'I'm going to enjoy killing you, Arthur Pendragon.' Morgana's voice was as cold as any of Lucas's interrogators' had ever been and it made him shiver. 'Not even Emrys can save you now.'
No, Emrys might not be of use now, but that did not mean that Arthur Pendragon was without help. Lucas was still standing behind the king, restraining him. He could feel him tremble, but he was more or less convinced this was due to the aftereffects of the drug he had given him than because of fear. A lot could be said about the king of Camelot, but he was not a coward. He did not fear death. He looked it right in the eye and Lucas could see that this was somehow unnerving Morgana.
'Not so quick,' he heard himself say.
Morgana looked at him. 'I didn't think you'd be so attached to him, Lucas,' she remarked, the malice obvious in her voice.
Lucas snorted. 'Oh, I am not,' he lied easily. 'But it would be a mistake to dispose of him so soon already. He spent a considerable amount of time on the Grid, especially in Harry Pearce's office. With a little… persuasion he might be convinced to part with his secrets.' The very idea of proposing torture made him sick to his stomach. He would not wish for his ordeal to be inflicted on anyone, but it might buy him some time yet.
He tried to think of how long it would take his colleagues to realise what he had done. Merlin and Jo had arrived at Thames House just as he was exiting the car park, he knew. Neither of them seemed to have recognised him, but that didn't really matter. As soon as they were on the Grid they would realise that Arthur was gone and it would be all too easy to connect the dots and conclude what had happened, especially if Merlin was involved. The warlock was as suspicious as any spook Lucas had ever encountered. He might even put Ros to shame in that department. So, as soon as they had discovered that Arthur was missing, Jo would have had the good sense to red-flash the team. In a situation that was so serious they would all be on the Grid in no time, have a briefing and then Ros would send them all to do whatever it took to find them. With a bit of luck she would go to her own desk first. At any rate she must have found his notes by now. They could already be on their way. He just needed to play for a little more time.
At first he had been unhappy with the idea of Section D on their trails so soon already, but now it was a blessing. Lucas realised he had underestimated Morgana's hatred of her brother. He, the spook that he was, had assumed she would want to question him first about some things she wanted and needed to know. And if she didn't want that, she would humiliate him first, to make it perfectly clear who had won in the end.
At first things seemed to go according to plan. Morgana was practically gloating over her victory, congratulating herself. Lucas had seen it often enough to recognise it for what it was. His interrogators in Russia had always been very pleased with themselves too, rubbing his nose in the fact that he seemed to be stuck with their fabled hospitality for the rest of his life, constantly reminding him that Harry didn't seem to be in a hurry to get him back, that no help was coming, so that he could better start telling his secrets. Morgana too could not resist the urge to rub her victim's nose in his defeat, her victory. There was a vicious gleam in her eyes when she did that.
And it reminded Lucas of why he could never really go over to her side. Yes, he pitied her, in more ways than one. Some part of him really wanted to join her, aid her, but mostly aid himself.
They were very much alike too. Both of them had suffered as the result of actions from people they had trusted, they had cared about. He knew Ros had told him that Harry had 'sweated blood' to get him back to England, but the fact remained that it had still taken him eight solid years to get it done. Even then he had only been released because of a spy swap. Apparently that was the best plan his boss had been able to come up with. Morgana too knew what it was to be an outsider, to be regarded with distrust because of something she didn't have any control over. It was a hard life.
But in this they were also vastly different. Morgana had chosen to retaliate against those that had harmed her, lashing out at everybody to create a place for herself, to give her life meaning. Lucas on the other hand clung to the things he still had left, trying to do his best to prove that he still was a part of Section D, because it was all that he had left, all that still made sense to him after Russia.
And he knew now that he could never be like Morgana. She may have some hidden weaknesses and when it came to trusting people she was vulnerable. But she was also cruel and downright ruthless in pursuing her goals. She seemed to be lacking something like a conscience. Morgana was very selfish, he had come to learn. In her eyes the world revolved around Morgana, or it should anyway. Other people did not matter. If they did, she would have fought harder to hang on to her friends. No, everyone was disposable, replaceable to her. Hogan was probably already on the way out and Lucas had no doubt that, had he indeed chosen to remain at Morgana's side, he too would over time have outlived his usefulness and then she would leave him out in the cold. If she didn't kill him first. And Lucas had come to the conclusion that he was not yet ready to leave this world behind.
