Merlin had been missing for almost 3 weeks now.

He had been out hunting with Arthur and Leon when they had been attacked by a group of bandits. These bandits had been known in the area for a while now and Arthur and his knights had tried on many occasions to catch them. They had been kidnapping young men and women and selling them on as slaves.

Arthur and Leon hadn't been wearing their red cloaks or the crest of Camelot so the bandits hadn't recognised them as the Prince of Camelot and the Captain of the Knights. They had attacked without hesitation but Arthur and his keen hearing heard them approaching and was ready. Leon and Merlin had not been.

Arthur and Leon fought hard but there was too many of them. Merlin got hit by an arrow pretty quickly, despite trying his best with a sword. He fell to the ground, nursing his shoulder where the arrow had hit. Arthur saw out of the corner of his eye a huge man standing over Merlin and Arthur felt his blood run cold as the brute slammed the hilt of his sword into Merlin's neck and the smaller man fell down, unconscious.

In his distraction, Arthur got hurt. He hissed in pain as one of the bandits sliced his side open with his sword.

"Sire!" He heard Leon shout as Arthur responded by running his own sword through the bandit's stomach. He fell down dead.

"It's the Prince!" One bandit yelled, and panic seemed to spread through the group as they realised who they had attacked. No matter how cruel these men were, they weren't stupid. Kidnapping or killing a royal would mean certain death for all of them.

"Come on, let's get out of here." Ordered another man as the group started to disappear.

The pain in his side caused Arthur's vision to blur but he was conscious enough to witness the bandits grab Merlin, not willing to leave without at least one potently person to sell on as a slave. That is what they had come for after all.

"Merlin!" Arthur shouted, starting to run after them. The pain in his side was unbearably though and he stumbled.

"Sire!" A voice called out and he felt arms grip his shoulder, holding him back.

"Merlin!" Arthur yelled even more desperately, trying to fight the hold. He saw the bandits run off, one of them holding the young servant over his shoulder. Merlin's head was bumping roughly against the man's shoulder and his face look pale and stained with blood.

"Merlin!" Arthur mumbled, before his world went black.

Arthur woke in his chambers with Gaius hovering over him and his father sitting in a chair next to the bed, his face stern.

The first word that Arthur had said was,

"Merlin."

Gaius's breath hitched and Arthur could see that his eyes were glossy with unshed tears. Uther just sighed and rubbed his temple.

The King refused to let Arthur go after Merlin but Arthur didn't listen. As soon as he could stand without feeling dizzy, he left to find his manservant. His friend. He snuck out in the middle of the night and set off with his horse alone.

Arthur had no leads. He didn't know where the bandits had taken Merlin or even where they stayed. The young Prince had to search the kingdom and asked everyone he met on his journey where he could find the cruel bandits.

It took a while and Arthur grew more nervous by the day. The slave merchants wouldn't have killed Merlin unless he was deemed not fit to sell but they were known for subjecting the people they capture to cruel and inhumane treatments. And if they had sold Merlin, there was no knowing what his new masters would do to him.

The thought made Arthur feel nauseous and filled his dreams with fitful nightmares.

The Prince finally caught up with the bandits. There had taken over an abandoned castle that once belonged to a poor King who bore no hire. His kingdom died with him and Camelot took ownership of his land. Nature had not been kind to the once proud castle and it was overgrown and some of the upper towers had collapsed.

A sense of desperation and fearlessness came over Arthur as he snuck into the castle, soundlessly killing guards and bandits as he went. He crept silently, trying to find Merlin. His sword was drawn and his mind was set on the task ahead as he battled the many people he came across.

His presence was found out and bells started ringing ahead as the castle was alerted of the intruder. He cursed as he suddenly found himself surrounded.

Merlin, he thought as he eyed down every single last man in front of him, I'm coming, Merlin.

"He's after the boy." He heard someone yell as he speared with the ugly, brutes that tried and failed to cut him down. He was too strong this time. Too desperate. He had to get Merlin back. He needed him.

There was a sudden explosion somewhere in the castle, shocking Arthur and the men around him. The castle walls started to tremble and loose bits of rock and stone fell around them. Arthur held his shield up to protect himself from the fallen rubble as men were crushed around him.

"He did it again!" Someone yelled.

"Let's get out of here!" A few others yelled before fleeing the castle.

