Disclaimer: I do not own Merlin. I do not own its characters.

Camelot Returns (continued) – by AudiRox

Gwen walks up to the doors of the king's chambers with a tray of light breakfast, warm water, washcloths and instructions from Gaius. She pauses and sighs. "I need to swallow my pride," she thinks to herself. "I need to do what's right." She closes her eyes and takes a deep breath, and then she opens one of the doors and enters the king's chambers. Instantly, she notices how dark and muggy the chambers seem. Gwen places the tray on the massive table and walks over to the window. She pulls open the curtains to reveal the morning sunlight. She hears a groan and instantly looks in the direction from which it came. It's Uther Pendragon, the man who made her life a living hell numerous times.

"Gaius?" he calls out groggily with his eyes still half-closed.

"No, it is I, sire. Gwen." She walks over to the table and moves the tray closer to Uther's bed. She places it on the side table.

Uther slowly opens his eyes to see her. "You," he isn't pleased. "Where is Gaius? I want Gaius to tend to me." He looks away.

"He is tending to others that need his help, sire. There are still many civilians injured from the battle." says Gwen as she wets a washcloth in warm water.

Uther is still not pleased, "Then leave me and ask Gaius to come as soon as he has finished."

Gwen sighs but tries to hold her composure. "He has given me specific instructions and I am to tend to you until you're back on your feet."

Displeased by Gwen's answer, Uther struggles to sit up a bit. "I will not accept this." He takes a moment to breath and continues, "Gaius is the court physician and he should be taking care of me."

Gwen tries to reason, "Gaius is the only physician in Camelot and your people need him more."

"I will not have it!" Uther tries to shout.

"There are those with mortal wounds that need more tending than a mere gash to your ego, sire." Gwen says firmly, but Uther's surprised expression makes her realize she had spoken her mind, and that was not her intent. She tries to apologize but the sound of the door opening distracts them.

Arthur enters the chambers clad in armor, behind him, Gwaine and Leon. He looks at Guinevere and faintly smiles, but quickly moves his gaze to his father, the man sitting halfway up in his bed. "Father," he says. "I've come to see how you're doing before I head out to Cenred's kingdom."

"Cenred's kingdom?"

"Yes, I want to make sure that the outlying villages aren't harmed. And that…" he says tentatively, "Morgana hasn't found a hiding there."

Uther shakes his head as Gwen pulls a chair closer to the bed, "It's too soon. You shouldn't leave Camelot alone."

"I don't believe we're in any danger at present. Besides, you're still our king."

Uther closes his eyes, "I'm in no state to govern."

Arthur notices how his king hasn't looked directly at him. The prince is clearly concerned for his father, but he puts on a brave face and steps aside to reveal the two knights behind him. "Sir Leon and Sir Gwaine will be here if you need anything at all." He briefly looks at Gwen, "I won't be gone for long."

"Gwaine?" Uther questions.

"Yes, my lord," says Gwaine as he steps forward.

Uther looks at him, but hasn't the energy to protest. "Very well." As he looks down at his sheets, he continues, "Return soon, Camelot needs you."

Arthur nods, "Yes, father." He looks at Gwen and smiles, and then turns on his heel and exits the chambers with Leon and Gwaine following him.

Gwen tentatively smiles back, but then returns her attention to the king. She proceeds to wring out the washcloth and tentatively holds it close to Uther's forehead. Once she sees there's not protesting, she starts to wet his forehead and cleanse his face.

Merlin is anxious to see his mother. They've traveled almost a whole day with no enemies on their trail for crossing the border into Cenred's Kingdom or what's left of it.

Arthur, Elyan, Percival, Lancelot and a couple of others are on horseback as well.

Arthur notices Merlin's anxiousness and asks, "You alright, Merlin?"

"Me?" asks Merlin in surprised.

Arthur rolls his eyes, "No, the other Merlin riding right next to you."

Elyan, Percival and the other knights smile, but Lancelot looks at Merlin wondering the same as Arthur.

