Arthur’s mouth hung open in shock. Odin was basically declaring war, Leon and Elyan were being held captive, a number of his guard were dead, and Merlin had somehow known and tried to warn him about it.
He faced a guilty and worried-looking Merlin, who stood still and silent in the drizzle that began to fall down from the sky. The clouds had come quite quickly, too quickly, in fact. When he had woken up it was sunny, with maybe a few white puffy clouds in the sky. Now, it was a dark blanket of gray. It seemed the weather was following the mood of the people.
He walked up to Merlin and spoke quietly. “How - how did you know about this?” An ugly looked passed over his face; it was clear he was concerned, and angry, but not at Merlin. “Did somebody tell you, or -” but Merlin cut him off.
“I just... knew. One of my uncanny funny feelings.” Merlin knew that it wasn’t right to bring up how he always had the right idea, and that Arthur would think it suspicious, but he was tired. Tired of the lies, tired of the deceit, tired of being the one to save everyone and have nobody notice, tired of being treated like an idiot who knew nothing. He knew more than anyone. “I always turn out to be right, don’t I?”
Arthur gave him a funny look and pushed past him. “Nevermind. We must go and rescue them immediately. Ready the horses.”
Merlin sighed. “Yes, sire.” He ran off rather slowly to the kitchens.
Freya and Gwen came back from the short horse ride, having seen the spooked steed rushing through the forest with an arrow in the back of its rider. Arthur’s eyes looked haunted, terrified for his friends. They could be dead, or starved, or hurt, held captive. Gwen rushed up to him and he simply held out the note, which Gwen read and Freya read over her shoulder. Gwen gasped and put a hand to her mouth, the tears rising quickly.
She had grown up with both men. To know that both her brother and childhood friend were being held captive by the enemy and likely being tortured, it was... it was unthinkable.
And yet it was happening, as Leon and Elyan were unfortunately aware of. The man who had entered the room had left the knights, bloodied, bruised, and badly hurt. Leon’s breathing was ragged, and he panted as he turned his head to Elyan. He was not in better shape, with cuts and bruises decorating his exhausted face.
Neither of them spoke, they just sat in their cell and breathed, hoping that Arthur would not come to rescue them, for if he did, he would have a horrible surprise waiting for him...
After an hour or two another figure came in, drew a knife, and approached Elyan. Leon was chained to the wall, but if he could, he would skin that man alive. He just hoped that maybe if he and Elyan could hold out, perhaps they could escape on their own or somebody else might help. Just not Arthur. Anybody but Arthur.
Arthur was off to rescue Leon and Elyan.
He and Gwaine, Percival, and Merlin were riding through the woods in a small search party. He knew they were somewhere in Odin’s land, and that they were somewhere hidden. It would take a long time to find them, and it was quite dangerous to be in Odin’s land as the King of Camelot, but it was a risk he had to take. He would not abandon Leon and Elyan.
The ride was a silent one, with the noticeable gap in their men. Merlin was even quiet, but he was looking wildly around left and right, as if expecting the entirety of Odin’s army to come marching through the woods to attack them.
In truth, Merlin was very worried, because he knew that Odin would have sentries and knights and guards and mercenaries crawling the woods around this area, because he could tell that somewhere close to here Leon and Elyan were being held... he just felt it. It was as if somebody had left some magical mark, a purposeful lead, which was suspicious, but it was a lead all the same.
As the feeling started to get weaker, Merlin felt more and more panicked. They were going to end up leaving Leon and Elyan... he needed to get them back! “I need a plan...” Merlin thought. “I’m going to have to improvise. Why do I always need to improvise?”
Merlin lagged behind, making sure he was in the back of the group before looking up at a tree branch as his eyes flashed gold. The branch fell in front of his horse, who promptly neighed and reared back, hooves flying in the air. Before Merlin could completely register what he had just done, he fell off his horse.
“Augh!” He wheezed, all the wind knocked out of him. Arthur looked back at Merlin and just shook his head for a second, and then got off his horse to help Merlin up. As he did so, Merlin swayed and blinked dully. His words were slurred. “Hey - hey Arthur, guess what...” Arthur steadied him as he started to stumble off to the left. “We... we should go.. that... way...” he continued to try to go left, and then fell on his face.
Arthur chuckled and helped him to his feet, but if you squinted hard enough, you would have been able to see the concern laced into his eyes. Merlin had already been exhausted that day, very exhausted, and it looked as if he could have somehow foolishly gotten himself a concussion. Classic Merlin.
Merlin opened his dull, tired eyes a sliver as Arthur laid him against a tree. The knights had stopped and looked concernedly at Merlin, who was weakly attempting to move left. As the rest of the knights made a small camp, Arthur narrowed his eyes at the direction Merlin was pointing in, and after a bit of close searching, he found a hastily covered trail of blood leading off directly to the left.
Arthur returned to the small camp they had made. It wasn’t much of a camp; more of a stopping point in which the men had gotten off their horses and laid down their things. He looked around for a second, and then said: “I have a trail. It seems that the secret hideout is in the direction Merlin was pointing in.” Arthur gave the man in question another funny look, before drawing his sword and beckoning to the other knights to follow him. Merlin attempted to prop himself up on his elbows, but before he could do anything Gwaine had lain him back down.