"Merlin!" Arthur yelled as the trembles stopped and the walls stayed still once more. He ran into the building, stepping over rubble, and covering his mouth with his sleeve as dust fogged his vision.

"Merlin!" Arthur yelled again. He saw someone ahead of him and he ran over to them. As he got nearer he realised it wasn't Merlin but another bandit. This one was younger than most of the others and he was nursing his leg that had been smashed with a large rock from the ceiling above.

"You know who I seek." Arthur growled, pointing the tip of his sword to the boy's throat. "Now tell me where I can find him."

The boy's eyes were full of fear as he looked up at the Prince.

"He...he's upstairs." He whimpered, and Arthur withdrew his sword. He stepped around the boy and walked carefully until he came to a set of stairs. He ran up them, his sword still held tightly in his hand.

The upstairs of the castle was even worse than the scene downstairs. Massive holes interrupted the floor and debris was everywhere. Arthur walked carefully, avoiding the holes and checking every room he passed. He opened one door and was shocked to see what he found.

The room was dark but a hole in the ceiling lit the room up enough for Arthur to look around. The room was a mess, with tables and chairs thrown about the room on their sides. There were 3 men lying on the floor, unmoving. One of them had their trousers down around their ankles and they all looked died or at least very hurt. It looked like they had been thrown by a great force.

The sight though that shocked Arthur to his core was the battered, shaking boy curled in a ball in the corner. Merlin was completely naked and his skin was decorated in purple, black and blue bruises and blood that stained his skin in such a horrifying way. There were anger red marks around his wrists and ankles and he looked even skinnier then Arthur remembered. His bones seemed to puncture his skin. He was covered in dirt and soot, and his hair was muttered with dirt and blood. Merlin's entire body was shaking as he hid his head away in his arms.

Arthur placed his sword back into its scabbard and rushed over to Merlin, kneeling down beside him.

"Merlin!" Arthur said, relief rushing through him at the sight of his manservant.

However, the relief was cut short as Merlin flinched away from him, his eyes wide and full of fear. Arthur could see that his wound from the arrow three weeks ago had not been treated and it looked infected. Merlin's skin was pale and shiny with sweat. His lips were dry and chipped, causing them to bleed. But it was his eyes that shook Arthur the most. The happy, cheeky shine had disappeared and what was left were dull, glossy orbs. They barely looked like they were alive. They seemed to stare right through the Prince, like Merlin couldn't see him, or he didn't want to.

"It's ok, I'm going to take you home." Arthur told him, looking around for something to cover Merlin. He found an old, worn blanket across the room where chains hanged. Arthur had no doubt that this is where Merlin was made to go to bed, the chains to prevent him from escaping.

Arthur was starting to boil with anger as he realised everything that had happened to his manservant in this very room. There were blood stains on the floor and it was so cold that even Arthur with his chainmail and his armour on was cold. And looking at the ugly brute on the floor with his trousers down to his ankles and Merlin's naked body explained it all.

Arthur tried to keep his emotions in check as he went back to Merlin and wrapped the blanket around his shoulders. Merlin flinched again, trying to get away from whoever was holding him. Arthur let go immediately.

"It's ok, it's only me." Arthur tried to reassure him but Merlin just shook his head, burying it in his arms. Arthur felt tears in his eyes just looking at him. He was so confused and frightened. He didn't even realise that it was Arthur here to save him. Arthur swallowed back his tears and knelt down beside Merlin.

"I need to get you out of here." Arthur told him quietly.

"Merlin, look at me." He said, trying to be gentle. He didn't want to touch Merlin because he didn't want the servant to be frightened of him.

After a few long minutes, Merlin looked up, his eyes still glossy and scared, but he seemed to focus on Arthur this time. It was only for a second before his eyes became out of focus again and he seemed to be in another world. He nodded though and tried to stand. He lent against the wall as he tried to pull himself up but his legs were too weak to even lift himself into a kneeling position. Arthur was amazed that he wasn't unconscious as he reached forward to support him. Merlin flinched away from his hands, shaking again.

"I'm not going to hurt you, Merlin." Arthur said, "I need to get you out of here, I need to get you home."

Arthur's voice was unusually desperate. He normally kept his tone calm and proud but now he was begging Merlin to let him help him.

It took another long moment but Merlin nodded and allowed Arthur to help him up. The Prince could feel the tension going through the servant's entire body, despite how tired and weak he was. He clutched the back of Arthur's chainmail as he put a hand around Merlin's waist to keep him up. They left the castle quickly as possible and Arthur led Merlin to his horse, which was tied up in the woods near the castle.

