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Merlin's stomach grumbled loudly while he stood behind Arthur who sat gazing into space. Both Morgana and Arthur had decided to share the apples they were awarded from Anhora and give them to the people, meaning only a small portion of food was left for them. Merlin shook his head, collecting any spare food was difficult- to say the least- and yet Arthur dismissed the thought of having any.
"I have lost my appetite," Arthur proclaimed as he leaned back on his chair. Merlin pointed to the plate in front of him.
"You have to eat something," Merlin urged as he turned to Arthur questioningly.
"I can't," Arthur replied with a shake of his head. "Even when we gave the apples to the people, they still starve. I cannot eat when I know others don't have the luxury." He slowly pushed his plate away and rose from his chair, giving Merlin a pat on the back, as he moved toward his bed. He slumped down with a sigh, pinching at his nose, as the continuous banging in his head continued to give him a headache. Merlin gulped and glanced at his own reflection on the shining cutlery, his face had turned gaunt and he was perhaps a little pale. "Do you really believe I am responsible for the curse?" Arthur asked with his face in his palms. Merlin turned away from the sight of his own reflection, not needing a reminder as to how hungry he was, and looked to Arthur with a dejected expression.
"Anhora said we would be rewarded if we passed any tests," Merlin answered honestly, making Arthur look to him with an engrossed expression. "Yesterday you gave the man some spare food and then this morning…" Merlin paused and sighed, "the water supply was back." Arthur's jaw tensed as he understood what Merlin was assuming. Neither said anything after that, Arthur continued to watch his manservant, trying to understand from his expressions how Merlin felt about the situation. Was he disappointed, upset… Angry? After all, Arthur was given enough proof to understand the shortage of food and water was his doing, but he also dragged Merlin and Morgana into the situation as well.
"What you and Morgana did yesterday," Arthur began as he turned back down to the floor, twisting and turning the ring on his finger. "It was a good idea," he admitted, making Merlin look to him with a hidden smirk.
"We didn't want to tell yo-" Merlin began to speak, his expression guilty, before Arthur raised his hand for him to stop speaking.
"Neither of you need to explain yourselves, you brought food back for the people and only left for the intention of others…" Arthur explained, his voice light and understanding. "I'm just annoyed I didn't think of the idea myself," he admitted while shaking his head. He leaned forward on his bed, his arms leaning on his thighs. "We're going to the forest first thing in the morning." Arthur guaranteed which made Merlin's left eyebrow rise in confusion. "I'll tell Morgana to meet us here. Maybe we can pick up Anhora's trail." Arthur then stood up from his bed and walked back to the table, where he acknowledged his meal had turned cold. "Whatever it takes." Merlin smiled at the news, finally. Merlin then shook his head and prodded the plate closer to Arthur again.
"Ok, but you have to eat. You won't be able to help anyone if you're too weak to pass the test," he explained, smirking when he noticed Arthur grimaced at the meal in front of him. Merlin then turned around as nonchalant as he possibly could, placing the bowl of left over soup on top of Arthur's draws, as he tried to suppress his laughter. Wait till you get a taste of that. Merlin joked to himself as he watched Arthur slowly put some food on his spoon and lift it to his mouth. Merlin turned around quickly, so as Arthur didn't notice he was staring at him, and bit into his cheek to stop him from laughing. Merlin heard Arthur chew at the meat in the soup and bit into his cheek harder – this is too funny.
"What kind of meat is this?" Arthur asked as he raised his spoon and showed Merlin a piece of meat balanced on it. "It has a very strange texture," he added as he slowly chewed at the meat. Merlin coughed to hide away his laughter.
"It's pork," he lied as he attempted an innocent expression. Arthur frowned.
