Hi! So this is an AU of the season 3 finale. Morgana has plead enchantment because of her actions with Morguose, but she is still very much evil. Uther is not catatonic, the kingdom is not being ruled by Arthur, and all the boys are still knights. Enjoy!
I do not own Merlin. I wish I did, but alas…
It was just a normal day in the kingdom of Camelot when it happened.
Actually, no. It was not a normal day. Camelot was at peace, for once. No one was attacking with their immortal armies, no sorcerers have attempted to kill Arthur, or Uther yet; everything was relatively calm in the castle (besides the usual hustle and bustle that came with running a castle smoothly, of course).
It was rather disconcerting, and no matter how many chores Arthur piled onto his maidservant, it was making Merlin rather restless.
So, at breakfast, when the King decided to plan for an impromptu picnic for lunch with his son and his beloved ward, ("We haven't had a chance to catch up for what seems like ages.") Merlin was ecstatic. Arthur left to gather his knights while Merlin and Gwen went to make the preparations, since they were to accompany their respective master and mistress (because obviously, the nobles wouldn't be able to unpack a basket of food for themselves and get their hands dirty. Merlin suspected Arthur only wanted her there so he and the knights could tease her). She was also requested to extend the invitation to Gaius, who happily accepted. Soon everything was packed and they set off to a secluded area in the woods.
The king and Gaius led their rather large group, Arthur, Leon and Morgana behind them, the rest of the knights behind them, and the serving girls bringing up the rear. They girls were idly chatting when Merlin noticed Lancelot glancing over his shoulder- at Gwen. For the fifth time in two minutes. Gwen glanced up at him as well and blushed, looking away quickly. Just as she had the past four times it's happened.
Merlin smirked slightly and leaned in closer to her friend. "I do believe our friend the knight is besotted with you, Gwen dear." She laughed when Gwen started sputtering more than usual and blushed fiercely.
"What? I-no, no- I don't-"
"Gwen, it's okay. Honestly, you two are perfect for each other! I don't know why he hasn't asked to court you yet." At this a forlorn expression crossed Gwen's face and she sighed softly.
"He doesn't want to upset the king," she said. "You know what happened to the last knight that started courting a serving girl. Gregory nearly lost his title, and the girl her life."
Merlin frowned at the memory (Gregory and Anna were friends of hers) and shook her head slightly. "But you're a Lady now, by default at least." And it was true. When Arthur knighted Elyan, the nobility status automatically extended to Guinevere as well, seeing as how she was his only remaining family. Of course, Uther had been livid when he found out his son had knighted not only peasants (Merlin had to suppress a smirk, seeing as how Gwaine was actually a noble), but two men who were banished from Camelot. But Arthur fought tooth and nail in defense of his new men, constantly repeating their worth and how many times they saved his life (though that last part was admittedly a little exaggerated), and finally the king had consented.
Gwen shook her head and glanced at Lancelot- again. "It doesn't matter. Since I decided to keep to my duties as a maidservant for Morgana," Merlin tried to keep her cringe under wraps at the witch's name, "he still sees me, and treats me, like a servant. He doesn't care that I technically have a title now."
Merlin sighed sadly and grabbed her friend's hand in comfort. It angered her greatly that her two best friends -who obviously loved each other- could not be together. It didn't help the Uther would look at Lancelot with barely concealed contempt because of his ex-peasant status. The same went for the rest of the knights with them, besides Sir Leon. So the only thing the two lovers could do was gaze longingly at each other and pine from afar. It wasn't right, nor was it fair, but there was nothing she could do for either of them unfortunately.
She was pulled out of her thoughts, however, when an apple hit her in the head.
Merlin snapped her head up and glared at the knights. "Who threw that at me?" All of the knights were suspiciously quiet (if she was a bit more observant, she would have noticed that the king had also ceased his conversation with her uncle to listen in), but Merlin could see Gwaine's shoulders shaking with silent laughter. She narrowed her eyes at the knight and threw the apple right back at him, aiming for the back of his head.
Unfortunately, he chose that moment to move, and the apple sailed over his head. And hit Arthur. Shit.
Merlin pointed at Gwaine frantically. "I was aiming for him!" she insisted. Arthur glared and threw the apple at her, hitting her in the stomach hard enough to knock the wind out of her for a moment.