Arthur sat Merlin down on a fallen log before going through the bag on the horse to look for clothes. He found a spare shirt and a pair of trousers and rushed back over to Merlin.

"Here." Arthur said, putting the shirt over Merlin's head and helping him put his arms through the sleeves. Merlin just had a blank expression as he did this, but that all changed once Arthur tried to help him put the trousers on. He bent down and touched one of Merlin's legs and straight away Merlin launched himself backwards away from him. He fell off the log and onto his back. He tried to crawl away from Arthur, tears in his wide eyes and shaking again with fright.

"I won't do anything." Arthur tried to reassure him, tears coming to his eyes again as he looked at the once brave, happy Merlin. He was just a shadow of his old self. In just three weeks these bastards had ruined his friend.

Arthur gently threw the trousers so they landed next to Merlin, and then went to his horse so Merlin had some privacy. He pretended to be busy readying the beast as he heard Merlin struggling to get the trousers on. He clutched his fists as Merlin's frightened face went around in his mind. Arthur had never seen someone that looked so...broken.

When Arthur turned back around Merlin was dressed and standing, leaning heavily on a tree. He was shivering and his eyes were downcast, looking at the ground. Arthur got his red Knight cloak from where it was laid across his horse's back, and slowly went over to Merlin.

"Here, this will keep you warm." Arthur said, passing it to him. When Merlin took it Arthur noticed that he was being careful not to touch him. Merlin wrapped it around his shoulders, struggling with the buckle at the front for a moment.

"We must get going." Arthur told him, going back over to the horse. It was getting late in the day and Arthur wanted to get as far away from this place as possible. Merlin followed quietly and refused help from Arthur as he got on the horse. He struggled and all Arthur wanted to do was reach out and help the boy but he didn't want to scare him. Merlin didn't trust him anymore. He probably didn't trust anyone anymore.

Arthur mounted the horse and turned around to look at Merlin, who was gripping the saddle and as far away from Arthur was possible.

"I'm going to be going fast so you might want to hold on to me." Arthur told him. Merlin hesitated before leaning forward and putting his arms around Arthur's middle, a loose grip at first but as soon as he started to ride, the grip got tighter and tighter. Arthur was careful not to touch him or frighten him in anyway.

As it got darker and Arthur was satisfied with the distance that they had made, they stopped. Arthur got off the horse first and he turned to look at Merlin. Merlin's face was even paler then before. It was as if he was ghost, and his face was wet with tears and sweat. He stumbled off the horse and Arthur caught him before he fell over. Merlin gripped Arthur's arms tightly and leant over and vomited. Not a lot came out, proving how little Merlin had had to eat and drink, but the retching sounded painful and more tears filled Merlin's eyes. Arthur noticed that he was shaking in pain and when he tried to help Merlin sit down he winced in pain and moved so he was lying on his side.

Arthur felt sick as he realised what the source of the pain was. He had already worked out that Merlin was subjected to sexual abuse from these brutes, but how many times Arthur could only guess. Merlin would be very sore and possible torn, and the horse ride probably reopened any sealed wounds.

Merlin just lied there as Arthur made up a fire and gathered some water from a nearby stream. Merlin's eyes were dull and Arthur shivered at the emptiness. The servant just stared in front of him and didn't respond to anything that Arthur said or did. The only thing that Merlin did was sit up to drink some water. He didn't eat the meal that Arthur cooked, no matter how much the Prince begged, and he didn't talk once. Arthur tried to check him for a fever at one point but Merlin batted his hands away, his eyes wide with fear again.

Merlin never closed his eyes either, not even when Arthur settled down for the night and went to sleep himself. Merlin's eyes were still wide as he stared into the dying fire, and they were open when Arthur woke the next morning.

The Prince had no idea if he had even gone to sleep, but they had to move. They were at least two days ride away from Camelot and it may take longer as they only had one horse.

Merlin didn't say a word as they rode that day. He hadn't uttered a word since Arthur had saved him and he was starting to get worried. He missed the mindless chatter that Merlin normally provided on a ride, and also the banter that the two normally shared. Arthur just wanted to break down and cry for Merlin and the abuse he had suffered. He wanted to kill every single last bandit that had done this to his friend. He wanted to be home in Camelot and Guise to tell him that everything was going to be ok. He wanted Merlin to at last make a sound so Arthur knew he was going to get better. Arthur wanted a lot of things but right now he had to concentrate on getting Merlin to safety and deal with all these desires later.