"This isn't pork," Arthur assured. "It's far too stringy. What is it? It's…" Arthur then placed his spoon onto the bowl calmly and looked at Merlin, very displeased. "It's rat, isn't it?" Merlin openly laughed at Arthur's calm tone, he could definitely see how outraged he was. Merlin opened his mouth to talk but couldn't…
"Try," Merlin then laughed once more. "Try not to think about it." Arthur's eyes then widened before he grabbed the cup to his side and downed as much wine as he could to get rid of the retched taste. He then breathed in deeply before handing Merlin the cup, smirking to himself as he watched Merlin put it away. He rose from his chair and looked down at the plate.
"Look at me. I'm being rude," Arthur proclaimed once Merlin turned back to him. Merlin looked back at him with a frown. "I forgot that I'm not the only one who has a trial to complete," Arthur then grabbed at Merlin's tunic and pushed him into Arthur's chair. "I mean, like you said," Arthur continued as he watched Merlin pull a face at the food on the plate. "You won't be able to help anyone if you're too weak to pass the test," he recalled, with a sarcastic grin. Merlin slowly grabbed the spoon and scooped up a mouthful. "Mmmmmm," Arthur imitated mockingly as he pushed the spoon in Merlin's hand toward his mouth. Merlin opened his mouth and chewed at the meat, he instantly felt like being sick. Merlin covered his mouth with his hand.
"It.. It's actually pretty tasty," he remarked as he slowly chomped down the vile food. Arthur scoffed as he moved toward the large dish Merlin had placed down on his drawers.
"Well, I'm glad you like it because," he then slammed down the dish which was completely full of the soup, and opened the lid. Even the smell made Merlin feel nauseous. "There's plenty more." A soft knock on the door interrupted the heavy stare Arthur was piercing Merlin with. "Enter," Arthur called over his shoulder. Arthur smirked to Merlin, messing up his hair roughly, before he turned to the door. "Morgana?" Arthur addressed, watching her enter the room. Merlin's eyes widened and he spat out the food, no way am I letting Morgana eat this, he admitted to himself before quietly getting out of his chair and hiding the food under the table. Morgana noticed Merlin sneaking around behind Arthur's back but dismissed it.
"I hate to ask, but-" Before Morgana could even finish off her sentence Arthur walked toward her and wrapped his arm around her shoulder.
"Nonsense," he replied rather enthusiastically. "You can join Merl-" Arthur then noticed that the bowl of soup was gone, only a smirking Merlin sat at the table. "-in," Arthur finished his name with a frown. Morgana frowned, what the hell was going on between them? Merlin continued to smirk at Arthur and coughed before he rose from the chair.
"Milady," he said to Morgana, knowing he was making Arthur even more furious. Arthur searched around the room.
"Now Merlin, you can't tell me you finished off all that food," Arthur stated before he noticed a quick shimmer of light from beneath the table. Merlin's eyes widened as Arthur crouched to grab the bowl. As he was crouched Merlin turned to Morgana.
'Don't eat it,' he mimed to her before Arthur grabbed the bowl and placed it on the table.
"Trying to hide all the food are we?" Arthur figured before motioning Morgana to come and sit next to Merlin, all the while giving Merlin a sly grin. Morgana, still frowning at the hidden warning Merlin had given her, sat down wearily. Arthur opened the lid on the pot once more and plopped some of the soup onto Morgana's plate. If Morgana wasn't starving she wouldn't had even glanced at the food for more than two seconds, the smell was revolting, but her growing hunger and rumbling stomach was just pleading for a mouthful of any sorts of food. After sharing the soup between Merlin and Morgana, Arthur sat himself down opposite to Morgana. Morgana raised a sceptical eyebrow.
"Aren't you going to eat anything?" She asked suspiciously to Arthur before eating any of the food before her. If he thought she was going to be-
"No, of course not Morgana." Arthur dismissed, faking a hurt expression. He turned to Merlin, "ask Merlin," he then turned to glare at Merlin, giving him the, 'if you dare tell her, you will be in the stocks for five weeks' expression. Merlin pulled at his tunic and nodded at Arthur. Morgana watched Merlin; her face contorted as she then scooped up a mouthful of soup. Arthur had to look down at the table otherwise he would have laughed in her face- this was just payback for the amount of times she had bet him when sword fighting. Literally millimetres before the soup touched Morgana's mouth Merlin snatched the spoon from her hand and put it into his own mouth. Morgana had to blink a few times before realising what had happened, whereas Arthur was staring at Merlin in disbelief. Merlin grimaced at he swallowed the food quickly.