"Oh, I'm fine. Just, you know, I haven't seen my mother in so long."

Arthur nods, "I'm sure she is fine."

The knights nod in agreement.

They arrive in Ealdor, the village Merlin was born and raised. The villagers seem to be going about their usual business. It doesn't seem as though the recent events have affected them at all. The villagers start to gather around as they notice the band of knights riding into their home, along with a familiar face, their own, Merlin.

As they ride past a few of the homes, Hunith, having heard that her son had been spotted, runs out of her home to see him for herself.

"Merlin!" she shouts as she runs towards him.

Clumsily, Merlin jumps (more like stumbles) off his horse and runs towards his mother. With tears in her eyes, she embraces her son.

"Mother," he softly says as he hugs her tight.

His knights slowly dismount and start to mingle with the villagers as Arthur observes the bittersweet scene ahead. Merlin and his mother, reunited.

"We're on our way to Cenred's castle." says Arthur as he takes a bowl of supper from Hunith in her small home.

As she hands Merlin his own bowl, Hunith hears the laughter of children and knights outside her home. "The villagers are very happy to see you here."

Arthur nods, "And we're very happy to see you are doing well."

Merlin smiles as he wolfs down his food.

"The recent events don't seem to have affected the outlying villages." Arthur continues.

"At least as far as Ealdor," Hunith explains, "we haven't a clue as to what may have happened in the villages closer to the castle.

"We'll find out tomorrow as we head out again." says Arthur as he begins to eat the food which was graciously prepared by Hunith. As he swallows his first bite, he looks up at Hunith and smiles, "Thank you."

Hunith smiles back at him.

Merlin smiles to himself as he notices how much Arthur has grown since he first met him. There's much humility in him.

The next morning, with yet another tray in her hands, Gwen is on her way to tend to Uther. She sees Gwaine walk around the corner in the hallway.

"Gwaine," she calls out to the knight.

Pleasantly surprised, Gwaine turns around and walks over to the Gwen and with a smile, he nods. "My lady."

Gwen blushes a bit, but knows Gwaine well enough to take him seriously. "I'm not a lady."

With a smirk, he says, "Well, you are to me."

"Right," says Gwen, but quickly dismisses his harmless comment. "Have you heard from Arthur or Merlin?"

Gwaine's expression becomes more serious, "No, not yet." He sees that Gwen is concerned, and so he continues, "It's too soon, Gwen. They only left yesterday morning."

Gwen nods with a faint smile, "You're right, Gwaine," corrects herself, "Sir Gwaine."

Gwaine smiles.

"It's just that I'm..."

"Worried about Arthur?" Gwaine finishes her sentence.

"And Merlin, and Elyan, and the rest of them."

Gwaine nods, "but mostly Arthur?"

Gwen blushes but continues, "I'm worried about all of them equally."

The new knight smirks, "Of course." Gwen smiles and starts to walk around him. But then he sees the tray Gwen is carrying. "How do you do it?"

"Do what?" asks Gwen as she turns around.

Gwaine inches closer and explains softly "Take care of Uther. From what I've heard, he has been nothing but a brute to you and your family."

Gwen looks around and answers just as softly, "You should not speak about your king that way."

"He is not my king."

"Gwaine!"

"I'm here because of Merlin, and because I believe in Arthur." Shakes his head, "not his father." He looks down at the tray again, "I don't have a forgiving heart as you do."

Gwen faintly smiles.

Gwaine nods and reassures her, "I'm sure Arthur and Merlin will be back before we know it."

The young woman in her lavender dress nods and watches Gwaine walk away.

Arthur and his knights, with their swords drawn, are inching closer to the lower castle of Cenred's kingdom. As they quietly move around, they are surprised to see the deserted surroundings.

Merlin follows Arthur closely. "It's as if everyone just disappeared."

They hear a noise and raise their swords. But it's only a street dog scavenging for food and so they lower their swords.

"Everyone except their pets," says Elyan.