"You attempted to injure a knight, but instead hit the Crown Prince. I could have you in the stocks for that." At Arthur's typically pompous reply, Merlin rolled her eyes and fixed him with a glare of her own.
"You know, I don't think it's healthy for someone to be so prattish all the time. You might need to get the checked out, sire." Distantly, she could hear Gwaine chuckling under his breath, but now the silence was tense with the others. Neither she nor Arthur paid attention to it though. "I'm serious, that's not a good attitude to have. Especially if you want your knights and the people of Camelot to rally behind you. You'll be known as 'Arthur, the Prat Prince of Camelot', and while it may be fitting, I don't really think that you'd want your name to go down in history with that atrocity tacked on the end of it."
Gwaine was outright laughing now, and the knights couldn't hold in their own snickers-though it wasn't from lack of trying. Percival and Leon especially sounded a bit like they were choking on a tough piece of meat. Gaius, while glaring at his niece for taunting the prince with the king present, could have sworn he had seen a slight upward twitch of Uther's lips. But he could have been imagining it, it disappeared practically the second it appeared.
They were brought back to the scene before them with Arthur's voice. "Merlin, I've been thinking-"
"Careful, sire, I wouldn't want you to injure yourself."
"Shut up Merlin." Arthur scowled at his maidservant, but everyone could tell he didn't really mean it. "As I was saying, I've been thinking that my stables could use a good mucking, and my armor needs polishing, and I do believe the knights need their boots cleaned."
Merlin groaned in reply. "But Arthur…" Arthur rolled his eyes good naturedly and flashed his maidservant a grin (and her heart did not skip a beat or two, no, absolutely not).
"Don't be such a girl Merlin. Besides, you could do with some muscle." His grin morphed into a smirk at her narrow-eyed look. She turned helplessly to Gwen, who only gave her a sympathetic pat on the knee. Turning to the rest of the knights proved to be fruitless as well, as they all gave her winks of encouragement or amused little shrugs. Merlin grumbled for a moment, (something along the lines of "Stupid, useless excuses for friends…the stables aren't even my job…dollophead…") before she donned a mischievous smile that everyone present knew well. Lancelot was immediately wary and shook his head at his small friend.
"Merlin, whatever you're thinking, stop-"
Merlin however paid him no attention and rode up to her master. While studiously ignoring Morgana's attempts of glaring a hole in the side of her head, Merlin smiled sweetly at Arthur.
"Alright Arthur, I'll do the chores." She had to fight to hold in her giggles at Arthur incredulous expression.
"Really. That is, if you can catch me first." With that she tossed the apple at the flabbergasted Prince and dug her heels into her mare's sides, shooting away from the rest of their party. She could hear Gaius calling her name, and the pounding of hooves behind her. She turned to see Arthur right at her back, slowly but surely drawing up level to her own steed. He turned to her and smiled, the first genuine smile Merlin had seen in a long while. It was full of joy and challenge and it made her unreasonably happy to see how the expression lit up his face. Soon they were both laughing, and racing in earnest.
They ran side by side for a few moments before Arthur started pulling ahead. Well that just wouldn't do at all. Merlin spurred her horse to go faster, but she could feel her growing tired. With a little burst of magic, her horse regained a bit of energy and pulled completely ahead of the prince. She glanced over her shoulder and laughed again at the aghast look on Arthur's face. "Keep up sire!"
Merlin saw his eyes widen, could see his lips moving as he stared past her, but she was too far away from him and couldn't hear what he said over the pounding of her own horse's hooves on the earth. She turned back to the front and gasped, yanking hard on the reins to slow down her horse before she completely ran over the three people standing in the middle of the freaking road. Then, she found she didn't need to worry about hitting them.
The small woman in the middle raised her hand and her eyes flashed yellow, and Merlin felt herself being lifted from her saddle. Before she could even attempt to defend herself, she was slammed headfirst into the dirt and everything went black.
Uther was the next to fall.
