As always, my one chapter stories never turn out like that, so my group are going to get a little more time to deal with this, and so does Arthur.
Merlin lay very still and he wasn't finding it particularly difficult. His ankles were bound and his hands were tied behind his back. The bag on his head was very inconvenient but it didn't really cause him a huge problem. He wasn't going to panic just yet. He hadn't been taken out of Camelot. Merlin knew he was still within the citadel walls. The only question he had was why was someone doing this.
He had been walking back from Arthur's chambers to his own when they had pounced. The bag had gone on his head and then it had been rapped against the wall a couple of times. It might have been the other way round actually, Merlin through to himself. He vaguely remembered seeing someone checking him before the second bang, although their face had been carefully covered. Then the bag had gone on, and hands had been on him, tying him up and he had been hefted over someone's shoulder and carried away.
At no time during the proceedings had he passed out. He felt a little sick, quite constantly as he had been carried over someone's shoulder, but it was steadying now. He had been put down somewhere that smelt like hay, and he could hear the faint stamp and snort of the castle's horses. Somewhere by the stables and still in Camelot, he concluded. And he had been left well alone, he could hear the low murmur of voices some distance away.
They couldn't be after Arthur, if that was the case why go to the trouble of carrying him away. They could have just killed him where he stood or knocked him out and left him. Merlin took a breath, exhaling out into the bag; he tried to focus on the material rippling in front of his face. He whispered a word and let his breath touch the cloth. It rippled in front of him, like water and faded away.
Merlin blinked again, he could still see the weave of the cloth bag. It rested on his eyes gently while he tried to press beyond that with his mind and see who was in the room with him. He gave another sigh as he saw the five men who had taken him. The five knights who knew what he was. They were sat around a small table looking very serious. Olwen looked distinctly unhappy and Merlin felt a flash of pity for him; for all of them really. They could blame Arthur for the position they were in, but a more convent scapegoat was himself. They didn't want to do anything to their future king.
They were murmuring in a low tone. Merlin gave up on the sight spell, he knew who it was now and concentrated on enhancing his hearing.
"Is he all right?" Olwen asked. "He doesn't look like he's moving."
Merlin shifted just to oblige him, pulling on the ropes around his wrists but leaving it at that. They had seen him rip open a mountain and throw huge scorpions about the place. Why were they now thinking that ropes and a cloth bag could hold him? Then again, Arthur had done the same to him. Merlin stopped moving as he heard the sound of a sword being drawn.
"Jonas, what are you doing?" Olwen asked.
"I just want to be cautious," Jonas said.
"Put that down," Rupert snapped. "I mean it, put it down."
Merlin heard the sword clatter to the floor and breathed a sigh of relief. If he had to defend himself he would do exactly that but like it had been with Arthur, Merlin thought it better to let whatever they were doing run its course. That approach had worked with Arthur. But Arthur knew him very well; they spent enough time together, more than was probably necessary and appropriate. Merlin ended up heading out on hunts and patrols with them which didn't need him.
On some levels Merlin had invited himself along, just so he could keep an eye on Arthur. Arthur never seemed to bother about his presence but he was more aware of it now, and what it meant.
"We might need it," Jonas argued, which was replied with by silence. "Well, we might, depending on what we decide."
"Did we really have to do that?" Olwen asked. Merlin wondered what 'that' was, he got an answer as Robert said.
"If we want to talk to him as well, then we need him here. It is about him after all, what we need to sort out."
"There isn't anything to sort out, we know what we have to do," Jonas said.
Merlin grimaced; out of all of them, he would have expected Jonas to react like that. He was not Merlin's biggest fan, even before he had revealed himself as a sorcerer. Most of the time Jonas had looked at him as if he couldn't work out the point of Merlin's existence at all.
"I'm certain we didn't need to tie him up, and you hit his head really hard," Olwen said.
"I wanted to make sure he was subdued."
Again Merlin didn't feel very surprised that it was Jonas who had hurt him. Still, the others were not as bad as that, Olwen sounded like he might be on Merlin's side, at least a little. He didn't think they would get away with killing him, but there were other things they could do to him.
