Disclaimer: As shiny as it would be if the show were mine, it's not so obviously I don't get any profit or anything. But I sure as hell enjoy it ;P
A/N: I've been hanging around the Merlin fandom for a while now and this story has been bandying around in my head for a while. This is actually attempt number three and I think it might now be fit for general release. Hopefully you will enjoy it but please remember this is my first Merlin outing in fanfic so any criticisms would be best off being constructive. I read and take on board all reviews left for me. So yeah, let me know how I've done. l-h
Additional A/N: Just thought, in terms of situation this isn't set with any point in time set in mind but most probably between first and second season or sometime during second season with no real spoilers involved.
Chapter One: Condemnation
"You stand before the court," Uther's voice carried authority that echoed about the room, commanding the attention of everyone stood before him. He spoke with great thought and deliberation as was expected of someone of such power, "accused of the practise of sorcery." Each person who stood within the room had seen this happen countless times before and knew that the answer to the following question would hold no bearing against the final decision of punishment. "How do you plead?"
"I was trying to do right by my father." The woman who knelt before him stared only at the ground, unwilling to look at the King before her as she heard what was effectively her death sentence. "What you think of me doesn't matter."
"Your use of magic is what killed your father."
"If not magic then he would've died of old age."
Her shout caused the King to pause, just for a brief moment, before continuing. "Your enchantment did not cure your father because that was not it's true intent. Your plan was to attack the men whom I sent to investigate the accusations against you."
"Even now, one of them is missing."
"I was trying to save him!"
"Magic is not welcome in my kingdom!" the cry silenced the woman and echoed around the court bouncing harshly off the walls. The sound had completely died out before the King spoke again. "I find you guilty of the crime of sorcery and according the laws of Camelot, there is but one punishment for such a crime. Tomorrow you shall be put to death." Still the woman continued to stare at the ground. "Take her away."
Two guards stepped forward, helping the woman to her feet before escorting her out of the court. She walked of her own accord, untouched by her escort as she did not struggle against them. Arthur Pendragon had seen this before; not often but it was unmistakable; the resignation of someone who had nothing left to lose. This woman had lost her father, with no husband or children of her own, she'd lost everything once he'd drawn his last breath. Meeting her own death would reunite them again; why would she want to fight that?
The prince wanted to believe that she had been trying to help her father with magic but did not feel compelled to rush to her rescue. It was highly unlikely that was the case either way. If her intentions had been as noble as she proclaimed then something had gone horribly wrong. The old man had died and something within the room had exploded knocking everyone off their feet. Arthur was a part of the five man investigation team, Merlin was obviously one of the others, while the other three were guards assigned to assist should there be any trouble.
The aim had not been to attack or frighten but to investigate the accusations against the woman and find if they were true. If that was the case the guards were to bring her in for trial, nothing malicious or violent, yet when they entered she had struck everyone down including her own father.
Those in the room were unconscious for but a few minutes yet when they awoke the woman was there, mourning over her deceased parent's body and Merlin was gone. Nowhere to be found.
It was this that the young prince held against this woman. For as much as he wanted to believe her, Merlin's continued disappearance put sword to any pity he felt for her.
Once she was gone, his father called an end to proceedings and strode towards the doorway. His long strides stopped as he came to Arthur who was stood, solemnly, with his arms crossed.
For just a moment, Arthur saw what he wished he could believe to be sorrow as his father's eyes met his. Slowly, the king raised his arm, placing his hand on the prince's shoulder before speaking directly at him.
"It's over. He's gone." Arthur's stance remained unchanged as his father continued to try and decipher his gaze before giving up and patting him on the shoulder. "I'm sorry." And with that the king left.
Within minutes the entire court had followed suit and the crown prince of Camelot was stood alone within the grand hall.
The silence within the room was deafening and Arthur couldn't help but wonder what Merlin would say if he were there now; probably something in defence of the woman. Maybe that was why the prince wanted to believe her; he was compensating for the absence of his outspoken friend. Still he could argue over the wheres and the whyfores until the sun set and be no closer to figuring out what had happened today.
It was true that his father had accepted that Merlin was beyond their help but that was only because the boy was a servant. Had it been one of the guards or, heaven forbid, the prince himself, Uther would be mounting a rescue within minutes. Fortunately Arthur wasn't as single-minded as his father. At least not lately. Servant or not, Merlin was a man; he was a subject of Camelot and therefore deserved as much protection as anyone else. What's more he was the crown prince's personal manservant; Arthur's personal responsibility.
No, father. He thought. This isn't over at all.
