Forks in the Path of Destiny
Summary: Merlin and Arthur have reclaimed Camelot from Morgana's hands and she is now missing. Yet their biggest obstacle to date is about come in the form of a man arrested for aiding a sorceress in escaping arrest. He has connections with a group of sorcerers entrusted to a city of magic users where magical people co-exist with non magical people. It all causes a chain of events that bring Merlin's true loyalties to the test. Merlin is now torn with continuing to serve Arthur in belief that he will return magic to the land as the prophecy says or give up his faith in him and to choose to help those with magic without him. Arthur himself is torn with choosing on continuing his father's great purge of magic or to end it and leave his past hate behind. These times will either make Albion a reality or keep it as a poet's dream.
Chapter 1: Peace?
Camelot has had over five months of peace ever since Arthur retook the throne and had taken Guinevere as his queen. The city itself was in the finishing process of being fully repaired from Helios' assault and Morgana had not been seen since. It was under popular belief that she may have died from her wounds sustained in her escape though there was one person who believed the opposite theory the strongest though didn't voice his suspicions. The warlock had a feeling deep down that Morgana was still out there but was too low in morale to act after her last defeat. With the loss of Helios and Aggravaine she now had no allies or real power to become a threat but Merlin knew it would be foolish to think that he has seen the last of her and a part of him dreaded on what Morgana would be like then.
Right now, Merlin was cleaning up Arthur's and now Gwen's room while they were overseeing any final repairs needed in the city. The kingdom didn't take too well to their new queen at first but with her humble backgrounds and actions in trying to help people who had suffered from the last attack, she had started drawing in support from the commoners. However, the nobles were a different story though not one dared to say or do anything in offense to her, at least in the range of Arthur. Merlin thought that Arthur and Gwen finally deserved some happiness after everything they've both been through. Arthur himself couldn't seem happier. He had Gwen as his queen and the kingdom seemed to finally be enjoying some peace. The surrounding kingdoms had not caused any disruptions with Camelot either. The news that Arthur had taken the throne against such odds with so few knights and soldiers from Helios and Morgana had given Camelot a very respectful following.
Merlin couldn't feel more proud of everyone. It seemed like everything was actually coming together like it should…except for one thing that remained to plague him. He was so caught in his thoughts that he backed into the table and the vase on it fell back and rolled off the table to the ground and shattered. Merlin strained his ears to see if anyone was around and then his eyes glowed their golden hue and the vase was pieced together like new. As he placed it back on the table he felt his good mood drop slightly as the thought of magic still being outlawed flooded into his mind. Merlin still had to hide his magic from everyone or suffer arrest. While it was his magic that made Morgana vulnerable and saved Ealdor from Aggravaine as well as brought Arthur his new dragon breath sword dubbed Excalibur, he still had to hide his gifts from everyone. Arthur hadn't taken the law forbidding magic away but neither had he executed anyone for possessing it. Then again, save for Morgana, no one had been sighted or arrested for the crime of sorcery and for that Merlin was glad.
He knew the Druids were hiding in the forests of Essetir and were out of harm's way but he had no idea about the rest of those with magic. Merlin had only ever befriended three others with magic that were still out there and hadn't seen them since they parted ways. Images of Gilli, Alice and Alator came into his mind and he smiled as he hoped that they were at least keeping themselves out of trouble. Merlin knew there had to be others out there but the only ones that he ever seen before that weren't attacking Camelot had been put on the pyres and chopping block when Uther was still king. Merlin looked out the window and saw Arthur and the knights practicing their skills against one another in glee and friendship. Merlin smiled at the sight of their fun but it didn't reach into his heart.
In one of the outlying villages, a girl of about seven was right at death's door. She was in a bed, pale and sweaty, now struggling to breathe. Her mother was mere feet away letting loose hard tears with her husband beside her holding her hand.
"Please…please save her," she choked out before losing herself in husband's arms.
A figure in a brown cloak placed a poultice in the girl's hand and then poured water over her forehead. Then she placed her hand on the girl's dampened forehead. "Brim Et Eard Sana Hoc Anima" After muttering this her eyes went gold and the poultice glowed gold as well and the water on her forehead traveled down the girl's face and under her clothes. The girl's color started to return slowly and her breathing had become steady. "She should be fine enough to get out of bed in over a day," the sorceress said getting back up.
