The Bargain

Chapter 17

Eira had been running for a few minutes, slightly struggling to keep up with Leon’s pace. The numbness in her legs made it feel like she had been sprinting for hours, and she felt sick. Suddenly, Leon stopped and motioned for Eira to be quiet. Eira looked to her right and saw the path leading up to the gates of the castle down the hill. They were quite far away from the castle, but not far enough. She looked back at Leon and he took her arm and dragged her into some bushes. Then she heard it too, the rustling of leaves on the ground as someone came closer, from the left. Eira held her breath, expecting arrows to whiz through the air towards her. They didn’t. It was almost completely dark, but she could see the silhouette of an older boy walking towards them. ″Eira?″ the boy asked and Eira realized who it was. She was about to spring from the bushes and greet Areisius, but Leon held her back, warning her with his gaze. She then realized that there were more steps. She saw the blades of swords behind Areisius, however the knights they belonged to did not hold them threateningly. She soon recognized the muscular figure of Gwaine and Percival’s tall, stocky one, and ran out from the bushes, pulling Sir Leon along with her. The group looked their way and Eira rushed into Gwaine’s arms. ″You’re safe,″ he whispered and she smiled until she thought her cheeks would burst. She kissed him, and then remembered Areisius. She hugged him as well, and he returned her embrace more than she had expected him to. She greeted the rest of the group, and watched as Leon did the same. ″When did you get here? Where are the horses?″ he asked, patting Merlin on the back.

″They’re a bit farther away. We got here only a while ago. Areisius found us and told us that something was wrong, and that you had been captured,″ Percival replied, motioning to Eira. She returned to Gwaine, placing her arms around him once again. ″We’ll explain everything later, but we really need to move away from this area right now,″ Leon stated and the group started moving in the direction away from the castle.

A while later, they reached a clearing, and Eira saw the outlines of dozens of people sitting on the ground. She saw that they were the people she had escaped with and others who had fled from the kingdom, and the group approached them quickly. ″Do you think we’re far enough away?″ she asked Leon cautiously. ″We need to keep moving, but I think this is safe for now,″ he replied, giving clear for everyone to stop and rest. Juliana ran towards Eira, hugging her tightly, and Eira smiled to reassure her that she was alright. Eira and Leon then explained what had happened to the kingdom, about King Aymon, and how he had made sure to preserve everything in Camelot except the people in charge, just so that he would have less work to do when he would be in power. Eira told them what had happened to her, and how Juliana had gotten everyone out of the dungeons. In recognition of what she had done, many people came up and thanked the small, modest girl, and despite it being dark, Eira knew that Juliana was blushing from all of the attention.

Eira leaned against a tree, still unsettled about the fact that there were people suffering in Camelot. Gwaine came up next to her and put his arm around her waist. ″What’s this?″ he asked, amused as he felt something under her dress. Eira looked at him, confused, but then realized that it was the bread she had stuffed in the pocket. She removed it, broke off a piece, and bit into it. ″Oi,″ Gwaine grunted and took a piece as well, shoving it into his mouth. Eira realized how hungry she was, and devoured the piece quickly, even though it was almost fully stale. She looked at Gwaine, ″We need to get Gwen out.″ Her knight nodded and she saw him looking at Percival, who was wandering around sadly as if he was looking for someone lost. ″And Jetta,″ he added. ″Any ideas?″ she asked and he shook his head. ″Right now I just want to be with you,″ he said and kissed her hair. She smiled and gently nudged him away as Leon came towards them.

″We need to get the people to safety. There are at least seventy of us,″ he said.

″Leading them into some outlying village will only cause the patrols to find them, it’s better if everyone stays in the forest farther away,″ Gwaine replied and cleared his throat, causing everyone to look at him.

″Alright, my name is Sir Gwaine, and as a knight of Camelot, it is my duty to help you all somehow get farther away from this danger. A plan is currently being developed but your safety is most important. We will split into nine groups, led by the knights here, and everyone will meet up by the village of Dalry which is two hours from here. Those who are in critical need of medical care come to the front please,″ Gwaine ordered and everyone looked at him, some impressed by the role of leadership he was taking on.

