Lancelot waited an hour after the display in front of the king before he headed down to the dungeons, keeping his posture as proud and inconspicuous as possible as he passed several guards, nodding politely to them and trying his hardest to look like he knew exactly what he was doing and that he had permission to be there.
He couldn't keep his hand from grasping at his sword handle, though, as he stepped down the stairs and heard the familiar clang of metal against metal.
"Lancelot!" Gwaine greeted brightly as he knocked the last guard at the stairwell out with his sword hilt. There were two others at his feet, both unconscious and without the time to have even drawn their swords. "Fancy meeting you here. Come here often?"
The knight had to keep himself from gaping, sure that it would only widen Gwaine's teasing grin.
Both men startled and drew their swords before turning to see the crown prince on the stairs above them with his eyes narrowed.
"You better pray none of these men have sustained injuries that would sink them to your level of idiocy," Arthur continued dryly. Like the other two knights, he was dressed in full armour with his sword by his side, looking just as ready as them for a fight and perhaps a journey after that. "Gaius would have your head."
Gwaine only laughed boisterously at that, while Lancelot bowed his head, perhaps in apology to Gwaine's actions even though he had no hand in them. He had a feeling they were all there for the same thing, anyway.
"You're late, princess." Gwaine sheathed his sword again with that trademark grin. "I take it you're not here to stop us."
"Stop you from what?" Arthur responded, his voice deceptively innocent. "I'm just passing this way because my father wanted me to question the prisoner."
Lancelot just shook his head as Gwaine snorted loudly.
"Well, then, you wouldn't mind if I had a talk with the prisoner first-"
"While you're carrying a travelling bag?"
"I may need to eat and rest while questioning." Gwaine said demurely, complete with a faux innocent batting of his eyes. "This could take a while. A few days, if not weeks."
Arthur snorted. "That's the worst excuse I've ever heard-"
He didn't manage to finish the sentence before a shout from guards further down the hall disrupted him when they saw Gwaine's handiwork on the ground. It prompted both Arthur and Gwaine to draw their swords again (Lancelot had never sheathed his), Arthur making sure to hide behind the wall while the flickering shadows of the torches informed him of where the guards were attacking from.
With the three of them, the battle was short and consisted mostly of blunt hits rather than slashes as none of them really wanted to hurt the loyal guards of Camelot.
"Isn't it treason for the princess to be knocking your own guards out?" Gwaine asked, swinging his bangs away from his face with a smug grin.
"Shut up." Arthur responded, although there was no bite in the words.
"I didn't plan for three of us." Lancelot admitted with a small amount of embarrassment. Seeing both Arthur and Gwaine fully dressed and ready to fight, he knew he should have trusted them better, but it had been a hard enough decision the past hour knowing what he was going to be risking. "I only prepared two horses."
Arthur grimaced, but took the lead from the two of them, grabbing a torch off the wall in one hand. "I hadn't gotten to the horses yet."
"I prepared two as well!" Gwaine looked positively gleeful, a sharp contrast to Lancelot as the three of them went further down the castle toward the dungeons. "Hey, think we can stop off at the Red Dragon before we leave, though? Good to have some extra provisions."
"Don't be ridiculous." Arthur snapped, but then startled just a moment as they took the last turn before the dungeon area. "Sir Leon?"
The taller man in question stood up straighter and dropped the fighting stance when he saw his companions. "Sire! I- well."
"Are you here as part of the rescue as well?" Lancelot managed rather politely, having resigned himself to going against the king's orders. "That means we'll need more horses."
"Leon!" How Gwaine could manage to sound more and more gleeful, Lancelot didn't know. "Well, this is starting to feel more like a quest, isn't it? Hey, we should all stay at the same castle again, you know. And invite Percival, Elyan, Gwen, and Gaius. It'll be great."
Arthur had sheathed his sword by now, trusting in Leon to have persuaded the last of the guards away while they were here to do what they meant to do.
Leon cleared his throat nervously. "I know not what you're speaking about, Sir Lancelot. Sir Gwaine. I'm just here trying to catch whoever incapacitated the guards down in the dungeon."
Lancelot shared a disbelieving look with Arthur. Considering that the three of them had just taken out the guards, but Leon was here before them... he had been here before that even happened.
Leon coughed and fidgeted, obviously lying. "Just got a bit distracted. I'll sound the warning bells after figuring out the culprit of course, sire."
Another shared look between them, and Arthur finally nodded slowly. "An excellent idea, Sir Leon. It may take a while."
"Days. Weeks." Gwaine provided.
"And we'll just go in and... question the prisoner, in the meanwhile." Arthur continued.
"With some travelling packs. And horses." Gwaine sounded like he was about to burst out laughing, and Lancelot couldn't help sighing at the banter and the obviousness of their treason to the king.
"About that." Leon looked more relaxed now that it was absolutely clear what they were there to do. "The prisoner may have escaped. Which is, of course, important. And I will have to inform the king about this. Or you, sire. But you might be a bit sidetracked before reporting to the king?"
Despite the hopeful tone, Arthur gaped. Someone had managed to get past the guards without alerting any one of them?
"Gone? Already? Who could have gotten to him before us?"
"Maybe I should have just stayed there," Merlin suggested nervously as he allowed himself to be dragged behind Guinevere, holding on to the travel provisions that she had handed him mere minutes ago when she managed to open the locks on his cell. The two of them were taking one of the lesser known sewer lines of the city, and Merlin had his neckerchief over his face while Gwen had hitched up her skirts to ensure that she would retain no evidence of having been in such a dirty place later on.
"Don't be silly!" Gwen replied, fussing slightly over the metal grate of the passageway, having brought with her the tools that would destroy the grate easily. "I asked Elyan to make sure at least one of the knights would have prepared the horses already. He and Percival are distracting the guards around the stables. You'll just have to wait out in the forest for a day or two, until Arthur gets the king to drop the charges. You'd think the king would stop accusing you of having magic by now. It always proves to be false, anyway."
Merlin just made a strangled noise behind her but didn't argue as she managed to utterly destroy the grate and lead him silently to the stables where, for some reason, there were at least four horses already saddled and ready to leave the castle.