"Thank you," the father said.
The mother looked at her daughter in bed and to the sorceress and then embraced her. "Thank you for saving my daughter," she said almost inaudibly.
"She is my cousin's daughter. I was only happy to help you Darla," the sorceress said returning the hug.
"Yes, but I know it is dangerous for you to come here of all places to do this. Leaving the town of Albion's safety to come to the kingdom of Camelot. You risked much to save my daughter and I am eternally grateful."
"Yes, well…I was pretty scared of leaving home myself but seeing her there with the life returning to her…it is completely worth the risk."
The father came forward and gave his sorceress cousin a hug of his own. "Brigid, you are too kind. I don't deserve family such as yourself. I missed you dearly and it was a miracle I was able to find my way to you. I am happy you chose to save my daughter and it's good to see you again...as well as your fiancé."
He looked out the window at the man standing guard outside the door. He was a tall but stocky young man with a lute tied to his back. He had straw blond hair was dressed in very simple but well-kept clothes.
"Yes," the sorceress Brigid said smiling at the door. "Malcolm is truly a kind soul. He may not have magic but his music always has a way of enchanting me."
"We wish we could see you get married," her cousin said looking a little downtrodden.
"But why not Amon? We're not getting married for another three weeks. Why not come to Albion? It certainly is a much better living than here and if your girl still needs more treatment then the healers there could definitely help her. Their healing magic are far greater than mine."
"Move to Albion? I thought it was a haven for those with magic only?" said Amon a little confused.
"No, no. It's not only for us with magic but also for those who sympathize and wish to live together with those of magic. Malcolm doesn't have magic but he is a valued citizen of Albion as are some of the warriors we have in the Order. The captain Sir Galahad is a great man looked up to by all of us and he doesn't have magic either. Also, we have plenty to eat and it's very peaceful. Why…it's truly a magical place. The only true one we have left now." Her cousin and his wife looked at each other and seemed to be speaking without having to utter a word. "You don't have to choose now. I'll be leaving to journey back to Albion in two days. You can have until then to decide. In the meantime, I'll stay close by and moniter your girl's condition. Though, I believe that moving would be truly good for your family...especially with your daughter's gift as well."
"What?" they both gasped.
"Did you think I wouldn't be able to tell. When I cured your daughter I could feel it within her. She has the gift of magic."
Darla looked towards her sleeping daughter. "We thought such odd things tended to happen around her sometimes but I didn't want to believe it. Sometimes a few things would move around or jump in the air around her but we didn't want to believe it. I don't think we ever did."
Brigid gave them a look that perfectly displayed her shared concern. "I was the same way. Take some time and really talk about it. Albion is a good place for her. Well, really it's the only place for her. The five kingdoms will never acccept magic and this one, Camelot, is the worst."
The musician Malcolm looked back as the creaking of the door alerted him to Brigid stepping outside. "How is she?"
"She'll be fine," she said closing the door behind her. "Let's go."
"Yes," he said putting his arm around her and walking off with her. "Sir Galahad and Sir Kay will want us back under their watchful gaze as soon as possible. Not that I can't blame them. Leaving home like this never sits well with me especially when you or your kin leave it's safety."
"My cousin was about to lose his daughter, I had to. I was the only gifted healer willing to leave the town to help."
"Yes, well, let's just get moving. The sooner you're back in Albion the better I'll feel. There's a reason why only the Order's "gifted" are the only ones of your kin ever to leave Albion and come back regularly. They are trained to handle themselves. Last thing we need is to run into a dreaded knight."
Brigid then dropped her satchel and some of her belongings came spilling out. She stopped walking to try and quickly repack them but froze when she saw the still glowing healing poultice stop rolling at a Camelot's sentry's feet. He bent down, picked it up and held it close. "Excuse me...is this yours?"
Brigid quickly composed her self. "I'm sorry, no it isn't."
"Yes it is," he pushed. "I saw it roll from your direction."
"You must be mistaken. I've never seen that thing before." She got off the ground and she and Malcolm started to walk off in a faster pace.