One of the men took him off his horse, the same way they had Merlin, and knocked him out. Arthur watched helplessly as his knights, Guinevere, Morgana and Gaius all slipped into unconsciousness. He himself was being held by the sorceress' magic. He hadn't lost consciousness yet, though the black spots dancing across his vision got bigger with every blink of his eyes or turn of his head. Soon they got so large that they were almost obscuring his vision of his maidservant. Valiantly, Arthur tried to fight against it but there was no use. "I shouldn't have made her come," he thought, before darkness claimed another victim.
When Arthur woke next, it was to a face full of Sir Gwaine's hair.
Arthur sputtered and the hair was immediately removed, only to be replaced by the knight himself. "Rise and shine Princess," he said with an anxious smile. "Now's not the time to be napping." Arthur glared at his knight in confusion -usually Merlin was the one that attended to him- before everything came rushing back to him. The plans for a picnic. Merlin laughing with him. The sorcerers in the road. Merlin falling. His father, falling. Merlin.
"Where is she?" Arthur sat up slowly and glanced around the room-well, cell was more like it. His father was standing with Morgana and Gaius in one corner of the rather large but dank cell, the knights were all standing at the bars of the door trying to test its strength, and Elyan was sitting with Gwen leaning her head wound. But Merlin wasn't there.
Arthur turned back to Gwaine, about to open his mouth to ask again, when he heard the knights scuttle away from the bars. A man stood on the other side (one of the ones from the road, Arthur's head helpfully supplied) and looked over everyone.
"Ah good, you're all awake. Now we can proceed." The sorcerers' voice was deep and slurred slightly, as though he'd been drinking. He was at least a head taller than all of the men in the cell and his hands were large enough to wrap around your neck and still have his fingers touch. Muscles practically exploded off of the man's arms, and his eyes were a dull brown color, like dirt. He held himself lightly on his feet and in a predatory stance. He was the strongest man in the room, with his combined strength and magic, and he knew it (Percival did not look happy about this fact at all).
Arthur watched silently as his father marched up to the cell door. "You insolent fool! I demand you release us at once!"
The sorcerer just scoffed. "What, so you can try to run me through? Or escape? Yeah, not gonna happen." Uther's eyes narrowed hatefully at the man across from him, but the sound of a door opening above them cut off any response he was going to make.
"Oi, Matai! She wants 'em up here! The girly's startin' ta wake!"
Arthur tensed at the statement and glared at their captor. "He means Merlin, doesn't he? You have her up there." When the man -Matai- merely nodded, Arthur stood and stalked to his father's side. "If you hurt her-"
"No harm has come to your serving girl," Matai interrupted. His eyes flashed gold and the door to the cell swung open. "And no harm will come, so long as you do what you're told. Now, come along. It's about to start." After a tense moment of silence, Arthur stepped out of the cell behind Matai, and the others slowly followed their prince.
Arthur took note of every turn they made and what corridors they were met with. Soon, they were standing in front of a set of large wooden doors. Matai turned and smiled at the small crowd of captives behind him. Arthur had to resist the urge to punch him.
"This is the throne room. In case you hadn't noticed, we are in the abandoned castle of King Cadal-" Arthur couldn't help but scoff, and he leveled a glare at the sorcerer.
"Cadal? He was a king you say? And how is it that I've never heard of this man?"
Matai raised a single eyebrow at the prince (an uncanny resemblance of Gaius). He appraised him as one would a rat they found eating their dinner. "Cadal was a sorcerer, and a great man-"
"Magic is vile, and corrupts the minds of those that practice it." His father pushed his way through the group to stand by Arthur and was practically foaming at the mouth. Arthur glanced behind him at everyone and thought he saw Lancelot grimace.
"Power of any kind can corrupt any man, Uther Pendragon. You of all should know this." Matai turned from them and opened the great doors. He let them pass and Arthur froze, feeling his knights do the same.
"Merlin." Gaius spoke the name of his niece almost as a whisper. For there, in the middle of the throne room and hanging from a pair of thick chains, was the limp and unmoving form of Arthur's maidservant.
And Arthur saw red.
He and the knights all leapt forward as one towards their friend, but fell up short as they ran into a wall. Literally.
Gwaine put his hand flat on the invisible barrier between him and Merlin and snapped. "Merlin!" he screamed. "Merlin, wake up! MERLIN!" Both he and Lancelot started hitting the barrier with vigor, the Percival and Elyan soon following suit. Arthur, however, turned to Matai.
