Gaius did not return for many hours. Gwaine stayed with Merlin while Arthur attended to some of his kingly duties. Guinevere had done an excellent job taking over, and there was not much to do. She had ruled wisely in his absence, even as worried as she was. It was why Arthur loved her, why he knew he had made the right decision when he made her his queen. Still, there were some things that only the king could attend too, and Arthur honestly needed a distraction while waiting for Gaius.
When Gaius did finally return, he brought the amulet and wore a grave expression.
“Gaius, I know you must be tired.” Arthur stated after meeting the physician in his chambers. Gaius held up a hand stopping the king from making his request.
“I need no encouragement when it is Merlin’s life at stake.” Gaius told him. Arthur nodded.
“Have you ever heard of such an object? Something that allows the user to enter the minds of others?” Arthur asked.
Gaius nodded. “The magic is a dangerous one, as Merlin has now discovered. It requires a person to leave their own body and enter another person’s. If anything were to happen to their body they would be trapped there, as Garlock is now trapped in Merlin’s body.”
Arthur nodded. Magic was a mystery to him, and while he may not understand the details, he understood the concept.
“Alright, how do we get him out?” Arthur asked.
Gaius sighed. “I’m not sure. I will have to do some research.”
“I understand.” Arthur looked at Gaius with a sad expression. “Merlin tried to kill himself again while you were gone.” he said. Gaius did not look surprised but did look worried. “Gwaine and I were able to stop him, and he admitted that Garlock has been tormenting him for some time. He says that the sorcerer can hurt him if he doesn’t like what Merlin is doing or saying.”
Gaius took this information in troubled but calm. “I expected as much. Is Merlin alright?” he asked.
Arthur nodded his head, not quite meeting Gaius’ eyes. “As well as can be expected. He reopened his wrist wounds, but Gwen was able to bandage them well enough. He’s sleeping now. Gwaine’s with him as always.”
Gaius nodded. “I’ll check on the wounds when he awakens.” Gaius said tiredly. “In the meantime I’ll try to see if I can find a solution to our problem.” He looked Arthur up and down.
“First though I want to check your wounds, and then you can go and rest.” Arthur scrubbed a hand over his face. It was a bit scruffy from a few days of not shaving.
“I’m afraid I do not have time for that at the moment.” Arthur said, only half sorry. “With all that’s been going on with Merlin, I have been neglecting my duties here. I need to catch up on some paperwork and meet with a few of the council members.”
Gaius clicked his tongue in disapproval. “I’m sure the council members would understand that the health and safety of their king comes first.”
Arthur was not listening as Gaius continued to berate him on keeping healthy while he checked his wounds. His eyes were focused on Merlin’s doorway, his mind whirring with ideas, possibilities, anything that could help them get out of this mess.
He finally waved off the man’s worries and turned away to head to his chambers. Gaius seemed content to leave it alone at that, and simply turned to his work as the king left. Arthur wandered through the hallways of the castle slowly, not even really sure at first if he was heading in the right direction.
Arthur finally ended up in his chambers. He turned and closed the door behind him, staring at it as his mind continued to race. He was finally pulled from his broodings as a soft hand rested on his shoulder and gently led him to the bed, helping him lie back and getting him comfortable. He looked up into Guinevere’s eyes and smiled, she gave him a tired smile in return and then turned to leave. He grabbed her hand before she got far.
“Stay with me a little while?” he asked. She hesitated and then nodded, sitting on the edge of the bed.
“With all that has happened, I never got a chance to really ask you what you discovered.” she said, her eyes curious. It was a statement, but he knew there was a question hidden there.
Arthur sighed sadly. “The sorcerer was trying to manipulate Merlin into killing me.”
Gwen’s face was unreadable as she processed this information, and then she did something that took him by surprise.
Arthur glared at her, not really angry; more confused and somewhat hurt. She lifted a hand to her mouth to stifle her laughter and gave him an apologetic look.
“I’m sorry. It’s really not funny.” she said, and he continued to stare because it wasn’t funny… at all. There was nothing about this situation that was funny, so what was Guinevere laughing at?
She finally calmed enough and began to explain herself. “It’s just. . .” she hesitated and looked at Arthur closely. “I doubt that any sorcerer would be successful.” she said as she played with the edge of the blanket. “I mean this isn’t the first time this has happened.”
Arthur’s glare just deepened. “What do you mean?” he asked.
“Well, not like this exactly,” she said. “But something very similar…” Her words trailed off at the end of the statement.
“Guinevere!” Arthur’s voice was commanding, definitely not whiny.
She pressed her lips together and looked at him. “A few years ago, shortly after you were made king, Merlin was captured by Morgana.”
Arthur’s frown was going to become a permanent fixture on his face by the time she was finished. He didn’t remember Merlin ever being captured by Morgana.