It was then that they broke into a hard run towards the woods but the man's shouts had alerted more of the guards and sentries to their location. One managed to grab onto Brigid but Malcolm swung his satchel and knocked the guard on his head. "Run Brigid, run!" He yelled out to her before swinging his satchel at another guard that had tried to run after her.
Brigid ran further off into the woods and suddenly a giant oak tree suddenly fell down behind her cutting off any pursuers that had been behind her. Malcolm, however, had been caught by a rope lasso that had hooked onto his leg and fell to the guards mercy and brutality. It stopped when the commanding knight on duty arrived and ordered him to be tied up to be brought to Camelot. The townspeople looked on with wonder and relief save for two people who had their eyes shrouded in anger, sorrow and guilt.
Arthur had been requested by the royal council to the throne room for a very special report on certain actions taking place in the five kingdoms especially in the lands of Camelot's allies. The high lords, his personal knights and council advisers were gathered in his throne room and Arthur could also make out Gaius with Merlin at his side before he sat on his throne.
"What news do you have to share?" he said officially beginning this meeting.
Arthur saw Lord Renmar, an old friend of his father's from the eastern lands step forward. "My King, there are several scattered reports of arrested magic users and conspirators. Strangely, they are also escaping captivity throughout the five kingdoms."
There were some scattered murmurs among everyone there while Gaius and Merlin shared a look though Arthur couldn't let himself get distracted. "Go on."
"Yes, well, the reports say that after they are caught, before royal patrols or bounty hunters could arrive into Camelot with them for you, they get surprised by mighty warriors baring strange garments."
"How strange exactly?" Arthur was intrigued. Something like this never happened before with his father's attempts at purging magic.
"It is said that these warriors wear sea blue robes with chainmail over them bearing the mark of a brown bear. It is also said that these warriors were also capable of magic themselves."
That bit of news had the louder volume of murmurs than before but Arthur called for silence. "Geoffrey, Gaius, have you two ever heard of sorcerers bearing this bear symbol?"
"I'm afraid not sire," said Geoffrey. "I know of no seals or crests that bare a brown bear on them."
"Neither have I sire," said Gaius. "This is certainly new."
Arthur saw that Gaius truly didn't know what to make of this though he was suddenly intrigued with Merlin's expression. Merlin looked almost thoughtful and even curious. He briefly wondered what was going on in his servant's head before turning his attention back on Renmar. "Is there a report on the damage these sorcerers cause? How many have fallen to these raiders?"
"That's actually the most puzzling thing sire...none."
"None?" This was new.
"Yes. Soldiers and bounty hunters become immobilized, disarmed or sustain minor injuries but none had fallen to these warriors. Though the prisoners that they had taken all get released and have been reported to take off with these "Bear" sorcerers."
"I see." Arthur was troubled. Why would there be such movement to free these sorcerers? Could someone be assembling them all into an army? That was the last thing Camelot needed. "How long have these events been going on?"
Renmar didn't answer this time but another lord. Lord Calhoun, also from his father's old court. "My reports say that the first of these incidents was reported in Mercia about three months before your father's passing."
"Yes, and they've been sighted more and more," added Renmar. "What a shame. Right when we're two days shy from the 25th anniversary of the Great Purge's start."
Right at that moment, the doors to the throne room were thrust open and a knight came through a little out of breath. "Pardon the interruption sire but I have important news."
"What is it?" asked Arthur wondering what could be next.
"My men and I captured a man that was aiding a sorceress escape arrest. He attacked two of my men but we've managed to subdue him and I have him for you now."
"Bring him in," he commanded. Arthur was truly expecting a big and mad looking man that looked like he could scare anyone within distance to avert their gaze but instead he was seeing a thin and stringy young man with straw blond hair, no older than himself being led in with chains. He had a few scratches on his face and bumps on his forehead and when he was brought down on his knees Arthur could see a lute tied on his back. "What is your name?"
"Malcolm," he said not looking up at him.
"Why did you attack two of Camelot's men?"
He didn't answer right away. When it seemed like he wouldn't...he finally looked up at him with gentle brown eyes. "Because I had too."
The knight brought out a simple looking satchel and almost blocked view of Malcolm's body. "This was taken from him. The sorceress he helped escape had been caught with this," he held up a faintly glowing poultice.
