Merlin looked down at Ira. Gwaine had left not so long ago to get some provisions for the journey, but had promised to stay clear of the horses and anything else that might draw attention and alert the others to what they were about to do. Curious about the potion he had been reading through what little information Gaius had about it, and had come across an interesting line; once consumed, the potion will not allow communication, unless they be practised in the arts of sorcery. Merlin had re read that line several times and now thought he understood what it meant, but he wasn't sure. Thinking it was worth a try Merlin placed his hands either side of Iras head. At that moment Gaius walked in to see Merlin holding Iras head and staring at her.
"Merlin, what are you doing?" Merlin looked up quickly and relaxed when he saw it was just Gaius, he walked over to the table where the book still lay open.
"This line here" he said pointing to it. "What do you think it means?" Gaius crossed the room and put his bag down.
"Well it says that there is a possibility of communication so long as the person that drank the potion is a sorcerer. At least that is my understanding of it."
"But what if the sorcerer doesn't have to be the person that drank it?"
"Are you suggesting that you might be able communicate with her?" Merlin nodded. "How?"
"I don't know" he admitted, Gaius frowned.
"But why would you need to?" He asked.
"I...I don't know, I just... I just feel like I should reassure her, that we are going to reverse the effects" Gaius narrowed his eyes.
"What do you mean reverse the effects? How? The only way is by taking her to the Druids, and Arthur specifically forbade anyone to go" he paused. "Merlin what aren't you telling me?" Having already agreed with Gwaine that they would tell Gaius the truth so he could cover for them, Merlin didn't try to cover it up.
"We're going to the Druids, tonight" he admitted.
"Merlin. Arthur has forbidden anyone to go. I take it it's both you and Gwaine going?" Merlin nodded.
"We were also hoping that you would cover for us" he said smiling slightly.
"Cover for you!? But what do I say?"
"Anything, you're good at coming up with excuses" Gaius said nothing. "Oh come on Gaius, it's the only way we can save her, you said it yourself. I can't let her die!"
"When do you leave?" He asked.
"Basically as soon as Gwaine gets back, we'll only be gone for about half a day." Eventually Gaius reluctantly agreed and it wasn't long before Gwaine slipped into the room, a bag under his arm.
"Are you ready?" He asked passing the bag to Merlin who nodded. Picking Ira up Merlin covered her slightly with a blanket.
"That should make it less conspicuous" he said. They carried her through the silent castle not meeting anybody, until they reached the stables.
When they walked into the dim light they saw a cloaked figure was leaning against the wall waiting for them. Merlin and Gwaine stopped dead, hoping they might not have been seen they started to creep back towards the door.
"There's no point backing away, I've seen you" the figure said walking forwards, pulling back his hood they saw it was Percival.
"Percival! What are you doing here?" Gwaine asked, looking around suspiciously.
"I could ask you the same thing, though that would be pointless as I already know" he replied smiling slightly.
"So you're here to stop us? Is Arthur here or are you going to tell him now?" Percival was silent for a moment.
"No, I'm here to help you. I knew what you would do, I know you too well. So I thought you might at least want some extra protection if things go wrong," Gwaine grinned.
"Thanks" he said, he looked like he was going to go on but Merlin interrupted him.
"We're losing time" he reminded them. Gwaine looked quickly around and cursed. There were no horses.
"What happened? Where are the horses?"
"Arthur knew you would try and get out and would need horses, so he had them relocated without you knowing."
"What are we going to do? Without the horses we have no way of getting to the Druids in time" ignoring Merlin, Percival continued.
"We're still losing time, follow me." Having no choice but to follow him they headed back out of the stables towards the main castle. Whilst they were walking Percival continued talking. "Luckily I managed to get hold of three and leave them in the forest."
"The forest?" Percival nodded.
"That's perfect, it means we don't have to avoid patrols."
"Percival you are a genius" Gwaine declared as they found one of the passages and headed out towards the forest. Once they found the horses and mounted they headed off towards the Forest of Ascetir.
The sun had just begun to rise when they entered the trees. Merlin who had been riding at the front, leading the way, slowly came to a stop.
"What's the matter?" Gwaine asked quietly, stopping next to him.
"They should just be over the ridge over there" he answered. "But I think it would be wise to approach on foot." Gwaine waited until Percival had dismounted before passing down Iras body and dismounting himself.
"So what do we do?" Percival asked. "Do we just walk in there?" They could tell he was getting nervous and slightly twitchy, by the fact he hadn't taken his hand off his sword.
"Yes but we have to leave all weapons with the horses." Percival looked up sharply.