The ride's journey was smooth but it hurt Merlin a lot. Arthur felt him crying as the day draw to a close. His grip tightened around Arthur, as he needed to hang on to something to stop from crying out.

"It's ok, it's nearly over." Arthur kept on trying to comfort him, "Guise will know what to do, I'm taking you to Guise."

That night was the same. Merlin collapsed on the forest floor, tears still rolling down his cheeks and off his nose, as Arthur made a fire and some dinner. Merlin didn't eat the dinner. Arthur even tried to feed him himself, but Merlin just kept his mouth shut and refused to eat anything.

Arthur woke in the middle of night to Merlin mumbling. The servant had finally fallen asleep and he was twitching in his sleep, moaning.

"Arthur." He mumbled, his voice croaked and sore. Arthur's heart launched as Merlin muttered his name. He didn't know what Merlin was calling out for him, but he felt tears prick in his eyes and he watched Merlin screw up his face in pain.

"Arthur!" He moaned, louder this time, "Arthur! Save me!"

Arthur seemed to stop breathing for a moment as Merlin yelled for his help. Guilt built up in him as he realised that he should have got there sooner. He reached over to where Merlin had his arm outstretched, as if reaching for something. Arthur touched his hand, wanting to offer some kind of contact.

However, as soon as his fingertips touched Merlin's palm, the younger boy jumped awake, jerking his hand to his chest like he had just touched fire. His eyes flew open and he looked at Arthur with a terrified look on his face. He started to breathe heavier as his eyes darted from Arthur to around them to look for danger.

"I'm sorry." Arthur said, leaning up on his elbows slightly, "You were having a nightmare, I was just trying to help."

Once Merlin realised that there was no danger around them, his eyes became still and settled on Arthur's face. It was the first time he had properly looked at Arthur since he had been rescued and Arthur felt slightly strange under the piecing blue eye stare. Merlin didn't move, but just looked at him. He had a slightly confused look on his face.

Arthur laid back down on his side so he was facing Merlin, and let his arm fell out to the side so it was resting on the grass between him and Merlin. Merlin looked at it but he seemed to relax slightly, and his breathing went back to normal slowly. He kept looking at Arthur, not saying a word.

"I..." Arthur started, taking a deep breath as a lump formed in his throat, "I'm sorry I didn't get there sooner."

Merlin kept on looking at him, his eyes still dull and cloudy. They still were their brilliant blue but they seemed empty. Empty of all emotion.

"I should have protected you." Arthur continued, "I'm sorry."

Arthur hardly ever said sorry. As Prince of Camelot he wasn't required to a lot. A prince didn't make mistakes, and even if he did no one expected him to regret them. But now all he could think about was that he had let Merlin down and he wanted his servant's forgiveness. He felt like he couldn't live without Merlin's forgiveness.

Merlin still didn't say anything but he reached his own arm out until it was resting on the grass next to Arthur's, their fingertips just touching. Arthur felt his breath hitch at the feel of Merlin's skin against his, no matter how slight the contact was. Even though Merlin's expression was still blank and haunting, the touch meant hope.

Arthur kept looking at Merlin, and Merlin back at him. Their eyes stayed connected until Arthur was too tired to keep his open. He fell asleep thinking of Merlin's blue eyes. His dreams were full of empty voids and cruel laughter.

Arthur woke more tired than when he fell asleep. He tried to shake it off as he stretched his limbs out and sat up. Merlin wasn't lying next to him anymore and Arthur looked around for him. Merlin wasn't far away, as he knelt beside the fire pit, sprinkling water over it to make sure all the flames were gone. There was a plate of food beside him that held fruit, meat and bread from the bags. The horse was already saddled up and Merlin's bed was rolled up and packed away.

"You shouldn't be doing all this." Arthur said from his own bed. Merlin jumped at Arthur's voice and span around.

Arthur didn't know what he was expecting. A miraculous recover? Merlin back to his own cheeky self? The past three weeks just a dream? Seeing Merlin actually up and doing something and not curled up in a ball as he had been the last two nights made Arthur believe that he must at least be feeling a little bit better. But as the boy turned around and faced Arthur, he realised that that wasn't the case.