Arthur looks up at the massive structure, "We'll search the castle and if there's no one here to worry about, we'll head back to Camelot." He looks around at his knights, "we should split up. Merlin, why don't you go with Lancelot?"

Merlin smiles and nods. "If there was a need to use magic, I could freely do so in front of Lancelot," he thinks to himself.

An hour or two has passed with no sign of any human life in the castle. Merlin and Lancelot find themselves in the throne room.

"I think we've covered most of this floor," says Lancelot as he rests on the arm of the throne. "There's no sign of Morgana."

"No, doesn't seem like it," agrees Merlin.

Lancelot shakes his head, "I cannot believe she would harm those that loved her."

Merlin finds comfort by leaning against a pillar, but the thought of Morgana only brings negative feelings in him. He felt nothing but anger towards her, he even wished her dead, which was unlike his character. But she had brought so much pain to people he cared about, so he wasn't sorry he felt so negatively. "I understand her hatred towards Uther, I do."

Curiously, Lancelot asks, "What do you mean?"

"I mean, he has falsely accused so many people of using magic, he kept so many secrets from his children. I can see how much hate must've built up in her all these years, but to go as far as hurting the people who cared about her. Arthur, Gwen… I mean, Gwen!" Merlin says loudly.

Lancelot winces at the name.

Merlin shakes his head and keeps ranting, "She helped Morgause and Cenred kidnap Elyan and Gwen so that Arthur could be lured into a trap. And then, she revealed Arthur's feelings for Gwen to Uther and then when Arthur decided to leave Camelot with Gwen," Lancelot looks up in surprised, but Merlin carries on, "Morgana framed her for using magic to enchant him."

"Arthur was to leave Camelot with Gwen?" asks Lancelot.

Merlin nods, "Yes, and then when Uther tried to execute her, Arthur wanted to relinquish his right to the throne," despite Lancelot's shocked expression, Merlin grins, "but of course, I saved the day."

"I see," says Lancelot as he looks down at the floor.

Only then does Merlin realize that he had said too much. "Oh no! Lancelot, I'm so sorry…" he steps closer, "I completely forgot." He slaps himself on the forehead, "I'm such an idiot."

Lancelot looks up at his friend, "No, you're not."

"It's just that, it has been so long, I didn't think…"

The knight admits, "It was a long time ago."

Merlin softly asks, "Do you still have feelings for her?"

Lancelot carefully constructs his answer, "Whatever feelings were expressed to each other long ago, should not have been taken seriously. And from what I gather, their feelings for each other existed long before I expressed mine. It seems Arthur and Gwen have been through a lot together these past couple of years."

Merlin feels sorry for his friend, but he can't deny any of what he had said. "I'm sorry."

"What have you done now, Merlin?" asks Arthur as he enters the throne room with the rest of the knights.

Both Lancelot and Merlin are caught by surprise, but they quickly gather themselves.

"Sire," says Lancelot, "no sign of anyone on this floor."

Arthur nods, "We've been up and down this place."

"How do we proceed, sire?" asks Elyan.

Arthur takes a moment to think, "We'll rest a bit and then head back home to Camelot. I'd like to be back before dusk tomorrow."

"My lord, it does not seem as though Cenred had an heir. If word gets out that his kingdom is deserted, there'll be legions of armies coming to capture the land." Says Lancelot.

Arthur nods, "I know, but Camelot does not have the resources at the moment to rule two kingdoms. Our focus should be to take care of Morgana" he winces, "whatever way we can."

Lancelot steps forward "Sire, if I may…"

Arthur nods at his knight, "Yes, Sir Lancelot."

Lancelot looks at Percival, "If my fellow knight is willing," he looks back at his prince, "may I suggest that Percival and I continue on and see what we can find out in the outlying villages up north. And maybe beyond the kingdom?"

While it seems like a good idea, Arthur shakes his head, "I can't risk two knights of Camelot crossing into other kingdoms."

