Chapter 21 Never Alone
Arthur woke up with a crick in his neck. Finding himself in Merlin's room; after a few minutes of confusion, he remembered the events of last night. Light poured into the room from the window. It was probably just after dawn. Gwaine was across from him snoring lightly in his chair. Arthur new he too would wake up with a crick in his neck. Judging by the way his head hung against his chest. Stretching out his back with his arms behind his head, Arthur looked at the bed. Merlin was gone! "Gwaine!"
Arthur felt rising panic. Looking around the room hoping Merlin would be somewhere. He wasn't. Gwaine jolted himself awake. "Ah" Arthur knew it was the crick he was feeling. "What princess?" Gwaine asked rubbing his neck. Arthur let the insult slide. "Merlin's missing!" Gwaine's head snapped to the bed. forgetting all about his crick. Gwaine rushed from the chair and ran from the room. "Where are you going?!"
"To look for Merlin of course!" He yelled back. That should have been obvious.
Arthur found Percival and Leon. Quickly telling them what happened. They split up, knowing they'd have a better chance of finding the missing court sorcerer that way then together. Arthur checked the armory, the laundry room, all the places he might have been when he was a servant. Percival and Leon were checking the lower town. Gwaine helped Arthur check the castle. Arthur was about to check the training field. Walking at a fast pace, Arthur saw Gwenevere walking with a tray of food in her hands. "Arthur, I was just about to bring up some breakfast. I figured you might be hungry since we didn't eat last night. How's Merlin?" Arthur forgotten all about food. It wasn't until she mentioned breakfast did he realize how hungry he felt. Though he couldn't eat knowing Merlin was missing. Gwen must have seen his eyes were frantic, because her face matched his. "What is it? Is Merlin ok?" she asked quickly. Arthur told her the situation. Gwen's face paled but it was only for a moment. Her brow furrowed like she was thinking. "I think I know where he might be." Without an explanation, she put down the tray and grabbed his arm.
Merlin woke up in his bed. It was still dark outside, but dawn would break soon. Glancing over to his right, he saw Arthur slumped in his chair. Gwaine was snoring on his left. Under normal circumstances he might have smiled, or laughed to himself. Then again, the king of Camelot and one of its knights would not be sleeping in his room on a chair if it was a normal circumstance. Merlin could feel himself falling into another depression. Sighing softly, Merlin pushed it deep within himself. He couldn't stay here, with thoughts threatening to consume him again. Sliding out of the covers, Merlin quietly went over to his dresser. Careful not to wake Arthur or Gwaine, he dressed in a long sleeve shirt, favoring his red hanker chief. Pulling a Midnight blue cloak over his shoulders, Merlin silently opened the door and left.
The castle was still asleep, being an ex-servant, Merlin knew it wouldn't be for long. Unsure of his destination, he just knew he had to keep going. Merlin didn't realize his feet led him outside until he felt the cool crisp morning on his face. Breathing in the fresh air, he knew where to go. Walking down the steps, Merlin made his way to the stables. Greeting his chestnut mare, Merlin summoned a carrot for her before saddling. Reciting a spell, Merlin made sure the horse's hooves wouldn't make noise over the cobblestones.
Within a few minutes, Merlin rode out of Camelot. It didn't take very long, epically on horseback. Merlin reached the clearing where he used to summon Kilgharrah. Used to. Dismounting from his horse, Merlin let her graze. Knowing she wouldn't run off. Throwing back his head, Merlin let his magic flow through him. "O drakon, e male so ftengometta tesd'hup anankes!" In no time at all, wings beat over head as Merlin saw Aithusa fly towards him. She was beautiful. No longer disfigured or crippled like she was before. Merlin had be able to heal her. Of course Morgana had tried to, but her magic couldn't heal. It was only used for destruction. Merlin has also taught her to speak. It took a while, but Merlin knew it was his duty as a dragon lord to help her.
Aithusa landed in front of Merlin, bowing her head. "What troubles you my lord?" she asked gently. "My mother is dead." Merlin dreaded saying those words, saying them would only make it even more real. "You are the only family I have left Aithusa." Merlin could feel his grief again. It threatened to overcome him and never let go. Merlin slumped to his knees. Aithusa quickly went beside him. She allowed Merlin to lean against her side as she curled around him. Placing her small head on his lap, she hummed as Merlin stroked her. "You are not alone, young warlock. Family is not only in blood. You have many brothers who will die for you. As you will for them. It is not good to be alone, especially in times of trial."
Merlin knew she was right. They stayed like that for a long time, he just needed to be with his own kin. The two of them watched the sun rise. Feeling his knees growing numb, Merlin moved cross legged, still leaned against Aithusa. The sun climbed higher into the sky and Merlin's tears finally stopped. He was emotionally exhausted. Aithusa stayed with him, offering as much comfort as she could. Wiping his eyes, Merlin took a few deep breaths to try and steady himself "Thank you Aithusa." Lifting her head up, she smiled at him. Merlin shakily stood up, his legs sore from being in that position." Merlin hugged her head and Aithusa leaned into him. The sound of horses hooves made them look up. Arthur, Gwen, Gwaine, Leon and Percival were coming into view. "Just remember, you are never alone." Aithusa smiled at him one last time before she opened her wings and flew off. Merlin watched her go.
"Merlin!" Gwaine bellowed as he ran towards him. Just as he turned around, Merlin got a tackle hug from Gwaine. "What the hell Merlin?!"
"You had us worried sick! When we woke up, you were gone!"
Merlin bowed his head "I'm sorry."
"Don't ever do that again!" Gwaine scolded.
Gwaine studied Merlin for a moment. As if wondering what to do with him. "Come on," Gwaine moved to his side and place a protective arm around him. "Let's go home." Merlin smiled, Aithusa was right, he wasn't alone. He had his brothers.