Arthur was pacing the guest room up and down, too restless to sit down or even sit still. Harry didn't seem much better. The head of Section D was trying out different postures. He had sat down for a while, had then got up, started pacing, but eventually he had sat down again. But he was acting like he was sitting on a hedgehog rather than on a comfortable chair. Ros was the only one who at least gave the appearance of calm. The Section Chief was leaning against the wall, arms folded across her chest, an unreadable expression on her face. But Arthur was pretty sure it was just a mask to hide her anxiety. In the past few days Ros had proven herself to be the most loyal colleague one could have and no matter what she said about not doing friends, the king of Camelot was convinced that Lucas was more of a friend to her than a colleague. Why else would she have gone to such lengths to save him?
Merlin had yet to return. Arthur knew he could not reasonably expect his servant and the old Gaius to show up within a matter of minutes, but still it vexed him that they were taking so long. Lucas had been transported to this guest room a while ago. Arthur had explained – more or less anyway, although more less than more – the situation to the knights, mentioned the fact that Lucas was Morgana's latest victim and had proclaimed both Harry and Ros friends of Camelot. Many of them were still doubtful, especially where the car was concerned, but in the end Percival had lifted the Senior Case Officer up and carried him to this room.
'What the bloody hell is taking them so long?' Ros's annoyed voice brought him back to the here and now.
'Gaius lives on the other side of the castle,' Arthur explained.
'Well, that's just bloody brilliant,' the Section Chief fumed. Her eyes wandered back to her colleague, who was still unconscious. Arthur was glad he could see the man's breathing from where he was standing, because he might have believed him dead otherwise. He had no idea how the snake in that box on the table tied in to what had been done to Lucas North, but it was unlikely to be pleasant. He had not seen much, but what he had seen had been enough to leave the Pendragon with the image of skin that was riddled with small bites. And if Morgana had worked some of her terrible magic on that beast, it was entirely possible that it was the snake that had made Lucas scream like that. And Arthur didn't think he would be able to get that sound out of his head anytime soon.
The door opened and Arthur was already about to exhale in relief that Gaius had shown up when he realised that it was not the physician, but his uncle that was entering. Agravaine looked as he always did, albeit a bit ruffled. But that was nothing too unusual. Over the last year Arthur had learned that his uncle did not like unexpected events. He was a man who liked to plan things out and he tended to become jumpy when things did not go as he had expected them to go.
And this was of course a disruption of the first order, especially if he had already seen the vehicle that Ros had parked right in front of the stairs leading up to the main entrance. Arthur himself had become rather used to seeing them around, since London was infested with the things, but he could understand that Agravaine would need some time in getting used to them.
'Uncle,' he greeted curtly. 'What brings you here?' This was really not the time to listen to Agravaine's complaints about Camelot's visitors.
'Arthur,' Agravaine acknowledged. His eyes darted back to Harry, who met the stare with a polite yet curt nod, and then Ros in her jeans, leather jacket and high-heeled boots, who met his gaze with perfect indifference. Agravaine took in her unorthodox attire and swallowed hard, trying and failing to hide his shock at a woman who was dressed so inappropriately. That was another of those things that Arthur had grown used to over the last week, but that would still be immensely alien to just about everyone he knew.
'Agravaine, allow me to introduce Harry Pearce and Rosalind Myers from the kingdom of Britain,' he said as pleasantly as he could manage under the given circumstances. 'Their friend was recently taken by Morgana. We only managed to rescue him this morning. Harry, Ros, this is my uncle, Agravaine de Bois.'
The two spooks nodded. Harry was too much on edge to force himself to be communicative and Arthur suspected that Ros simply didn't care about what she called the sodding social niceties. She tended to say that there was nothing in the job description that told her to be nice. She just needed to do her job. Only some days ago he had actually overheard her saying that if she had wanted to butter up to people she'd have become a politician instead of a spy.
His uncle now looked over to the bed. Arthur could see the blood drain from his face at the sight of the tortured spook and he could hardly blame him for that. Lucas looked more like a corpse than a living and breathing human being. Morgana had truly put him through hell and Arthur silently strengthened his resolve to make his half-sister pay for what she had done, not only to Lucas, but also to the people who had died in the station bombing and all the victims she had made in Camelot.
'That's a very serious case, sire.' Agravaine tended to become formal when shocked, Arthur observed. It was his way of protecting himself.
'Gaius is already on his way to examine him,' the king reassured his uncle. 'Can you make sure that there are guards on the door at all times? Chances are that Morgana will try to abduct him again.' Especially if she was as hell-bent on making Lucas pay for what she viewed as his betrayal as they suspected her to be.