Merlin's eyes were still empty of any emotion, light or spark. His face just spoke of sleepless nights and restless dreams. His skin was still deathly pale and dark circles engulfed his features. Arthur shivered as he looked at him. It was like seeing a ghost.

"You should be resting Merlin." Arthur said gently, moving the blanket away from him and moving so he was nearer Merlin. Merlin silently handed him the plate of food. Arthur noticed the silence and nodded in thanks. He began to eat the grapes on the plate, watching Merlin turn back around and start to roll up his bed.

"Stop that Merlin." Arthur said, "Come sat with me and eat something."

Merlin just shook his head and the food began to taste like ash in Arthur's mouth. He stood up as Merlin strengthened up and tried to stand in front of him. Arthur gently took hold of Merlin's wrist, trying to get him to look at him. Merlin flinched at the touch and Arthur withdrew his hand like an arrow from a bow.

"You need to eat." Arthur told him, standing a bit too close to him, "You're going to get really ill if you don't."

Merlin just shrugged and Arthur felt like shaking him. It was like Merlin didn't care about his own heath. He wasn't eating or sleeping and now he was walking around doing chores when he should be resting. He was injured and Arthur could see that in every movement he made. It was as if every step, breath and twitch was causing him unbelievable pain.

"Mer-" Arthur started but he was cut off by a loud 'PANG' ringing through the air and then he was knocked forward by a great force. He fell to the floor, pain flowing through every vain in his body and struggling to breath. He saw Merlin look at him in shock, his eyes wide. Arthur looked down to his chest and saw a long, dark arrow pointing out from his flesh. His own eyes went wide as he realised what had happened.

And then they were suddenly surrounded by five bandits, most of them chuckling cruelly. Arthur recognised one of them as the man who had their pants down in the room where he had found Merlin.

Arthur tried to tell Merlin to run but nothing came from his mouth as he formed the words. Merlin stood over him, his fists clutched as he looked around. Arthur couldn't see his face but his whole body seemed tense with anger.

Merlin then let out a terrible, furious scream. There was so much pain in the scream. So much anger and despair. The ground shook and trembles went through the small clearing. Arthur though he saw the leaves that littered the forest floor quiver and a wild wind went around them. The men were thrown backwards and they flew through the sky before landing in twisted heaps on the hard ground. None of them were moving, not even breathing.

Before Arthur could register any of this, Merlin was kneeling by his side, tears rolling down his cheeks as he looked at the Prince.

"Arthur!" He cried, looking at the arrow and Arthur's shallow breathing. He placed his hands on Arthur's chest, trying to stop the bleeding.

"Merlin, run." Arthur managed to choke out, tasting iron in his mouth. Merlin shook his head, one of his hands running up to cup Arthur's face.

"You're not meant to die yet." Merlin told him, tears leading on Arthur's cheeks as Merlin bent over him. Merlin didn't seem to know what to do with his hands as he stroked Arthur's cheeks and his forehead, running them down his chest as if he was trying to hold on to Arthur's last breaths.

Arthur looked up at him, raising a hand and placing it on Merlin's cheek. He didn't flinch away from the touch this time, but his tears increased as he shook his head. He closed his eyes, and put his both his hands on Arthur's chest, his thumbs and index fingers joining together to form a circle around the wound. He took a deep breath before saying words that Arthur didn't understand.

"Ic crye calu þás heorudreór"

Merlin's eyes snapped open and Arthur gasped as he saw that they were no longer their blue colour, but a rich gold. The sign of magic.

"Ic crye calu þás heorudreór"Merlin said again, this time louder. His brow was creased with concentration. Arthur's eyes grew heavy as he tried to witness what was happening around him.

"Ic crye calu þás heorudreór!" Merlin yelled, the sound shaking the forest around them. Arthur cried out as the wound seemed to burn with fire. His back arched in pain and he screwed his eyes shut. It felt like the hole was sizzling and bubbling like boiling water. Merlin held him down as his body grew tired from the pain. Arthur managed to open his eyes long enough to see Merlin above him, a small, sad smile on his lips, before Arthur's world turned black.

When Arthur woke the sun was directly above him. He could feel the heat of it and its brightness shone through his eyelids, making him frown in protest. It must be about midday, he thought.

The next thing he noticed was a weight on top of him. It wasn't a heavy weight but it wasn't a light weight, like a blanket or a throw, either. He opened his eyes and was met by a mop of dark hair. He recognised it as Merlin straight away and everything that had happened that morning came flooding back to him. He was confused at first. He didn't feel any pain whatsoever. In fact he felt fantastic.

