Disclaimer: As much as i would like to, i don't own Merlin or the characters mentioned! :(

Well, here we go, another story time. I know, i know, i'm supposed to be working on the sequel to Web of Fear, but i keep getting writer's block for that one and this kind of sprung out instead.

it's kind of set between series 1 and 2. Although you could have it later if you wanted, there is nothing too specific, its things like references to the Dragon and the way Morgana's character works that gives it that setting!

Many many thanks to MagicbyMerlin for betaing this for me, again, and to PirateMoose for, quite frankly, putting up with me whilst writing this! Thank you both muchly, you're awesome!

So, without further ado, here it goes:

Three men stood silhouetted against the darkness of the stone wall behind them, the moon casting their shadows mysteriously against the blackness of the night. Logically speaking, you should not have been able to see their shadows; but this place was no ordinary cave. His breath steaming in the frozen air, one of the men impatiently rubbed his hands together, trying desperately to get some warmth circulating within his frozen limbs. He quickly stopped, however, when the man at the front of the group gave him a sharp look. This one was clearly their leader: he stood tall and with a sense of pride that his two companions seemed to lack. Standing completely motionless, he watched the small opening, barely daring to breathe. Wishing beyond all sense, the man prayed that this was the night their dreams would come true. He had been waiting a long time for the moment when the cave would open and allow him access to the treasures beyond. Not just the gold and the jewels – he had gained enough of them by robbing every village that he came across. No. This time, he was after a much bigger prize. The supposed legend of the Casket had been told to him on many different occasions, as he tried to piece together whether the myth could possibly be true. It was only after years of patience – as well as numerous planned killings – that he was finally standing before this opening.

As the men waited, an ominous groan sounded through the air, the sound bouncing off the stone surrounding them. Two of them shared a look; their boss was not going to be pleased. Even as they watched, the fissure in the rock once again sealed itself, leaving no evidence that it had ever been there.

"No!" the leader of the thieves cursed as loud as he dared, his heart sinking into his boots. It was all for nothing. The boy that they had taken from a nearby village was supposed to have been able to penetrate the defences that surrounded the cave that lied within. Apparently, the stories of his magic had been greatly exaggerated. Although to be honest, the men were not surprised. In a kingdom where possession of magic meant certain death, once you had been found out, you may as well make yourself seem to be more of a threat than you really are. But it had cost this boy dearly. It had cost him his life.

"So what now, boss?" The man who had been fidgeting had a hoarse and cracked voice, as if his throat had been constricted too much for the words to force their way through. That was partly true, although the fierce battle against ten well-armed soldiers was far from the truth. It didn't look good for a callous thief to admit getting on the wrong side of his own father.

"What do you think? We're going to have to find someone whose magic is strong enough to get us the Casket. Once that is in our power, Uther Pendragon will rue the day that he declared magic to be evil. We'll show him just how evil it can be."

"But how?" the second one asked. His voice was a lot softer, almost like a musical note shimmering through the night air. It didn't suit his ruthless personality at all, but did give him the chance to get close to either their intended victims, or any maid that grabbed his fancy. He had more confidence than his companion, but still feared the wrath of their leader.

"Since the king banned magic, it has been harder and harder to get people to admit to using magic. And since that witch – what was her name again? Nimueh or something like that? Anyway, since she was killed, any hope of getting to the Casket died with her."

"What about her killer?" the second man asked. He had heard a lot about this young warlock, although his reasons for pursuing the topic were kept hidden from his friends. This would be the perfect opportunity to have a reason to meet him, without having to cover it up.

"Hmm," the leader stroked his small beard thoughtfully. He was fond of his beard and always kept it in good condition, believing that it made him look far more opposing. Not being the tallest person around, he was determined that no one would ever laugh at his height. "That might just work. Tyson, go and fetch him here. We will wait for you in the woods. You have three days. Do not fail me."

The man with the musical voice nodded his understanding and strode off into the trees. There was no fear of him failing his boss; he knew all too well the consequences of that. However, he had an added incentive for fetching this warlock. If he succeeded against the cave, then all of them would achieve their dreams of possessing the Casket. And if he failed, then he was not worthy to be called Tyson's son.

So...what did you think to chapter 1? Please, please review and let me know! :)