Disclaimer: I don't own 'Supernatural' or 'Merlin'; they belong to their respective creators, and I'm just borrowing them for this story
Feedback: Always a pleasure
AN: I was already planning on writing this chapter before the events of 'Dark Tower', but now that it's aired I would like to dedicate this one to Elyan; here's hoping his sister snaps out of whatever's been done to her before she does anything too serious...
The Cup of Life
If Dean had considered John Winchester to be a harsh taskmaster, he was definitely willing to reconsider it after he'd experienced the day's training with Arthur and the other Knights of the Round Table.
If nothing else, at least John Winchester had always been willing to allow Sam and Dean to fight in whatever was comfortable for them to use; he and Sam had been wearing this armour pretty much since they'd arrived in the past, only taking off what had to be taken off for the necessities to be dealt with- he'd never appreciated the benefits of indoor plumbing before now-, and after spending so much time using swords, his arms were exhausted, and even Sam seemed exhausted.
The Winchesters might have been able to hold their own in a fight, but Dean's usual opponents when more direct physical measures were required to stop the monster of the week were typically unarmed themselves; the effort involved in trading sword-blows with someone like this was a lot trickier than he'd anticipated when he started. Sam was able to compensate through his physical height- he pretty much towered over everyone else in the courtyard by a few inches, which gave him some extra opportunities in a fight that they couldn't always allow for-, but Dean was finding it harder to keep up the pace, leaving him struggling against the other knights.
Taking the blows wasn't always the problem- he'd taken more than enough beatings over the years to know what to do to limit the damage-, but returning his own was trickier; as far as the other knights were concerned, he was virtually telegraphing his moves to them, even if his lack of style meant that it was harder for them to predict what he'd do at times. He'd managed to hold his own to some degree against Leon given that the guy's professional training meant that he fought in a relatively predictable manner, but Percival's raw strength gave him a definite advantage, Elyan and Lancelot were similar to Dean in that their fighting style was so comparatively amateurish regardless of their natural skill that Dean couldn't predict what they'd do, and Gawain's fighting style was so complicated Dean wasn't sure if even the other knights knew what he'd do next...
Still, he couldn't exactly say that it hadn't been worth it; the idea that he had just received a crash course in combat from the most legendary warriors in history was not something to sneeze at.
Right now, he, Sam, Castiel, and the Knights were waiting around the area that Merlin's research and Castiel's experience had identified as the most likely hunting territory for the Hellhound, on the outskirts of Camelot near an area where the walls had been damaged during the recent invasion of the city that he'd heard about. The hellhound and the Manticore that they suspected they were dealing with were dangerous, but even if it was invisible the Hellhound was still an animal that mostly had to travel through the real world, unlike the shadow-dwelling bastet or the Shtriga that could have passed for a human, and would therefore choose the easiest point from which to access the city. Considering that Sam, Dean and Castiel were the only three with experience in tracking Hellhounds, the knights and the hunters had split up into three groups to ensure that the knights could benefit from their insight; Dean was with Gawain and Leon, Sam was with Elyan and Lancelot, and Castiel- his alleged lack of combat skills making him the 'weak link'- was with Arthur and Percival, each of them keeping an eye on a particular part of the identified area in order to cover the maximum amount of ground.
Right now, however, Dean was just stuck in the awkward position of being stuck working with a couple of people he'd never met on a comparatively high-stakes job- they were up against a potential threat to a whole city rather than the more individually focused threats he and Sam normally handled. The largest-scale threat they'd ever faced was the Horsemen of the Apocalypse, given that they could attack entire towns just by being there; creatures like this might be a problem, but they'd never encountered a situation where several creatures were attacking the same location at the same time...
Add in the fact that he didn't know what he could ask the knights without giving away his complete ignorance of the current social situation, to say nothing of him being worried about what he might give away if they started talking to him- why did he have to read up on the risks of time travel after that whole mess with Cas and Azazel after his first experience?-, and he was completely lost for words; trying to save his parents was one thing, but he had no way of knowing how anything they did or said now could affect their future.
Still... right now, with innocent peoples' lives on the line and no other way to stop this thing than by working with the locals, Dean would just have to do what he could and hope it would be enough.
"So," Leon asked, looking curiously at Dean after another undetermined period of time- there was probably some way to measure time without a watch, but Dean wasn't interested in figuring that out-, "where did you receive your training?"
"Some of it was from my father- he was a... a knight himself before he married my mother... and some of it was just picked up over the years," Dean said, taking care to stick to the truth. "Most of the time the things we fight are essentially just animals- strong and dangerous, but very little in the way of actual skill-, so we haven't had much reason to really develop our techniques at sword-fighting with others, but we've picked up some skills over the years; vampires aren't exactly slouches, after all."
"Vampires... that was the blood-drinkers?" Leon asked, looking at Dean for clarification.
