This is the last one of these epilogues I can think of, and cover the bits in the story that were, it appears, bugging me. I think anything else that comes to light, will just have to be its own story.
I'm glad everyone enjoyed the story ;-)
Merlin jogged through the forest. He had fallen behind the rest of the group. It didn't worry him, he was past that mental block. This time he didn't want to be too far away from Arthur, just in case. Despite the fact it usually looked like he wasn't involved in the fight, he was. Usually watching Arthur's back so he didn't get anything stabbed into it. For someone who thought he was a good fighter, and did quite well when blindfolded on the training field, it was amazing how many people could often sneak up on him. Merlin needed to be there before they caught up with the bandits.
Just in case, Merlin thought to himself. He wasn't worried, not worried at all. He paused running to catch his breath, and peered through the trees. He didn't think he was far from the road, and as he stood still listening carefully he was sure he could hear the sound of hoof-beats, and Arthur's voice as commands were made.
Merlin started to run. He had gone to check the rabbit snares and traps that were in the forest. Many people lived by what they could grow, or trap. Arthur bought things back and anything that could not be used in the royal household was given out. Arthur was making sure Merlin got some of it. Merlin wasn't quite sure if he was grateful or not. Arthur's sudden, intensive care was confusing.
He brushed that aside as he ran, heading towards the road to catch Arthur. The wind suddenly gushed around him and Merlin skidded to halt, almost falling face down he stopped so abruptly and looked at the road.
A road that had been, a few seconds ago, a fair enough distance ahead of him. Merlin spun round and stared back into the forest, looking down he saw the disturbance in the leaves, where he had stopped. But there were nothing further back, in the soft mud, where his tracks should have been. He spun round again, hearing Arthur's voice. Merlin blinked.
Arthur was still a way down the road, talking in a low tone to the knight riding next to him, discussing the attack plan when they caught up with the bandits. It was impossible, Merlin was too far away to hear what Arthur was saying, and yet Arthur's calm voice was in his ear, as if he was only a step or so away from him.
Merlin spun round again, looking back into the forest, almost hoping that an answer had produced itself while he had his back to it. Nothing was forthcoming; it looked the same as it had a minute ago.
"How did I do that?" Merlin murmured to himself.
Arthur's voice made him jump and spin round. This time hearing the voice was perfectly normal, Arthur had yelled and was now trotting his horse up to where Merlin was stood, trying not to look baffled, and guilty. The rest of the troop nudged their horses forward, staying with Arthur, who halted in front of his confused looking servant.
"Merlin!" Arthur snapped again, since Merlin was staring off into space. Then he frowned. "Merlin?" his voice lowered, part warning and part demand. It seemed to snap Merlin out of his daze, he grinned and lifted up the rabbits.
"I got lunch."
Arthur didn't look very fooled. "Are you all right Merlin, any sign of anyone back that direction?"
Merlin looked, and then snapped back again. "No, no! I didn't see anyone."
"You got here quickly, I wouldn't have expected you to reach us just yet."
"I ran," Merlin said swiftly. Arthur frowned.
"You don't look out of breath."
"Maybe I'm getting fitter," Merlin said brightly, a couple of the knights in the troop suppressed laughter. Arthur sat back in the saddle again, gathering up the reins.
"Just get on your horse, Merlin."
Gaius looked up at Merlin stormed into the room. He strode past him and up the steps into his bedroom. There was a moment's crashing and then Merlin came back, with his magic book in his hand, flicking through pages, and muttering to himself as he did so.
"I must have seen it in here, somewhere… how else could I have done it?"
"Done what?" Gaius asked.
Merlin paused pacing and glanced at Gaius. He regarded him steadily for a moment before putting his head back down, and resuming flicking through the book also started pacing again. Gaius watched him for a moment, as he carried on muttering.
"Where is it? I don't remember seeing it…"
"Seeing what?" Gaius asked. Again he was stared at and then completely ignored as Merlin carried on again. Gaius tolerated it for another minute or so before moving in front of Merlin and grabbing the book from his hands.
