Ransoming Emrys by Emachinescat

A Merlin Fan-Fiction

SUMMARY: Arthur isn't the only one that people will pay handsomely for. A band of renegade druids that know how much the legendary "Emrys" is worth has decided to auction him off to the highest bidder. How far will Arthur and his friends go to get him back, especially Merlin's secret is revealed?

A/N: This started out as an idea for my one-shot collection "Sesquipedalian" but then it dawned on me that I do so much more with this story line and I decided to go ahead and start it in celebration of finishing another of my stories. It takes place mid-season 3. Due to other stories and school, I'll only be able to update once a week so be expecting a new chapter every Friday! Please review!

Ransoming Emrys

Chapter One

Arthur Pendragon was not in a good mood. He and his servant, Merlin, had been in the forest hunting all morning and part of the afternoon and had caught nothing. It was a sweltering summer day. The sun bore down upon the land of Camelot with a vengeance, as if trying to make up for the week of rain that preceded it in the muggy spring that had just taken its leave. Why Arthur had decided to hunt on this particular day was beyond Merlin who was positively miserable. The skinny, dark haired servant detested hunting on a normal day but the heat made it even more unbearable. From the looks of things, Arthur wasn't too pleased, either.

All the animals – from the largest stag to the smallest ant, it seemed – had been the smart ones and had hidden away from the heat in their burrows, dens, or whatever they lived in. They had scarcely seen another form of life all day so Arthur hadn't gotten to kill anything – this tended to put him in a bit of a bad mood. Merlin still wasn't sure how killing things (especially cute, fluffy things) could bring such joy to his master but he had long since accepted it since it was the only thing he could do. Every time he complained about hunting, Arthur shot him a withering look and called him a girl, a petticoat, or – his latest favorite – a girl's petticoat.

Merlin snorted quietly as he stumbled along through the woods after his irritable master. Arthur thought he was so clever but he couldn't come up with a cleverer insult than "girl's petticoat" which was just a combination of two of his other lame nicknames for his servant. Now, dollop head, Merlin mused, a small smirk touching the corners of his full lips, that was a clever insult.

Arthur had turned to speak to Merlin – or, more likely than not, to berate him for making noise and scaring the prey away even though it was obvious it was because of the raging heat that the beasts were not out and about – and saw the mischievous grin. Stopping abruptly, causing Merlin to barely avoid running straight into him, Arthur demanded in the haughty voice that only a Pendragon could muster, "What, Merlin, are you grinning about?" He crossed his arms over his well-muscled chest and fixed Merlin with "the look" – a patronizing stare that had most weathered knights stammering incoherently but only served to deepen Merlin's grin.

It never ceased to amaze Arthur how his idiot of a servant could be so… so… brave – more stupid, though, if you asked him – to constantly stand up and challenge his prince. Although, Arthur had to admit, if only to himself, it did make life more interesting and he had grown quite fond of Merlin's prattle and jibes over the past two years. Merlin chuckled, "Just… thinking."

Arthur rolled his eyes and scoffed. "Oh, no," he joked, his eyes twinkling. "This can't end well."

Merlin pouted but quickly chippered back up and hastened to catch up with Arthur, who was stalking through the trees again. Merlin hoped that Arthur would get the hint that the animals just weren't going to make an appearance today. They'd be lucky if they caught a snail at this rate. Arthur was still heading deeper into the forest, obviously under the false impression that the deeper into the trees the more life would be stirring and Merlin was obligated to follow, no matter how begrudgingly. He and Arthur were both soaked with sweat and the tree boughs provided little if any protection from the rays of the sun so they both were a bit burnt.

This was the kind of summer day that any sane person would spend inside, wearing as little clothing as was socially acceptable and doing absolutely nothing. But, of course, the prince had decided that today was a wonderful thing to trudge around lugging a crossbow and an assortment of other weapons (all of which Merlin had to carry) and shoot at nonexistent prey. Merlin had decided to get revenge for the miserable excursion in the only way he could – annoying Arthur. And… maybe a few random tree roots had decided to shift position just enough to make Arthur stumble after he had yelled at Merlin for scaring off the animals that weren't even there…

Catching up with Arthur, barely stopping himself from tripping over a root himself, Merlin asked, "So… aren't you going to ask what I'm thinking about?"

Arthur cast Merlin a weary glance and responded flatly. "No."

Merlin pushed on anyway as Arthur stalked deeper into the trees. "Come on, you're not just a little curious?"

Arthur didn't even look back. "Merlin, I don't have even the most obscure desire to know what goes on in your mind."

Merlin pretended to be offended. "Why not? I probably think more intelligent thoughts than you do!"

Arthur rounded on Merlin, his eyes flashing but not angry. He, too, whether he would admit it or not, was enjoying the banter. It distracted him from the burning heat and the realization that Merlin had probably been right in saying that today wasn't the best day to go hunting, at any rate. "You, Merlin, are an idiot. Your thoughts are probably all about, I don't know… butterflies and dandelions or something equally as girlish and stupid."

Merlin laughed, feeling better already. "Don't try to pin your own inner thoughts on me, Sire – Gaius says that's called projecting and it's a way of making yourself feel better about your own problems and insecurities."

Arthur stared at him for a few seconds before reminding his servant in a dark voice, "You know, Merlin, you haven't paid a visit to the stocks in a while. I bet they're missing you."