The click of the Prince's boots on the cold, uninviting stone floor was sharp as he approached, echoing emptily around the dungeon.
The cell where the woman was being held had a distinct feel of despair that was only aided by the smell of dank, damp stonework. She was uninterested in the nature of her visitor, even as she heard him come to a stop outside her cell; he, like his father was nothing but a fool.
Silence stretched out between them, clammy and heavy within the air. She felt his eyes boring into the side of her head but refused to look at him; he of tainted blood.
"I am sorry for your loss." His voice was solemn, heavy, weighed down with mourning.
"No you're not." She was no fool; mourning he may be but not for her father. "I know you believe I deserve this."
The prince did not sound surprised when he spoke again. "Why?"
"You believe I killed your manservant." Again, silence fell and she noted how he did not leap to deny her accusation.
"Where did you learn that spell?"
"I bought it." Glancing upwards, she recalled the moment she had taken the paper in her hand and felt that she finally had hope for her father's deteriorating health. "From a travelling practitioner of magic."
A few moments of silence were broken when the Prince spoke again. His voice was quiet but sharp and menacing. "Untrustworthy."
"I was trying to save my father. The spell could never kill." At last, she turned to look him in the eyes. "If he is dead, it's not by my hand."
Piercing, haunted green eyes glared back at her, cutting through the darkness like a sword. "Why should I believe you?"
"I am to die tomorrow." Once again she turned her gaze to the small patch of floor before her. "What have I to gain by lying?"
The moon hung high in the night sky shining down over the kingdom of Camelot as well as the nearby forest.
It shone, glittering through the treetops before landing on the short raven hair and pale white skin of Merlin, huddled up at the base of a large oak tree. His arms were pulled tightly around his legs, hugging them tightly to his chest to protect himself against the brisk wind that was whipping up leaves around him.
Something was wrong; and of course it was Arthur's fault.
There was no reason for him to have gone to the woman's house this morning but the crown prat had insisted Merlin accompany him.
When the manservant had questioned him, Arthur had used the good old excuse that he was the prince and Merlin wasn't meaning if Arthur said do something, Merlin shut up and did it. Naturally that meant he had gone along, as told.
From the moment they'd entered the house he could feel the power within there; it coursed and sparked through the air almost like electricity, he'd never felt anything like it. Whatever power was within those walls was far stronger than anything he'd ever come into contact with before.
It was strength enough to make him pause at the doorway, which of course greatly displeased the royal clotpole. His highness was unsurprisingly oblivious to the true nature of the danger he was in and strode into that house. One day that pigheadedness was going to get him killed, or severely maimed at the very least.
Still, Merlin could dream.
At the last minute, he felt the power swell impossibly in only a few seconds and immediately dashed forward, grabbing hold of his master's shoulder and threw him back towards the guards.
As Arthur's angry shout ended Merlin heard the door behind him splinter while he was knocked forward by the power as it dispelled itself…hitting him full on in the back.
He'd awoken, splayed out on his back, somewhere in the forest and had since been wandering around trying to get out.
Something in the back of Merlin's mind told him that even if it took the better part of a century Arthur would find some way to pin this all on him. But there was much more to this whole problem.
Something was wrong. He could feel it.
The usual warming presence of his own magic that usually he could feel within himself had grown, risen until it was almost bubbling up to a boil under his skin. It was why he'd stopped moving; he couldn't ignore it any longer.
The force that had knocked him out earlier had been that of a spell, and a powerful one at that, but it was like nothing he'd come across before. Gaius would know what was going on, he would understand; that was where he needed to go.
Besides, he could feel bile rising in his throat and his head throbbing as his powers swelled for the third time in as many hours.
Squeezing his eyes tight he prayed as silently as he could that the discomfort would pass soon enough but he did not truly hold out much hope for his prayer being answered. Sure enough, after a few minutes he felt his chest tighten and bile rose once again in his throat.
He squeezed his eyes even tighter and tried to think of anything to distract his mind but there was little for him to really think of other than his current situation.
A few tears traced a small path down his cheek as his eyes watered against the strain they were under.
The wind was picking up now, slowly growing in strength but he barely noticed it; his skin beginning to tingle uncomfortably as his magic swelled again. Suppressing the urge to cry out he shouted as loudly as he could in his head. It wasn't any words in particular just a great cry, basically what he was trying not to vocalise. Loud and strong within his own head, he worried over whether there was a chance that Kilgharrah might hear him.
Besides the confusion, the worry and the fear he knew that there was something really wrong with him.
He could feel it.