"Hey!" Merlin yelled. Gaius hurled the book across the room. Unsurprisingly it stopped mid-flight and dropped onto the table, closing itself neatly. Gaius watched the golden flash fade from Merlin's eyes.
"What have you done?"
"I don't know!" Merlin shouted, side-stepped Gaius and sat down, opening the book again, flipping pages vigorously. Gaius went and sat down on the bench next to him.
"What do you know?"
Merlin stopped flipping and looking up looked at Gaius and then turned to stare off into space.
"I was with Arthur and the rest of them in the forest, I went to check the snares we'd set up the day before, and then I went to meet Arthur at the road."
"And I was running through the forest, and then I was at the road," Merlin said, waving his arms in agitation.
"Yes?" Gaius asked, not getting the point. Merlin glared at him.
"I was in the forest!" Merlin said, slamming his left hand down on one side of the open book. "Then I was at the road!" Merlin slammed his right hand down on the other side. "Nothing in-between!" He waved his right hand, indicating between the two points. The pages started to turn themselves backwards and forwards in a frenzy as he gesticulated wildly. Gaius grabbed his wrist to make him stop it and the pages settled down again, rustling with what seemed like a sigh of relief.
"You mean you transported yourself?" Gaius asked.
"Yes, I think so, I guess so, I've never done that before, why would I do that? Is it even possible?"
"It must be," Gaius said. "Although, you are rather renowned for doing the impossible."
"I'm renowned for not being able to clean armour properly," Merlin snarled sarcastically. "Not for appearing and disappearing."
"I might be inclined to disagree with the disappearing bit," Gaius mused, earning another glare. "But those kinds of spells are possible, you saw the sorceress who went on to impersonate Lady Helen."
"She was incanting, and had a source of power, a focus, what do I have?"
"No need for that kind of thing, usually," Gaius said.
"And I could hear Arthur talking, even though he was too far away."
"He doesn't tend to lower his voice around you."
"Gaius! I'm serious, he was talking to… I can't even remember who it was, and he was still way down the road, but I could hear him like he was next to me."
"Could you hear what anyone else was saying? Arthur couldn't have been the only one talking."
"I don't know, he likes the sound of his own voice too much." Merlin frowned and shook his head. "No, no, I could just hear Arthur."
"Maybe there's some kind of bond, which you've made with Arthur."
Merlin's eyes widened, he leant back away from Gaius.
"No, no way, I do not have any kind of bond with Arthur. Not a chance!"
"But you were running to catch up with him, I think there is your power and focus."
"No," Merlin shook his head. "Really? Seriously? How did that happen? And why then wouldn't I be going the other way?"
Gaius smirked, he looked at Merlin carefully.
"You say you've never done this before, not consciously anyway?"
"Why, what are you thinking?" Merlin asked.
Gaius frowned. "You were in the forest when you did this, and then you wanted to reach Arthur."
"No one was ever really able to work out how you got to Arthur and the others, after those bandits attacked you. I know you said you didn't do any magic, but maybe you did."
"I don't remember doing, I don't remember getting away from them, I think they left me," Merlin said. "And then I…"
"And then you what?" Gaius asked gently; very aware of the change in Merlin's demeanour as he remembered the incident.
"Then I remembered thinking that I needed to get to Arthur."
"And you did," Gaius said.
"I did," Merlin mused, and then jumped a mile as the door crashed open and Arthur stormed in.
"There you are, come on, work to do!" Arthur said grabbing the shoulder of Merlin's shirt and pulling him up. Gaius smirked and Merlin glowered at him as he was dragged to the door.
"No time for sitting down," Arthur added happily. Merlin glared at Gaius as the physician started to shake with laughter, and started to mutter mutinously under his breath.
"Merlin, shut up," Arthur said.
"What are we doing anyway?"
"Training, we need to keep your new fitness level up!" Arthur said brightly, causing Merlin to groan and he decided.
He had the appearing part of the trick worked out, now all he needed to do was get the disappearing part right.