The knights stood together, their red cloaks billowing in the wind that was coming off the giant lake. In front of them sat a boat. A simple boat but they had lined it with wild flowers and grass. Ira lay in the middle, she looked exactly as they had found her, still smiling. They had placed her so that she was still holding her sword but it was against her chest and ran down her body. No one spoke, they were still in shock. Merlin was standing to one side, something didn't feel right, but he couldn't think what. He remembered back to just after the fight. They had won, but in the confusion after the battle Ira had slipped away. Her disappearance hadn't been noticed until sometime after. They had packed their supplies and were preparing to depart to one of the villages, as the villagers they had saved had offered for them a place to stay for the night, when Leon had asked where she was.
"She went into the forest" Percival answered.
"Why?" All he got was a shrug in return.
"I'll go tell her we're leaving" Elyan offered passing his reigns to Merlin and walking in the general direction Percival had pointed out. Entering the mass of trees he walked about fifty yards before he came across a willow tree in a slight clearing. Pushing through the leaves he saw Ira sleeping against the tree, he smiled slightly and crossed the distance between them to wake her up.
"Ira" he said standing in front of her. There was no reply so he repeated himself slightly louder. Still no reply. Crouching down he gently shook her, her head rolled onto her shoulder. Putting her head back up against the tree Elyan spotted a red stain on her side, he moved round to see it clearly, it was a big stain. It was blood. Her blood. Standing up quickly he backed away. He stood looking at her for a full minute before he came to his senses.
The rest of the knights and Merlin had already mounted and were waiting for them to return. Hearing a loud rustle in the trees they looked over to see Elyan stumble towards them.
"Are you alright?" Arthur asked noticing that he looked slightly pale, Elyan shook his head, unable to speak he motioned back towards the trees.
"What's the matter? Did you find Ira?" Gwaine asked, the way Elyan nodded in reply made Gwaines stomach sink. "What's happened?" He said jumping off his horse, all Elyan could do was point in the direction she was before Gwaine sprinted into the trees, the others not far behind him. When they caught up and entered the clearing with the willow tree they saw Gwaine on his knees clutching Iras body and silently crying. Arthur walked over and put his hand on his shoulder, when Merlin walked over Gwaine gently put her body down to allow him to examine the wound. He ran his hands through his hair as Merlin gave them his verdict.
"The wound wasn't fatal" he said his voice sounding hollow, "but the weapon that was used had poison on it, that's what killed her." There was silence as everyone digested the news.
"I'll bury her, I have to bury her" Gwaine said to himself.
"We will give her a good send-off" Arthur said, "there's a lake, not far from here." There was silence.
"Don't you dare tell me what I can or can't do. It's all your fault she’s dead" Gwaines voice was quiet but had an ice cold edge to it. "Her death is on your head" he stood up quickly and rounded on him. "You were the one that brought her out here, she should have stayed in Camelot."
"But she insisted..."
"Then you should have made her" he shouted suddenly. They stared at each other for a few seconds before Arthur broke the silence.
"You're right, her death is my fault. I should have found another way, but we had so little time. Gwaine I can't tell you how sorry I am, how angry I am with myself. She was one of the best fighters I have ever met, in the small amount of time I knew her she was arrogant and cocky, just like you. But I also got to know her other side, the noble, honourable and loyal side." By now Gwaine had slumped back onto his knees, tears were streaming down his face, but Arthur continued. "That side is the one I will always remember, she stood forward when no one else did. She put her life on the line to save the lives of many, many people, and she did so selflessly. She died a warrior and hero, and that is how we will remember her. So let us be the ones to see her out of this world, let us give her the burial she deserves." He let the clearing fall into silence again. All Gwaine could do was nod.
It was slowly getting darker as the knights made their way back to the horses. Gwaine was carrying Iras body. They travelled through the night until they reached the shores of the lake where they rested until it was light enough to make the preparations.
And now here they stood, in silence. But Merlin still felt there was something wrong, something he was missing. He ran through the events of the previous couple of hours right up to the point where they had laid her limp body in the boat. Limp body. That was it he thought. She wasn't dead. He looked up to see Gwaine slowly advancing towards the boat holding the torch.
"Gwaine stop" he shouted, Gwaine stumbled slightly and turned around, tears still streaked down his face. "She's not dead" he laughed suddenly as it all made sense, "she's not dead, Ira's not dead" he repeated. Everyone was looking at him so he explained. "It's not poison."
"Merlin, what are you talking about?" Arthur asked.
"I... It... It didn't make sense until now!" He started to walk towards the boat, he could see Gwaine tensing slightly. He reached into the boat and held her wrist, lifting it into the air easily he let it drop.
"Merlin what are you doing?"
"She's still limp" he explained, "when someone dies after a couple of hours their body stiffens up and goes rigid, Iras isn't." He leant over to try and feel her pulse angry with himself that he didn't do it back in the clearing. There it was. Incredibly weak, but there. "She has a pulse!" When he heard that Gwaine was by the boat in a heartbeat he put his hand to her neck. Merlin was right, there was a pulse.
"But if it's not poison, then why is she like this?"
"I think it's some sort of potion that immobilises you, it gives you the effects of being dead, but doesn't kill you. The bandit must have intended for it to work quicker, that way Ira wouldn't have been able to stop the bleeding from the wound and would feel herself dying incredibly slowly and painfully."
"Then why didn't it?"
"There are many reasons, it could have been an old potion or he might have watered it down to make it last longer or he might not have put enough on the blade."
"So it can be reversed?" Arthur asked slowly, Merlin nodded.
"But how?" Leon asked having joined them with the others by the side of the boat. Merlin was silent.
"I don't know" he admitted eventually, "Gaius might, we should take her back to Camelot" he suggested. The others nodded in agreement and Merlin, Leon and Elyan went to get the horses whilst Percival, Gwaine and Arthur dragged the boat back up the shore and lifted Ira out. Then mounting they rode back to Camelot as quickly as they could.