Chapter 27 The Curse
Merlin's first conscious thought, was how his head pounded. His mouth was dry, like it was stuffed with cotton. Cold came next, he seemed to be lying on something hard. Merlin's limbs felt heavy, like weights were added to them. Even his eyelids. What happened? He tried to remember, but was distracted when thinking made the pounding worse. Merlin felt something nudging his leg. Then he heard someone call his name. Merlin let out a low groan. The voice was still talking, he knew that voice, but the pounding in his head made it hard to remember. Figuring it would be easier to see who it was, Merlin blinked open his heavy eyelids. Turning his head in the direction where the voice was coming from.
"Gwaine? What happened?"
"We got caught, you need to get us out of here."
It was hard, but Merlin was able to lift his head, gathering in their surroundings. Now he remembered. "Okay, give me a second." His head was still too heavy, placing it back down would be easier. Closing his eyes, Merlin tried to think of the words he would need to get them out. Merlin's head was pounding even more than before 'It must be the drug.' As soon as he came close to the right words, they danced away again out of reach. Frustrated, Merlin tried to concentrate on his magic rather than the words. For a scary moment, Merlin couldn't feel it. It didn't coax through him like it normally did, warm and comforting. He began to panic, searching for it franticly. There! Breathing a sigh of relief, it was in the middle of his chest. Although it was small. Merlin was confused, It felt, It almost felt like it was hiding. Like it was trying to get away from something. He pushed for it, trying to get it to come forward. But it wouldn't come to his summoning's.
Snapping his eyes open, Merlin was panicking. "I don't…" he stammered, "I can't… It's not working." Something was blocking his magic, he needed to find out what. He looked about the room they were in, but it was empty. He heard Gwaine talking to him, he almost didn't hear the question.
"Merlin, calm down, talk to me. What's not working?"
Merlin couldn't calm down. How could he? Gwaine didn't understand. He's never used magic, and even using magic was nothing compared to having it like he did. To have it apart of you. "My magic, I can't reach it."
"What do you mean? Why can't you reach it?"
"Something's blocking my magic. I don't know why…" Merlin suddenly felt something on both of his arms; not realize it before. Curious, he lifted his right one. The limb still felt heavy Merlin's sleeve fell down to reveal a cuff on his wrist. "Oh," Now he knew what was preventing his magic. It made sense.
"What Merlin? What is it?" Gwaine asked confused.
Merlin dropped his limb back to the floor, along with his head. No longer having the energy to hold them up. "Cold… Iron." He was able to get out. Merlin didn't know if Gwaine knew what Cold Iron was, but their captors did. That meant one thing, they knew he had magic. Exhaustion overcame him suddenly, beckoning for him to sleep. Merlin just heard Gwaine ask one question before falling into a dreamless sleep.
"Merlin? Merlin what's cold Iron?"
Merlin's senses were starting to come back. The drug was finally starting to wear off and he could think more clearly. Not fully conscious yet, but Merlin understood was that he was being dragged. Merlin didn't know what was going on or where he was being taken. All he knew was it couldn't be good. Without his magic, he was defenseless. The guards who were dragging him didn't realize yet that he was awake. Being dragged down a series of hallways, Merlin tried to memorize the rout back to Gwaine in case he ever got a chance to escape. Feeling himself being lifted, Merlin's arms were raised above his head. He was being tied to the ceiling, much like the time when he found himself in Morgana's hovel. Merlin still had on the cuffs, he was helpless.
"Why don't you stop the pretense Merlin and open your eyes."
Merlin did, slightly surprised. He thought he was a good actor.With all the times he's had to lie to Arthur. The room was larger than the cell he was put with Gwaine. It had a low enough ceiling where he could stand on his toes. There wasn't much in this room either. Merlin thought wherever they were being held was most likely an abandoned fortress. Moss grew in places on the grey stone walls. Merlin focused on the man who was talking to him.
"How do you know my name?"
"There are many who know your name now Emrys. With you being the Court Sorcerer in Camelot, it is hard not to know the name who has freed magic. That should have been obvious. For the man who has hidden his true potential in Camelot for years, I thought you would have been smarter than this." Darwin told him. Merlin ignored the insult, being used to being called an idiot by Arthur almost every day.
"Very well, then answer me this. How did the drug get in my water skin?"
"Simply hired hands," Darwin shrugged.
"Ah, now we're getting somewhere. You see Merlin, before the ban has been lifted, and even still, there have been many who despise the name Pendragon. And they have a right to do so. When your identity of Emrys was discovered by the lady Morgana, she was bent on your destruction. She came to me before the battle of Camlann, asking for my help. Long ago, at the beginning of the Great Purge, when I was much younger. I was an expert on curses. With my knowledge, she has asked for my help of a very specific curse."
Merlin's blood froze.
"You know as well as I, that magic is a living thing. Uther had foolishly tried to destroy all magic, of course this is impossible. His knowledge on the Old Religion was very limited." Darwin added as a side note. "It flows through this world and its creatures. It cannot be destroyed, not completely. Morgana has requested a very specific curse on you Emrys. Magic flows through you like blood. You rely on it to live, your greatest strength, will be your greatest weakness."
"What are you going to do?" Merlin tried to keep the fear out of his voice, unsure of how successful he was.
"Because of your reliance on magic, I've had to, experiment on 'volunteers.' Let me tell you, this has taken a long time to perfect. Even after Morgana's death, I became, almost obsess with this little project if it will work on someone like you Merlin to let this go. What this curse does Emrys, is it will attack your magic from the inside. And when that golden magic is attacked directly, it will leave its host."
Merlin started to panic. He couldn't have his magic taken away, he just couldn't. He needed it to protect Arthur, to protect Camelot. Without his life force, he will surly die. "No, please" Merlin choked out.
"I am curious Merlin, is it that you are afraid for your life? Or the lives you have sworn to protect."
Merlin close his eyes. Of course he was afraid for his life; that was what made him human. However, to be afraid for those lives he has protected for so long, it was them Merlin feared for the most. He briefly wondered how long they would last without him. Merlin knew the druids thought Emrys was immortal, and that had scared him. He didn't want to be. To outlive the lives of his friends, of his family until they were long since dead. To be immortal would be a lonely life. He would not wish it on even his worst enemy. Perhaps because he was supposed to be immortal would save him from this fate. However, if he survived this, then he doubt anything could kill him. Except maybe Excalibur. Merlin made a point not to mention these thoughts out loud. Merlin was consumed with his thinking that he realized he had no idea what Darwin was doing. That is, until he heard chanting.