"Merlin?" Arthur asked, trying to sit up. It wasn't really appropriate to have his manservant lying on top of him. And he had to talk to him about what had happened earlier. Had Merlin used magic?

"Merlin" Arthur said again once the boy had not moved. Arthur pushed himself up into a sitting position and turned Merlin over. Arthur nearly dropped him when he saw Merlin's front. He was covered in blood, his entire shirt soaked red. Merlin's face was as white as chalk and his breathing was so shallow that arthur was sure he was dead. It wasn't until Merlin let out a broken moan that he realised with relief that he was still alive.

"Ar...thur." Merlin muttered.

"I'm here." Arthur said, placing Merlin down on the ground and pulling up his shirt. Arthur hissed when he saw an angry puncture wound in the middle of Merlin's chest.

"How did you get this?" Arthur asked, looking at it. It was then realisation hit him and his hands flew to his own chest and he looked down. The arrow had disappeared and all was left was a hole in his chainmail and some blood, which he was sure was mostly Merlin's.

His wound had completely vanished, he realised as he poked his finger through the hole to feel smooth skin.

"What did you do?" Arthur asked, feeling shaken as he looked back to the bleeding Merlin. He could also see a red line across Merlin's stomach. It didn't look deep but was bleeding. Arthur recognised the wound and lifted his own shirt to see that were his injury from 3 weeks ago had disappeared, just leaving the stitches that Guise had done to keep it shut there. The wound had been healing nicely but now it was gone. That was impossible. Even if it had healed completely without Arthur knowing, there would be a long white scar in its place. He looked back at Merlin, realising that his injury was now on the dying boy in front of him. Merlin's eyes were slightly open and Arthur could see that he was looking at him through heavily lidded eyes.

"I...saved you...my last save...and you know it was me...that did it this time." Merlin said, his voice a bare whisper. A smile was on his lips as Arthur tried to put some pressure on the wound to stop the bleeding. They must have been unconscious for hours and the bleeding had nearly stopped, but there was still some blood coming out. Arthur looked at him confused, realising how pale Merlin was. He must have lost a lot of blood. The smile that Merlin held was broken and not quite there. It didn't reach his eyes and Arthur knew he was just trying to comfort him.

How silly did that sound? The one that was dying was trying comfort the one that was fine. It was insane but something that Merlin would do. He was so selfless.

"I...I'm going to get you home." Arthur told him, his hands shaking as he got the blanket that Merlin had dropped earlier and wrapped it around Merlin's torso, trying to protect the wound, "Guise will know what to do...He will save you."

Merlin shook his head as Arthur tried to pick him up.

"No..." He breathed, "Leave me."

"I can't leave you Merlin!" Arthur shouted at the fool. He put his arm under Merlin's legs and hoisted him up in a bridal fashion.

"Please..." Merlin whispered, his voice laced with anguish. Arthur paused and stood still, his blood running cold as he looked down at Merlin in his arms. Merlin's eyes were slightly more open now and Arthur could see the blue orbs clearly. It was as if Merlin was begging him to leave him behind. To leave him to die.

"Shut up Merlin!" Arthur snapped. Probably not the wisest thing to say at the moment but he was too shocked and hurt to think of anything else, "I'm not going to leave you, I would never leave you."

Arthur lifted Merlin onto his horse and then got up behind him, holding him tightly in place. Arthur's mare was the best that money could buy and Arthur had had her for years, so they know each other well. She sensed that something was wrong and she know where she needed to go without being asked and set off straight away without any prompt from her owner. This allowed Arthur to secure Merlin and hold on to him so he didn't fall off the horse. Arthur could hear him mumbling something, talking nonsense as they set off.

"You're going to be fine." Arthur told him, as they galloped through the forest towards Camelot. He was saying this more to himself than anyone else. He was scared, and guilt was building even higher in him as he realised how much he had failed his manservant.

He couldn't believe that the happy-go-lucky, cheeky and bright Merlin was in such despair that he wanted to die. It wasn't even to save anyone. Arthur knew that Merlin would give up his life for him without a second thought, but when they were attacked all the bandits were taken out. There had been no other danger around them. Merlin had just wanted to die. For no selfless reason. He had wanted to die to rid himself of this world.

