Notes: Disclaimer, don't own Merlin. So sorry for disappearing for these past three months, what can I say? This chapter scared me, frustrated me, and refused to work with me especially Merlin and Arthur. I kept having to move scenes around, deleted whole paragraphs and changed a lot of the dialogue, etc. Alas it is finished, sorry it is somewhat short. Enjoy and let me know what you all think. The corridor scene is coming very, very soon plus the moment we all have been waiting. Warning: minor character death.
Chapter Five: The Pieces start to fall into place
A pair of black gloves tightened on the horse's reigns, bringing the horse to a dangerous pace. Trees passed in a blur and seemed to grow wider as the woods thickened further. Any traces of a path had long disappeared with the night. Branches from the trees reached out threatening to dislodge the rider and slash at his clothes and face. A calculated tug and the horse slowed down just in time to save its rider from certain death.
The rider looked around with a renewed intent and wiped at the small trail of blood on his face with his sleeve, never letting go of the reigns. One of the branches had managed to scrape one of his cheeks; the small sting only reminded the young man of his failure. His hazel eyes spotted a change in the way the trees were condensed and he directed his horse towards them.
He was close.
After another hour of riding, he nudged the horse to slow down and the horse galloped at a much gentler pace. The extra layer of grass and moss that seemed to cover almost every inch of the ground muffled all sound coming from its hooves. Soon the young man reached a small clearing and dismounted, a recently extinguished fire catching his attention. He led his horse to it and with the tip of his boot nudged the wet ashes and what remained of freshly laid logs.
Quickly scanning the abandoned camp, the young man took in the several badly set up tents half hidden behind a group of trees just outside the clearing. The faded sacks filled to the rim with various valuable items and the discarded half empty bowls a few inches from each of the tents gave evidence that the camp wasn't as abandoned as it had seemed. The young man reached for the hilt of his sword. A twig snapped behind him and before he could unsheathe his sword, an equally sharp one was nudged against his back cutting a clean cut through his green coat.
The pressure of the sword's tip seemed to push deeper into his clothes and skin before disappearing all together. The young man let go of the hilt of his sword and slowly turned to face his attacker. A smirk crossed his face as his eyes met that of his much older and scrawnier comrade.
"Was it necessary to ruin my favorite coat?" He coaxed taking a step forward and glancing around for the rest of their group.
"Don't get upset because I finally bested you." The older man said sheathing his sword and giving the younger man a friendly pat on the shoulder, one that almost knocked the younger man's sword off its belt.
"Where is everyone?" The younger of the two asked adjusting his sword and turning back to his comrade, a worried look filling his eyes at the possibility that his orders hadn't been followed.
"We're right here, Harland, waiting like the nice princesses that we are." A harsh voice replied from behind the man, his sarcasm heavy with malice and hatred. "Where is the King you boasted about being able to capture on your own?" At his question the rest of the gang withdrew from their hiding spots, swords still drawn.
Merlin opened his eyes slowly, fighting back the grogginess of the night before. He rubbed at the side of his head and moved off the bed as his eyes fell on Arthur's curtains, the sun beamed brightly behind them and yearned to be let in. Without a word and not chancing a glance to the other side of the bed, Merlin rose and pulled the curtains open. The room filled with the sun's morning rays and momentarily blinded the young warlock who was still struggling to fully wake.
"I don't think I've ever seen such a beautiful view so early in the morning." Arthur's teasing voice rang through the other side of the room and nudged at Merlin's memories of the day before. "Though, I fear leaving my chambers would prove harder to do if each morning was greeted with the same lovely scene."
Merlin spun around, his eyes widened in horror as he finally took in what Arthur was referring to. He had failed to recall that sometime last night he had fallen asleep with Arthur in the nude and now he was standing in front of his King with not a shred of clothes on. His hands reached for a book laying at the edge of Arthur's desk and attempted to cover himself with it, the tip of his ears burning the same deep red as his cheeks.
"Now, Merlin, there is no need for that," Arthur said, his voice a husky tone as he rose from his chair and moved across the room towards his lover. "I've caressed every inch of your body countless times before." He looked down at Merlin's hands and nudged the book from his pale hands.
"Every one of those moments is burned into my mind and every taste of it lingers in my lips." Arthur whispered moving closer and pressing his own half naked body against Merlin's. "Don't hide from me Merlin, let me see all of you."
Merlin slowly moved a shaken hand up Arthur's tight bare chest. His fingers caressed the well-defined lips before clinging to Arthur's hair, bringing their lips together for a kiss. He greedily nudged into the soft blonde strands and his lungs gasped for air as their passionate kiss came to an end. He parted his wet lips to welcome his lover's tongue for the second time. A low moan escaped the back of his throat as his King's hard shaft nudged against his thighs and pressed him back against the curtain covered stone wall.