A small voice in the back of his head kept insisting that Lucas, if only for a short while, may well have been on Morgana's side, but he dismissed the thought almost right away. No, he did not believe that, not really. Lucas was a better actor than Arthur had even believed possible, so good that even Harry had been fooled into believing the spook to be a rogue officer. But that speech in the barn had made it clear beyond the shadow of a doubt that Lucas had never been a traitor, not even once, no matter how tempting the prospect.
Agravaine threw one last, almost nervous, glance in Lucas's direction, but then nodded, bowed and exited. The door had hardly fallen shut behind him when Merlin came in, without knocking as per usual. Gaius followed in his wake.
He stopped and bowed. 'Sire.'
Arthur didn't think he'd ever been so glad to see anyone in his life. Gaius knew more about magic than anyone he had ever met, and apparently that included Merlin. The king would readily admit that he had never believed that Merlin was incapable of establishing what had been done to Lucas, since he was supposed to be such a powerful warlock. Maybe he was more of an idiot than Arthur had been led to believe.
'Gaius,' he said. He was sure that the relief seeped through in his voice. 'Merlin explained the situation to you?'
He found himself on the receiving end of the physician's most disapproving stare, or as disapproving as he thought he could get away with at least. It reminded Arthur of the look he had always been given when he had gotten himself into somewhat of a situation when he was only a young boy. 'He did indeed.' Oh, there was definitely disapproval there.
Arthur ignored it. 'Then please do what you can for him,' he urged the older man. 'This man saved my life, Gaius. I want him looked after best you can.' He would not phrase it as an order – that had never really worked with Gaius anyway – but he wanted to let the man know how much this meant to him.
Because he did owe Lucas, far more than he could ever hope to be able to repay. Lucas had risked the faith of Section D in him, his life and mental health to stop Morgana and to keep Arthur out of her hands. Yes, he knew that the spook had ulterior motives for acting as he had done, but it did not change the fact that he had saved Arthur's life by knocking Morgana away from the king. And as a result of that heroic act he was now lying in that bed, fighting for his life. And that was a sacrifice Arthur Pendragon could not let go unanswered.
'I'll see what I can do, sire.' How Gaius could remain so calm in these situations was entirely beyond Arthur and he was not completely sure he should admire or scold him for it. He settled on the first, since the second would not get him anywhere.
Gaius first examined the snake in the box. Arthur didn't think anyone in the room missed out on the shocked look that crossed his face when he laid eyes on it. He did not say a word, closed the lid and went on to the bed to examine Lucas. The other occupants of the room remained quiet and unmoving. Arthur had to force himself to remain where he was and the same seemed to be true for Harry, but Ros seemed to have frozen into place, eyes following Gaius's every movement. Merlin hung back a bit, looking very uneasy, like he was wishing he would be anywhere but here. Shame, Arthur supposed, and he should be ashamed. After all, it was still more or less his fault that they were in this particular situation in the first place.
It seemed to take an eternity, but in the end Gaius turned around and walked back to them. 'It is as I feared, sire,' he said solemnly, making a cold shiver go down Arthur's spine. Words such as these had never before boded well before and there was no earthly reason why they would today.
Harry seemed to sense it as well. His fist came slamming down on the table. 'What did that witch bloody well do to him?' he demanded. The head of Section D looked positively dishevelled. His tie hung halfway down his chest and his suit was altogether crumpled, the natural result of spending an entire night on the Grid organising the rescue mission. He looked just as ill at ease in Camelot as Arthur had felt in London. Add to that the fact that his best field officer was quite possibly in mortal danger and Arthur could perfectly understand why he was as snappy and impatient as he was.
Gaius raised one eyebrow at the use of that language, but at Arthur's encouraging nod he answered the question all the same. 'He has been tortured by a Nathair, my lord,' he replied respectfully.
Arthur did not know what a Nathair was, but he had a feeling that he did not really want to know either. It was unlikely to mean anything good, taken into account the state Lucas was currently in. He expected that the Nathair was the snake they had found in Morgana's hovel, but in this case he'd be glad to be proven wrong.
By the looks of things Arthur was not the only one not understanding what Gaius was talking about. Ros fixed him with her most demanding glare, while Harry gave the physician an exasperated look. 'Ah,' he said, pretending to understand. 'And am I going to understand the next bit?'
Gaius now seemed to realise that not everyone in the room knew what he was talking about. 'It means that he has been tortured, repeatedly, to the very limit of human endurance,' he clarified. Arthur found he did not like the sound of that at all.
