~20 years ago~
“Sire!” Sir Leon burst into the throne room, and Arthur and Merlin looked up from their maps with alarm.
“What is it, Leon?”
“It’s…” Leon looked like he was about to be sick and Arthur felt a feeling of dread growing in the pit of his stomach. “It’s…its Gwen, sire.” Terror shot through Arthur, and he felt Merlin tense beside him. “She’s gone, sire. She’s been kidnapped.”
The doors of the throne room flew open
for a second time that evening. Merlin and Arthur were inside, trying to locate
Gwen using a difficult finding spell. Arthur spun round at the Leon’s
entrance. “Do you have news?” the king cried desperately. But Leon shook his
head, looking worse than before. “I’m afraid sire…there’s an army approaching
the castle, lead by Morgana.” Arthur blanched. He had thought Morgana was dead.
They all had, even Merlin. Leon
was still talking.
“I’m sorry, sire, I’m so sorry, but you have to sound the alarm and gather the knights.”
Arthur felt as though he was being torn apart inside. His kingdom or Gwen? Then Merlin appeared by his side, and Arthur found himself staring into the eyes of his best friend. “Go,” he said, “You have to. I will find Gwen, I promise.”
Arthur hesitated. He knew that Merlin’s spell would put him in a light trance, and his friend would be defenceless. But Arthur had to defend his kingdom. “I’ll leave some guards with you,” he decided.
Merlin nodded shortly and Arthur waved his hand at the guards standing by the door. “Stay with him,” he told them, “Do not let anyone in, even me, unless they know your names,” It wasn’t a watertight check, he knew, but it would have to do.
He looked each of the guards in the eye one last time. “Protect Merlin with your life,” he said gravely, “or you will lose yours.” He caught sight of Merlin rolling his eyes at that, and allowed himself a small smirk.
Then Arthur turned back to Leon, serious once more. “Let’s go,” he said, pulling Excalibur from his belt, “I will gather the knights, and you find Agravaine to warn him of the army.”
Arthur was running through the castle as
fast as he could, fighting a new enemy every few paces. These soldiers were
different – not immortal, like the last ones, but almost impossible to beat.
They were a two thousand strong army of the best fighters Arthur had ever been up against, so good that they had to be magically enhanced.
These soldiers’ skills were scaring him; if he could barely hold his own against them, how did anyone else have a hope?
The soldier he was fighting lunged for his chest and Arthur failed to block it. The point of the sword was inches away from his chest when another blade sliced the head off his enemy, who fell forward to reveal Sir Leon.
Arthur grinned with relief and clapped his friend on the shoulder. “Thank you, Leon. I thought I was dead for sure,” But the smile slid off his face when he noticed Leon’s expression. “Leon? What is it? What’s happened?”
“I’m sorry, sire, but…” Leon trailed off and appeared to be fighting back tears. Arthur had never seen his friend like this, and it filled him with fear. “Percival and Elyan, Arthur. They’re dead.”
Arthur and Leon were slaughtering
enemies with a vengeance now. The fierce rage that filled them gave them extra
strength, and many of Morgana’s army were falling at their feet. But they kept
Leon had reported that he had not seen Gwaine since the battle had begun. In a normal battle Arthur wouldn’t be worried, but against these soldiers?
He couldn’t lose Gwaine as well. Not after Percival and Elyan. And Merlin would be heartbroken. Gaius had died a natural death only a year before, and to lose Gwaine so soon after? Arthur wasn’t sure if Merlin would ever recover.
And then there was Agravaine. Leon said that Arthur’s uncle had been missing from his chambers when the knight went to warn him of the attack. Had he been kidnapped as well? Or – Arthur forced himself to consider it – did he have something to do with this?
The thought made him so angry that he cut down the man in front of him with such speed that the nearby soldiers backed away.
Arthur, Leon, and the rest of the remaining knights – except Gwaine – crashed back into the throne room, retreating from the army that was far too powerful for them.
The king’s head was spinning. He had no idea if he could win this battle. Could he take Merlin and the nights, hide in the forest again? But where was Gwen? Had Merlin found her yet? And Gwaine? And Agravaine?
“Guard the door!” he shouted to two of the knights.
The guards protecting Merlin stepped forward, drawing their swords. “Luthar Eanraig!” Arthur gasped, holding out his hands in a peace gesture, “And Ulric Niad!” The guards relaxed and resheathed their swords.
“Sorry sire,” said Eanraig, looking slightly embarrassed, “Only, you told us to make sure -”
Arthur waved away the apology. “It’s alright. You were doing your job.” Then the guards were gone from his mind as he ran to Merlin. The Court Sorcerer was sitting, clearly still in his trance, his hands drifting over a map aimlessly.
“Merlin?” whispered Arthur hesitantly. No response. Arthur turned away from him. Merlin would wake up when he was finished, and tell him where Gwen was, but for now he needed a plan. He needed to think of something, anything, to fight back against Morgana’s army.
“Right,” he shouted to the people in the room, “I think I -” The king was cut off by a loud shout that came from outside. The entire room spun round and stared at the door. Arthur’s heart was pounding. Were they here? The enchanted army?
“Arthur!” Merlin’s voice made him forget the shout, forget everything, and turn to face his best friend. The sorcerer was on his feet, eyes wide and excited.
“Gwen! I found her!” Hope shot through Arthur.
“She’s -” Merlin stopped and frowned. “Arthur, she’s… she’s here. She’s in the castle.”
Arthur opened his mouth to respond, but he was interrupted by the throne room doors once more slamming open. The two knights who had been guarding the door fell into the room, both dead.
Arthur watched in detached horror as his uncle stepped over the bodies and strode into the room, a triumphant sneer on his face.
“Your Majesty,” he smirked, and bowed mockingly. Arthur simply stared at him, his mouth hanging open in shock.
He had always thought there was something a little off about Agravaine, and Merlin had never seemed to trust him, so he’d been careful to double check the advice he gave with Merlin or Gwen, but this…he’d never expected this level of betrayal. But then, he never expected it from Morgana either.
A quick glance round at Merlin told him that his friend hadn’t known either, but he looked less surprised, like he’d suspected it.
“Nothing to say, Sire?” jeered Agravaine. Arthur cleared his throat, trying to regain his voice and his authority.
“Agravaine,” he growled, “Where is Guinevere? Where is your Queen?”
Agravaine simply laughed. White hot anger rose up inside the king.
“Merlin!” he roared, “Bind him, and make him tell me!”
Merlin raised his hands, his normally kind eyes flashing furiously. But a loud, horribly familiar voice stopped him, and caused every knight in the room to draw their swords.
“Oh, I don’t think so, Arthur,” said the voice from the corridor, and in walked the woman whom Arthur hated more than anything else in the world, holding a knife to his wife’s throat. “Do you?”