'He has no secrets that could be of any use to me.' Morgana discarded the idea without even stopping and thinking. 'He can take them with him to the grave if he so chooses. They are nothing to me.'
The words made Lucas almost shiver again. This conversation was not at all going where he wanted it to. 'But I think they are something to Hogan and me, my lady,' the Senior Case Officer reminded his supposed accomplice. 'It would only be fair to let us have what we want as well, would you not agree?'
The king froze. Lucas could feel Arthur's muscles tense under his hands, clearly anticipating a fight. He didn't think the man was a stranger to the practise of torture in order to learn the enemy's plans. He lived in a far darker time, where death was more present than it was in the world today. But he could also tell that Arthur was not going to sit back and wait for them to have their way with him. He wasn't the type to go down without a proper fight.
Arthur doubted him. Lucas had seen it in his eyes as he had hauled him from the boot of the car. And he could not really blame him for losing faith, even if the distrust did hurt. The king had been drugged, tied up and then handed over to his worst enemy, all done by a man he had until very recently trusted with his life. And Lucas knew he was a good actor. He knew how to make it believable. As well as that worked with Morgana, it must be frightening for Arthur, not knowing if he even still had an ally. And it was even worse for him, because Lucas had not informed him that he had left the team with the means to track them down before Morgana could do her worst.
'Traitor!' came the low hiss. The tone was downright venomous; Arthur had poured all the loathing he felt into that one word.
Lucas tried not to let it show how much this hurt him. It was like a blow to the face. 'Yeah, well, you really should learn to be a little less trusting in future,' he sneered at the king.
'I'll keep that in mind,' Arthur growled.
The next moment Lucas doubled over with pain. He had underestimated his captive. Arthur may be far too trusting for his own good and he was still weak from the drug, but he was by no means defeated. He was fighting back. And Lucas was paying for this mistake with a burning pain in his belly where the king had rammed his elbow in it.
Arthur, who must have been slipping the rope off his wrists while the other occupants of the room were still too busy bickering amongst themselves, did not make a beeline for the door, as any other would have done. No, the king of Camelot had not yet given up on his mission to catch Morgana. If Lucas was not already moaning with the pain, he would have done it for the king's stupidity. Arthur ran straight for Morgana.
The witch had not anticipated this and Arthur had her pressed against a wall, his hand tightly around her throat, before she even knew what was happening.
'Give me one good excuse,' he growled at his half-sister. It was creepy to say the least. Lucas had become used to the good-humoured man, not this fearsome enemy. 'Give me one good excuse why I should not kill you on the spot, Morgana.'
The witch did not even seem very impressed with his threatening. 'Oh, dear brother, you have not learned your lesson at all, have you?'
By now Lucas had gotten to his feet again, but he stayed back. While this was not what he had in mind when he had agreed to Arthur's plan, he would be lying if he said he disapproved of the turn of events. True, it would be preferable if they could bring Morgana in and lock her away for the rest of her life, but he had learned enough about her to know that this would never work. She could simply magic her way out of any prison. Cells could never hold her. And while killing suspects wasn't normally in his job description, the job sometimes asked for it.
Bob Hogan was less enthusiastic about this development. Lucas did not think he was unaware of the fact that he was rapidly losing Morgana's favour, but the American still believed she could be useful to him. After all, magic was a very rare gift. It was unlikely he would ever find such a powerful ally again if she died.
'Let her go,' he growled at Arthur. He made to move towards the siblings, but Arthur's icy stare stopped him.
'I'll kill her before you can get to her.' It was not even a threat. Arthur delivered the line with the certainty of someone who knew he could make good on what he said. This was the warrior speaking, the leader, the man that led others into bloody battles and came out without as much as a scratch to show for it.