"Can't say why the idea of having you walking around completely naked in my chambers didn't occur to me before, but..." Arthur said once he was able to breathe again, his composure once more under control and the musk from his eyes gave way to a shiny glint.
"Oh no," Merlin yelped as he moved away from Arthur, the moment completely shattered, and escaped to the safety of the edge of the bed. His clothes lay sprawled on the white sheets, the thought of who had put them there crossed his mind and almost made him give in to the demand.
"And why not," Arthur's eyebrows rose up at the concept of having it seen through.
"I am not walking around naked in your chambers like some sex slave."
"Sex slave, who said anything about a sex slave more like a love slave." Arthur shot back as he tossed one of his pillows at his half-dressed manservant, he could sure move fast when he wanted to. Hiding the smile that reached his lips at the surprised look Merlin gave him as the pillow hit its mark, he let his desire to tease his lover further decide his next words.
"Do you need help with your belt?"
At Arthur's words, Merlin picked up his belt and stared at it in horror. Its length had been diminished to half its original size and the edge of it had ragged holes cut into it, a poor attempt to replace those that had been cut off. "You killed my belt."
"Merlin, it's not alive and I told you it got in the way. Plus you broke my bath so were even."
"Your bath…?" Merlin stated tossing the ruined belt aside and reaching for his shirt, ignoring the pillow near his feet and the urge to kick it. "I didn't break your bath." Merlin's next protest turned silent on the tip of his tongue. His eyes narrowed slightly as he noticed something off with the bath. He slipped his arm through his jacket and walked to the bath still resting near the right side of the bed, the crack very visible now that he was looking directly at it.
"That's your fault." Merlin claimed holding up his trousers, without his belt he was practically swimming in them. He moved back towards the bed and reached for his belt, he had no choice but to wear it until he could get another one.
"How is that my fault?" Arthur asked snatching the belt before Merlin could get it. "My hands only clung to you, they never touched the bath."
Merlin's cheeks started to turn red again as he recalled their love making in the bath and how Arthur had made him lose control of his magic yet again. He couldn't well tell him that, even if he left the magic part out it was still too embarrassing to admit that he had been too caught up in the passion of it all.
"Merlin, Merlin," Arthur called out when Merlin failed to reply, his voice reaching that royal pitch he loved using to gain an upper hand. "I'll give you the belt if you admit to becoming my love slave." The edge of his lips twitched as he noticed Merlin fiddling with the ring.
"I am not going to be your love slave, its torture enough that I am your manservant." Merlin stated, his own lips fighting back a smile as he snatched back the belt and secured it around his slim waist. Somehow he had the feeling that he already was Arthur's love slave; there was nothing he wouldn't do for his King and every day turned out harder for both of them to keep their hands off each other. But he wasn't about to admit that to Arthur.
The young King sat on the edge of his bed brooding, knowing how stubborn Merlin could be, and tried another approach. "We could skip the meeting and have a private picnic in the woods." His eyes followed every move his lover made and another smile reached his lips when Merlin paused to consider his suggestion.
"You're the King of Camelot; you can't just ignore your responsibilities and keep putting them off. Besides, we will have other times to spend together. I'm not going anywhere remember, you're stuck with me." Merlin replied, ending his argument with one of his sheepish grins and moving to get a clean shirt and pair of boots for Arthur.
"Merlin is that encouragement I hear?" Arthur called back, his gaze still glued to his manservant's movements. "One would think you are spending too much time at the tavern and have left the alcohol get to your head. Your attempts at being romantic are getting worse."
Merlin looked at Arthur with a confusing look and was ready to argue that he rarely went to the tavern. Gaius really had to come up with a new excuse for him. "Maybe you should start going more often?" He replied shutting the dresser and returning to his lover's side.
"Merlin," Arthur said getting up from the bed. He shot him one of his looks that read 'you can't talk to me like that' and extended his arms in front of him to allow Merlin to slip the shirt on.
"What I am just saying." Merlin said extending his arms out as if to show he meant no harm and then pulled the shirt the rest of the way down. He then shoved Arthur back on to the bed. He kneeled in front of him and put his King's boots on, giving them an extra hard tug.
"Ow…Merlin, I am not a mule." Arthur cried out.
"I am very aware of that sire. The boot was just being too stubborn." The young sorcerer replied holding back a full smile and letting only the corners of his mouth give way to his teasing. He rose to his feet and distracted himself with the various papers scattered on Arthur's desk.