"They were really human once?" Gawaine asked, the normally jovial knight apparently disturbed at the implications of that topic. "What happened to them?"
"To put it simply, something... poisoned them, and made them into more vampires," Dean said, trying not to think about what he'd become when he'd been turned into a vampire; Sam had not been himself when that had happened, and obsessing over it wouldn't accomplish anything. "Who they were- the person who won't drink blood, you know- can remain in control if they try hard enough, but considering the scale of the thirst for blood when they first wake up as they are, most people are so consumed by it that they start feeding on humans and don't really take the time to consider the consequences, and by the time they're table enough they're just so hooked on the taste that they don't want to stop."
It was easier to talk about it as though it was someone else when technically none of this had happened yet from the perspective of the rest of the world, but God, he still had nightmares about how tempted he'd been to just tear Lisa's throat out with his teeth, and he'd known what was happening to him...
"And... there's no way back from it?" Gawaine asked, the knight looking unusually forlorn at the thought.
"Once you drink human blood, that's it," Dean confirmed, nodding at the knight. "You can't get out of-"
The sound of a low growl prompted Dean to cut his story short, spinning around in time to see a single pawprint appear on the wet ground a short distance away from the entrance of the small alley they were currently standing in. For a moment, Dean tensed in preparation, but the hellhound appeared to continue on with no sign that it had registered their presence; most likely the smell of everything around them was blocking out their own human scents.
"What-?" Leon began, before Dean clamped a hand over the knight's mouth, shaking his head urgently as he glared at the other man; the slightest sound at this point could give away their position to the Hellhound, and they needed Cas to catch it off-guard if they were going to be sure of killing it.
Still, at least they knew that they were in the right place now; all that remained was the question of whether Cas would manage to get at the hellhound before it found whatever it was looking for (Based on what they'd read about the previous victims, they were probably caught while out walking, but given that this area was still fairly damaged after this recent conquest he'd been hearing about Dean wasn't ruling out the possibility that the thing just chose its victims at random).
All Dean could do now was hope that-
A sudden scream cut off Dean's thoughts, the time-displaced hunter drawing his sword and hurrying around the corner towards the source of the scream, with the two knights close behind. Hurrying around the corner, his eyes quickly fell on a woman running down the street with something growling close behind her, the faint splash and squish of footprints in the muddy ground the only obvious sign that something was there. Before he could react, someone- judging from the height it was either Sam or Percival; he couldn't quite tell- threw a large bag of something out into the street, which exploded into a white cloud, leaving a dog-shaped mass of what Dean assumed was flour floating in mid-air over a familiar silhouette.
If it had been any other creature, Dean would have found the sight of the thing being covered in flour to be rather amusing, but considering that he had last seen anything like that mere moments before he was dragged off to Hell and Alistair's tender mercies for three decades of existence that he was still trying not to remember, he was more concerned with attacking it than being amused by it. Even as he and the other knights surrounded the creature, he vaguely noticed something leap from what looked like the Hellhound's mouth to attack Elyan, a small clawing thing sending the dark-skinned knight staggering into a nearby deserted house as Sam and Leon hurried after him to try and help.
With his brother's attention occupied, Dean focused on the exposed Hellhound, each of the knights slashing at it with their swords whenever the creature in front of them attempted to attack one of their fellows. With the Hellhound's immediate and most obvious advantage of invisibility taken from it, the creature was quickly faced with a numerical superiority issue that it had probably rarely encountered in the past, the knights quickly gathering around it to close the temporary gap left by Sam, Leon and Elyan's forced departure, each one stabbing at the creature before them as it snarled at its enemies, the flour covering its face revealing a twisted expression of hatred that didn't belong on the face of any normal animal.
Even by conventional Hellhound standards, Dean could see that this was a particularly deranged example of its species; the sooner Cas got the chance to stab this thing, the better...
Looking at the creature that had to be the previously-mentioned manticore as it attacked Elyan in a manner that put Sam in mind of an angry cat, the knight and the manticore struggling on the floor of the house as he and Leon entered through the door, the younger Winchester brother wasn't sure he'd ever seen anything quite that strange in his entire hunting career. Most of the creatures that he'd fought in his time at least looked human unless they were provoked somehow- even Hellhounds were human-sized from what they'd estimated based on the creatures' footsteps-, but this manticore put Sam in mind of a cat-sized lizard with a scorpion's tail and a triceratops-like frill around its neck, made all the more disturbing by its very human face.
With Leon's immediately-available weapons useless at attacking something that small without risking injury to Elyan as well, Sam took the initiative and dived for the fallen knight, grabbing the manticore and hurling it off to the side before it could react to his attack. Leon moved in to stab at it with his sword, but the manticore dodged the attack and leapt up his arm, striking him in the face with such force that he fell to the ground, clearly knocked out by the attack, leaving Sam alone to face the Manticore as Elyan weakly got to his feet, evidently shaken at the suddenness of the recent attack.