Ros meanwhile was looking daggers at the old man. 'I think we've reached that conclusion ourselves,' she snapped dismissively. 'But you have still not told us what the bloody hell a Nathair is.'
Gaius was still scandalised over Ros's choice of words, Arthur could tell, but only because he knew the physician so well. He masked his emotions well. 'It is some kind of snake, my lady,' he replied. 'In the days of the Old Religion they were used by the High Priestesses to torture their enemies in the most cruel way imaginable.'
This confirmed every suspicion Arthur had ever had. He was quite sure that he did not want to know what those cruel ways actually were. He had heard Lucas's screaming from a distance and that had told him everything he needed to know about what Morgana had done to him. Gaius's explanation only reaffirmed what Arthur had already established himself and it strengthened his resolve to get Morgana for this, if only for the harm she had caused this time, leaving the market and station bombings out of consideration.
Harry's face was positively murderous. 'Do I want to know what that means?' Arthur, who had spent a considerable amount of time in the elderly spy's presence, knew that this meant that actually he did not want to know, but he had a need to know all the same.
Gaius of course did not know this. He merely took this as a request to elaborate, while Harry wanted to be told as briefly as he could. 'The venom of the Nathair causes the victim to experience extreme pain in both body and mind,' he clarified. 'The principles of it are not yet clear, my lord, but I am very sure that it is not just physical pain the victim experiences.'
The king of Camelot had no idea what it meant to be caused extreme pain in one's mind, but it could not have been pleasant at all. Ros had frozen into place and her boss had paled a bit as well. 'I say again,' he said wryly.
'Will he survive, Gaius?' Arthur urged, hoping that the answer to this question would be a yes. At any rate he was glad they had decided to bring Lucas here with them. No matter how sophisticated the physicians were in twenty-first century London, he doubted they'd have known what to do with this case.
'I believe so, sire,' the court physician nodded. 'He has endured so far. In time, with rest and some medicines, I am confident that he will make a full recovery.'
'How much time?' Ros demanded sharply.
'A few days, my lady,' Gaius replied respectfully, even if it didn't take an expert to see that he was less than pleased with the way both Harry and Ros treated him. And Arthur wasn't exactly charmed by their manners now either, but he understood that they were very worried for their colleague, as he himself was, and that anxiety was guiding their actions now.
Harry exhaled in relief and Ros gave a curt nod to signal that she had heard him. The Section Chief didn't do emotions, especially not in public, but she did seem less tense than she had been.
'The memories however may prove… difficult to deal with,' Gaius added.
The memory of Lucas in his bed, screaming and twisting as the results of a nightmare, sprang to Arthur's mind. He had no problems at all taking the older man's word for this.
'He can deal with that,' Harry said dismissively. 'As long as he's alive.'
Gaius didn't share the opinion if that look on his face was anything to go by, but he gave half a bow in respect. 'Indeed, my lord.'
Ros looked at the physician. 'Do we have any use for that bloody snake or can we get rid of it?' The section Chief may be less tense than she had been, but she was definitely not entirely relaxed either. Arthur had seen this expression only a few times before. Back in the barn was one of those times. It was the look that had been on her face when she had pulled the trigger to shoot Morgana. That of course had not worked out exactly according to plan, but it was the intention that counted and suddenly Arthur knew precisely what she was planning. And he could not agree more.
'The Nathair has served its use, my lady.' Gaius's ability to remain calm in situations like this was one Arthur had often envied him for. Had he found himself on the receiving end of Ros's stare he would probably have run for the hills without a second thought by now.
Ros all but marched over to the table, lifted the lid of the box and drew her gun. There was a hissing noise coming from the box, but it was cut short by the bang from the gun. It would be safe to say that the Nathair was no more.
Gaius was looking shocked, but the other occupants of the room were remarkably calm. And Arthur understood the Section Chief's need for retribution, to harm the people that had harmed Lucas. That would be impossible of course since Morgana was still on the run, but they could make sure that this pain-inducing pet of hers could never harm another human being again. And in a way it made him feel as if they had at least done something useful, even if it was only something as pointless as killing off Morgana's tools.
'What is that?' Gaius had backed away some, eyeing the gun with wariness.
Ros didn't even acknowledge this. She turned to her boss. 'So, what do we do now?'
Harry thought about that for a moment. 'Now, you are going to set up a workable temporary headquarters somewhere in this castle, while I go to talk to the Home Secretary and get us some reinforcements,' the head of Section D said. 'We are going to find Morgana and put an end to this bloody affair here and now.'