The people started to separate into groups and the knights leading them spread out, all of a sudden very busy. A few people came to the front and Merlin started getting out some supplies he had brought from Caerleon’s physicians, tending to the injuries of the people as quickly as he could.

″Gwaine, what about the queen?″ Eira asked him before he walked away, so caught up in what he was doing.

″Someone needs to go back there,″ Gwaine said, concern emerging in his eyes. Eira searched his face, ″I will go.″

Merlin heard her and looked up, ″Me too. I know my way around the castle better than any of you,″ he said, nodding at Gwaine to get his approval.

Suddenly Areisius ran up to her and Eira put her hand on his shoulder.

″I will see you soon. Help the people, Areisius,″ she said but he pulled her closer.

″Eira, you don’t understand! I can help!″ he whispered so only she could hear him, distressed.

″What do you mean? Go with Gwaine and the knights to Dalry and when Merlin and I get back with the queen, we will be together, alright?″ she asked. He opened his mouth again, bit his lip and then sighed hopelessly. She felt confused, what did he want to tell her? Juliana saw their troubled situation and came over, pulling Areisius away quickly to get some water with her. Eira thanked her silently.

Gwaine sighed. ″You two better come back. Be careful Eira,″ he said and stroked her cheek gently. She was surprised that he didn’t protest, but guessed that he was pretty stressed with over seventy people’s lives in his hands. He took her into his arms one last time and grinned, shaking his head, ″You’re crazy. I love it.″ She kissed his cheek and then pulled away, letting Merlin take his bag, and looked back at Gwaine fondly as he raised his voice and gathered his group, leading them as if he was born to.

Eira and Merlin started walking through the dark forest as quickly as they could, and Eira saw the bright flash of the sword she had decided to wield, after reassurance from Gwaine. She felt slightly insecure with it, but copied Merlin’s hold on his own as best as she could. Suddenly she stopped, remembering the item that had brought them there in the first place. ″Who has the Helix?″ she whispered, causing Merlin to turn and look at her. Without replying, he motioned to a little pouch sticking out from his boots. She nodded, and kept walking. She realized that this would be one of the only times she could talk to him.

″Does Gwaine still not know about your magic?” she asked, trying to sound inquiring rather than like she was accusing him.

“He doesn’t know.” The way Merlin replied, probably disappointed in himself, made her drop the subject.

How do you feel about this whole...Arthur thing?″ she asked carefully, searching Merlin’s face for a reaction.

″You know, there’s one part telling me that this is wrong. Deep inside, we all know that this isn’t his time. If we do succeed and he manages to get Camelot back, I know he will eventually have to return to his...slumber,″ the warlock replied, biting his lip.

″And you’ve accepted that?″ she asked.

″Yes, more than anyone else. I know that another great struggle will be born in the future, and that that will be Arthur’s time to return for real. I will wait for that time,″ he continued, and his words touched her heart. She couldn’t imagine losing anyone the way Merlin had. Arthur had been his everything.

″Does Gwen share your feelings?″ Eira asked him, curious about the queen’s emotions.

″We never quite discussed the reality of temporarily bringing the king back. I will have to tell her,″ Merlin answered.

″Bringing him back for a short time seems so manipulative and cruel. I understand that Gwen is suffering and cannot in any way control her kingdom, our current situation has proved that. But will it really be easier to revive him but then have to once again say goodbye, than to accept the fact that we will have to wait for his reawakening?″ she asked, not quite asking him, but feeling like she needed to question fate. She continued before he could reply, ″Reviving something lost brings up a lot of rubble, memories and feelings that you’ve fought so hard to push down and forget. I know that,″ she added, thinking of Gwaine.

″It’s really Gwen’s decision. I have a feeling she has something to tell him,″ he responded with a strange smile. But Eira couldn’t ask what he was implying because of the danger she suddenly realized they were in in that moment. She held out her sword in front of her and told Merlin to be quiet, watching her hand out in front of her tremble from either fear or the cold, she didn’t know which. A few seconds later, a patrol on horseback erupted from the still trees and before the two could move, they were surrounded. The patrol wore dark gray, almost black, capes with the strange symbols she had seen before, instead of Camelot’s crests. She saw Merlin raise his hand to strike them out with magic but she took his hand and gripped it hard, shaking her head at him. A furrow in his brow appeared and he looked at her questioningly and curiously but she couldn’t reply.