Arthur moved his gaze to the floor and his boots, the gentle touch of Merlin's hands on his legs still lingered on his skin and mind. He cleared his throat and stood up. "Shall we?" He asked as he secured his own belt and made his way to the doors.
Merlin set the parchments down except for one and followed, his heart pounding heavy against his chest. He didn't think he would ever get used to how his skin burned at the slightest touch from Arthur. He looked back into the room and slowly closed the doors before jogging down the corridor to catch up with the pride wounded Arthur.
Harland walked to his horse tied to one of the many trees surrounding the camp and reached into one of the pouches in his satchel. He took an apple and rubbed the black mane of his horse before pushing the apple in front of it, the horse took it with no complains and made quick shambles of it. He then moved back to the center of the camp and helped his comrades pack up.
"If you hadn't lost him because of one man who wasn't even a knights we could be returning home and not going on another fool's errand." The biggest of the group called out, the same man who had been the first to ask about the King. He took a chunk from his own apple and wiped the juicy liquid trailing down his mouth with the back of his muscular arm, an old scar rubbing against his rough stubbed skin.
"If we can't get to King Arthur without sheading innocent blood, then we will make him come to us." Harland stated as he shoved another sack on the back of a small run down wheel cart. "If he is as loyal and noble as some make him out to be, we will be back home by the end of the week."
"And what if he doesn't fall for your trap?"
"That is enough, Amos. We don't get paid to run our mouths, we get paid to bring in what is asked." Harland replied, bringing the rouged man to a silent rage.
"I wouldn't tempt him, Amos, he might not hold back this time and really run you though." One of the other men teased, reminding the brunt of the time he had decided to try and take leadership to only find himself flat on his back with a sword plunged into his side.
"And I wouldn't bring that up if you don't want one of my daggers sticking out of your back." Amos sneered back mounting his own horse.
"That is the last of it, take it and we will regroup at our agreed destination in four days." Harland ordered three members of their group. "You two know what to do." He told two more of his comrades before he set his horse loose and mounted.
"Let's move out." Harland shot over his shoulder before pushing his horse to a small gallop.
All joking matters were tossed aside and grudges pushed back to be resolved at a later date as the rest reached for their swords and mounted their horses. The sound of horse hooves cut through the woods as the group disbanded, two in one direction, three in another along with the cart full of their plunder, and the rest set off after Harland.
Several hours passed and the now much smaller group led by Harland paused on a foothill to overlook a small village below. The men pulled on their reigns and galloped the rest of the way, tearing from the woods in a scattered fashion. It was close to nightfall and the village was practically deserted, most of its inhabitants were already inside the safety of their homes, and the few still outside thought little of their new visitors.
The men dismounted their horses and headed to the center of the village, their tired horses trailing behind them. Harland, Amos and one other made their way to a small hut to the far west of it. The small hut lay just outside the village, almost cloaked by the nearby trees and bushes. A worn fence encircled it, a few logs were missing or rotted away, failing to be much of a protection to keep unwanted visitors out.
"Stay with the horses and make sure they are watered and fed and ready to move out." Harland ordered the scrawnier man who had come with them. "Amos," He signaled to the bigger man to go around the back, before taking a cautious stance once more.
Amos did as he was told, his big frame moved with as much care as he could muster and his footsteps became silent avoiding any twigs or old leaves that would give his position away. Harland withdrew his sword and entered the hut not bothering to knock. He let the door nudge close behind him and his eyes scanned the empty room.
A few moments of silence and Harland determined it safe to move further into the room. He made his way to the single other room connected to the one he was currently in. A pot in a corner clattered and fell off a table, a curse followed it and in a flicker of an eye a man appeared next to it, a fire poker in his wrinkled hands. The old man's face was stricken with fear and uncertainty.
"I've only come to claim a debt old man, no need to use your parlor tricks on me." Harland fought back a smile and shielded his sword.
I miss Merlin. Gosh I missed writing this fan fic and I've missed you all.
RIP: Merlin's belt. I had you going for a moment there. This is my reason to explain why his belts have gotten much shorter lately. Also had a hard time deciding who to call who so if you think Harland should be named Amos and Amos Harland let me know. Also Harland is supposed to be completely different form Roderick and in a sense a good bad guy or is it a bad good guy? On another note, other than beating Writer's Block with a broom, that nasty thing keeps creeping up on me in so many new ways, I've got some great news. I finally got a contract for an online serial. Can't say much about it until its release on March 18, but I think it's safe to say I am officially a writer now. Hope you will all check out my original story when it launches and continue to forgive me for the lack of commas and other improper things in my writing. It is a good thing I will have two editors correcting my stuff. Now to write or I will never finish this arch that just keeps growing. Don't forget to leave me your feedback and comments, they really do wonders for my writing.