, Dominic?" I could see the shock in his eyes as he looked at me, clearly he didn't think I would ever stand up to him like I just had, but a lot of things had changed, and it was time to grow up, quickly.
A/N: I am so sorry that I have not posted this sooner. Honestly, I've worked on my stories and then just simply forgot to update them, sorry!
Again, huge thank you to all of you very lovely, wonderful and special people who have kept me going and stuck by me through everything, the good and the bad. I wouldn't have checked all of these stories if I hadn't had so many people sending me reviews and PM's asking me not to stop writing.
Love to you all!