“Mate, I’m afraid you’re in no condition to fight.” It was rare that Gwaine was serious about anything, if at all, but if he was ever going to be serious it would be something concerning Merlin. “You stay here and we’ll go ahead.” Merlin nodded slowly and closed his eyes.
As soon as the knights were out of sight and had been gone a few minutes, Merlin got up, brushed the leaves and dirt off of him, and wiped at his eyes. It had been difficult to keep them glassy and unfocused, but being clumsy and slightly idiotic did come naturally to him, so pretending to have a concussion of some sort wasn’t too hard. Besides, the knights of Camelot were not known for their skills in focus and investigation.
He walked down the path, swallowing his worry and fear and letting the braver, more powerful, more Emrys-ey part of his brain take control. He probably looked a lot more confident than he felt, but that didn’t matter. He followed the trail of magic, which eventually lead him to a small grate in the side of a stone wall. It was left open, which meant Arthur and the knights had found that way. Just great.
As Merlin slid into the small, dark tunnel behind the grate, and almost fell backwards. The whole place was reeking, crawling, filled with magic. And... it felt bad. Merlin’s magic almost started to squirm as if it were a real person at the sheer discomfort that had set in so unexpectedly.
He soon decided to keep moving forward, though it was the last thing he wanted to do, because he had to save Arthur, Leon, Elyan, and the rest of the knights. As he moved onwards, it became clear that there was a powerful sorcerer residing there, and his twisted magic was quite unsettling.
Merlin just thought, “Oh, damn it all to hell. I’m improvising.”
He ran straight on until he reached some sort of dark chamber. In the background, he could hear swords clashing and the distant yells of Arthur to his men.
In the front of this room that resembled a throne room was a figure cloaked in black. It was obviously a male, a tall one, who had his back turned to Merlin and did not seem to notice him. Straining his ears, Merlin could hear the beginnings of a spell being muttered darkly. Soon, a shadow appeared out of the man’s hands.
He turned around and his hood fell, revealing a scarred and bitter-looking man. A wicked glint shone in his eyes as he spoke in a dark, gravelly, unsettling voice. “Do not think you could evade me, you foolish boy. You think you could defeat me? The thought that you would even try to sneak up on me is an idiotic one, boy. You should not think such things... perhaps I should try to end that.” And with that, the man rose up his hands as the darkness took the shape of a large skull and shot itself towards Merlin.
Merlin, who was casually leaning against a pillar, sighed. His eyes flashed without the smallest evidence of effort, and the darkness dissipated almost immediately. With a nonchalant click of his fingers, the smoking torched on the walls relit themselves and Merlin stood up straight, stretching as he did so.
“Listen up. I’m really tired of all this, ‘young foolish serving boy, you cannot defeat me’ crap. I’m really tired of all this ‘I will kill you now’ crap, too. And I’m really tired of the ‘woah, you’re a sorcerer, who would ever have thought’ crap, most of all. Let’s just say I’m done with your crap. And if you’ll excuse me, I’m going to foil your pathetic little plan to kill Arthur and the knights and take over Camelot for Morgana, because it really is getting quite old.” The sorcerer narrowed his eyes and prepared to fight.
Merlin rolled his eyes and leaned back against the pillar again. “Well, if you’re going to be stupid...” Merlin’s eyes quickly flashed gold as he raised up his hands powerfully and summoned a... ham sandwich, which he started to eat without giving a sliver of his attention to the very irritated dark sorcerer attempting to be intimidating before him.
The man started to chant, and soon sent a less than powerful looking fireball at Merlin, who rolled his eyes and scoffed without moving. His eyes flashed, and the flames flew out as quickly as they had come. Merlin felt proud: a couple months ago, he had been having trouble with that one. But as the sorcerer flung more and more spells at him, Merlin didn’t even break a sweat, or even seem to care. After he got tired of the relentless failures of the man, he sent an energy pulse at the sorcerer, who was blasted back quite forcefully and received a rather serious-looking head wound. Merlin shrugged and finished his sandwich before heading off to find Arthur.
It hadn’t taken long, and Merlin pretended to have recovered by making himself some food and drinking some water. Arthur was mad at Merlin for putting himself in danger so soon, and didn’t seem to notice that Merlin’s eyes were perfectly focused, much more focused than they had a right to be after a fall like that.
Leon and Elyan were in a bad way. The both of them had bloody cuts lacing their bodies and bruises like splotches of paint all over them. Elyan was completely unconscious, and had to be carried by Percival, but Leon was semi-conscious and was helped along carefully by Gwaine.Leon was watching Merlin the whole time, though. He had heard that Merlin had taken a bad fall, and that he was supposedly better now from the servant and the King arguing, but he didn’t really believe it. Especially since there had been a powerful sorcerer keeping the two knights hostage, and they should not have gotten away without seeing him. It was more than suspicious, to say the least, and Leon vowed to figure out what was going on before falling unconscious into Gwaine’s supporting arms.