'You're not as different from Uther at all, are you, Arthur Pendragon?' Morgana smirked. 'You may think so, but when it comes down to it you are executing people with magic just as your father did.'
Arthur looked her right in the eye. 'I have only ever executed those who used their magic to attack Camelot, as I would any other common criminal. I have never actively persecuted those who possess your gifts. I am not my father, Morgana.' His voice was cold, but Lucas could also hear regret. Whatever had passed between these two, there had to be more than he had heard. 'Unlike you. Do you remember when you shot the town's people when the knights refused to swear their allegiance to you or when you burned the farmers' crops because they did not love you?' Arthur was more angry now than anything else. He felt strongly about this, Lucas decided. Yes, there was anger there, but it was mostly frustration that he could not get Morgana to see his point. Arthur Pendragon may want to put an end to Morgana's attacks, but he had not yet crossed that line to really hate her, not entirely.
Morgana smirked. 'Look at you,' she said, sending him a disgusted look to go with it. 'You are such a hypocrite, brother. You dare accuse me of slaughtering innocent people when you yourself stood by and did nothing while Uther slaughtered my kind?'
For one who was so close to death, she was remarkably calm and this was what set Lucas's alarm bells off right away. Morgana was not the type to face death calmly. She was a murderer herself, but she clung to her own life. She would not be willing to lay it down. She would be begging for it if the situation asked for it. That she wasn't doing so now made it all too clear to the spook that she still had some tricks up her sleeve. This woman was not yet defeated.
'Arthur,' he said softly, a warning edge to his voice. 'Careful.'
Arthur sent him a look of the utmost contempt. 'Don't you dare come any closer. I'll kill her.'
Lucas weighed the chances of needing to slip back behind the mask of Morgana's accomplice and found them slim to none. And this whole traitor business had dragged on for far too long. It was time to reveal his true colours. He shrugged. 'Be my guest. The world would be well rid of her.'
Morgana's cold eyes now settled on him, as did Hogan's. They seemed to have realised the same thing right away, even if it was Hogan who did the talking. 'You're one of Harry's,' he spat.
And he was. He knew that, had somewhere deep down known that all the time. But to hear it confirmed, even if only by his enemy, made him feel strong and confident. 'Did you really think I stayed loyal to my country after eight years of being tortured by the Russians only to betray it within an hour after first meeting you?' he questioned. He scowled at Hogan. 'I did not betray MI-5, not even once. Everything I did, everything I told you, it was all carefully planned. And you bought it.' The adrenaline had kicked in now. It was a dangerous thing, because it usually also gave him the false sense of being invincible and he knew he was anything but that. But it felt so good to finally throw off the mask and reveal who he really was.
Hogan's eyes had narrowed and he even managed to conjure up a smile. 'That little… display in the park yesterday, that was not faked,' he told Lucas. 'Harry did lie to you, didn't he? Because he did not know what you were planning. You don't even know it yourself, do you, North? You were betraying MI-5 and now you are not, because the chances have turned and you do not want to get yourself killed.'
But Lucas was long past any fear of death. In the worst moments in prison he had even sought it out. And he had no fear for this pathetic man either. 'I could not betray MI-5,' he told him with all the loathing he could muster. 'Because I am MI-5.' He remembered telling Elizabeta the same thing not so long ago and it still held true. He had given his life to the Service. It had become who he was, not only what he did to make a living. His whole identity was based on it. It had taken eight years in prison to fully realise this, but he knew now. Being a spook was the only thing he knew how to do, the only thing that made sense, that meant something. 'I was MI-5 all those years in prison, I was MI-5 when I came back and I am MI-5 still. You, however, are nothing at all, Bob Hogan. You lost your job, your comfortable retirement and in only a few minutes time you will lose your freedom as well. My colleagues are already on their way. They know where we went.' This was bending the truth, but only a little. He had no idea where his colleagues were, but by now they would be onto them, of this he was certain.
'You're bluffing, North.' The smirk on the former CIA officer's face told him he did not buy a single word of that speech.