"Merlin, you idiot."
"What's wrong with the soup?" Morgana asked as she inspected the soup, grabbing the spoon that Merlin had dropped, and going to have a tiny taste of it herself to see what all the fuss was about.
"No, Morgana." Merlin warned, before taking the spoon off her. "It's rat meat." Morgana frowned as she pushed away the plate before looking back at Arthur incredulously. However Arthur was too busy glaring at Merlin for what seemed the millionth time within that hour. He smacked him around the head, making Merlin yell in pain.
"That's for being a girl, Merlin." Arthur stated as Morgana lifted from her seat and moved to walk out the door. Merlin sighed, rubbing at his head as he watched Morgana leave the room. Arthur also noticed Morgana's absence and turned back to Merlin. Arthur's eyebrows rose as he realised something. "Go tell her to meet us tomorrow morning, quickly." Merlin glanced at Arthur, seriously?
"Why can't you?" Merlin asked.
"I can't go to her now," Arthur realised and then stood up. "Besides, she's not angry with you." Merlin rolled his eyes before getting up and running through the door to chase Morgana.
Merlin ran down the corridors, his hand still rubbing at his head where Arthur had hit him, searching for Morgana. Good going Arthur. In the corner of his eyes he managed a glimpse of the familiar blue dress Morgana had worn earlier. He smiled before he ran after her.
"Morgana," he called, grabbing her attention and making her stop.
"Merlin," she replied back as she crossed her arms. Merlin gave her a sheepish smile and stopped in front of her. "Thank you," she said before he could say or do anything. "Arthur's always been trying to get me back," Morgana admitted with a smirk. "All those years beating him at sword fighting and yet he still thinks he can get me." Merlin laughed, pleased she wasn't upset.
"I just came to tell you that me and Arthur are going to the forest tomorrow," he started, earning a more serious expression from Morgana. "We're going after Anhora and I thought you'd want to come along," he figured, making her nod.
"I'll go with you," she agreed. "I'll meet you in Arthur's chambers?" She asked with an arched eyebrow. Merlin nodded and they both smiled. "I'll see you tomorrow then Merlin," Morgana said before giving him a quick hug, completely baffling and unexpected to Merlin. Before he could hug her back she was already walking back toward her chambers.
Like they had scheduled, Morgana had entered Arthur's chambers in the morning. She prepared herself with suitable clothing, a loose blouse that was tightened with plating that covered her waist, long knee high leather boots and vambraces- just in case. She searched around the room and noticed Merlin was busy packing objects into a bag while Arthur was putting on a shirt in the corner of the room. Merlin was in his normal attire, a dark blue tunic with a red scarf whereas Arthur, who walked back into the main part of the room, was wearing a red leather jacket complete with trousers and boots.
"Right, Merlin, have you packed everything we need?" Arthur asked as he picked up his leather gloves from the table and slowly put them on, all the while avoiding Morgana's stare.
"I've got the only food we have left," Merlin announced as he closed the bag and lifted it around his shoulder. He noticed Morgana and gave her a smile.
"Well then, we best get to Anhora quickly." Arthur responded as he charged through the door, allowing Morgana and Merlin to follow.
. . . . . . .
After an hour's worth of travelling, Merlin, Morgana and Arthur jumped off their horses – tying them to the trees with ropes- and began their search for Anhora. They didn't specifically know where to search, so they were left scoping the forest, trying to find anything that may lead them to the sorcerer.
"I don't know what I'm searching for," Merlin called over to Arthur, who was knee deep in vines. Arthur sighed frustratingly and cut at the vines with his sword.