″State your names,″ one guard growled at them, and the serious look in his eyes told them not to lie.

″Eira,″ she admitted, as if her name was a crime.

″Merlin,″ the warlock said quietly.

″It’s them. Guinevere gave five names,″ another guard informed the one who had asked.

″Good,″ the guard said gruffly and ordered his men to tie them up and have them walk next to the horses.

Eira felt a headache coming on as she was forced to walk next to a guard and his horse, Merlin being forced to do the same behind her. She looked back at him to try to tell him her plan in some way, but the guard roughly pulled her to face the front again, and she sighed, only annoyed. The headache suddenly got worse and a voice pushed into her head, ”Eira?“.

It was Merlin. A thrill of excitement made its way through her; they could talk to each other, well, without words! She had heard that communicating like this was possible, but she’d never dreamed she’d experience it for herself. She took a deep, quiet breath, focusing all of her energy in her mind. ”Yes. So, we let them take us to the cells, and one of us somehow distracts the guards while the other finds Gwen, we can use our magic,” she said eagerly. She then realized the holes in her plan and quietly questioned it, but she couldn’t summon the strength to answer herself.

The guard pushed Eira down onto her knees and she, unhesitantly, stared up at the man sitting in the chair of the throne room in front of her, meeting his eyes with confidence and fearlessness. A man a few years older than her, younger than she had expected, looked down at her with a smug smirk on his face. He had a thin, sharp face and hair as black as coal shadowing his pale, narrowed eyes. His broad shoulders were draped in a coat with jet black feathers sticking out from it like needles.

″So here’s the witch,″ he snarled, examining every inch of her face with caution. She didn’t move.

″Aymon, was it? Sounds exactly like someone with pathetic guards like these ones,″ she said and smiled fakely, feeling one guard holding her flinch. He swallowed and she could see that he was trying to figure out what to reply.

″What other things than attempting to insult me can she do?″ he asked the leader of the guards. She snorted loudly.

“The previous encounter we had with her showed her ability to use forms of healing magic,” the leader responded. The warlord rested his head against his hand and nodded.

“Take them both to the cells, we shall see the full extent of her abilities later on,” he ordered and the guards quickly obeyed. Eira sent Merlin a look to tell him that she was fine, and thought of how happy she was that Aymon hadn’t suspected Merlin’s powers, which were far greater than her own. ”What if we’re separated?“, Merlin asked. She had started to get used to the second voice in her head, but it still gave her a strange feeling. ”Then we can still communicate,” she replied.

The guards led them out of the throne room and stopped at a nearby wall, handcuffing her to a thick metal ring attached to the wall, doing the same to Merlin a few inches away. They then started talking to some other guards standing there, downing an unknown liquid from a dark flask that was passed around, laughing and joking around, something it seemed they rarely got to do. ”Merlin, we need to use their cruelty to our advantage! Come really close to me and act aggressive, taunt me. I know the guards would do anything to see me suffer," she said quickly. He gave her a confused look but she nodded, mouthing ‘trust me’. He then approached her and put his face really close to hers, running his hands down her arms. She resisted and tried to move away as far as her chains would allow her to, begging and whimpering, all while telling him to continue in his head. He continued, trusting her plan, and soon the guards turned around, looking at Merlin mocking her and trying to get close her. They were forced to leave the other guards, and uncuffed them from the wall. To enjoy the sight of Merlin taunting Eira, they pushed the two unnecessarily close. Eira smiled inside as they walked towards the steps above the dungeons; her plan was working.

She watched Merlin being led down the stairs in front of her as they walked down to the cells. She hoped that her plan would work, but still wasn’t convinced; she could feel her heart beating faster and faster. The guard holding Eira let his hands get a bit too close and familiar with her so she stopped in the middle of a step and kicked her leg backwards, trying to get his hands off of her. He let out a grunt but then nudged her back with his sword, making sure that the sharp blade hurt her. She writhed in pain but couldn’t move. He kept shoving her down the stairs and she saw five different passages lead off from where the guards’ table stood. She recognized one of them, the third one was where she, Leon and the others has been put. The guards stopped and greeted the ones by the table, and Eira took the chance to make a plan with Merlin. ”Do anything to make sure we get put together," she said, giving him an encouraging look. He nodded and she could see him thinking. The guard holding her turned back, a little too close to her, “Where shall we put you two then?” he said.