"We'll be fine, the Druids won't hurt us." Slowly Percival unsheathed his sword and put it on his horse, then after a quick nod from Gwaine they walked over the ridge. The Druid camp spread out below them filled with people of all ages wearing various coloured cloaks. None of them paid them any attention until they stepped into the camp. They had just walked through the first couple of shelters when a slightly older man stepped forward. He studied each of them in turn before he spoke, his voice quiet and melodic.
"Greetings Merlin, sir Gwaine and sir Percival." Merlin smiled and nodded in return, Gwaine just accepted it but Percival looked completely confused.
"How did you know our names?" He asked.
"That does not matter" the man replied. "What business do you have for entering a Druid camp? Especially as you are knights from Camelot, where we know sorcery and anyone connected to it is outlawed."
"We came to you for help" Gwaine started. "My sister was stabbed with a blade laced with one of your potions, apparently you are the only ones that can reverse it." The Druid was silent for a moment.
"If you would follow me." He turned and started walking further into the camp. Merlin followed immediately who was followed slightly cautiously by Gwaine and, not wanting to be left behind, Percival. He led them to a clearing in the middle of the shelters and gestured for Gwaine to put Iras body down. Once she was on the ground the Druid knelt down next to her, taking her wrists in his hands he closed his eyes.
"What's he doing?" Percival whispered to Gwaine who shrugged.
"Taking her pulse?" He replied, guessing. The Druid stood up.
"This was not one of our potions" he informed them gravely. "It is a mimic, therefore incredibly dangerous."
"But you can reverse it, can't you?" The Druid shook his head.
"No one here is strong enough to do so. It takes a great sorcerer to undo what has been done to your sister. But please stay and rest here for a while, you have had a long and tiring journey." With that the Druid turned and started walking away.
"Wait, please" Gwaine called after him, he turned back. "There must be something you can do? Anything?" The Druid nodded slowly in thought.
"There might be something" he said quietly, "but it is unfinished and untested. There is a chance that it might not work."
"But if it does she will wake up again?"
"Yes." Before Gwaine could answer Percival whispered angrily at him.
"Gwaine what are you doing? This, whatever it is, hasn't been tested, who knows what might happen."
"It's her only choice" he replied.
"You said it hadn't been finished? Why?" Merlin asked the Druid.
"It is a simple potion yet we lack the final part for it."
"What's the final part of it?" The Druid was silent for a while before he answered.
"Someone who is willing to give part of their life" the knights stared at the Druid speechless.
"Why part of their life?"
"This potion is unknown to us, therefore we don't know how much it will take to bring her back. If this was one of our potions the process is simple, a sorcerer would simply call her back through her mind. It would be the same in this instance but we do not have a powerful enough sorcerer so this is not the case."
"And if it fails, do they both die?" The Druid nodded, they were silent, each thinking over the consequences if it went wrong, eventually Gwaine spoke.
"I'll do it" he said.
"But if it doesn't work you will die" Merlin protested.
"But if it does, Ira lives. I have to do this" he said before turning to the Druid. "I'll do it" he repeated, the Druid merely nodded and smiled.
Gaius woke to someone knocking at the door. Pulling himself up he called for them to enter, Arthur, Leon and Elyan walked in.
"Sire, what may I do for you?"
"Merlin didn't show up this morning, we couldn't find Gwaine or Percival and were wondering if Ira was still here?" Gaius pursed his lips.
"Um unfortunately sire she's not. You see I was doing some reading up on the potion and discovered an alternative method of waking her up." Arthurs eyebrows rose in surprise.
"Yes sire, so I sent Merlin and Gwaine out to try it and I'm assuming they probably ran into Percival and he went with them." He had already worked out a likely cover and planned to tell them that they had gone to the pool of Nemhain. But Gaius forgot.
"So where are they?" Panicking slightly Gaius said the first thing that came into his head.
"The tavern" he answered a bit too quickly before realising his error.
"The tavern?" Arthur repeated slowly. Sighing inwardly he knew he couldn’t backtrack so decided to go with it and went on.
"You see there's a specific aroma that occurs, it's more pungent in the early hours of the morning as well, that is said to have invigorating effects. It's even worked waking people up...." He said trying to cover up his error but trailed off after he saw the look on Arthurs face.
"You know Gaius in all the years I've known you, that is probably the worst excuse you've ever made" he said suddenly laughing slightly. "They've gone to the Druids haven't they?" Gaius gave in and nodded.
"Yes, I know that was Merlin and Gwaines destination but I'm afraid I don't know about Percival."
"I'm pretty sure he would've gone with them" Leon answered.
"Right well, did they say how long they would be?"
"Half a day" Arthur nodded.
"We'll give them their half a day, if they're not back by then we'll go and find them."