"You're looking for footprints or broken branches," Arthur replied, grunting when a branch hit him in the face, which unluckily for him, Morgana noticed. Arthur huffed and continued to search the ground, "anything that would indicate someone passed that…" Arthur then saw something hidden behind a tree. He paused, making Morgana turn to him, and he pointed to the direction of which he saw something. Morgana frowned, not seeing anything. Arthur shook his head and chased after the thing anyway, leaving Merlin and Morgana behind. Morgana watched as Arthur sprinted up a hill and beyond some trees, she sighed and looked for Merlin.
"Merlin," she called out, seeing him at the other end of the forest looking up some trees. He heard her voice and turned, observing her anxious expression, and jogged up to her. "C'mon," she responded, not explaining anything as she began to run in the direction Arthur had. "Arthur spotted something and ran off," Morgana breathed out as she climbed a rock. "He looked pretty startled, so I'm guessing-"
"He saw Anhora," Merlin finished off her sentence with a huff- why did he always go alone?
"Merlin, Morgana. He's here," they heard Arthur shout from the distance. Morgana searched around, trying to spot where Arthur was, but there was no use, the forest was covered in many trees and vines, there would be no way of finding him.
"Merlin?" Morgana said his name, not knowing what to do. He bit into his lip, not knowing himself, until an idea formed in his head. He could use magic.
"Forþ fleoge," he whispered, feeling an energy surge through his body. Morgana watched as the wind quickly started to pick up and the leaves on the trees blew in one direction. Merlin opened his eyes and observed which way they flew. "That way," Merlin assured before grabbing her hand and running in the direction the leaves were blowing.
As they ran in the direction of the blowing leaves, Merlin's heart raced, Arthur had the tendency to run off on his own a lot. As the wind slowly calmed down Morgana and Merlin slowed to a stop, searching around them.
"He should be around here," Merlin assured, before doubting if his spell had gone wrong.
"Over there," Morgana whispered to him before she jumped down a stone and ran to the familiar red leather jacket she knew Arthur was wearing. From Merlin's point of view, it looked like Arthur had gone mad. He was searching around himself, going around in circles with his sword raised.
"I saw him," Arthur told Morgana as he continued to look around the forest. Merlin eventually caught up with them and also searched their whereabouts. "He was sat right there," Arthur exclaimed, pointing his sword at the large stone behind him. Merlin frowned, his body tense. Perhaps this is another trap.
"Maybe it wasn't him, maybe you ju-" Morgana went to speak but was interrupted by Arthur.
"No," he argued frustrated, "it was definitely him." Merlin didn't think Arthur was lying, he trusted Arthur with his life, but being there- surrounded by the eerie dark trees and light fog that covered their feet- was more than enough to make his hairs stand on end. A twig snapped in the distance, and all three of them tensed, looking around them anxiously. They all paused, trying to listen to any other signs of movement. But there was none. Merlin breathed out shakily.
"Maybe he le-"
"Ahhhhhh!" From nowhere yells were heard, surrounding them everywhere. Merlin licked his lips as he watched around twelve large and armoured men charge at them from behind the trees. Arthur's eyes widened as he pushed Merlin and Morgana behind him as he unsheathed his sword. His eyes didn't know where to look there were so many of them… Three against twelve… How where they going to survive this?
Dun dun duuunn. Okay, I think that was a terrible ending. I'm not sure if it was cheesy or if I just hate cliffhangers… BUT THANK YOU GUYS SO MUCH. The reviews, the alerts, the favourites, even the amount of views I've been getting for this is just absolutely amazing. I have no words. I know it has been near enough two weeks since I last posted, and I sincerely apologize, I've had three exams since then and I was stuck at my nan's with all the snow going on an everything- meaning no internet I'm afraid. Hopefully, I'm off school tomorrow, which means another chapter will be on its way. (Happy days, aha). To the anonymous reviews, Newboy, Kreeger and M.G.B, I will put my replies to you on my profile page as some of them are extremely long and would take up a lot of words on this fanfic. I'm sorry.
But thank you for the amazing support. And I hope you're excited about the next chapter!