“Please, keep me away from him!” she said pushing back away from Merlin, trying to look scared. The guard gave her a questioning look, “What has he done to you, then?” he said, smirking.

She didn’t speak, she just tried to force tears into her eyes and looked down, giving everything she had to look uncomfortable in Merlin’s presence. The guard at the table, who had listened to their conversation, smiled and looked down the second hallway, “Put them down there. Same cell.”

Eira started to scream and tried to resist the movements of the guard behind her, “Please, sir, I’m begging you!” but he just smiled cruelly and pushed her down the hallway, throwing her into the cell where Merlin already sat. She moved away from him, pushing herself against the opposite wall until the guards left. She then relaxed and moved a bit closer to him, ”It worked." He smiled and nodded, showing that he was relieved too. ”Get some sleep. You deserve it," he said, and gave her a concerned look. She realized that it was the middle of the night and nodded, so she took off her cape and lay down on the floor, using it as a blanket. After a while, she felt her breathing slow down and watched the restless shadows move on the wall until she drifted off into a light sleep.

She woke up when Merlin nudged her and she quickly crept to the corner as she sat up. A second later, the guard she hated appeared with two pieces of bread, and he tossed the pieces through the bars. She wrapped her arms around herself to look scared in case the guard looked, but he barely did, and then just left. She turned to Merlin, remembering the events of the night. ”Thank you for everything you did, I think our chances of escaping have become more likely," she said and smiled. He smiled back, ”You only slept for a few hours, it’s dawn now. To get Gwen, we first have to find her. I tried searching in my mind earlier, looking to find her," he replied carefully. She nodded at him to continue, so he did, ”She’s alive, down the fourth passageway. She looks terrified and upset, they must have done something...more severe...to her," he said, blinking as if he was trying to forget the image of a broken Guinevere.

Suddenly Eira remembered the Helix and asked Merlin if he still had it. He nodded, showing that he understood her stress about it being kept safe.

Merlin and Eira sat there for a few minutes, eating the bread, each consumed in their own thoughts. Suddenly, Merlin turned to her, and her eyes lit up when he started to tell her his plan.

“Sir, please! Help me!” Eira screamed and waited for a guard to appear, but none did. She screamed louder, as if she was in pain and agony, and did her best to include crying. Merlin was hovering over her, loudly telling her to be quiet. A few seconds later, the guard who had held Eira walked up to their cell, obviously in no hurry. Merlin had his fist by her face, pushing her against the wall aggressively, though trying not to actually hurt her.

The guard laughed mockingly, “You probably deserve it, witch.” She crawled to the front of the cell, grasping onto the bars with her hands and trying to get as close as possible to the guard. “Please! I’m begging you to move me, I’ll do anything!” she cried, pulling at him through the bars. When she was close enough, she gave Merlin a signal with the hand behind her back. She heard him mumble a spell and the guard froze in his place, Eira feeling the rush of air from time as it hit her. Her hands guided her to his belt, where she grabbed at the keychain ring attached to it. She slipped the keys off the hook and quickly shuffled away from the guard. Merlin whispered a further incantation, and the beauty of the words he was using made Eira shiver in a way she never had before. Merlin kept the guard still and Eira searched through the keys, standing up to fit the right one into the lock. It slowly clicked when she found the right one and she exhaled, relieved but still nervous. As quietly as she could, she opened the door and Merlin snuck out behind her. ”It’s easier to escape with magic when you’re not the king’s manservant," he mumbled and she smiled. With as little movement as possible, he moved the almost unconscious guard inside the cell and Eira closed the door, locking it. She felt something tugging at her inside, and realized that it was guilt. She looked around and met the dirty, despairing faces of the other prisoners. Merlin noticed and put his hand on her arm, ”We need to rescue Gwen first.”

She realized that he was right and forced herself to look away from the people in cells around her.