More fool him. It was as if someone out there had heard him. In the distance he could hear the sounds of racing cars coming ever closer. Normally he guessed this was a deserted area. The barn had not been used in years and the road that led here had been in disuse for years, he could tell. It was all but overgrown with grass and no tire prints were showing in it. No, there could only be one single reason why so many cars – Lucas guessed there to be around at least ten of them – were speeding towards this corner of civilisation and that was because Ros had found the message and had gotten Malcolm to get the tracking devices to work.
He felt his self-confidence grow. Ros had believed in him and now they were closer to bringing this operation to a successful conclusion than they had ever been. Colleagues really were okay.
He saw Hogan reach for his gun, but Lucas was quicker. He hadn't been so stupid as to leave Thames House without proper means of protecting himself and he was a lot quicker and more trained than Hogan, who had spent the last years of his career mainly behind a desk. This really wasn't a contest. The American found himself staring at the wrong end of Lucas's gun before he could even begin to think about getting his own.
Lucas found himself smiling that triumphant smile that Merlin used to think of as creepy. Arthur still had his hands at Morgana's throat and Lucas had Hogan neutralised. 'Don't even think about making a wrong move, Hogan,' he warned the other spy. 'It's over.'
The Grid had become more active than a bee colony in high summer after Harry's orders. Ros was on the phone, as was Harry. Malcolm had disappeared behind his computers screens again, calling Ben over to help him with whatever it was that he was doing. Connie and Jo were still going over Hogan's file to see what else they could get from it. And Merlin, Merlin stood in the middle of it all wondering how this was helping them to get to Arthur before Morgana could finish him off. Once again he found himself wishing he had spent more time practising that magical whirlwind teleportation. If he had mastered that, they could be there already, putting an end to this living nightmare.
While the note on Ros's desk seemed to have brought about a change in how everyone viewed Lucas's behaviour, Merlin's remained rather unchanged. In the situation they were in now, it didn't really matter why Lucas had taken Arthur. All that mattered was that he had. If the spook was indeed still on their side, then he had just made a grave error of judgement: he had underestimated Morgana. There was just no way two men could take on the most powerful witch the world had ever known or would ever know.
The warlock found Ros's tale hard to believe anyway. Yes, it was strange that Lucas had left them those trackers, but his other actions all pointed towards treason. Harry himself had pointed out that Lucas was a skilled and resourceful man, who knew how to play this game. But, as he had told Ros, they would hopefully have the time to discuss that later, when all this was over and Arthur would be safely back with them.
He was snapped out of his musings by Harry, whose loudest bellowing called both Merlin and Ros to come with him. Merlin all but ran over, while the Section Chief took a few more seconds to wrap up the conversation she was having before she too joined them.
'We're joining the cavalry?' she assumed as they emerged from the pods outside the Grid.
Harry nodded. 'They're on their way already.'
'Good. Any news on whether the Americans are anywhere near that barn?'
'Nothing confirmed,' Harry reported as they walked into the car park. 'But they'll be there whether we see them or not. And they are not going to be there for much longer.'
Merlin frowned. 'Wouldn't they be able to help us in getting Arthur out?' he questioned. 'If they are already in place…'
'More chance that they shoot everyone inside and only later realise that not all of them were terrorists,' Ros replied sarcastically. 'Better safe than sorry and that kind of crap.' The idea that Ros was not very fond of the Americans, something he had started to realise over the last couple of days, presented itself to the warlock. Come to think of it, no one on the Grid seemed to be particularly fond of them.
'And even if they manage to not accidentally shoot our own people, they'll lock them up and we'll never see them again,' Harry added, digging up his mobile phone while he slid into the passenger seat.
Merlin took the backseat, while Ros took the wheel. Merlin was less than happy with the prospect of being in a car that was being driven by Ros Myers. He had had that experience only once before, when he had gone to meet Marlin with Lucas and her the first time, and he had come out of the vehicle wanting to throw up. Lucas was a better driver in that respect and right now, that might even be the only thing the warlock trusted him with. Ros, when it came to cars, he did not.