"And that is why I suggest traveling as commoners." Lancelot seems determined.

The other knights look at each other.

While Lancelot's heroics are true, Merlin wonders if there's another motive that's driving Lancelot to go further beyond his call of duty.

Arthur is surprised, but cannot argue with his idea. "You need food and water. We haven't much left."

"We're going to pass through at least ten villages; we'll have plenty of food and water."

Percival nods.

Arthur looks at Percival, "What say you, Sir Percival?"

Percival grins, "You don't even have to ask, sire."

Gratefully, Lancelot pats his friend on the back.

Arthur nods, "Alright, that's settled. We'll rest a bit and go our separate ways before sun down."

Everyone nods in agreement and pulls out whatever food they have left in their sacks.

Later that afternoon, Gwen finds herself in Gaius' quarters waiting for the physician to return from his rounds. She notices something unusual about the quarters. It has been brought back to its former self very quickly. "Very quickly, indeed," she thinks to herself. "Gaius must've been cleaning and arranging the place all night. With his rounds, how else could he have found the time to do this?" She herself hasn't had enough time to do half as much. She shakes the thought off her mind as the old physician walks into his quarters.

"Ah, Gwen…" says the physician as he hangs his sack of medicine on the back of the door.

"I've come for more medicine for the king," says the young woman.

Gaius nods and walks over to his table. "How is he?"

"Sound asleep," she holds up a small empty bottle, "but I'm afraid we've run out of what's helping him sleep so well."

"Ah, I have it right here," he says as he continues to look for the small bottle of potion.

Gwen curiously looks around again. "You must've been up all night the past two days to get this place back into shape."

Gaius looks up, "What?" he tries to come up with an excuse and stammers a bit. "Oh, umm, it-it was all Merlin's doing."

Gwen suddenly has a confused expression on her face, "Oh. How earth did he find the time?"

"Ahhh! Here it is!" says Gaius as he hands the little bottle to Gwen. "Five drops…"

Gwen finishes his sentence, "two times a day. Got it."

Gaius smiles.

Gwen awkwardly looks around again, "Well, off I go again, then."

The physician nods with a smile, "See you around, Gwen. Give me updates on how Uther is doing."

Gwen nods and closes the door behind her.

Gaius sighs as he realizes that Gwen was starting to get suspicious of how his quarters were so quickly repaired. "I didn't lie," he thinks to himself, "it was Merlin that did all the work." He shrugs, "Of course, he did use magic." He shakes his head and goes about his work.

Later, before sundown, the knights of Camelot along with their leader are gathered in the lower part of the castle. They seem to be bidding farewell to Lancelot and Percival.

As he grabs Lancelot's arm and pats his shoulder, Arthur wishes him luck, "Good luck. Send us word from where you are."

Lancelot nods, "We will, sire."

Percival does the same.

"I hope you return home to Camelot soon," says Merlin as he hugs his friend.

Lancelot nods, but softly responds, "Soon enough, I promise."

The knights, their leader, and the young warlock mount their horses and start to ride. Two of whom, in plain clothes, are going in the opposite direction.

As Merlin rides away from the castle, he feels a strange sensation. He quickly looks behind him, but sees nothing, and so he continues to ride along with Arthur, Elyan and the other knights.

What he did not see was Morgana watching them from the upper tower as they rode away from the castle. Instead of her usual smirk, it is an expression of anger and hatred that blankets her face.

The next morning, as usual, Gwen pulls open the curtains in Uther's chambers to reveal the sunlight. And as before, Uther grumbles but not as viciously.

"It's a beautiful day for a walk, my lord," she says.

"I'm in no state for such a thing," he scoffs. He sighs and sits up.

Gwen walks over to the bowl of warm water next to his bed and proceeds to wring out the washcloth.

Unlike the couple of days prior, he holds his hand out and asks for the washcloth, "Here."

Gwen is surprised, but obliges.

As Uther proceeds to wipe his face and hands with the cloth, he observes Gwen as she tends to his breakfast by the table.