As they reached the table where the other guards sat, she watched, captivated, as Merlin froze the three guards there, softly laying them down on the ground as they closed their eyes sleepily, not making a sound. Right afterwards, Eira took the keys marked with a four and charged down the fourth passageway, increasing her pace for every empty cell she passed. Finally, in the corner, all the way in, she saw Gwen, laying down with her arms wrapped around her knees. Eira panickedly opened the door and rushed to her side, gently shaking her and trying to look into her eyes. Guinevere did not look up. Her eyes were open, staring down at the floor. “Gwen? It’s Eira. You’re safe now. Come on, Merlin’s right outside, we need to go,” she said carefully, awaiting the former queen’s response. Gwen didn’t respond at all, and Eira wasn’t even sure she had heard her. She took another key and unlocked the handcuffs Gwen was in, rubbing her wrists gently to help her realize that she was free. After waiting and hesitating for a few seconds, Eira pushed past her insecurity and helped Gwen to her feet, putting an arm around her and guiding her out of her cell.

Merlin took Guinevere into his arms when they ran outside, using the same door Eira had used the first time she had escaped, however Merlin’s magic had made it a whole lot easier.

“Into the forest now, let’s go!” he whispered but just as Eira was about to run towards the hill leading into the forest, she stopped herself. Merlin heard the cease of her steps and spun around, a horrified expression taking its place on his face. “Merlin, there are people back there! This may be our only chance!” she said, a cloud of possibility forming in her mind.

“Exactly! If you get caught now, after we’ve made it out, Gwaine is never going to forgive me, and I won’t either! This is not the right time to be a hero!” he said urgently, trying to pull her along with him, but she stuck to the ground, determined to stay and get someone else out. “There are people in Dalry who are missing their families. For God’s sake, Percival needs Jetta! I will get Gaius, as well. Tell Gwaine I love him. And thank you, Merlin,” she said and flashed him a quick smile. He hesitated but was left with no other choice than to run.

He started up the hill, and when she had made sure that he and Gwen had made it to the top so Merlin wouldn’t come after her, she turned around and ran through the door, only to feel the rough metal of a guard’s armour as she ran straight into one. He grabbed her and handcuffed her in an instant, “Trying to escape, eh?” She nodded forwardly, “What the hell do you think it looks like I’m doing? Does that bother you?” He merely snorted at her and pushed her back into the passageway, snatching the keys from her and locking her only escape.

Gwaine opened his eyes to feel a sting in his heart when he remembered that Eira had stayed behind. Luckily, Aymon had left the medium-sized village of Dalry alone, and the families living there had kindly taken groups of people into their homes for the night. Gwaine and Percival had slept in one house belonging to a family with three children, who had all awaited the two knights nervously, obviously not knowing how to act in the knights’ presence. The village seemed well and not too poor, but Gwaine still felt conscious and guilty when they were served food. The mother set their plates down on the table, standing to one side, drumming her fingers against her leg anxiously. After a while, she couldn’t hold herself any longer and looked down, ashamed, as she spoke, “The food in Camelot must be a whole lot better than this.”

A young girl clung to the mother’s leg and stared at Gwaine. He smiled at her, causing her to go red and hide behind her mother. “We were all once like you. I do not believe that nobility should define the way other people see you. You needn’t worry,” Gwaine replied solemnly and expected Percival to punch his shoulder and tease his sincerity, but his friend seemed to understand that he really meant his words. The mother breathed out and smiled gently, the two knights returning her smile.

A while later Gwaine and Percival headed to the place Leon was staying, gathering Areisius and Juliana in the process. “Someone needs to start heading back today. Merlin, Gwen and Eira need more protection before they can journey to get back Camelot’s real king,” Gwaine started, meeting everyone’s eyes. “Gwaine you should go, you have Eira. And Percival, I’m sure Jetta is there. Areisius, Eira told you to see her again, she’d have our heads if you don’t go. I will stay here with the people, and the other knights,” Leon said determinedly. To everyone’s surprise, Juliana stepped up. “I will stay here too. Don’t worry about your return, Arthur will have strong people fighting with him to get their kingdom back. A whole village, perhaps,” she said promisingly, with passion in her eyes, smiling brightly at Leon, who was looking at her with a sparkle in his blue eyes.