He was reminded of why he thought that in the first place when Ros drove the car at full speed out of the car park. Merlin really wanted to reach Arthur in time, but he preferred to do that while he was still in one piece and not squashed against a building or something equally life-threatening.
Harry didn't seem to have a problem with Ros's driving skills. He had dug up his mobile and was now ringing someone again. Merlin could hear it all well, since the head of Section D had turned the phone to the loudspeaker, allowing Ros and Merlin to listen to the conversation as well.
Someone on the other end picked up. 'Werner.'
'Laurie,' Harry greeted curtly. 'You know that barn you did not want MI-5 to know about? The one Hogan bought eight months ago?' He didn't wait for an answer, possibly because he already knew that this other person was aware of the barn's existence. 'Well, we're on our way there and if I spot as much as one American face within a three mile radius of the place, your involvement in that bombing will be all over the news tomorrow.'
So it must be the CIA Harry was currently calling. Merlin recalled Arthur telling him about the woman he was supposed to be liaising with, someone called Laurie. He also remembered that Arthur was not particularly pleased with her.
There was some noise on the other end that might be described as the sound of someone sputtering and all but choking on their own words. 'Are you threatening me?' came the indignant reply in the end and Merlin could not help but notice that the woman did not deny that she had people near the barn. And if the angry scowl on Ros's face was anything to go by, she had not missed out on that either.
Harry at least was less than impressed. 'Just a fair warning,' he told the woman. 'So get your people out of there before my people arrive.' He hung up on her before she had the chance to react.
Ros's nod of approval told Merlin that she thought this was the best way to deal with CIA people. The little Merlin had learned about them made him agree with her wholeheartedly. 'Do you think she'll listen?' Merlin asked. 'She didn't sound like the type to obey without protesting.'
'She will if she doesn't want to damage her country's image,' Ros told the warlock. 'I know her and her ilk. They're all the same.'
Merlin supposed she would know what she was talking about, so he let it be. Instead he opted on looking out of the window as they raced towards the village. Ros didn't believe in the benefits of speed limits and she was not holding back now. The warlock wondered how fast they were going. He was pretty sure no horse could ever run this fast.
But apparently it was not yet fast enough for the head of Section D. 'Can't you speed this thing up a bit more, Rosalind?' It occurred to Merlin that he was mainly worried about Lucas and not about Arthur. Jo had told him that Harry and Lucas had some unresolved issues concerning Lucas's imprisonment, so maybe the section's boss now wanted to prevent such a thing from ever happening again. It made sense to the warlock.
Ros sent him a glare. 'I can't make it fly.'
They were already out of the city and close to the village when Harry's mobile started to produce some noise. The head of Section D glared at it and then answered it with a curt 'Pearce.'
'What do you think you're doing, Harry?' The voice sounded somewhat familiar to Merlin. It took him a few seconds to remember the face that belonged to it and then realised that it was the spooks' boss, an elderly man by the name of Richard Dolby. He had come onto the Grid after the Al-Qaeda bombings, shouting insult at Harry and Ros. It had been audible all over the place, so even when Merlin hadn't spoken to him personally, he still knew what he sounded like.
'Please enlighten me, Richard,' Harry said pleasantly. 'Since I have no clue as to what you're talking about right now.'
'I just get a phone call telling me that you are calling out the heavy cavalry to do God knows what!' came the angry voice, not in the very least pacified by Harry's calm tone. 'Would you like to offer me some explanation for this, sir Harry?'
Merlin couldn't help but wonder at the mention of the title, but he decided to just let it go. There would be another time to ask about such things, but it was not now. Although the warlock had to admit that he had never seen anyone who was so little like a knight as the elderly spook.
'This so happens to be a part of my job description.' Harry was not in the very least impressed by the demanding tone of his superior. 'It must be somewhere in all that paperwork that I do have the right to use the cavalry in hostage situations.'
'Hostage situations?' Dolby's disbelieving reply filled the car. 'Harry, I have no idea what you have done this time, but I do not feel I can allow you to call them out for an as of yet still unspecified mission.'
