The Message by SomeTaters (87 percent potato)

Summary: A simple day in court turns into a nightmare for Merlin when a strange woman appears. T for stuff.

Disclaimer: I do disclaim!

a/n: Came to me after watching government videos and drinking twelve cups of coffee, but I think the combo worked out okay. Anyway, an oneshot, but if I can come up with a second part I will. First Merlin oneshot, hope it goes over well, and any feedback is most appreciated. Forward!

Tuning out the droning of his king and knights, Merlin stood in the groggy, midday heat of the throne room, his eyes lazing about as he partook in the official counting of royal dust particles. It had been a fairly slow day in court, nothing really urgent had come forth and after hearing reports of a small group of bandits in the woods Arthur had dismissed the nobles and taken his four knights aside to discuss what should be done about the situation.

It was a conversation that Merlin had heard a dozen times over and would most likely end with a short ride to the border, a small skirmish, and at least one fortunately timed slip up or broken tree branch before the bandit camp was wiped out. Honestly, Merlin almost missed the larger chaos that seemed to plague Camelot on a monthly basis… almost.

Emrys!

Merlin gasped, stumbling back as a chill ran up his spine, the fevered voice sounding painfully clear in his mind. A sudden wave of fear spiked through the warlock accompanied by a sense of desperation that threatened to overwhelm him. Something terrible was coming, something Merlin couldn't stop, and the young man barely registered the worried looks he received from the others before the oaken doors blasted open.

Instantly the swords of the knights were drawn, but before any action could be taken the cloaked figure in the doorway raised its hand and the weapons clattered to the ground. An incoherent spell was uttered and the five knights were reluctantly brought to their knees, paralyzed, leaving Merlin standing alone on the throne dais, his eyes wide and transfixed on the sorcerer.

With a heavy breath, the sorcerer lowered their hand and brought their head up towards Merlin. The young warlock saw that it was in fact a woman beneath the battered and torn cloak, wiry brown hair sticking out from under its hood. The set of lines about her mouth and jaw betrayed her old age, even though her face was mostly shadowed.

There was something about her, something dangerous and soiled. Waves of power and terror radiated from her and Merlin wanted nothing more than to flee.

Sensing the warlock's trepidation the sorceress quickly straightened and threw back her hood. Merlin caught his breath at the sight of the woman's left eye, which was milky white and surrounded by grotesque, black tissue. Dark veins ran along the same side of her face, painting a sort of gray web on the pale skin. The whole thing looked painful, and Merlin had no doubt that the marring feature was what caused the woman's contorted expression.

Despite the sorceress' disfigurement, however, Merlin found it hard to draw away from her. He seemed completely transfixed on her presence until his world blurred and she was all that consumed it. A single plea ran through him, Emrys, please.

Not fully aware of what he was doing, Merlin took a step off the throne dais, vaguely registering the cry of voices from the others behind him.

He walked slowly towards the witch, his face neutral and trance like.

As Merlin drew closer the woman stretched out her hand, encouraging Merlin to do the same, his slender fingers extending towards her starved ones. When Merlin was within reach the sorceress suddenly latched onto his hand with both of hers and pulled him closer.

The warlock went rigid at her touch and let out a surprised gasp as he felt the world swept away, disappearing with a wave of black before being thrown back.

Then Merlin found himself crashing to the field of a raging battle, the sound of metal and pained cries filling his senses as he was hit by the mingled scent of smoke and blood; and then he sat in the bowels of a ship, surrounded by the living rot of people who stood in pools of their own waste; and then he was returned to a cold field, men rushed angrily at him with odd looking spears.

Suddenly they stop and raised the spears to their shoulders just as the air was torn apart with a blazing crack and the ground shattered, sending earth and men into the air; and then Merlin was standing, surrounded by heaven bound stones, cut cleanly into squares, a kingdom's worth of people passing him before there was a blinding flash, a sudden roar that accompanied an almighty heat, melting his eyes and searing the skin from his flesh.

