The clouds parted revealing a short hooded figure bent double leading a horse out of a small village. Ignoring the pain she managed to drag herself up onto the horses back, only when it started to walk did the noise return. The screaming. The crying. The death. As the horse started to speed up she held on to the horses’ mane, there hadn’t been time to find a saddle. The horse sped through the forests urged on by its rider. The sound of screams and shouts that had filled the air behind them started to die away until only the sound of silence was left. Occasionally the moon would shine between the trees lighting their path. As the miles passed the rider started to slump more and more. The adrenaline from the fight slowly wearing away and the pain starting to grow. Breath came in ragged gasps, every time the horse moved sent stabs of pain through her body. White knuckles gripped the horses’ mane. The ground beneath them slowly turned from leaf covered dirt to open grassy fields, she paid no attention. She could already feel herself slipping in and out of consciousness, gritting her teeth she tried to stay awake and alert. Thankfully she was already far enough away to rule out the possibility she was being followed. All she needed to do was stay on the horse, but the blood was making it hard for her. A different sound brought her to her senses, she wondered what it was. The rhythmic thumping on hooves on grass had changed very suddenly. Looking down she saw they were no longer on grass but cobblestones. She tried to lift her head but was too weak. The horse had stopped but she had no idea where she was, she knew where she wanted to go, but was that here? She decided to dismount, she was sure she could find someone here to help her. Unable to find the strength to dismount however she slipped into unconsciousness and let herself fall.
Gwaine looked out the window into the fairly clear night, the moon was bright and lit the courtyard with a faint glow. It had been almost six months since Ira had turned up in Camelot, he was starting to wonder if it had actually happened. The door opened behind him and he listened to the footsteps as they crossed the room to join him, it was Merlin.
"You know I was starting to get worried. I couldn't find you anywhere, the others said you were going to join them but hadn't arrived so I went into town and searched all the taverns, you weren't in any of them" he smiled.
"Why did you want to find me?" Gwaine asked, Merlin shrugged.
"You were acting a bit odd today so I thought you might like some company" Gwaine smiled kindly at him, trust Merlin to know when something wasn't right and try to help you. "What's the matter? Do you want to talk about it?"
"It's nothing, it's just..." Gwaine didn't seem to be able to find the right words to complete his sentence.
"Is it about Ira?" Gwaine looked slightly surprised, he honestly hadn't expected anyone else to remember her, well he thought at least it actually happened then. "Everyone knows you've been slightly depressed since she left."
"It's been six months, I thought she would've visited at least once by now."
"Don’t worry it's natural that you miss her and worry about her, I mean you thought she was dead for ages. She’ll come back at some point, you've just got to be patient and let her live her own life for a bit first." Gwaine nodded and looked across to Merlin, he was right, like usual.
"You're right" he admitted. "She been fine in the past, I'm sure she can look after herself" Merlin grinned and nodded, he was about to say something else before the door opened again. Percival staggered in.
"I found you" he said a little too loudly, "why haven't you come down yet? We've been waiting."
"I'm just coming" he grinned, thinking this probably was a good time to stop worrying. He looked out the window one last time, a horseman had just entered the courtyard, it looked like something was wrong as the rider was hunched down. The horse looked tired and the rider looked barely able to sit up. A cloud that had just been blocking the moon started to move, the courtyard got brighter and Gwaine saw that it wasn't a he but a she, and she looked very familiar.
"It's Ira" he said moving away from the window towards the door. "She's hurt," Merlin hurried to the window followed by Percival thinking he was seeing things, but there was no mistaking it.
"I'll get Gaius" he said.
"I'll get the king" Percival replied and they both hurried out the door after him.
Gwaine sprinted through the castle, down the staircases and through the halls until he was in the courtyard, Ira looked like she was trying to dismount but was too weak. Giving up she let herself fall, having seen this Gwaine ran forward and just caught her before she hit the ground. Looking down at her he realised she was clutching the left side of her stomach. Carefully moving one of her hands away he saw a crossbow bolt deeply imbedded in her. He started down at it.
"Ira" he said quietly, "Ira wake up" a little louder.
"Gwaine" the shout brought him to his senses and he saw Merlin hurrying towards him. "Is she okay?" He asked, he sounded worried, Gwaine could only shake his head, he was lost for words. "We need to get her to Gaius, come on." Without thinking Gwaine followed Merlin back into the castle and up to Gaius' rooms.
Gaius was already moving potions and books off one of the tables.
"Put her down here" he ordered, Gwaine gently laid her on the table. In the light he could see that she was covered in blood. The door opened and Arthur arrived closely followed by Leon, Elyan and Percival, they had all been drinking when Percival had come to tell them the news.
Gaius examined the wound and turned to Gwaine who by now was pale.
"Will she be alright?" He asked quietly.
"I don't know" he answered truthfully, "I will need to remove the bolt first to see if it has pierced anything internally," he then turned to the rest of the room. "But to do so I want everyone out, it is too crowded in here." No one moved, Gaius sighed "I will let you know how it goes." Nodding Arthur and the rest of the knights shuffled out, "you too Gwaine," Gwaine looked up sharply.
"It is a very delicate operation, I'm sorry, but there will be nothing you can do except get in the way,” Gwaine reluctantly agreed saying that he would wait just outside the door and demanded that if anything happened he was to be told immediately.
As soon as the door closed Gaius got to work preparing for the surgery.
"Merlin" he called "have you found the potion?" Merlin who was frantically searching through the shelves pulled a bottle out.
"Yes it's..." He looked down, "empty!"
"What!? But we're out of..."
"I know, it's fine I can find some more" Merlin sounded confident, Gaius sighed.
"Well then hurry," Merlin ran out the door, while he was gone Gaius he managed to remove the bolt, luckily it hadn't pierced anything, and stop the bleeding, then he partly bandaged up her side and started to make the potion for Merlins return, it was almost ready when Merlin skidded back into the room herbs in hand. He passed the leaves to Gaius, who instantly added them to the mixture, and lifted up the bandage to see the wound.
"Do we need to do it this way?" He asked quietly.
"I'm sorry?" Gaius asked not understanding.
"I could heal it instantly with magic" Gaius shook his head.
"No Merlin, Arthur would know, he's seen these wounds many times before and knows they do not heal instantly." He walked over with the potion and removed the temporary bandages, "hold these" he ordered before he smeared the potion onto the wound. Once they had replaced the bandages properly, Merlin moved her to a bed to one side of the room and went to inform the others how it went.