Written for this prompt on Kink Me Merlin on LiveJournal:
Arthur/Merlin, Arthur/Other, where Other is a villain. kidnapping, hurt/comfort, non-con if anon wants to write it.
A spin on the hurt/comfort rescue fic: Arthur is captured and sold into slavery while everyone believes he's been killed (magic, kidnappers leaving a defaced body in Arthur's clothing, something like that, IDK). Merlin knows better, and hunts Arthur down and rescues him, but finds him broken, abused, violated, and not the prince that Merlin once loved. Refusing to abandon him, Merlin slowly but surely nurses Arthur back to physical and emotional health, then returns him to Camelot for a happy ending.
I have a few chapters up on LJ, so I thought I'd start posting it here. :D Probably not going to be much, if any, smut in this story, but lots of hurt/comfort, and later on, lots of action, too. :)
Warnings/Content: Violence, (past) non-con, mental trauma, mentions of slavery.
Journey Through A Broken Soul: Chapter 01
You will not find him, Gaius had said mournfully as he had watched him pack his things.
It's hopeless, Gwen had choked out through thick tears when she bid Merlin goodbye in the corridor.
He's dead, Uther had said when Merlin came to the prince's room to find the king already there.
And to all of them, Merlin responded with, Arthur is still alive, and out there. And I will find him.
It was a long search. For months, for half a sodding year, Merlin traversed Albion, looking for his prince, his once and future king. He nearly gave up hope so many times...
But Arthur was alive. He could feel it.
It was after hearing hints of a golden slave in a kingdom far from Camelot, said to have been captured from far away (like Camelot), that he found a solid trail.
And it was only when he ran into the knight-errant Lancelot, shaken by the sight he had seen when he had glimpsed the prince himself that he found Arthur.
But soon, he found out why Lancelot was so shaken - because the Arthur he found was not the Arthur he knew.
This Arthur, the one he found...was broken.
The brothel owner and her guard stood behind him as another guard unlocked and opened the door to the cell...room.
Inside, the room was small, but lavish, sensual and sexual, sin in every plush pillow and luxurious linen.
Chained by the ankle to the bed was Arthur. He was asleep, exhaustion and fear evident even in his sleeping countenance.
"Up!" the brothel owner shouted. Like the dog she had trained the prince to be, Arthur snapped up, before jerking himself to standing. He leaned against the bed post, hurt in a way Merlin could not see, and his head was bowed in fear and submission that only looked unnatural on the Prince.
His heart screamed.
"This one, he's one of my best," the old woman wheezed out. "So - are you gonna take him for the night?"
Merlin ignored her.
Instead, he stepped forward and gently put a finger under Arthur's shaking chin, lifting up his face. "Arthur?" he asked quietly, gently.
For a moment, for one heartbreaking moment, there was nothing.
His voice was soft and weak in a way that was just wrong coming from Arthur, but it was still Arthur, and when Merlin nodded, Arthur cried out, and clung onto Merlin, who wrapped his arms around his trembling Arthur, and murmured, "I'm here, it's okay...shh...I'm here, I'm right here..."
"Oi!" The brothel owner shouted, eyes narrowing. "What's all this, then? You said-"
"Shut up," Merlin growled over his shoulder, reserving a timber for her that was worlds away from the one he just used for Arthur. Holding onto Arthur as he turned to the one who did this, he said, "Just shut up-"
"-and go to hell!"
When she moved, Merlin's eyes flashed fold, and she and her guards who ran forward were thrown back into the wall with enough force to snap their necks and kill them all instantly.
Arthur, watching them, was trembling in shock, looking between Merlin and the brothel workers.
"...you're magic?" he asked hoarsely.
Turning to face Arthur full on, Merlin nodded. "Yes - but not like the people who captured you. Now come on - Lancelot is waiting for us outside. We need to hurry."
Arthur's clothing was only a pair of thin breeches and a torn up tunic, so Merlin shrugged off his traveling cloak and bundled it around Arthur's painfully thin and weakened form, before leading him outside after enchanting his shackle open.
As they went, Merlin freed every slave within the brothel, and outside, Lancelot was unsurprised by the eruption of sex slaves bursting out the door.
His eyes widened at the sight of Arthur, though, but a quick look from Merlin held him off from nearly assaulting Arthur in his joy to see him.