"What did you do to her," he demanded. "Let her go at once!" Matai simply shook his head and waved a hand towards the crowd gathered in front of him (Gwen and Gaius had joined the knights in trying to break the barrier. Arthur was slightly surprised that Morgana wasn't up there, he had thought she and Merlin were friends). The group was all dragged from the wall and their hands were bound behind them.
"Quiet, little prince." Arthur bristled at the name. "She is merely unconscious. She will wake soon enough."
"Why her?" All eyes turned to Morgana, who was staring straight at Merlin with a somewhat blank expression on her face. "Why is she strung up, and not me? Or Arthur, or the king? What makes her so special?" The last word she practically spat out, though no one really noticed except Arthur, Gwen and Gaius. The ones that knew her the best. Gwen flinched slightly at her tone, and turned to a hard-eyed Gaius with a slightly heart-broken expression; Arthur was surprised to say the least. He had noticed the somewhat frosty way Merlin and Morgana seemed to regard one another lately. 'They must have had a falling out,' he reasoned, though he was a bit worried by the hatred he saw flash in Morgana's eyes.
Uther nodded his head in agreement. "Yes, yes, you have the serving girl. Now release us." Arthur tensed at his statement. He was absolutely not leaving this place without Merlin at his side, and guessing from the sudden growls coming from the side of him where the knights were, they had come to the same decision as him.
Matai stared intently at Uther for a moment, before shaking his head ruefully. "You truly have no idea, do you?" He chuckled lowly at the bewilderment on the king's face.
Uther demanded, "Know what?"
"Everything this serving girl has done for you and for Camelot." He moved his now slightly unnerving gaze to Arthur, who fought to not squirm. "For all of you." Matai glanced back at merlin's prone form. "Not even we know all of her deeds, though we have seen a few. We do not know why she does it, either. And that is why we are here."
As if on cue, Merlin twitched and her chains clinked together. Arthur turned so fast his neck let out a loud crack, but he didn't even register the slight sting of pain as he saw Merlin's eyes flutter open.
"Ugh. Did Gwaine drag me out to the tavern again?" Merlin's voice cracked slightly from lack of use, but it was still definitely Merlin's voice, and Arthur slumped in relief.
Gaius kicked Gwaine's ankle in admonishment. "Again? Really, Gwaine?" Arthur relished in the color that came into the knight's cheeks in the face of Gaius' disapproving gaze, but he quickly turned back to face his maidservant. She tried to move her arms, but the chains held her up.
"What-Arthur." Merlin's head snapped up suddenly, her eyes were wide and filled with terror. "Arthur? Where are you? ARTHUR!" Merlin frantically looked around the throne room, as if hoping to catch a glimpse of her prince and the rest of her friends, struggling in her chains. Arthur was extremely confused.
"She cannot see nor hear you, but we can her." Matai answered all of their unasked questions. Arthur was still trying to figure out why they wanted Merlin specifically when Merlin suddenly stopped moving again. She took a few deep breaths before she started speaking to herself.
"Alright, calm down. Think. Why did they separate us?" Merlin looked slowly around this room, taking in all of the tiny cracks and holes in the walls and ceiling with a calculating look Arthur had rarely seen in her eyes. She seemed to be debating with herself for a moment before her eyes widened a bit. "Me," she breathed out. "They want me."
"Well done." Heads turned at the sound of a new voice. "You've figured it out." A small woman stepped out from behind a pillar and stood to the right of Merlin. Her bright red hair was slightly obnoxious, and hung in tight coils down her back. Deep brown eyes adorned her freckled face, and the green gown she wore was obviously of a fairly fine quality. She smirked slightly at Merlin's cold expression and it made Arthur's skin crawl.
Merlin apparently felt the same because she squirmed away from the woman. "Where are they?" Merlin's eyes narrowed as the woman's smirk grew.
"Your friends are safe in our dungeons." The woman waved a hand and an image of the unconscious party was showed to Merlin. She relaxed slightly (even if Arthur didn't. They were all awake, these sorcerers wanted Merlin and she couldn't see or hear him, how they hell can she relax even a little?) Merlin turned back to the woman once the image disappeared and glared at her.