Areisius, Gwaine and Percival had been on their horses for an hour, and Gwaine was eagerly anticipating the next hour, knowing that they would arrive in the forest soon.

Suddenly, Areisius felt like something was pushing through his head with an urgent explosiveness, sending pieces of something shattered throughout his body. ”Areisius?” a disembodied voice called. He could hear it in his head, and he wasn’t quite sure how to answer.

"We got Gwen out very early this morning, she seems alright. Eira decided to turn back to find Jetta and Gaius, but I fear something’s happened to her. Tell the others that," the voice continued and Areisius realized that it was Merlin.

He knew that Merlin was a sorcerer, but how could he reach him? A voice rose from inside of him and before he knew it, he was speaking back to Merlin.

"But how can you speak to me?" he asked hesitantly.

At first, he wasn’t sure if Merlin had even heard him but then he spoke. ”Right from the start I knew there was something different about you. I understood why you were so upset when your horse was in that accident; you felt guilty because you think you could’ve done something. Do you believe in fate, Areisius?"

"I guess?" he replied unsurely.

"There’s nothing you can do about it now. If you were meant to save your horse, it would have happened," Merlin said wisely, and Areisius felt like those were the exact words he had been needing to hear for a long time. Merlin knew that Areisius had magic, or whatever it was that he had. At least someone understood him. Merlin was the first one to.

He tried to answer and thank Merlin, but no reply came. Areisius looked up at Percival and Gwaine, riding in front of him and laughing cheerfully. How was he supposed to tell them about what he could do? Or that he didn’t even know exactly what he could do? He decided that he felt more comfortable telling them both at the same time, it was quick and straightforward. He cleared his throat loudly, causing the two knights to give him their attention. “I’m really not quite sure how to tell you this but...I...umm...I have magic. Merlin sent me some kind of message in my head,” Areisius said a bit too quickly and then repeated the message for them.

“Woah, woah, wait, Merlin?” Gwaine asked, very confused, looking at Percival to see if he had a similar reaction. Areisius froze. They didn’t know. “I’m...I’m not sure,” he lied. Gwaine saw the look on his face and knew that that wasn’t the truth. Areisius gave in, “He has magic. I thought you knew,” he said, a bit ashamed and guilty. Gwaine drove his hand through his hair. He opened his mouth and then closed it. “Gwaine, you ride ahead. I want to tell him something,” Percival said thoughtfully.

“What, now you’re a sorcerer too?” Gwaine said sarcastically and angrily urged his horse into a fast trot, obviously having trouble controlling his emotions.

Percival turned to Areisius. “It’s not your fault. Gwaine and Merlin were very close friends. This whole journey ended up kind of taking over their friendship, I haven’t seen them talk the way they used to. What you just told us didn’t hit me hard because I don’t know Merlin like Gwaine does. This issue has nothing to do with magic though, I know Gwaine has nothing against it, I mean Eira, the person he cares about most in the entire world, has it. He’ll be over it soon,” Percival said, trying to settle Areisius’ nerves.

“Thank you, Percival,” Areisius responded sincerely, looking off in the direction Gwaine had ridden.

The two soon caught up to Gwaine, who noticed them immediately, a flare of fury still in his eyes. “She knows doesn’t she? Eira,” he said, staring straight at Areisius. Areisius felt the same headache he had felt before take over him, before his body started shaking and everything he could see went black.

Gwaine watched as Areisius, his eyes rolled up to allow a white glow to enter them, fell off his horse and lay shuddering and trembling on the ground. Gwaine dismounted when Percival did, but none of the knights dared to touch the boy. Suddenly he stopped moving and his lips parted. A voice took over the one belonging to Areisius, and Gwaine recognized it as Merlin’s.

“I never meant for it to be Areisius who had to expose my secret. The purpose of Areisius’ magic is to deliver messages, and in this way I can enter his body and speak, in a way I cannot do to Eira or anyone else with magic. Areisius is special. I’m sorry Gwaine, truly, I am. I’ve been trying to find a way to tell you but nothing fit together this time,” Merlin spoke.