"We need to get out of here," Merlin said. "We-"
"Hengroen?" Arthur murmured to himself, reaching out a hand to the young horse, who clearly remembered Arthur if the way he pressed his nose against Arthur's hand was anything to go by.
"Yes, Arthur," Merlin said. "Can you mount him?"
Arthur nodded his head, before slowly shaking it instead. "I...I...don't think I will even be able to ride him...after all that I've..."
Merlin nodded understandingly, considering he just pulled Arthur out of a damned brothel. He quickly cast a few spells on Arthur and the cloak. Arthur shifted nervously, but didn't try to run from the magic.
"How about now?" Merlin asked.
Moments later, Arthur was settling into the horse's probably-familiar support, and Merlin mentally thanked the king for his gift.
Merlin didn't know whether Uther had just pitied Merlin or had desperately hoped, on some level, that Merlin would find find Arthur. But as he had been leaving, in the courtyard, Uther had brought him Arthur's horse, Hengroen. The prized stallion was fast, strong, and young, and was the best of the stable, and had been a gift for Arthur from a visiting prince from another kingdom, expensive and rare as a horse he was. Uther had told him it was for his steadfast loyalty to Arthur, and given him the reins.
He'd seen several knights in the background, and a few of them were glaring at him for taking the king's favor, and the chance to inherit the prized horse, and Merlin knew it could cost Uther dearly in Court to do this.
So he'd bowed deeply, something he rarely did even for the king, and simply said, "Thank you, sire," before he mounted and left, accepting the gift in full.
Seeing Arthur reassured by the horse's presence, Merlin couldn't have been more glad he'd done so.
He mounted the horse behind Arthur, cradling the prince in his arms and legs, and they and Lancelot rode out of the city together.
As they left, Merlin cast a spell on the entire city, unlocking and opening every lock, every knot, every chain, and every shackle in it, freeing all the slaves in it, and animals, livestock, mules, horses - everyone and every thing.
Most of who were freed would probably end up recaptured, he knew that. But many of them would fully escape, and many more would plan and have their resentments fester, tasting freedom before recapture. And if nothing else, it would keep the city too busy dealing with them to notice a few dead bodies in an empty brothel so quickly.
They rode on calmly through the chaos around them, Merlin promising himself that one day, he would come back and make sure everyone involved in Arthur's capture and enslavement would pay for what they did to his prince.
For now, though, he worried about Arthur.
Merlin, Arthur, and Lancelot rode away from the city at a brisk pace. Merlin cast a few more spells around Arthur to minimize the pain Arthur seemed to be feeling as they sped up, and kept his arms carefully wrapped around him while holding the reins.
They rode for almost half a day before they slowed down and stopped. Arthur had dozed off, somehow, but woke when they halted.
"It was real?" Arthur asked softly as he looked around himself in awe while Merlin helped him down from the saddle.
"Yes," Merlin said, holding his arms open. Arthur fell into Merlin's embrace, and Merlin held him close for a moment, enjoying the simple feel of Arthur against his flesh after going so long without it...ten months was a long, long time.
After a moment, Arthur pulled away, looking around the small clearing nervously.
"It's okay," Merlin said softly, slightly thrown off from having to reassure Arthur, rather than the other way around as was usual between them. "Lancelot is guarding this clearing, and I have spells to alert us if anyone comes near. We'll be all right."
Arthur nodded silently.
Merlin held Arthur's hand in one of his own, using his other hand to cast the spells to set up the camp, fire making itself, bedrolls unrolling side by side, and food being set out for the night.
Lancelot came back and quickly told him all the weak and strong parts of the perimeter, and which direction in run in case of a threat.
Arthur listened closely, the knight inside him reassured by the military routine, the broken man inside him reassured by the safety the planning provided.
"See?" Merlin said, leading Arthur over to sit on the bedding between his and Lancelot's, before sitting on his own. "I told you."
"You're safe now, sire," Lancelot promised, dropping down on Arthur's other side.
"I...I know," Arthur agreed quietly. "You rescued me."
Merlin held his hand tight in his own. "You're our Prince. Expect nothing less."
Arthur smiled hesitantly. "I...I..." He paused, then relaxed and simply settled on, "Thank you."
Lancelot took his other hand and squeezed in response, and with Merlin starting to look over Arthur and his injuries, they settled down for the night.
Keep a look out for my other KMM fic, Primogeniture, which I should be able to post tomorrow (assuming my cat doesn't eat the computer or anything else similar).