Guess what today is? IT'S MY BIRTHDAY! Yay! I decided in order to celebrate, I would post the first chapter of my first multi-chapter fic. This is an idea I've been tossing around in my head for several months, and I'm really excited to finally share it with you all!
This takes place after season four, so spoilers throughout all the seasons. Oh, and I don't own Merlin. Not even on my birthday. :(
Chapter 1: The Break In
To say that Arthur Pendragon, King of Camelot, was unhappy to be woken up in the middle of the night to the warning bells would not be exactly true. He wasn't unhappy. He was thoroughly, totally, royally furious. He was exhausted and had been looking forward to a nice, long night's sleep without disturbance, and he'd been getting one too, until in the early hours of the morning the bells began to toll.
At first Arthur hid himself deeper in his pillows, hoping beyond hope that it was just his imagination, but as the noise continued he let out an aggravated moan and rolled over in his bed. Beside him Guinevere stirred sleepily.
"Don't tell me that's the warning bells," she murmured, her eyes still closed.
"I wish I could," Arthur responded groggily, trying to work up the resolve to get out of his warm, comfortable, inviting bed. He knew they'd be interrupted any moment by a guard or knight or most likely Merlin, and he'd have to get up to go inspect what was going wrong. It was his duty as king, after all.
Arthur knew he should take this kind of thing seriously, but in all honesty he wasn't feeling too worried. It had been over a year now since Morgana's last take-over of Camelot, and they hadn't heard or seen a thing from her since. No enemy kingdoms had threatened with war, no evil sorceresses had cursed the land with famine, and there hadn't even been any assassination attempts. The bandit attacks in the forest had lessened greatly, there had been a surplus of crops, and the people were taking well to Guinevere as their queen. Things seemed to finally be settling down peacefully, for the first time in many years. Arthur felt lulled into a sense of security, almost forgetting all the dangers he had faced in years past. Whatever was going on tonight would probably end up being something petty, like a simple thief, or maybe it would even all be some huge misunderstanding. A tired guard mistaking a shadow for a threat, or something of that sort.
All these comforting thoughts nearly sent Arthur into his pillows again and back into sleep's warm embrace, when the door crashed open with a bang. Sir Leon stood silhouetted in the doorway, the flickering light from the torches behind him casting strange shadows down the corridor.
"Sire! There has been a break in!" the knight announced. Arthur felt Gwen lightly nudge him when he didn't respond. He groaned and managed to sit up, propping himself up on his elbows.
"What kind of a break in, Leon? Anyone hurt, anything stolen?" He tried not to sound irritated. Leon was just doing his job, no matter how tired Arthur was.
"We don't know if anything's been stolen yet, sire," Leon explained as Arthur heaved himself out of bed and pulled a shirt from his closet. "The damage in the area is too great to be able to tell as of now. As for if anyone was hurt, a few guards, Gaius and Merlin were knocked unconscious, but they are recovering-"
"Wait, Gaius and Merlin?" Arthur interrupted, frowning at the knight in confusion as he pulled on his shoes. "What were they doing down in the vaults?"
"The break in wasn't in the vaults, sire," Leon responded, looking between the king and the queen, who was now sitting up in bed, wide-eyed and listening. "It was in Gaius's chambers."
"But…but that makes no sense. There isn't anything in Gaius's chambers worth stealing… is there?" Gwen asked uncertainly. She pushed herself out of her side of the bed and pulled on a silk robe hanging on the wall beside her.
"No, there isn't, as far as I know," Arthur said. He glanced over at his wife, who was now slipping on a pair of her own shoes. "Guinevere, you should remain here. There's no need for you to-"
"Arthur, Merlin and Gaius are my friends. I want to make sure they're alright," she said, striding towards the door.
Leon opened his mouth to argue. "But Gwen, there was a break in, who knows what kind of miscreants might be sneaking around the castle now-"
"All the more reason for me to go with you, where there will be plenty of knights and guards, rather than stay here alone in my room," Gwen said firmly. "Now come on, we're wasting time."
She stepped past Leon and began walking directly down the corridor. Arthur glanced at Leon, shrugged, and then followed his queen down the hall. He couldn't help but smile at her as she hurried towards the physician's quarters. Her love for others was one of the reasons Arthur loved her so much. He had certainly chosen well.
Arthur didn't necessarily hurry to Gaius's chambers, but he didn't dawdle either. Despite the fact that he'd never admit it aloud, he'd felt a pang of worry when he'd heard Merlin and Gaius had been hurt. He was reassured when Leon said they were recovering, but he was like Gwen: he had to see for himself. Gaius had been a kindly father figure toward him since he was a child and his skills as a physician had probably saved his life many times over. And Merlin…
Arthur would be lying if he didn't admit that his servant had somehow wormed his way into being his best friend. The young man had picked Arthur back up again when he'd been stuck wallowing in his deepest, darkest moments, and had even saved his life few times. He'd always been there for Arthur, always believed in him.
And he'd led him to getting a great new sword, Excalibur. Great new swords are always a plus in a manly friendship.
Guinevere arrived at Gaius's chambers first. She took one look into the room and froze, a look of dismay on her face. When Arthur caught up to her, Leon directly behind, he nearly did the same. The room was a complete wreck. Every piece of furniture had been overturned and was scattered haphazardly around the room. The shelves Gaius had carefully organized with herbs, potions, and books on healing had all been knocked over, scattering their contents all over the floor. There was broken glass and ripped pages from books littering the ground. A few of the potions had mixed in the wreckage and were now smoking and letting out sour-smelling fumes.