Gwaine found it all strange, but there was so much ‘strange’ now that he wasn’t really surprised deep inside.

“I guess I always knew that there was something about you Merlin. I think, in my heart, I knew. I would never lose you as a close friend because of this, and the reason I was angry was because I assumed that you thought you couldn’t trust me,” he said, not quite knowing the reason why himself.

“Does Eira know?” he asked Merlin’s voice.

“Yes. To be honest, she’s known from the day after I met her for the first time,” he confessed. Gwaine nodded, but nothing anyone said could make him feel differently about Eira.

“And now she’s probably been captured again. Typical her,” he said, smiling slightly, and crossed his arms.

“Yes. Gwen and I are in the exact place we parted, by the creek,” he finished but before they could ask him anymore, he was gone. Suddenly Areisius’ clear blue eyes appeared in the place of the white glow and he inhaled sharply, sitting up abruptly. Gwaine lifted his hands innocently, raising his eyebrows and leaving the situation as he mounted his horse, giving Percival the difficult task of explaining what had happened to a confused and bewildered Areisius.

Since Eira had been awake the entire night, she used the time in her cell to sleep. The guard had put her as close to the guard table as possible, wanting to make sure that she couldn’t escape. A wave of cold air hit her and she covered herself with her cloak although it didn’t bring her any warmth. She felt more alone now that she really was.

At noon, a guard opened her cell and brought her up the stairs, away from the dungeons, and towards the throne room. The doors of it opened and the guard attached a chain to her handcuffs behind her back, forcing her to stay standing in the same spot. “Leave us,” a voice coming from behind the chair said, and the guard left, leaving Eira completely alone in the middle of the throne room with whoever was behind the throne. Or ruling it.

When the doors closed, King Aymon walked into sight, strolling towards her confidently. His heels hit the floor like he owned it, which she refused to believe. He stopped a few inches away from her, examining her face. “You almost single-handedly defeated my guards, and escaped, yet you choose to come back willingly. Why?” he questioned impatiently.

“Unlike you, I have friends here. Loyalty, sire,” she said, enunciating the last word sarcastically. She awaited an irritated response, but none came. She met Aymon’s eyes but they remained unchanged.

“It just so happens that I know a lot about you. Before you rescued Guinevere, she was forced to answer some questions. Areisius was also a great deal of help,” he said and smiled when she flinched. “I see you know him. Before I became king, I lived in Caerleon. I saw the boy in the town, lost and confused. He did not deserve the pity an orphan would get, because his parents weren’t dead, they abandoned him, an almost worse fate. I watched him for weeks, and you know what I discovered?” Aymon said, moving closer to her, putting his face very close to hers. She tried to turn away from him.

“His magic was that of a messenger’s,” Aymon concluded, searching her for a reaction. Areisius had magic? She felt shocked but then suddenly realized that that had been the thing he wanted to tell her before they parted.

“Then I left to Camelot, and here I am. Believe it or not, my own magic allows me to somewhat manipulate that of others, so I entered Areisius body, knowing that your group was spending time with him, and I was therefore able to hear everything that had happened in Caerleon when the knights thoroughly explained it to him,” he stated, raising his head and sighing contently.

“Is that supposed to impress me?” she shot at him, but he merely shook his head nonchalantly in response. At least Areisius wasn’t in on any of it.

"I know about the bandits, and your nightmares. I know how you’ve been feeling. Gwaine cannot distract you after every nightmare, you know. Eira, you have the immense power to heal others, yet you cannot heal yourself. I know that everything happened so quickly, how you were drawn into Gwaine’s world, drawn into Camelot’s problems, forced to face the bandits all by yourself. Did you have nightmares before Gwaine rescued you from your village?” he asked, changing his tone to sound pitiful and sympathetic.

She knew that the answer to his question was no, which was what scared her.

“Eira, the leader bandit didn’t send those dreams to you, they were completely of your own doing. You never once stopped to ask for help, you never once asked people to slow down and deal with their own problems. Why, you are the perfect example of what happens to someone when they let too much in!” Aymon exclaimed, placing his hand on her face and stroking it.

In that moment, she realized what he was doing.