"Great, you have me now. Let them all go. They are of no use to you."
The sorceress laughed and tutted at Merlin. "Why, of course they are of value to me. They are your party, among them the king and the prince of Camelot. I need them as leverage, you see. You'd never tell us what we wanted to know if you thought they were all safe in their pretty little palace. Besides," she stood completely in front of Merlin now. "We haven't even been introduced. My name is Deidre."
"What, exactly, do you want with me Deidre?" Scorn practically dripped from Merlin's tone and Arthur smiled slightly. She could hold her own in a battle of will, he'd have to give her that. Deidre didn't seem affected by it though, and her smirk grew into a slightly maniacal grin.
"I want to know why." Merlin simply stared at the sorceress with an aggravated expression. "I want to know why the Pendragons have your loyalty. You are nothing but a serving girl, yet you guard them all with your life, and you never seek recognition. Why is that?"
Merlin groaned and dropped her head. "I'm getting a bit tired of everyone asking me the same questions. First Nimueh," Uther's gasp was audible and he stared at Merlin in shock, "then Sigan, Morguose and now you? It's getting old." Deidre seemed confused, and Merlin rolled her eyes at her. "Deidre, this isn't my first kidnapping, nor is it my first confrontation with a powerful magic user, and it most certainly won't be my last. I'm rather used to it all now."
The group stilled at this statement. Not her first kidnapping? When had she been kidnapped? 'Why did I not know she had been kidnapped?' His thoughts were brought to a halt at Deidre's voice.
"Regardless, I require answers-"
Merlin laughed wryly at the woman and shook her head. "I hope you don't think you're going to torture it out of me, because many have tried, and none have succeeded."
Arthur felt all of the air rush out of his lungs and heard the sharp intakes of breath from behind him. Torture? Merlin, tortured? Multiple times…Arthur's mind shut down. He couldn't imagine Merlin being kidnapped and tortured without him noticing. He would have known.
He could see the look of astonishment on his father's face, and the dawning horror on the knights and Gwen. Gwaine turned accusing eyes on Arthur, as if this was all somehow his fault, and Gaius just looked heartbroken. Even Deidre looked a bit sick at the thought. "Oh gods no. No, too messy." With that, Deidre muttered a spell and Merlin toppled to the ground, her hands unbound.
Merlin landed harshly on the floor and glared contemptuously at the sorceress while rubbing her wrists. She stood and back slowly towards the door, only to be stopped by the invisible barrier. She turned towards them and lightly laid her hand on the wall, as if testing it was actually there. She was literally inches from Arthur, and all he wanted to do was snatch her up and take her far away from this place (he was far past the point of denying these feelings for Merlin, especially now). But he couldn't move, and she couldn't see him and he hated it.
"You cannot get through." At the sound of Deidre's voice, Merlin's usually bright blue eyes turned frigid, like the frost that covered the streets of Camelot in the winter. Arthur was slightly surprised that the room hadn't indeed been icing over from the sheer force of her glare. "You only have one way to leave, and that will be presented when we are finished in here."
Merlin turned to face Deidre once more. "Or I could kill you where you stand and the barrier would drop." Merlin's tone was even colder than her eyes, layered with anger and warning and Arthur's instincts reared with a passion, screaming 'Danger, Danger, RUN NOW!' It was unnerving to see his usually bubbly maidservant like this -hostile, and threatening, and willing to kill. She was usually the epitome of happiness and generosity, always helping others when they needed it and able to make even the most battle-hardened warriors smile. She was not this –whatever this was.
Deidre however was nonplussed. "You could, or it could stay and you and your friends would be trapped here forever. Or killed." A muscle in Merlin's jaw jumped and she exhaled sharply.
"Fine. How do you plan to extract this information from me then?" Deidre smiled, knowing she had won.
"It's simple, really. All I need from you is one thing."
"And what's that?" Merlin's eyes narrowed in suspicion when Deidre stepped closer to her, positively beaming. The discomfort was practically rolling off the group watching as well, besides Matai. Whatever was going to happen, no one was going to like it.
They were right.
Deidre drew an amulet from the folds of her dress and held it in front of Merlin. "Your memories."
Hope you liked it! Please review, the next chapter should be up soon (hopefully).