He was back in full army commander mode now, acting like he was in charge here, which of course he wasn't, but Arthur was not in the mood to protest. He needed Section D here to take care of things. And with them he knew he could be absolutely certain that they wanted Morgana just as bad as he. Because much as he wanted to, there was still a traitor at large in Camelot and he could trust no one entirely – with the possible exception of Merlin and Gaius – until he knew who they were.
Ros didn't seem overly enthusiastic about the prospect of staying in Camelot, but she nodded. 'And if he wakes?' She made a head gesture in Lucas's direction.
Harry's expression softened somewhat. 'Debrief him yourself,' he replied. 'I fear you're the only one he'll trust right now.'
There was a sadness in those words, mingled with regret. The head of Section D was indeed feeling sorry for what had happened to Lucas, maybe even guilty. Lucas remembered something Lucas had said during one of the many meetings back in Thames House. They had only just started the operation, but there had been distrust already. Is that why you weren't exactly in a hurry to get me out of Russia either? Lucas had asked. The Senior Case Officer had blamed his boss for not getting him out of prison any sooner. Harry had been deathly pale back then, confirming Arthur's suspicion that Harry did blame himself, maybe even more so than Lucas himself did. He must feel like he had somehow failed Lucas by letting him be taken and tortured a second time, unable to get him out before he had been sent straight back into the nightmare that prison so literally was to Lucas.
Right now, to Lucas that may have shattered every last bit of faith he may still have in Harry. Ros had told him that Harry believed Lucas was damaged by his imprisonment and that that was why he didn't trust him to pull off the operation of infiltrating Morgana's little organisation. He was definitely damaged now, Arthur knew. After what had happened to him the king would be surprised if he was able to trust anyone at all. He just hoped that Harry was right and that he would have some faith left. He suddenly realised that he would hate to lose this man as a friend.
If someone had told Ros Myers a week ago that she would do her job from the medieval kingdom of Camelot one day, she would have made sure they got to enjoy an extended stay with the shrinks until they were back in their right mind again. Right now, when she was following Arthur through the corridors of the castle it sounded a hell of a lot more likely than it had a week ago. Harry had left with the van, accompanied by a very reluctant Merlin to give him directions, to get some more officers and to spin the Home Secretary some story as to why they would not work to find Morgana from Thames House. Ros had no idea what her boss would tell him; as long as it worked she was fine with it.
Arthur had been saying something about giving them good quarters to work from, but the Section Chief wasn't really listening. She only had to close her eyes to relive the moments after entering Morgana's hovel again and that she could really do without. Her emotions had no place in this job, yet lately they kept invading her work space. So you better do something about that, Myers, she told herself sternly. Or else Morgana will get away again.
That was the motivation that kept her going right now, that kept her from seeing that horrible scene over and over again. It was her way of coping with things she had no other way of dealing with. Her job was the only thing that had kept her going after her father's attempted coup, the showdown with Yalta and Adam's death. It would help her now again. And she could use the anger and frustration she felt now to strengthen her determination to find Morgana and end her. And to put up with this hopelessly outdated bloody medieval society, she added to herself.
Arthur went into a room with a long table in it. Ros noted with interest that the piece of furniture was in no way round-shaped, meaning that yet another part of legend could be dismissed as absolute nonsense. She wasn't even surprised anymore.
The room was filled with people who looked like they were important. Gaius was among them, as was the man Arthur had introduced as his uncle Agravaine. There was something about this man that made Ros dislike him on almost first sight. There was an air of fake friendliness swirling around him that made even Laurie Werner come across as completely genuine. He greeted Arthur with an enthusiasm that Ros could see through within the second and she was more or less surprised that Arthur put up with it. But he didn't even seem to notice it at all.
There were some nobles and knights as well. One of them she recognised as Percival, the one who had carried Lucas inside. He seemed kind, but had apparently not yet discovered the benefits of shirts with sleeves. The others were unknown to her.
'My lord, could you please tell us what is going on?' The question came from one particularly sour-looking nobleman.
'I will, Lord Harold,' Arthur said calmly, betraying some experience in dealing with this man. 'But first I'll have to introduce to you Lady Rosalind of Britain. She is here to help us to track down Morgana, so I will ask you to assist her and her colleagues as much as you possibly can.'
