Merlin ran.

That's all he had been doing for days now, only stopping to rest for a few minutes at a time, through blistering heat and cold rain he ran. Thought to be truthful he was finding it hard now, he was more stumbling then running, his feet had been cut to ribbons after one day on the move, he was now on his fourth. Without his shoes the stones and twigs had cut his feet up terribly, making his trail even more obvious with even more blood.

He knew he should abandon the shredded material that used to be his shirt, it barely covered him and it gave him no extra warmth. Deep down he knew all it was doing was snagging on branches and trees, slowing him down but his brain was too blurry to care, he just wanted to keep moving.

Quite a few times he fell, down into the mud, dirt falling into the cuts, infecting them. It didn't matter, he was already filthy. More than anything he wanted to stay there, just sleep, sleep and never wake up. But he couldn't he had to get back, home, Camelot, Gaius, Arthur.

He heard the all too familiar howl following him, plus the sound of rushing paws against the ground, sinking into the mud left from the rain hours ago. He turned in time for the creature to sink its fangs into his arm once again, he screamed, letting his magic burst out the same way Morgana's used to, ripping the monsters fangs from his arms and into a tree. The horrid creature melted away in a sickening black smoke just like the others but Merlin had no time to relish in this victory, it's friends could not be far behind and even more importantly, their mistress.

Merlin stumbled and caught himself on a tree, looking up, looking for hope and finally he saw some. A castle made of white-grey stone, the windows flickered golden in the pale light of the night. Warmth, safety, they were only a little further. With renewed vigour Merlin continued his half running, half stumbling towards the city. It had been a month at least since he had seen home, it was hard to tell, he had lost track of time but he knew it had been at least three weeks. It had felt like forever.

The path before him wavered as his vision swam once more but he didn't stop, the freshly bitten arm hung by his side, blood oozing from he puncture wounds, down his arm and dripping off his fingers. His other arm hugged his aching torso. The gates were in sight now. Just a little further. The drawbridge was manned as always thank goodness, his feet stung as he stepped off the dirt and onto the hard wooden bridge, the hard ground pushing the dirt further into his cuts.

The guards held their spears out in front of them, vaguely Merlin wondered what they thought he was going to do as he limped across the platform tot he courtyards entrance.

"Who goes there?" One called, for the first time in days Merlin lifted his head, letting the light fall over his face, both guards dropped their spears and hurried to the boys side.

"A-Ambush..." Merlin stuttered, coughing due to his dry throat, "Got, away...Arthur"

The minute the guards touched his shoulder and took some of his weight his legs gave up and he crashed down heavily onto his knees, he didn't even register the pain, he was so relieved to be home.

...

Arthur sat at his desk looking out his desk staring into space, idly spinning a spoon round and round over the smooth wooden surface. More often than not George, his new servant found him here, asleep at his desk in the time he had actually manage to fall asleep in his supper. As usual Merlin was what was keeping him up. Where had he gone? It had been a month since his disappearance and as much as he hated admitting it, he missed him. Merlin would never of left on his own, something must of happened to him.

They searched for him but after a few weeks they had given up. Deep down Arthur knew it was most likely Merlin was dead, found by bandits, killed and thrown in a ditch somewhere but he just couldn't bring himself to believe it. He had just gone to collect firewood for him and the knights on a hunt like he had a million times before, but this time he didn't come back. His father hadn't been sympathetic in the least, simply assigned him a new bootlicker servant and sent the prince on his way. Ever since Morgana's betrayal he had been even more ruthless, it was as if he cared for nobody.

The prince was broken from his depressing thoughts when a guard burst through the doors. He stood, ready to yell at the man for barging into his chambers, his temper had become shorter since Merlin's departure. However, the man spoke first.

"Sire, your servant, he just turned up at the gates!" The guard announced. All thoughts of yelling at the man fled Arthurs mind, in fact he could of hugged him.

"Where is he now?" Arthur asked, dong his best to sound calm.

"In Gaius's chambers" the guard answered, "he is in a bad way"

That was all the motivation Arthur needed, he sped out his doors and down the corridors to Gaius's. His mind conjuring up all sorts of horrible images for Merlin being 'in a bad way'. However what greeted him was worse than anything he could of imagined. He arrived just in time to see a guard lay Merlin on Gaius's work bench which Gaius had just pushed everything off.

In a bad way didn't even begin to describe it. Merlin's shirt was in taters, barely hanging off his thin frame, it had been cut and ripped and what ever had done it had also ripped up Merlin's skin. Bruises and deep slashes, new and old covered every inch of his torso and arms, particularly deep one was still bleeding profusely. Merlin's feet were a mess there wasn't an inch of skin that wasn't cut but what bothered Arthur the most was Merlin's face.

Apart from the dirt that covered every inch of him the right side of his face was marred with dried blood originating somewhere in his dark hair.

Gaius had set to work cleaning the wounds but it was a hard task, Merlin was covered in grime. Arthur walked closer to the table but stayed back, allowing Gaius to work, Merlin's breath was shaky and shallow, he was barely breathing at all. What the hell happened to you Merlin?

"Gaius, he's struggling to breath" Arthur pointed our worriedly, Gaius nodded.

"He's weak, I doubt he has eaten in a few days and by the looks of it he is completely exhausted" The physician replied sadly, "His fever is rising, I need to get these wounds clean, so many are infected"

"Can I help?" Arthur asked, he knew his father would think it was beneath him but he couldn't stand seeing this.

"Take that cloth and clean his face and neck, see if you can find where all the dried blood came from" Gaius ordered, "Carefully, you don't want to start the bleeding again"

Merlin moaned when the cool rag touched his skin, shying away from any contact, Arthur could see his eyes flickering rapidly behind the closed lids. Aside from the head wound Merlin face was also sporting a split lip and bruised cheek, Arthur was careful not to press too hard against the injuries.

Gaius had finished cleaning Merlin's chest and bandaging and quickly began the same for the wound on his forehead which to Arthur looked like it had been caused by a hilt of some kind.

"I ned more yarrow for his arms and legs, can you watch him for a few minutes?" Gaius asked.

"Yes of course" Arthur agreed.

"Try to keep him cool" Gaius reminded as he headed out the door towards the gardens.

Arthur dipped the cleanest cloth he could find back in the water and rung it out, placing it on Merlins forehead, again Merlin flinched away at the touch. His eyes cracked open ever so slightly to reveal Merlin's clouded over eyes, half rolled up into his skull.

"Stay 'way" He mumbled feebly trying to pull away from the prince.

"Merlin you idiot its me" Arthur soothed, Merlin simply whimpered and tried to pull away further, "Stay still, I'm trying to help you"

Merlins only response was to let his eyes fall closed, Arthur wasn't sure if it was due to te fact that he knew he was safe or because of his fever. One thing he did know however, was that he was going to murder whoever did this.

Im so mean!

This takes place after season 3 but without Uther braking.

Please tell me what you think, Ive been wanting to write a darker fic for a while now