It made Arthur want to scream out in frustration and anger. He was angry at this world for changing Merlin so dramatically. For making Merlin hate everything around him and for ridding him of hope and happiness. Arthur hated the world for making the spark in Merlin's brilliant blue eyes disappear and replacing it with what seemed like endless emptiness.

Arthur held onto Merlin tightly as they raced towards Camelot. Merlin passed out pretty quickly and his head was dumping against Arthur's shoulder, his head resting slightly under the Prince's chin. Arthur urged his horse on, riding through the night to get to Camelot. He needed to get Merlin to Guise as fast as possible. He wasn't going to let Merlin die.

Even though Arthur had to concentrate on staying balance and holding on to Merlin, he had time to think about the attack that morning. He had seen it clearly in Merlin's eyes. He had used magic. Arthur knew the clear sign of the golden eyes anywhere. His father had engraved it in his mind since he was old enough to understand about the signs of magic and why it was so bad. People that used magic are evil and only think of themselves.

But Merlin wasn't like that. He wasn't anything but kind and compassionate. He wouldn't hurt a fly and he was the most loyal person Arthur knew. Merlin was without a doubt the only true friend that Arthur possessed, even if he did treat the younger boy like a slave sometimes. Arthur didn't understand though why Merlin would study magic. It was forbidden and anyone caught using it would be executed. Why would Merlin risk his life for magic? And what did that mean for Arthur and his future kingdom?

Was Merlin only friendly and loyal to him to get closer to the future king of Camelot? Was it all a trick? Was Merlin going to turn on him once he got the throne? Wasn't that what his father had been teaching him his whole life? That people that use magic are evil and that he shouldn't trust anyone that is even associated with magic?

Arthur had to shake these thoughts from his mind as he rode on. He knew Merlin. Merlin was his friend and he wouldn't hurt him. The trusting servant had saved him on more than one occasion. If he had wanted Arthur dead than he would have done it already.

They reached the gates of Camelot near noon the next day. Arthur rode through the gates and shouts could be heard straight away.

"The Prince has returned!" People cried out as they saw him, relieved to see their future king returned to them. Shouts rang through the fortress faster than Arthur did and he could hear bells ringing quite quickly to announce his presence to his father. People made way for him and his galloping horse and he got to the court yard quickly where he skidded to a halt. He jumped off his mare, giving her a slight pat before letting Merlin slid into his arms. Arthur didn't realise how tired he was until Merlin was in his arms and he fell to his knees as the King and Guise rushed through the doors of the castle and down to him.

"Arthur!" Uther cried out, his worry and relief clear in his tone as he made his way down the steps and down to his side. Arthur felt Guise kneel down beside him to look at his ward.

"Merlin." Guise breathed, looking at him. Merlin was still alive but only just. His breathing was irregular and slow, coming out with shaking breaths. He had bled right through the blanket and red covered him. His skin was as pale as a ghost but in contrast his skin was red hot, making him sweat and shake.

"Get him to my chambers straight away." Guise ordered. Arthur tried to stand but his legs were too weak from riding through the night and he collapsed back to the ground, Merlin against him. Leon, who had come to welcome his prince back, step forward and gathered Merlin up in his arms. Arthur gave him a grateful smile and stood up, subconscious leaning on his mare to steady himself as Leon rushed off, followed by Guise.

"Arthur, what happened?" Uther asked upon noticing how shaken up his son looked. Arthur didn't answer the question as he noticed all the people that had gathered. He saw a stable boy nearby and beckoned him over. The young boy rushed over, looking nervous as he had never been spoken to by Prince Arthur before.

"Take my horse to the stables." Arthur told him, trying to get his composer back as his people watched him and handing the ruins to the boy, "Make sure she is fed and watered and is well rested, she has had a long journey."

"Yes Sire." The boy squeaked and rushed off, patting the mare gently as he went.

"Arthur, come with me." Uther told his son. Arthur wanted to refuse and follow Merlin to the physician's chambers, but he had a duty to his King and father to explain what had happened and why he had disappeared and where he had been the last three weeks.

"Yes Father." Arthur sighed and followed Uther into the castle and up to the council room.

My first Merlin fic! It's a very sad one so far. I hope it isn't too angsty.

Ic crye calu þás heorudreór means roughly 'I shall bare these wounds'. It took me a while to translate into Old English. I was trying for 'Let me bare these wounds' but it wouldn't let me do that but I think this works just as well.

Please review. Reviews give me the power to continue.