Ros's responding smile to the polite greetings that were now thrown in her direction had all the sincerity of a politician before the elections. She hated these blasted social niceties, unless required by an operation, and she hated the fact that Arthur had introduced her by her full name yet again, and as a lady at that. All this would make it difficult to disappear in the crowds, not that she thought this would be easy anyway. Among these people she would stand out whatever she did, especially since she would not be persuaded to wear the local fashion with its long skirts that would doubtlessly make her trip over the hem multiple times.
'Gwaine, Elyan, she will need some assistance to set up quarters for her colleagues,' Arthur went on. 'Assist her best you can.'
Ros took that as her cue to leave. She had other and better things to do with her time. Arthur could spend as much time making nice with the politicians as he chose, and he didn't need her to hold his hand throughout the process. She could set up a workable headquarters and talk to everyone who knew something about Morgana. If she recalled correctly there was still a traitor in Camelot and this person would no doubt have something useful to say about Morgana's whereabouts. It would be her job to find them.
The two knights Arthur had provided her with followed her out and led her to a room with a view of the central square close to the council chamber. The tallest, a man with long dark hair and a very easy smile, did not seem like the brightest star in the universe, and so Ros turned to his colleague, who seemed a bit more serious. 'I need to have desks, chairs and plenty of candles,' she ordered, adding the last when she remembered that electric light was an invention that would not grace these parts with its presence for many centuries to come. It reminded her once again of why she would rather work from London than from this sorry place. It was the Dark Age in more than one respect.
'Would there be anything else, my lady?' his friend asked. Ros could not escape the notion that this man was not taking her seriously at all. His bow was just a little too low to be sincere and his supposedly charming smile didn't do his credibility any favours. Ros was an expert where it came to seeing through people's behaviour – she had become a spook for a reason – and it was quite obvious that this man was more interested in her jeans than he was in what came out of her mouth.
'What's your name?' she demanded.
The man's attention had drifted towards her high-heeled boots and his eyes widened. Safe to say that he had not heard what she had been saying and Ros was just about to lose her patience with this man.
'Your name?' she repeated sharply, snapping her fingers in front of his face. That made him return his attention to the matter at hand.
'Sir Gwaine, my lady.' The smile must be a constant companion of his. In a way it reminded her a bit of Lucas, who could smile like that as well when he was about to crack some stupid joke. That image however was soon replaced by the one of her colleague twisting in his bonds, screaming in agony, and that spoiled the entire thought.
'Then yes, Gwaine, there is something you can do.' People who knew her that this tone spelled trouble for whoever it was directed against. 'You can run back to your king and tell him to send me a replacement that is not such an idiot as you.' She had heard some tales about this Gwaine. Merlin may have been telling them to Jo whenever they were supposed to be studying surveillance reports or something like that. And consequently she had heard some things about this knight as well. It had left her with the impression of a knight with unequalled fighting skills, but apparently he was also known for flirting with every female he laid eyes on and spending most of his time in the tavern, getting himself drunk. So far, what she had seen convinced her that these stories were more or less accurate.
Gwaine clearly seemed to be taking this as a joke. 'Would that be all, my lady?'
Ros fixed him with her sternest stare. 'Was this not enough?' she inquired icily, crossing him off her list of possible suspects. He was not the traitor material. He just wasn't serious enough to pull it off and she would be very surprised indeed if she was mistaken about him. This was not really a mask, or if it was, then not for treason.
It only then seemed to dawn on him that she was not joking, that she in fact was bloody serious about this. His colleague, who then had to be Elyan, tried and failed to bite back a snort of laughter. He at least had the good sense to get out of the room as fast as he possibly could to carry out the Section Chief's orders. Gwaine hesitated for a moment, but then retreated as well, with Ros's most icy stare all but burning holes in his back.
Like Merlin and Arthur when they had first arrived in London, they did not have a clue as to what they were really dealing with. They had seen Morgana at her worst, should be fearing for their kingdom and their life on a daily basis with the way she behaved, but yet here they were, joking and pretending that this was not at all important. They all seemed so naïve, with the possible exception of Gaius, who had been calm, but who saw and knew a lot more than he let on. He was clearly in on the secret of Merlin's magic and it would seem that no one had ever found out from him that his ward was in possession of powers that were still outlawed in this kingdom.
Personally Ros could understand this ban on magic. In the short while that she had known of its existence she had seen it being used to blow dozens of civilians to kingdom come, to toss people across the room as if it were nothing and to torture Lucas within an inch of his life. If there were ways to use magic for good, she had yet to see them.
That brought her colleague's state back to the forefront of her mind and her hands clenched into fists. They would have their revenge on Morgana and if Ros had anything to say in the matter, she would make sure that she had a huge part in that vengeance. No one touched her officers and got away with it.