The Bargain

Chapter 8

Percival had excused himself from the table shortly after Eira left. He had remembered seeing a certain mark on some sort of cloth on a tree that he wanted to check on patrol, but the other knights had dismissed it. Percival thought he had seen that mark somewhere.

A groom readied his horse and Percival rode out into the woods. He thought of his beloved Jetta and the day they had spent together as he rode. Maybe he would introduce her to Eira, they would probably become friends, despite their differences. He understood that Eira needed female company too, and he could see that she was not exactly close to Gwen.

Suddenly he heard voices in the distance. They didn't sound like a patrol, nor did he recognize them, so he moved closer.

"Jewellery is what you royals seem to love isn't it?" A deep man's voice said. It sounded mocking, but soon the two figures came into view. A woman was standing against a tree, and in front of her, a man moved closer.

Even though the light was fading, he could see faint details. The woman had light hair and her dress looked strangely familiar. That was the dress Guinevere had given to Eira back in Camelot! But it couldn't be Eira, she wouldn't ride out into the woods to meet someone...would she? Percival thoughts became even more confused when he saw the man step even closer, take her face in his hands and kiss her.

Eira felt the bandit's rough lips meet hers and tried to pull away. The rope dug into her skin and it was to no use. Her desperate attempts to pull away and free herself strengthened the seeming fire and reality of the kiss.

Percival couldn't stand looking their way anymore and he turned his horse around. He felt betrayed, Gwaine stood so close to him that it felt like a dagger to his own heart. There was no one else that girl could be, was there? Had what he had seen even been real? How could Eira do that? His confusion turned to anger. How was he supposed to tell Gwaine? He barely knew anything about what lay between Eira and Gwaine, but judging by the look laced with an atmospherical intimacy that had passed between the two at dinner, he knew that it was not right for Eira to do what he had just seen happen.

Should he even tell Gwaine? He urged his horse into a gallop.

He decided that he would confront Eira and give her one chance to break it off with this man, whoever he was, otherwise he would tell Gwaine. It seemed like a good plan to him, even though he felt guilty.

The conflicted knight rode through the gates of Camelot and walked up to Gwaine's chambers. He knocked on the door and entered, finding Gwaine by the window.

Gwaine looked out of the open window he leaned against, facing out to the path leading into the woods. He turned around and saw Percival standing in the door.

"Shouldn't she be back by now?" Percival said.

"That's what I'm thinking," Gwaine said anxiously.



"Eira never talked about her previous love affairs, did she?" Percival asked but when he saw his friend's confused face he continued. "I was just wondering if there was maybe someone else that she hadn't quite gotten over..."

"Why would you think that? I know she has had other lovers in the past, but not when we found her alone in Stowell, everyone was dead."

"And you don't think anyone there could have survived and made it out?" he asked, but before Gwaine could answer, they both heard a loud, startled neigh, and saw a horse come galloping out of the woods.

Percival looked at Gwaine, and they both ran down to the gates as fast as they could. They calmed the horse down and led it to the stables. Gwaine studied it to see if there were any signs to show that it was the horse Eira had taken.

"Percival, look! It's her pouch, she always brings it when she's out riding," Gwaine said. Percival nodded and then pointed to her knife, still attached to the saddle.

"Well, it doesn't necessarily have to mean that something has happened to her," Percival said, but the worried tone of his voice was evident when he spoke.

"But what if it has. It's dark now, she won't be able to find her way back to Camelot, even if she's alright. We have to go looking for her. I have already lost her once, I won't lose her again," Gwaine said and Percival nodded. He wondered if she was still with that man. In that case, it would definitely be better if Gwaine saw her, and she saw him. Gwaine ran up the stairs to tell Gwen and Merlin.

Percival led Eira's horse to the groom and asked him if this was the horse that a young woman with light hair had recently taken out into the woods. The boy nodded at the description of Eira, and then took the horse. Percival thanked him, took Eira's things, and ran up to join Gwaine in Gwen's chambers.

Gwaine was explaining the situation to Gwen and Merlin, who were looking worried.

"We should send out a patrol. You two can lead it. Even if it's not needed when you find her, she will at least feel reassured that she has friends she can count on who worry for her. Please find her, we need her to help bring Arthur back. Good luck and be careful."

Leon entered and Gwen told him to bring two or three knights and to join Gwaine, Merlin and Percival. The knights quickly got ready and the patrol of seven mounted their horses and started riding up the long, wide path into the woods.

"It seems your girl has already gotten herself into trouble again," Leon teased and Gwaine glimpsed a smile on his face lit up by the torch.

"What about Percival? He looks so unhappy! Is something wrong?" Gwaine replied and laughed. When Percival didn't reply, Leon said, "Percival has someone too, her name is Jetta. But she's neither wild nor dangerous, she likes picnics in the woods, and butterflies and flowers….right Percival?"

"Well, I guess it's true, she's not adventurous and wild, but I still love her," Percival said and tried to smile.

He realized that he could not let Gwaine find out what he knew about Eira if they found her.

Eira felt the cool and sharp blade against her neck and knew that she had to do something. Her horse was gone, and she had no chance if she tried to escape by foot. She could only hope that someone was coming, she just had to stall the bandits. She felt sick.

"Tell us, Jane," the leader bandit's dumb companion joined in. He touched her cheek, and then brought his hand to her neck and jerked her necklace from it.

"This must be worth quite a lot," he said and smiled his toothless grin.

She stayed silent and gasped when the leader moved the knife down to her leg instead. Waves of anxiety and fear crashed into her and she realized that there were thousands of outcomes the situation could have.

"You will tell us, or you're going to end up not able to walk as well,"

"Never," Eira said stubbornly. She prayed it was the right choice, but she didn’t know if her mouth had been able to utter any word but ‘no.’ Betraying Camelot was not something she wanted to risk a second time.

"Well then," the bandit said casually.

Eira cried out when he pulled the blade against her leg, making a deep, gushing wound.

Somewhere in the distance, Gwaine heard a scream that sent a shiver down his spine.

Eira. He looked at Merlin and the other knights. They had heard it too, and everyone quickly took off in the direction that it had come from.

Eira couldn't breathe because of the levels of pain heavily pumping from her wound, but she could hear hoofbeats coming their way and the bandits yelled at each other.

The leader bandit ran up to her and roughly untied her. To her horror, she saw that he was holding a snake. Panicking, she tried to get away, but once again the ropes dug into her skin and the bandit laughed cruelly. He murmured a magical incantation and the snake sunk it's venomous teeth into her arm. "This, is so that there's no evidence of us. We'll let you die a slow and painful death from bleeding and venom, you'll be dead soon anyway. Let's go!" The bandit turned back to look at her collapsed against the tree, as he got on his horse and smiled cruelly.

"Oh, and if you survive and tell anyone what happened tonight, people close to you are going to get seriously hurt, maybe even killed. We'll be back," he finished.

The scattered leaves and torn branches from her attempts to free herself were gone the second after the leader pointed to the area along with magical words flying from his lips.

The group of bandits took off on their horses in a few seconds, and then she couldn't hear them anymore.

Her vision started to blur, and she cried. No one's gonna rescue me anyway, it's just like he said. She couldn't summon enough strength to use magic and her leg was useless. No, no, no, this couldn’t be happening. She didn't want to die, but thought that if there was any hope left, it was towards Camelot.

She used the tree as support as she steadied herself, grabbed a stick on the ground and tried to start walking. After just a few moments, the pain in her leg and arm was so sharp that she felt her limbs give way and she fell to the ground. As she slipped into unconsciousness, she saw blurry figures come riding her way.
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