“When was this?” he demanded angrily, sitting up in bed a little too quickly for his injured shoulder. Merlin hiding something like this from him he might understand, but Guinevere?
Guinevere at least had the decency to look a little sheepish. “It was back when he was injured in the Valley of the Fallen Kings, and he disappeared those few days.” she told him.
Arthur’s mind travelled back to that time, remembering it vividly. He had thought they had lost Merlin then, but he had still refused to stop searching for him. They had found him quite alive in a bog a few days later, but Arthur had been so happy to find him that he did not even bother asking him where he had been, assuming that he had just been wandering around the forest, lost those few days. What a blind idiot he was.
“Morgana captured him.” Arthur stated, encouraging Guinevere to go on.
She nodded. “She implanted a creature into his neck called a Fomorrah.” Guinevere stated, and Arthur found himself balking at the very idea.
“In his neck?!” Arthur asked, clearly appalled.
Guinevere nodded gravely. “Yes. From what Gaius explained to me, it eliminates the person’s will and replaces it with one thought and one thought alone.”
Arthur waited for her to continue while she seemed to be taking this slowly in order to study his reaction. “And this one thought was?” Arthur asked, getting impatient.
She glanced down at her hands which were fiddling with the edge of the blanket again. It amazed him that even after two years of being a queen, and a good one at that, she sometimes still acted like that nervous servant girl that Arthur had known so long ago.
“To kill you.” she stated quickly.
Arthur’s jaw went down as his eyebrows went up. “What?” he asked.
Gwen sighed. “For a few days there, Merlin was hell bent on killing you.” she admitted.
Arthur threw his hands up and let them fall on the bed in frustration. “Why did no one tell me?” Arthur asked.
Guinevere looked sympathetic. “I’m sorry Arthur. I was afraid for Merlin. Gaius said he could treat him and it would be best to do it quietly. I agreed. If word got out that Merlin was trying to kill you, he would have been put to death, whether or not it was of his own volition or not.” Guinevere explained.
He frowned at her. “Surely you don’t believe that I would have let that happen.” Arthur stated indignantly.
Guinevere shook her head. “I also did not want to embarrass him.” she admitted looking down at her hands.
Arthur rolled his eyes. “Embarrass Merlin?” Arthur asked.
She looked up, tears pricking her eyes. “Arthur, all Merlin has ever done is serve and protect you. Everything he does is for you, and he forsakes all else… for you.” Guinevere stated. “Even those few days that he seemed to be trying to kill you, all his attempts at assassination failed.”
Arthur shook his head and looked away. “Well Merlin’s not very good at anything; not much of a surprise that he would be a lousy assassin as well.” he smirked, looking back at her, but her face was still serious.
“Maybe… but I think that deep inside he still could not betray that part of himself that wanted to protect you.” Guinevere stated. Arthur bit the inside of his lip as he processed what Guinevere had said. She spoke again before he could respond. “In all honesty, I don’t believe that anyone could convince Merlin to kill you. He would die before harming you, as he has proved several times over now.”
Arthur felt himself shiver at her words even as he nodded in agreement, images of Merlin pale and weak trying to take his own life coming to his mind again and again. She was right. Merlin would rather kill himself than hurt Arthur, and that was what made all of this so hard.
Arthur felt his eyes drooping. The events of the day had completely exhausted him. Guinevere took a step back as she helped him lie down and then bent down to kiss him lightly on the lips before turning to leave.
“Guinevere,” he called quietly. She looked back at him. “I can’t lose him.” he admitted, his emotions completely open to her. She was the only one he could be so honest with when it came to his feelings, she saw them whether he told her or not. “He’s the truest friend I have.”
Guinevere smiled, glad to hear her husband admit the thing that all of them had known for so long. “I know, Arthur.” she told him. “We’ll fix him. I know we will.”
With that said she gave him one last smile before walking out of the room. Now Arthur just wanted to sleep and gather strength for the battle he knew was to come with his waking.
Sir Leon walked slowly to Gaius’ chambers. The physician had returned earlier that day and was no doubt researching for ways to help Merlin in the library. The sun had long ago set and Leon had finished his duties for the day. He had initially planned on going straight to his room to rest, but he felt drawn to the physician’s chambers.
Replaying his actions over and over again in his head, he felt ashamed of how he had acted. He had given Merlin’s life little value, had tried to talk Arthur out of saving him, in doing so he had broken the code he had sworn an oath too, the code to protect all the citizens of Camelot. Although none of his actions had been detrimental he could not help the guilt that he felt.
And that was what led him to the physician’s door. The door was wide open, but Gaius was nowhere to be seen as Leon had suspected. He heard voices coming from the back room, with no door to block the sound he could hear the conversation clearly. He walked silently forward, not planning on eavesdropping, but one quiet statement stopped him at the bottom of the steps.
“Merlin…You have magic.”