"Your father," Uther begins to speak with more energy.

Gwen turns around, "What about my father?" she asks defensively, "…sire."

"Your father was found guilty of consorting with…"

Gwen cuts him off hurriedly, "He was consorting with no one. And I beg you; sire, to not speak of my father. It will lead to no good; let's not speak of this again." Gwen turns around to attend to his food. She breathes heavily trying to calm herself down.

Uther can't help but continue, "He was found guilty and he tried to escape, which proved his guilt even more. You cannot blame me for doing what is just."

This does not calm her down. Instead it has the opposite effect on her, and so she spins around and holds onto edge of the table as she tells Uther Pendragon exactly what she thinks. "Doing what is just? You killed an innocent man!"

"All the evidence showed his guilt. And I have no regret." Uther says firmly.

"Just as all the evidence showed that I enchanted your son?" She steps closer and continues, "You're so blinded by hate when it comes to magic that you will not see reason! You will not listen. My father was framed, just as I was, but you don't care. It is easier for you to pass judgment on the first person that utters the word magic than to see reason!" she calms down as tears fill her eyes, "My father was innocent, and I beg of you to never again utter his name."

Uther looks up at her, not Morgana's maidservant, but Guinevere. It is almost as if for the first time, he sees her. He sees the person she is. He looks down at his washcloth, "You cannot speak to me in this manner."

Gwen looks away and tries to gather herself before she started serving the king's food onto a plate. "You may punish me as you see fit."

"You were right; I shouldn't have forced the issue." He admits.

Gwen doesn't let him see her face, but she is surprised he didn't take offense to her scolding. She takes a deep breath, turns around, and calmly asks, "Perhaps, after your meal, you would like me to read to you, my lord."

Surprised, Uther looks up, "You read?"

Gwen nods, "And write, my lord. My mother taught me."

Uther nods, but doesn't look directly at Gwen.

Gwen places a plate of food onto a tray to bring it closer to Uther, but he stops her.

"I will eat at the table," he says as he slowly proceeds to sit upright on his bed.

She takes a bow and leaves the room, leaving Uther alone to his meal.

Later that day, Gwen is seen seated next to Uther's bed sewing a piece of cloth. The king is asleep with a washcloth applied to his forehead. It is dark with just a few candles lit throughout the room.

Gwen hears Uther mumble in his sleep with his head moving from one side to the other. "Morgana" he whimpers.

The young woman gets up from the chair and attends to his forehead by removing the old cloth and placing a new one. As angry as she is at him, she can't help but feel sorry for what he has had to endure the past couple of weeks.

Just then, the doors to his chambers open.

Gwen looks behind her and is pleasantly surprised, "Arthur!" she whispers loudly.

"Guinevere," he says as he walks closer.

Gwen holds her hand up to her mouth, prompting Arthur to lower his voice. She walks around the bed and towards him.

"How is he?" he whispers as Gwen inches closer to him.

She whispers back, "He keeps going back and forth. This morning he had his meal at the table, but later, he built up a slight fever." She sees Arthur's worried face, "But I do think he is improving."

"What is that he's mumbling?" Arthur asks with a keen eye on his father.

"He keeps asking for Morgana in his sleep."

Arthur sighs and looks down at Gwen. "How are you?"

Gwen smiles up at her prince, "Better now that you're here."

Arthur smiles, leans down and gives Gwen a kiss on her forehead, and then they embrace with their eyes closed.

Cut to Uther slowly opening his eyes halfway only to witness in the dim light, his son embracing his nursemaid.

The End.

End Notes: Just a few scenes/ideas I'd like to see in the beginning of the fourth series. I know I've opened a few cans of worms in the end, but I'm not sure if I want to continue. Let me know if there's an interest, and that I should. Your feedback will be appreciated. Thank you for reading!

EDITED: Please note that this story continues. Each episode is titled separately. Next episode, "Black, White and Gray" can be found on my profile page. Thank you.