Chapter 28 Are We Too Late?
True to his word, Gwaine has not seen Darwin again. He wasn't sure how long it had been since Merlin was dragged away, he was afraid for his brother. Gwaine sat against the wall, powerless to do anything else; and it frustrated him. Gwaine was a man of action, even when he was younger he didn't like to stay in one place for very long. His back was starting to get stiff from sitting in the same position. With the cuffs, around his wrists, there wasn't very much movement he could do to get more comfortable. True that they have been in these situations more than he'd like to admit. Almost every time they would leave Camelot, something would happen. Bandits would attack, someone would want Arthur's head, or it was Morgana. Every situation they got into, they would somehow escape. Of course knowing now it was Merlin who always saved them. Now it was his turn, and he was powerless. Perhaps if, no, not if, when. When they got out of here, he should have Merlin teach him some spells that would be useful in a situation like this. Gwaine was on this line of thought, until he heard an inhuman scream. A scream that would haunt his dreams for the rest of his life. However long or short that may be.
Arthur rode hard, focusing on the trail that would lead to Merlin. They have been riding nonstop for almost two hours. Arthur knew they would need to stop soon to give the horses a rest. He wasn't sure how farther the trail would lead, but it was getting them closer and closer. No doubt Merlin has made enemies while he was in disguise protecting him. Arthur felt responsible for the attack on Merlin now. He knew what Merlin would say if he could hear his thoughts. Merlin would say it wasn't his fault, that he only did what he thought was right. Or something along those lines. Merlin was selfless, too selfless for what was good for him. Arthur swore that would get him killed sooner or later. He hoped it would be later, or better yet, not at all.
The horses were slowing now. Arthur could tell exhaustion would quickly take them over. It was starting to get late afternoon, Arthur knew they would soon need to stop and camp for the night. He didn't want to, Arthur wanted to keep following the trail. Though he also knew the reality of the situation. Sighing to himself, Arthur slowed his horse down to a trot, the others following suit. Cooling them off until they found a good place to camp.
Within an hour later, the horses were resting and watered. Percival went to get wood and a fire was quickly lit after Iseldir's eyes flashed gold. Arthur couldn't help but laugh to himself how Merlin was always quick to get a fire going. No one felt like talking with their two companions missing. Usually it was Merlin who would always mindless chatter about nonsense. It would drive him crazy, but now he missed it. Leon sat silently focusing on the stew he was making for them.
Percival suddenly laughed. Arthur turned and raised an eyebrow at the usually silent knight. Leon and Iseldir glanced over to the huge man as well. "What's so funny?" Arthur asked him. Percival blushed, "Sorry, just remembering something Merlin helped me and Gwaine out with."
"And what was that?" Arthur said skeptically whenever Gwaine was involved.
"Well, Gwaine and I were over by the window that lead down to the palace kitchen. It was Gwaine's idea really, we were 'fishing for chickens' you might say." Percival chuckled again. "Anyway, Gwaine was trying to get the fishing hook to catch onto one of the chickens, but he kept missing. Merlin was in there and he saw us. Instead of calling us out on the cook, he got the hook onto a chicken so we could pull it up." Percival smiled as he finished his eyes lost in the memory. Leon snickered at the end of the story.
"That sounds like something Merlin would do." The group became silent for a moment before Leon spoke again. "When I first met Merlin, I thought he was disrespectful of those higher than his position. Until I got to know him better, he wasn't disrespectful, he treated those with equality. Even you Arthur, after he found out you were the prince. He wasn't afraid of titles. Merlin would speak his mind to anyone who would listen. Before Merlin came Arthur, you were a prince who always sought his father's approval. Now, you are more caring of your people, have married a servant for love instead of politics, and stopped the persecution of magic. As Merlin's said, you will be the greatest king Camelot has ever known."
Arthur smiled at his first knight. "Merlin has changed all of us for the better."
"Agreed" Percival and Leon said in unison.
After supper, Arthur took the first watch. The others climbed into their bed roles, soft snoring was quickly heard. Sitting against a tree a few meters away from the low fire. Arthur couldn't help but think what Leon had said. Leon was usually a private man. For him to speak about Merlin like that had surprised him; but it was true. The hours went by silently, soon it would be Percival's watch next. Arthur was about to stand up. All of a sudden, an ear piercing scream of pain echoed around them. When the tortured sound ended, Arthur stood up and drew Excalibur. Scanning the darkened forest, Arthur couldn't see anything out of the ordinary. Risking a quick glance at his knights they didn't stir. Only Iseldir awoke startled. Arthur was confused, that scream should have awaken them. Arthur saw Iseldir glance at him nervously. "Did you hear that?" Iseldir asked him.
"I did, Leon and Percival should be awake by now." As soon as Arthur said it, realization stepped in. Arthur paled, "oh no." The scream he heard wasn't out loud, it came from his head. That could only mean one thing.