Ira slowly opened her eyes, a white ceiling looked back down at her. She was confused, she couldn't remember where she was. She tried sitting up but as she was lifting herself up a voice called out to her.
"Ah wait no, sorry you're not allowed to move," a pair of hands gently pushed her back down and a face came into view, a face she recognised.
"Merlin?!" He nodded, "it's good to see a familiar face" she smiled, "what happened?" Merlin looked worried.
"That's what I wanted to ask you" he replied, "you arrived here last night with a crossbow bolt in your side, you've been unconscious for nearly a day". Iras’ eyebrows lowered in thought.
"Yes I remember, I knew I had to get to Camelot."
"Well apart from this being the only place that was closest and the fact I was dying, to speak to Arthur I suppose."
"Why?" Merlin asked, Ira who was about to answer started to breathe heavily she suddenly felt incredibly weak. She faintly heard another pair of footsteps walking over and looked up to see Gaius holding a small bowl.
"Stop asking so many questions Merlin, you're wearing her out."
"I'm fine" she tried to say, Gaius just raised one eyebrow in response.
"No you're not now drink this" he commanded passing the bowl to Merlin, who tilted her head up and pressed the bowl to her lips. "Merlin I think you should go and let Gwaine know Ira is awake" he said taking the bowl from him.
"No need" a voice from the door said, Gwaine strode over and sat on the edge of the bed. "What happened?" He asked, Ira sighed.
"Merlin's just asked the same thing. I need to speak to Arthur, and I'm pretty sure he'll ask that as well, so to stop me having to repeat myself, and save time, go get Arthur and I'll tell all of you at the same time." Gwaine opened his mouth to say something but thought better of it, he made to stand up but Merlin spoke first.
"I'll do it" he offered getting up quickly, Gwaine watched him walk out of the door. He wasn't gone long before he returned with Arthur. Having just been training Leon, Percival and Elyan had come as well. They stood awkwardly in the doorway.
"Well you going to come in and hear what I have to say or not?" Ira asked wearily, they moved into the room and found places to sit, there were a few seconds of silence before Arthur spoke up.
"It's good to see you again, it's just a shame it has to be in these conditions."
"You mean where I nearly die?" She laughed slightly and started to cough.
"You wanted to tell us something?" Elyan said once she had finished.
"Yes, well passing on a message really, the outlying villages on the border of Odins kingdom are falling victim to constant attacks from bandits. They would like it very much if the king could sort it out" the knights looked at Arthur.
"Is that how you ended up injured?" He asked, Ira nodded.
"I was travelling to Odins kingdom and stopped near the village of Stonedown. In the middle of the night I was woken by screaming, went to see what was going on and saw the houses on fire. Those that put up a fight were being butchered in the streets..." she trailed off.
"But if you weren't in the village how come you were injured?"
"I went to try and help" she answered simply. "Took down a couple of them before I got shot, they thought I was dead so left me but I managed to find a horse and this was the first place I thought of." Arthur nodded slowly.
"Is that the only village that has been attacked?" Ira shook her head.
"Greenswood and another I can't remember the name of, they are literally going from one to another, destroying them."
"Why?" Leon asked out loud, not really expecting an answer.
"From what I've heard they're taking the stores and burning the houses but they're also taking the men and some boys, the young women as well. For what, I don't know exactly, but my guess would be he's selling them on as slaves," there was silence.
"Thank you for telling us this, we will leave you to recover" he stood up and walked out followed by Percival, Elyan and Leon. Gwaine however hung back a bit.
"What?" Ira asked, knowing already what he was going to say.
"What! That's all you can say? Why did you have to get involved," Ira looked up at him angrily.
"Would you have stood by and watched innocent people get slaughtered and enslaved?"
"But what? That's different?"
"You were safe and you went and got shot, you could have died."
"So now you're playing the protective older brother, can't say I missed it" Gwaine bit back an angry retort.
"You were gone for nearly six months."
"What did you expect me to do? Pop back every couple of days? Go for a drink like old times get in and out of trouble?"
"No, I just thought...I...I just thought you would have visited at least once since you left" Ira could see that he had been genuinely worried.
"Look I'm sorry, I know I should have come back sooner. It's just it never seemed like the right moment" Gwaine acknowledged the apology by nodding, there was a slight pause. "So what are they going to do now?" She asked.
"Most likely we'll go and hunt the bandits down, I should probably go and help" Ira nodded goodbye and Gwaine left.
She looked tired he thought, it must have been a struggle to get through that conversation. He grimly stepped into the council rooms where, he saw the knights arguing.
"So what's the plan?" He asked loudly, they turned to look at him.
"There isn't one" Leon answered shortly.
"Yet" Arthur added.
"Why not?" They looked around awkwardly.
"Well some of us are...unsure whether she's telling the truth" Arthur said slowly.
"What!? Why would she lie?" Gwaine noticed Leon looking away uneasily, "Leon? You still don't trust her do you?" Leon sighed.
"It's just she hasn't come back in six months and all of a sudden she shows up expecting us to leave for the boarders of Odins kingdom, I'm worried we're walking into a trap."
"With a bolt in her side!" Gwaine fumed, "Arthur, if you don't listen to her, and she's telling the truth, which I believe she is, then you are allowing bandits to roam freely killing innocent people?"
"I know, and I can't let that go on."
"Then what are we waiting for? What's the worst that can happen? If we prepare for a trap as well, we can beat them, they're only bandits," Leon nodded.
"I suppose it wouldn't hurt to be prepared for a trap," the doors opened again and Merlin slipped in.
"So what's the plan?" He asked no one answered, he looked around in disbelief, "you mean you've been in here arguing when people are being robbed, murdered and enslaved, your people, Arthur." Looking slightly ashamed Arthur pulled out the maps.
"You're right, if my people’s lives are at risk, I can't doubt her" there were a few agreeing nods from around the table. "If Ira is right, going by her calculations this will be the next village to be attacked," he pointed to a small dot on the map, "it will most likely be attacked tonight, which means tomorrow night it will be this village." His finger moved along the map to another dot labelled Willowsdale. We can leave at first light which means we will get to the village sometime in the late afternoon, this will give us time to survey the area and find the best defensive positions. Then all we have to do is take down a group of bandits."
They all agreed and went their separate ways to prepare for the next day.