Speaking of the cavalry, Merlin could see other cars now that also didn't believe in speed limits and he hoped and prayed that they indeed were the promised back-up. He knew that his magic would be of great use in taking down Morgana and her accomplice, but a little extra help had never hurt anyone and he found it reassured him, even as the thought of fighting Morgana again made him want to throw up with the nerves.
Harry's calm was lost as he snapped at Dolby. 'And I do not feel I can let the most dangerous witch in the history of mankind get away with mass murder. We do have a credible lead on her whereabouts and right now she is also holding two of my officers captive.'
It surprised Merlin that Harry thought of Arthur as one of his officers, but he did not feel the need to comment on it, or blame him for it. Harry was fiercely protective of his own people and Arthur could only benefit from that.
'The Service doesn't do full-scale rescue missions for its own officers,' Dolby fumed.
'It does when one of the officers is called Arthur Pendragon,' Harry countered. 'And now, if you don't mind, I'm rather busy. Innocent lives to save and so forth. I'm sure you'll understand.' He hung up without another word.
Ros drove the car over the bumpy road – or maybe path was a better word, taken into account that it didn't seem to be used very often – at a speed that had Merlin want to vomit again, this time because of the nausea that her driving skills induced. But they were nearing their destination. Merlin could see the barn where Arthur must be in. He could only hope that they were still in time.
The Section Chief parked the car, but Merlin was already out and running before the motor was even turned off. He could hear Harry's shout to wait for the back-up, but he had waited for far too long already. And the back-up was right at his heels anyway. He could hear their footsteps behind him.
And he could hear something else as well. 'Don't even think about making a wrong move, Hogan. It's over.' The realisation that it was Lucas's voice saying these words, in exactly the same tone as when he had spoken to Marlin, that almost made Merlin stop dead in his tracks. Ros had been right.
But the consequences of that realisation would be something for another time as well. Right now he had a rescue mission to get on with. He had heard Lucas, but Arthur was never mentioned and neither had he spoken himself. It was enough to make Merlin increase his pace.
He wasn't much of a runner, but Ros was. She caught up with him some metres away from the door, gun in hand. 'Let me,' she said.
Merlin was about to ask what he was supposed to be letting her do, when she answered that question by way of kicking the door off its hinges, providing them with an entrance. 'Drop your weapon!' she snarled.
Lucas sent her a confused look. The spook had his gun pointed at a furious looking Hogan, who stood a few paces away from him. The look in his eyes made it all too clear that he knew he was defeated. It also told them that he wasn't planning on going down without a proper fight.
'Not you, you bloody idiot,' Ros snapped at her colleague.
But right now Merlin could not care less about Hogan and Lucas. It was Arthur that worried him. His eyes searched the dusty barn, finding his king, very much alive, with his hands around Morgana's throat. Morgana's back was pressed against the wall and she must have difficulty breathing, but nonetheless she smiled. And that was the very reason why the warlock's alarm bells went off, all at once.
'Arthur, get away from her!' he shouted.
Arthur's head swivelled in his direction, the last thing he should have been doing. The moment he took his eyes off Morgana, the witch's eyes flared brilliant gold, sending Arthur flying backwards, making him crash right into Lucas, who had not seen the king coming and was slammed against the ground with him.
Merlin conjured up a shield to prevent himself from the effects of Morgana's next spell, that rendered most of the back-up unconscious before they had even the chance to do something. At least he hoped they were just unconscious. Morgana wasn't known for being merciful after all.
Ros, who stood behind him, and three of the other men in black clothing were the only ones that had escaped the spell. 'Shit!' Ros cursed. She shot at Morgana, who casually deflected the bullet with a flick of her wrist and sent Ros flying against the nearest wall in the same go. The Section Chief groaned as she collided with the wall, but she appeared to be all right.
'You've lost, Morgana,' Merlin told her. 'There is more help coming.'
Her cold green eyes now settled on him. A shiver went down Merlin's spine. Those eyes had once been so full of light, glowing with laughter or the passionate spark when she embarked on her next crusade. Now there was just hatred and loathing to be found there. The old Morgana was gone entirely.