“You’re wrong. I have chosen to do and take part in things, all by myself, and that is exactly what makes me like this! I will never allow you to manipulate me into thinking that this is negative. Yes, the nightmares I have aren’t exactly pleasant, but they do remind me of what I have accomplished, alone!” she fired back, twisting away from him only to hear the rattle of her chains when they wouldn’t move any further. He looked slightly outraged at her response and snapped his fingers, causing everything to turn black as soon as her body hit the floor.

She couldn’t feel the presence of Aymon; she couldn’t feel anything. She was thrown back as she felt a wave of emotions hit her, first guilt, then sadness, jealousy, joy, longing, rage, fear...they all pulsed through her, and she knew that this intensity of emotion when there were so many could destroy her. A pounding in her head worsened, and she suddenly felt all right for half a second before more emotions consumed her again, rattling within her and threatening to break through her skin. It was as if her heart was a portal, and she didn’t know how to stop the thread of feelings coming into her. She tried to breathe and her heart almost got stuck in her throat, as did the air she was craving and she felt trampled, pushed down not by something physical around her, but by something inside of her. Suddenly, all of the emotions connected to memories and when her eyes flew open, a moving image of the fear she had felt when the bandits attacked consumed her before leaving and allowing the sense of no control to enter, attached to the image of her fight with Gwaine. The memories connected to the emotions made it harder for her to push them down and they took over so much of her mind that she wasn’t sure if she was still in her body and her stomach clenched together before she felt a sharp pain in her heart, like a needle pushing through it. Suddenly, she opened her mouth and felt strings of emotions pulse out through her, somehow layering the different waves of strong feelings and then her vision twisted and she was back in the throne room, on the floor.

“Everything you just felt was induced by you, Eira, no one else. All of those emotions were inside of you, they were emotions you have seen in others, and felt in yourself. When all of them unite, you begin to realize how much emotions hurt you. If I had let that go on for a while longer, you would be dead right now. This is why I have searched for an emotion releasing incantation. I’ve cast it on myself,” Aymon said and let out a sick, unrealistic, crazy laugh reflecting what he really was, his real qualities. He smiled twistedly, his eyes sprung wide open. “Let me help you,” he said and walked towards her slowly, which made him even more haunting.

“No! You can’t break me, I would rather keep all of my emotions than lose them. Without feelings, you aren’t truly human. I will not let you take that away from me!” she screamed, getting off of the floor and standing up with new strength, ready to defend herself. The king continued towards her, but then veered past her and barged out of the throne room. Eira looked around, and except for one guard standing right next to the door, she was left completely alone in the cold, throne room.

Merlin knew that there was one person he needed to talk to. Kilgharrah. He looked at Gwen, sleeping a few metres away on the ground, and a few seconds later, the huge dragon, looking the same as he always had, landed in front of him.

“Merlin. You look exhausted. I suspect there is an important reason you summoned me,” Kilgharrah started, eyeing Merlin.

“Camelot is lost. I fear it will be forever, if Gwen’s hope and joy isn’t restored by Arthur,” Merlin stated, doubting that the dragon would listen to him the way he wanted him to.

“I have heard whispers. The druids have spoken of a possible short return. If she manages to escape, Eira can help you bring him back. I know that you already have the Helix, use it right and it will listen, it is connected to a person from your past, Merlin. You have shown yourselves worthy of Arthur,” the Great Dragon responded. Merlin felt surprised. No cryptic response, different from what he was used to.

“But Merlin, there is a catch. Arthur will be given three full days to restore his kingdom, and at midnight on the third day, he must be back by the lake of Avalon. Everyone who deserves it will have their age frozen in time for twelve years, like Arthur’s. The reasons behind this shall remain hidden. After that, you will continue to age. On its twelfth birthday, Arthur’s child must travel to the lake and welcome him, for that will be when Arthur is destined to rise again,” the dragon finished, sounding content that he had been able to finally tell Merlin everything. Before Merlin had a chance to ask him anymore, the dragon started lifting into the sky. ”This is in your hands now Merlin," the dragon said in Merlin’s head and as Kilgharrah soared off in the sky, Merlin felt a forgotten feeling inside of him resurface, and he smiled, truly, for the first time since Arthur had died.

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