And then Merlin finds the stone cold against his knees and the skin of the seer's neck rough beneath his fingers, her eyes wide in a final moment of horror, hollow and dead. His breath came short, and he released the woman from his grip, watching her but not seeing as she fell stiffly to the side.

The nightmares temporarily omitted what he had done and Merlin stayed there, disbelieving, hearing the fatal power, smelling the misery, seeing the blood, and tasting his own tongue as it was burned from his mouth. And then…

Arthur was at his side, a firm hand on his forearm and an arm wrapped around Merlin's shoulder, trying desperately to pull the young man away from the woman's corpse. The king demanded something and then slipped into a litany of soothing words.

Merlin would have listened if only he knew how.

"Leon, go find Gaius," Arthur ordered as he took a hold of Merlin, the younger man having yet to answer to his name.

Arthur tried his best to pull his friend away from the strangled sorceress, but Merlin barely moved, slowly pushing with his feet and sliding back away from the body with Arthur. When they stopped a few meters away Merlin's eyes were still and distant as he leaned heavily into the king's arms.

Arthur furrowed his brow worriedly at Merlin, doing his best not to simply shake the boy and order him to snap out of it. Something was wrong, something was terribly wrong, and Arthur wished he knew what.

As soon as the woman had touched Merlin the young man had started screaming, a horrible sound that had torn at Arthur's heart, yet the sorceress had kept her grip even after Merlin blindly begged for her to let go, to not do this.

When she continued to deny Merlin the release he sought, Arthur felt fully thrown by the servant's swiftness and lack of hesitation as he took hold of the woman's throat and began to squeeze the breath from her. Merlin's eyes had turned unseeing, a look akin to madness passing briefly.

Looking upon the contorted figure on the floor and feeling the trembles that wracked his friend's frame, Arthur felt a sudden hatred towards the woman well up in him. If she wasn't dead already…

Arthur was pulled from his musings as the sounds of a crowd began to gather at the doors. Turning to his remaining knights, Arthur spoke quickly and with a tone that brooked no argument.

"Get them out of here and place a guard at the door, I don't want anyone but Gaius to enter, is that understood?"

Gwaine nodded solidly, supposedly taking up the duty, before his open worry morphed into resolve.

Arthur then slid his eyes to the dead sorceress in the middle of the room and practically snarled, "And get that out of here."

Swiftly Percival and Elyan lifted the woman and Gwaine escorted them out, shooing away the curious nobles and their servants. The roguish knight then turned and gave Arthur a look of support before closing the doors.

Once they were alone Arthur let out a slow breath and resisted resting his head against Merlin's. The boy sat lifelessly against the kneeling king, his arms lying limply at his side, half-lidded eyes staring off into the depths of his own mind. Arthur's frown deepened at the state of his friend, before he gently sat Merlin further up and wriggled out from behind the servant, making sure Merlin wouldn't topple without his support.

As Arthur slid to Merlin's front, Merlin stayed upright and Arthur finally got a good look at the boy.

Merlin looked like the living dead, all the brightness drained from him. His mouth hung slightly ajar. He swayed slightly with his legs folded out on either side.

Carefully, Arthur put one hand on Merlin's shoulder to steady him, and then touched the other to his friend's cheek, "Merlin?" Please be okay.

Arthur hadn't expected any response and jumped when the life snapped back into Merlin's eyes and the young man stared at him, horror-stricken and silently pleading something. Arthur didn't know for what so he just sat there, his hand hovering where it had come away from Merlin's face.

A single tear escaped Merlin, and he suddenly crumpled into despair before he fell forward into the king, wrapping his arms tightly around Arthur. Merlin breathed sharp and quick, trying to catch himself but unable to stop the broken sob that escaped. Taking in a deep breath, Merlin pushed his face into Arthur's chest and cried readily, but silently.

Unsure of what else to do, Arthur tentatively wrapped Merlin in an embrace and held his brother to him, gently rocking the boy until Gaius found them.

End


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