"Well well..." the Manticore said, chuckling as it looked at Sam, an eager expression on its face that Sam definitely didn't like. "The Vessel of our Father, here already..."
"That's not going to happen," Sam spat, glaring at the Manticore even as Elyan looked between Sam and the creature in confusion; he didn't know how the Manticore could know about his aborted destiny, but he wasn't going to let it say anything else. "You can't do anything-"
"I dwell in the places between places; do you think I don't know certain tricks that others don't?" the Manticore asked, glaring at Sam with a satisfied smirk on its features. "All I need to do is find the right world to keep you safe, and when he escapes-"
Resorting to a tried and tested method when dealing with something of the manticore's size, Sam kicked out at the creature before him, sending it hurtling into the wall before it could do anything else. As it landed on its feet, Sam drew his sword- he might not be an expert with this weapon, but having something sharp and pointy available when facing something with its own sting could be no bad thing- and held it out in front of him as the manticore charged once again, poking the creature back before it could get too close. For a moment, they were locked in a twisted stalemate, the creature attempting to charge at Sam or Elyan while the two of them kept the creature at bay- swords may not kill this thing, but they evidently hurt enough to make it reluctant to attack-, until, with no sign that it was anything either of them had done, the manticore suddenly screamed, was consumed by flame, and collapsed into a small pile of ash.
"What...?" Elyan said, looking in confusion at the place where the creature they'd been fighting had been standing mere seconds ago.
Glancing out of the nearest window, Sam smiled at the sight of Castiel's angel-killing blade sticking out of something invisible, lying on the ground and half-covered in flour in the middle of the street, with the other knights standing around it along with Dean and Castiel; apparently, their theory about how the manticore and the hellhound were working together had been correct.
"Everything seems to be fine out there," he said, looking back at Elyan with a reassuring smile. "Everyone's alive, and the hellhound's dead; it looks like Castiel's theory about how they were tied together was correct..."
His voice trailed off as he noticed the suspicion on the knight's face. "What is it?"
"What was... that all about?" Elyan asked, looking at Sam in confusion, indicating the burnt bit of ground where the manticore had been mere moments ago.
"It's a long story," Sam said, looking awkwardly back at Elyan for a moment- he was just glad that none of the other knights had been close enough to hear the manticore's speech; even if he'd averted that destiny, having demons after him to serve as the Devil's Vessel wouldn't have been pleasant no matter what happened to him afterwards-, before he decided to take a chance and give Elyan at least some kind of answer to the question he was obviously wanting to ask; it wasn't like Elyan would ever be in a position for it to matter what he knew about Sam. "Let's just say that it involved some demons having plans for me that I didn't like- they thought I was destined to help them, I rejected that idea- and leave it at that."
"Of course," Elyan said, nodding in understanding, a slight smile on his face he looked at the other man. "I know a bit about changing your destiny, Samuel, even if not for the same reasons."
"You do?" Sam said, curious despite himself at this news.
"Yes," Elyan said, nodding in confirmation at Sam. "After all, I was merely the son of a blacksmith when I first came to Camelot, and yet Arthur not only risked his life to save me, but then proceeded to make me a knight of Camelot despite my lack of noble birth when I did nothing more than volunteer my service to repay him for saving me."
"Really?" Sam said, looking at the knight with a smile; he might not know much about this society, but he was fairly sure that becoming a knight normally required a great deal of effort, so hearing that the man in front of him had received the title so quickly said a lot about both him and Arthur, as far as Sam was concerned. "That's... talk about falling on your feet."
"Pardon?" Elyan asked, looking at Sam in confusion at the unfamiliar phrase.
"It's a... figure of speech we've encountered in our travels," Sam said, awkwardly backtracking from his use of a modern term (It probably wouldn't affect history that much if a single phrase was introduced ahead of schedule, but he didn't know enough about time travel to know how much impact he could have on events that he didn't want to change). "It basically refers to someone who experienced an incredible bit of good luck without even trying; it doesn't happen often, but when it does..."
He smiled at Elyan. "Well, when it happens to good people like you, that's what makes it all worthwhile."
"Quite," Elyan said, smiling back at Sam before he looked over at the still-unconscious Leon, the smile being replaced by a more serious expression. "Come on; we have to get Sir Leon back to Camelot."
Even as Sam helped his new ally- could he really call Elyan a friend when they were lying to the knights about so much?- pick up the other knight, he had to wonder if this was really the end; they might have stopped a Hellhound, but there was still the issue of that spell Castiel had told them about.
Was there any way for them to stop Camelot from being a target for supernatural creatures, or were they just going to be stuck reacting to everything as they waited for the opportunity to talk to Merlin about why they needed his help?