The men sat around the table eyed the still figure at the end of the stable, far enough away from them that they thought Merlin couldn't hear them. They looked at each other.
"All right," Rupert said, looking around at each of them, assessing their mood. "We can't leave this situation, we all know what we saw, what Merlin… is."
"We should tell the king," Gareth said quietly.
"True, we do have a duty to uphold the laws of this land, one of which is to deal with anyone suspected of sorcery," Rupert said.
"Merlin's hardly suspected, is he? We know he's a sorcerer, we saw it with our own eyes," Roger added. "But, we have also been told that people who use magic are evil. Did any one of us before that think Merlin was evil?"
He looked around the group. Olwen shrugged.
"I don't think he's evil even now."
"You talked to Arthur about it, what did he say to you?" Robert said.
"Nothing really," Olwen said with a frown. "He just said he knew Merlin before he knew that he was a …" Olwen paused, looking frightened to say the word. Then he carried on. "And that he knew Merlin wasn't a danger, Arthur felt bad about using him like that, I think."
"It could be that he is holding Arthur in some kind of thrall."
Merlin almost snorted with laughter at that. He did give a very muffled cough and the conversation at the far room ceased. To try and cover himself he made a little show of coughing and then settled again, wriggling a little but not trying to hard. He paused as he heard a stool scrape on the stone floor.
"Jonas," Rupert's low voice warned. Merlin listened to the long tense silence, wondering if they had suspected him of doing something. Then there was a scrape of a stool and footsteps across the floor. Merlin waited, sensing the movement as someone stopped near him, then in one swift movement the bag was grabbed and pulled off his head. Merlin looked up at Jonas crouched by him, the bag in one hand, a knife in the other. Merlin's eyes widened and he tensed as Jonas put the knife blade against his throat.
"Hey!" Olwen said, standing up, looking horrified at what was happening. Robert reached to grip his arm to steady him and he looked at Jonas.
"This is not what we planned."
Merlin watched Jonas' eyes flicker a little. He felt a little frightened to move his throat with the knife pressed against it but Merlin took the risk and said, with greater calm than he expected, "what have you planned?"
He moved his eyes to the group still around the table. They all looked at each other. Jonas answered for them in the end.
"When we want to talk to you, we will do. For now keep quiet."
Merlin looked up at him, trying to read Jonas' expression. Unfortunately his face remained impassive, he was going to giving nothing away, his face closed and his eyes just calm. Merlin stayed very still.
"Fair enough," he said.
That did, to Merlin's surprise, make Jonas smirk, and relax a little. The knife came away from his neck. Merlin felt a little irritated when Jonas pulled the bag back over his head. He rolled his eyes and huffed but Jonas was already walking back. Merlin re-instigated the listening spell, catching Olwen's words as he said.
"You never said you were going to use a knife!"
"Calm down," Jonas snapped at him. "It just seemed appropriate at the time."
"You could have hurt him!" Olwen said, sounding rather upset by the whole thing. Merlin pondered it, if that was part of whatever they were doing then maybe he had just done something right. That they were seeing if he was willing to wait on their verdict. Using Jonas for that part of the plan was clever, it was certainly believable.
The group were settling down from the upset as Merlin suddenly felt something trickle into the edge of his awareness. Someone was sneaking up towards the stables, someone very familiar. Merlin carefully searched out, disregarding the conversation nearby.
Arthur was angry; as Merlin sensed him he decided furious was a far better word. He had a good sense of Arthur's aura and presence, it was his job to keep him alive, and he liked to be able to sense where he was during battles, and most of the time actually. Merlin kept it lingering at the back of his mind a lot of the time. It did help him to know if Arthur was going to jump out at him at any point, since he did have a fondness for sneaking up on Merlin just to take him by surprise.
Now he was sneaking up on his own knights, having just caught sight of them. He hadn't quite gone to bed when Merlin left him, and Arthur had heard something and glanced out of the window just in time to see someone who was clearly Merlin being carried away. Now he was realising who had done it.
As he stalked up he was still thinking out his battle plan. Either storm in there and make himself known, yell at them and retrieve Merlin, or sneak in and bang their heads together, a lot. He was debating that when a voice rang through his mind like a bell.