Arthur was so astonished by the scene he almost didn't realize that they weren't alone. Gwaine and Percival were standing the back corner beside a bench they had uprighted. Gaius was sitting on the bench looking mournful. Merlin sat on the ground by Gaius, leaning awkwardly against the bench. Arthur did a quick look-over of his physician and servant. Gaius seemed fine, besides being obviously distraught over what had just taken place. Merlin looked like he was going to be fine as well, but he'd clearly been a bit more roughed up in the attack than his mentor. He was as white as a sheet and there was a patch in his dark hair made sticky with blood.
Gwen broke out of the freeze first and hurried over to Merlin and Gaius. "Merlin, Gaius, are you alright? What happened?" she cried, kneeling beside Merlin. She grabbed a rag from the ground and began to dab at Merlin's head. Merlin shook his head and pushed her hand away.
"Would someone please tell us what happened?" Arthur said, his voice firm. Gaius looked up at the young king.
"Of course, sire. Merlin and I were both asleep in our beds when I was woken up to voices. I sat up in bed and called out to see who was there, and the next thing I knew this was being pressed up to my mouth and nose." The physician held up a small white bundle. When Arthur took it he recognized it to be full of a sleep-inducing drug.
"Before I lost consciousness, I managed to make enough noise that it woke Merlin. The last thing I remember is seeing him open his door."
Arthur turned his gaze to his manservant, who was being unusually quiet. Merlin wouldn't meet his eyes and he was still refusing to let Gwen help him.
"What happened, Merlin?" He asked. Merlin just shook his head, staring stonily at the floor beside him. Gwen looked up at Arthur with concerned eyes. He knew what she was thinking- something horrible must have happened for Merlin to react this way. Merlin always bounced back easily from situations like this, and he was NEVER silent. Not even when they wanted him to be.
"Come on, you dollop-head, talk to me," he tried again. Still no response, not even a sarcastic comment about how that was his word.
Arthur looked questioningly at Gwaine and Percival, but they only exchanged glances and looked grim.
"Don't look at us, princess, we're as in the dark as you are," Gwaine said.
"I was taking Gwaine home from the tavern when we saw a few guards knocked out at their station," Percival explained. "We sounded the alarm and woke Leon and Elyan, then began to search for any intruders. We didn't find any, so we returned to take the injured guards to Gaius. By the time we got here, we found the room like this with Gaius and Merlin unconscious."
"Where's Elyan now?" Gwen asked, suddenly aware her brother was not among them.
"He's attending to the guards. Neither was permanently damaged, just knocked up a bit, so Elyan was going to help them back to their chambers," Gwaine said. The knight was eyeing Merlin with worry. Arthur couldn't help but begin to feel worried as well. What had really occurred was still a mystery, and the only person who knew was not in a state to speak.
"Do we have any idea at all of what the intent of the attack was?" Arthur said, trying to gain some control over the situation. Gwen had given up trying to clean Merlin's head and had to be satisfied with just gripping his hand and hugging him. Under normal circumstances, Arthur would have teased Merlin about getting too close to the queen, but this situation was anything but normal.
Gaius shook his head slowly. "It is possible they came to steal something sire, but it will be very hard to tell if anything was taken until this mess gets cleaned up." He let out a sigh, and Arthur felt a pang of sympathy for the old physician. This was his home, after all, and scattered all over the floor in pieces was his life's work. It would be very difficult to reclaim everything, maybe even impossible.
"However," Gaius continued, "It is my theory that nothing was stolen. There is not anything in here worth such an extravagant intrusion, and anything that could have been worth anything has been destroyed."
"What could the attack have been for then? Why would anyone break into the castle just to destroy Gaius's home?" Leon said, looking perplexed.
"And hurt Merlin like this," Gwen added, squeezing Merlin's hand tighter. He still showed no response. She looked up at Gaius. "Do you know what's wrong with him?"
Gaius shook his head. "Besides a hit to the head, he appears completely unharmed. The only possible condition I can think of is that he is in extreme shock."
Arthur clenched his jaw in anger, and he saw Gwaine tighten his grip around the hilt of his sword. Someone had done this to Merlin. Someone had done something that had reduced him to this empty shell of his best friend, and for no apparent motive.
"I can't believe any of this," Arthur spat. "Why would anyone go through all this trouble just to hurt Merlin? It doesn't make sense."
"I know why," came a quiet voice from the floor. There was a collective gasp of surprise as everyone's gazes snapped to Merlin at once. He still wouldn't look up from the floor.
"Why? What happened to you Merlin?" Arthur said quickly, kneeling down until he was at eye level with his servant. Slowly, Merlin's head came up until he was looking into the king's eyes. Arthur's heart nearly skipped a beat at the hollowness he saw there.
"They didn't succeed. But they got close," Merlin muttered.
"Got close to doing what?" Gwen whispered.
"Taking me. The intruders came to kidnap me."
Oooo! Intriging, right?
Know what I want for my birthday? REVIEWS! And Colin Morgan, but I think that's a bit of a stretch. :) So please grant my birthday wish and write me a little something. Constructive critisim is always welcome, so if you hated it, you can tell me that too. But nicely, please. It is my birthday. :)
I'll be updating probably once or twice a week. Keep an eye out for the next chapter!