'How could you, Merlin?' she demanded. Her voice was harsh and unforgiving, but there was a genuine vulnerability there as well, a small hint of the woman he had once known. 'You were the only one who really understood what I was going through, the only one I trusted. Yet you lied to me.'
'I had to.' The words sounded forced, even to his own ears. Heaven knew he had wanted to tell Morgana about his own magic. He had wanted it so badly. But both Gaius and the Great Dragon had advised against it and in the end he had listened to them. Now he wished that he had not. Now he desperately wished he had ignored them and told Morgana all about him and his own powers. If she had had a friend, a confident, one of her own kind, she would never have needed to turn to Morgause and she would never have become this evil witch that now stood in front of him.
'You had a choice, Merlin,' she snarled. 'That tells me all I need to know about you.'
'You have a choice too.' He was trying not to sound too pleading. He really did not want to kill her, but the way things were now, she did not leave him a choice. He could just not risk her killing more innocent people. The station bombing pictures appeared before his mind's eye. He could not allow anything like that to ever happen again. It was just too terrible. 'Stop this, Morgana. Please. It doesn't have to be this way.'
'It's a little late for your pleas, don't you think, Merlin?' Morgana looked at him with utter contempt. 'You should have thought of that before you forced the poison down my throat, before you ruined my sister's life, before you assisted my wretched brother in the persecution of our own kind. You're a traitor, Merlin, and I will make you pay for that.' She risked a quick glance at Arthur's body. The king seemed to be only barely conscious. Lucas was better. He was sitting up already, his eyes never leaving the witch. He was like a predator assessing a rival.
'You will not take him.' He managed to come across as determined and unyielding, but there was a large part of Merlin that wanted to do nothing more than fall to his knees and beg Morgana's forgiveness and make everything into what it had been before this nightmare had started. Deep down inside he just wanted the old Morgana back, the one that teased Arthur, stood up for those who could not do it themselves and exchanged witticisms with just about everyone she encountered. But he firmly locked that part of him away. He had let himself be led by that for far too long and there were lives at stake here. Arthur's life was at stake here.
Morgana smirked in a way that might even put Lucas and his most creepy smile to shame. She took a few steps closer to Arthur, as if she was challenging him. Stop me if you can.
There were footsteps outside. More help was coming, but the warlock now knew that was no use at all. Morgana would just look at them and they would be as dead or unconscious as their colleagues. No, it was up to Merlin to put an end to this and somehow he had always known that.
'I am warning you, Morgana,' he said.
She was not impressed. 'You could not kill me, Merlin.' The confidence rang in her every word.
And Merlin froze, knowing that it was true. He could not do it. When he had poisoned her, it had been a desperate measure, something he had regretted ever since. He could not do that to her again, no matter what the consequences. He had killed several others in the past, but Morgana was different. What if there was still something of the old Morgana left? Then killing her would destroy every possibility of her resurfacing.
And Morgana knew this, knew it and used it. She made a beeline for the injured king and she would have taken him, were it not for the timely intervention of the person Merlin had until several minutes ago believed to be a traitor.
Lucas North had jumped to his feet and did the only thing he could do: he jumped forward and literally pushed Morgana out of the way. At the same moment the room started to fill with more armed men.
Morgana looked around her, quickly taking in the situation. Merlin could see it in her eyes, the knowledge that she could not make it out of this place unscathed. While the warlock had been otherwise occupied some men had restrained Bob Hogan, meaning that she was now alone and without allies. She was all alone and they were many.
Merlin would later say that he had never been able to guess her next move, but in hindsight it was more than a little predictable. Morgana's eyes started to colour gold again as she shouted the spell. 'Bedyrne ús! Astýre ús þanonweard!'
Merlin recognised it instantly. 'No!' he screamed.
But he knew he was too late even then. There was nothing he could do to. He could only watch helplessly how Morgana disappeared in a magical whirlwind, taking Lucas with her. And even though they had succeeded in rescuing Arthur, Merlin felt as if they had lost.