Hey, I haven't made an update in aaages :) Thanks for coming back!
Gwen ran back to Gaius's chambers as quickly as she could. "Come on Merlin, we've got to go." She slung his arm over her shoulders and heaved him into a sitting position, throwing a cloak over him to offer what little disguise it could.
"My house. You'll be safe there."
His mind was still muddled with exhaustion and weakness as she drug him out of the room. To her relief, it was still early and there were only a few people out to see them walking about. Gwen hastily pulled him into her home and latched the door shut behind them before leading Merlin to the bed.
Merlin's brows furrowed as he continued to try to understand. "… Why?"
"Uther's looking for you."
He took a few moments to respond. "Oh."
"It'll be okay. I won't let him hurt you." Merlin blinked slowly and they sat in silence as he pulled himself back to coherency. Finally, he spoke.
"If Uther wishes me harm, there's nothing anyone can do to stop him."
"We can make sure he doesn't find you."
"You're putting yourself in danger, Gwen! I couldn't live with myself if anything happened to you."
"Then we'll just both have to agree to be careful, won't we? Because there's no way I'm going to risk losing you. We already know Uther's temper is violent. You saw what he did to Arthur, imagine how much worse it could be for you!" She stood up and went to her small kitchen space, rummaging in the hopes of finding something for him to eat. In her hurry to get away from the king, she had forgotten to get food from the kitchens.
She helped him to the table and set a bowl of broth and vegetables in front of him, with a bit of bread. "I'm going to go see Gaius, make sure you eat. Lock the door behind me and if you hear anything suspicious, there's a small trap door underneath the burlap flour sacks that you can hide in. Don't do anything stupid." He grinned at her as she left, then stood and turned the lock.
Gwen rushed up the castle stairway to Arthur's bedroom, and tapped on the door gently. "Who is it?" came the old man's voice from inside.
"Gaius, it's Gwen." After a few seconds the door opened, and he ushered her in. He could tell something was wrong the moment he'd heard her voice.
"Uther's after Merlin. I saw him near the kitchens, and he was angry. And he wanted to know where Merlin was."
Arthur's eyes widened and he sat up, frantically pulling himself to sit on the edge of the bed. "No!"
"Sire, you need to stay in bed," Gaius urged, trying to gently push him back down. The prince resisted and stood, his legs weak and shaky.
"I won't let my father hurt him."
"What do you think you can do in this state? You can hardly walk!"
Arthur stumbled around the screen and pulled on clothes as best he could before grabbing his sword from the mantelpiece.
"Arthur, please," Gwen steadied him with a gentle hand, "you're just going to hurt yourself."
"I cannot sit back and do nothing. I'll protect him." His knees wobbled and he nearly collapsed against the table.
The prince's face crumpled as his resolve began to dissipate. He slumped over and began to sob. "We won't let anything happen to him, Arthur," Gwen assured him as she helped him back to the bed.
"Where is he now, Gwen?" Gaius attention was drawn out the window across the town square.
"I took him to my house."
"Did anyone see you?"
"I can't be sure, why?"
Gaius headed to the door. "Because a couple of Uther's guards are heading that way. Stay with Arthur, no one is to enter this room, do you understand?"
"Yes." And with that, Gaius flew down the steps at a speed remarkable for his age.
He finally reached Gwenivere's home, uneasy when the door swung open with a gentle push. "Merlin? Merlin, are you in here?"
"Where are you?!"
"I'm… I'm under here." The old man followed the sound of his ward's voice, and realized there was a small latch on the floor. He bent down and opened the little door and found Merlin folded in on himself in the tight space.
"Oh, my boy…" He reached in and gripped him by his arm, hoisting him out. It was easier than it should have been, with Merlin being little more than skin and bones. The young man trembled, sobbing in relief and he leaned into his mentor's embrace. Gaius took cautious note of the lack of tears as he held him, whispering, "You're safe, Merlin. You're safe now."
After a few moments, Gaius stood and pulled Merlin up with him, helping him to the bed. "I thought… I was so sure they were going to find me."
"But they didn't. And that buys us some time. Perhaps you can go visit your mother in Ealdor until Uther cools down."
"I can't leave Arthur."