Arthur was given the poultice and he could see the glow of the magic in it and Arthur suddenly felt like he had been holding on to a glob of mud and had to repress a shudder. He passed it along to Gaius and drew his attention back to the prisoner. "Anything else?"
"Yes," said the knight ruffling though the satchel. "Most of his possessions were just standard camping equipment but the only other odd thing was this crest found inside." He pulled out a stitched crest of a brown bear in front of a sea blue background looking up at a star.
Merlin had been listening to the report made with varying emotions every other minute. 'A team of sorcerers?' he thought. Merlin first thought that Morgana might be behind it but then he heard that they weren't killing anyone...just freeing their magical kin. Merlin couldn't help but feel a little bit of...gratitude to these "Bear" sorcerers. He wondered who exactly they were. But then that knight brought in that young man for aiding that sorcerer and when he answered Arthur he was surprised by the conviction in his eyes. He truly believed that he had done the right thing.
Then the crest with a bear, the one they had been discussing mere moments ago, was taken out of of the man's belongings and then thrown on the floor in front of him. Arthur rose from his throne and looked from the crest to the prisoner. "Where did you get that?" But the prisoner just kept looking down at the crest and didn't say a word. "I asked you a question."
The knight went over pulled on his hair to make him face Arthur. "Your king just asked you a question?"
Arthur held up a hand to stop him. "Easy there Sir Dregan."
Malcolm however didn't look scared of the knight doing this. He kept his face hard and glared right at Arthur. "King? You are NOT my king," he said with a low and harsh tone. "I won't yield to the will of a blind and stupid monarch."
Arthur didn't react to that statement but instead took a step towards the prisoner. "We have received reports of sorcerers bearing that symbol freeing other captured sorcerers. I take it you're one of them?"
The prisoner Malcolm didn't flinch or react at all to the question but stared defiantly back at him. "No. I'm not a sorcerer...but I do support the Order of the Bear with all my soul."
"Order of the Bear? Who are they?"
"Their name is all you need to know. It's all you deserve to know."
"Very well, if that is your choice. There is still the matter of you attacking two of my kingdom's men."
"I'm sorry I wasn't able to at least make a strike at more than two," Malcolm said in a mocking tone.
Arthur let of a huff of air before returning to his throne. "Then I must find you guilty of treason."
Malcolm didn't seem to be finished yet. "If what I did for Brigid is considered treason by you then it's a crime I would gladly repeat, sire," he said mockingly.
Merlin couldn't help but feel that this Malcolm was enjoying himself a little. He seemed to like trying to get on Arthur's nerves and spoke at him much like Merlin did when trying to annoy him. Merlin couldn't help but...like this Malcolm a little. He did wonder by what this Order of the Bear was though something inside told him that Malcolm was no threat and it wasn't just because he had no magic. In fact, once he had said this order's name, he felt a feeling rise deep inside of him from his magic that made him feel warm and safe. It was similar to how he felt when he caught sight of Kilgarrah and Aithusa.
"Take him to the dungeons while I consider his punishment." The Guards left their posts and went forward to grab the prisoner. Malcolm went forward a little and managed to grab the crest on the floor before he was hauled away. Once he was gone, Arthur turned to Sir Dregan. "What of the sorcereress that he helped escape?"
"Sire, she ran off in the woods but before she could be apprehended a tree fell behind cutting of our pursuit. By the time we managed to pick up a bit of her trail it started to rain and it started to wash away."
"Very well. You may return to your assigned post."
"Sire," he said bowing and then taking his leave.
Brigid had been running for an hour before she finally reached a clearing in the woods where two men had made camp and four horses where waiting. They were in sky blue robes and chainmail and looked up at her arrival.
"Sir Galahad! Sir Kay! It's Malcolm! He's been taken prisoner by Camelot!" Brigid was nearly hysterical as she said all of this.
The two men took off their hoods and both clenched their fists in anger.
End of Chapter 1
A/N: What did you all think? These are my own twists to two of the legendary Knights of the Round Table and to the Order of the Bear of the Arthurian legend. They've been in my mind for some time now and I hope you are interested. Review and tell me.
Brim Et Eard Sana Hoc Anima - Water and Earth Heal this Soul