Merlin's eyes went wide and he gulped melodramatically before rolling his eyes and walking ahead, this time overtaking Arthur's pace and calling over his shoulder at the flabbergasted prince, "I think it's worth the risk – it's always wonderful to see steam come out of your ears."

Arthur grumbled something under his breath about incompetent, idiotic, and disrespectful buffoons for servants and probably would have added a few insults to Merlin's ego had an arrow not sliced through the air and embedded itself in a tree right next to the servant who was walking a few feet ahead of his master. Immediately Arthur's senses went on alert and he stopped, hissing for Merlin to do the same despite the fact that Merlin had frozen the second the arrow had barely missed his head.

Arthur glanced around, seeing no one that could have fired the weapon and exchanged a confused and wary look with his servant before Merlin's eyes went wide and he shouted, "Arthur!"

Arthur heard the snap of the twig seconds after Merlin's warning but didn't have time to turn and face the threat before a hand snaked around his neck and a knife was pressed into his throat. He cursed himself silently at not realizing that whoever had shot the arrow had companions that would have sneaked around and circled Arthur and Merlin. More men slid out of the trees, all of them dressed like bandits but presenting themselves with a more distinguished air that Arthur couldn't figure out – maybe it was something in their eyes? – and congregated around Arthur, gripping his arms tightly even as he struggled. There had to be at least fifteen in all. He halted when the knife bit into his neck and drew blood and he saw Merlin start forward.

"No, Merlin, stay!" he ordered, like a man talking to his dog. Merlin didn't look wounded in the slightest by the tone but even if he had, Arthur had more important things to worry about – like the fact that the men were wrenching his arms behind his back and wrapping leather strips around his wrists. The dagger was still digging into his throat and Arthur could feel blood trickling from the artificial wound.

"Best listen to your master, boy," a soft, powerful voice drawled easily from the shadows. Arthur winced as sweat seeped into the cut, mixing with blood. The sun still bore down on them, indifferent to the desperate situation prince and servant were now in, even as Arthur was pushed to his knees by the thugs and two of the men strode over to Merlin and gripped his forearms firmly, holding him in place. Arthur cursed silently. He had been hoping that they would have not been interested in Merlin and that the servant could have slipped away. "Else there won't be a prince to wear the crown, eh?"

Merlin growled and tried to wrench his arms from the men's grasp with no avail. Arthur glared at him before looking at the new arrival, a tall, thin man with brown hair sprinkled with gray and a strong jaw sporting at least a day's stubble. Intelligent blue eyes – almost white they were so light – sparkled beneath pale lashes. He wore tattered pale yellow robes tied with an orange sash and no shoes on his feet. His skin was weathered, leathery, even though he couldn't be much older than thirty. The ghosts of crow's feet and smile lines spread from under his eyes and the corners of his mouth. Even if he had once smiled a great deal, now it seemed as if the only time he grinned was when he was smirking, the way he was presently.

"Who are you?" Arthur demanded while Merlin looked on with wide eyes.

The man didn't answer at first; instead, he motioned for his men to bring Merlin forward until he was only a few feet away from his master. Arthur could swear that there was some sort of internal battle going on in his servant's eyes. It looked as if Merlin were trying to come to a difficult decision as he directly avoided his master's eyes. The leader walked forward, standing just over Merlin's left shoulder, and placed a skinny but apparently strong hand on his shoulders. His eyes locked on Arthur's even as he raised his hand and hissed, "Roi'r gorau iddi symud," his blue eyes flashing gold.

A strange sensation spread through Arthur's body as the men holding him let go and the knife disappeared from his neck. Arthur tried to move but to no avail – it seemed only his facial muscles were at his disposal now. Magic. "You're sorcerers," the prince accused, straining to move even his little finger but he may as well be trying push a mountain. It was useless.

He saw Merlin start to struggle once more now that Arthur wasn't in any immediate danger of having his throat slit but the leader snapped, "I wouldn't if I were you, Emrys. You're surrounded on all sides and I can kill your precious prince with one word." He paused. "I used to be a devout druid – you know I have that power."

Merlin stopped struggling and his face grew solemn, even resigned. Arthur, for one, was confused. Why had the magician called Merlin Emrys? Deciding that was something to address later, Arthur announced in an authoratative voice, "You have me. Let my servant go; he's useless to you."

The men holding Merlin tightened and readjusted their grip on his arms as the leader chuckled and one of his hands shot forward even as Arthur shouted out a warning, grasping Merlin by the jaw with one hand and stepping even closer to the servant, forcing his head back until it was resting on the taller man's shoulder. Arthur saw Merlin tense and his everpresent neckerchief move as the Adam's apple bobbed nervously underneath it when Merlin swallowed.

"Oh, but you misunderstand me, Prince Arthur. This has nothing to do with you. We came for one thing and one thing only – as soon as we're gone, you'll be free to go. We don't want your father pursuing us for taking his son, now do we?"

Arthur's eyes widened and met Merlin's fearful ones as the truth sunk in. This was not about Arthur. These man did not care that he was the prince.

They were here for Merlin.

A/N: What do you think? Please review and I'll update in a week at the latest but maybe even sooner depending on how inspired I am and the response. :)

~Emachinescat ^..^