Dangers in the Path to Destiny
A/N: This is the sequel to my first story Forks in the Path to Destiny. If you haven't read that one first than this might not make much sense. For those of you that read my first one, welcome back. I just watched the first episode of series 5 and I was riveted which further amped me up for writing now.
Summary: Camelot and Albion are within a Truce with Arthur and Merlin in the center of it all. Their friendship has suffered and neither knows if they can ever have it as it was again. Meanwhile, an invasion army from the north beyond the lands of Briton have come with a strong magical force on their side. Their intentions for conquering all of the five kingdoms is clear and they plan to start with Camelot. This force may be too much for even Arthur or Merlin to handle. Camelot's doom seems certain and it's only hope may be to truly let go of hate and fear and seek a formal alliance with magic. But can Camelot and its people as well as magic and its people join forces after such history between them? Can Arthur and Merlin also find in themselves to become both the team of legend as well as the best friends again?
Here's a simple recap of the things that have happened. It was discovered that there was a hidden sanctuary for those of magic within Camelot's borders. That sanctuary was a city by the name of Albion and its honorguard are the Order of the Bear. It consists of both magical and non-magical warriors that protect them and seek to help innocent users of magic. Camelot was given leads to their location and Arthur went with Gwen, his best men and Merlin to investigate it. Merlin befriended the people of Albion especially their leader Lord Connor and his magic was revealed to Arthur and the others. Merlin and Arthur became estranged as the secrets of Arthur's life came to light. Alvarr and Mordred had tried turning the two sides against each other but through the combined efforts of the knights and the order the deception was discovered and defeated. Once this was found out, war had been carefully avoided and a treaty of truce was made between the two sides. Now Merlin is the official magical ambassador for Albion in Camelot and he has Sir Galahad and Sir Kay as his official aids and protection.
Chapter 1: The Truce
It was the early morning and the sun had just started to spill it's dawning light on the city of Camelot. The people were rising up from their beds and getting ready to start their days. Over at the castle, even the King of Camelot: Arthur, was getting to his feet. Gwen had gotten up already and was heading out to check on her brother who had caught a cold two days before. His servant had already prepared his clothes and were ready on a small table by the screen. As he changed he caught a glimpse of his servant who already was making the bed. He gasped for a second as he thought he saw a certain someone but his gasp had made the servant turn around and proved that he was seeing things. This servant wasn't Merlin but one of the servants who used to previously be one of the ones that worked on the guest rooms.
It had been a year since he had fired his old manservant and friend. When Merlin had been fired and he had to find a replacement and eventually found a suitable one. Gale, was his name and he was very different from what he had gotten used to before. He hardly talked except to tell Arthur about what was finished and done or what was behind when it came with his chores. He was punctual with Arthur's demands and never complained on his duties. His build was even different as he was taller and slightly bigger than Merlin. The only thing that they remotely shared was that their hair was nearly the same especially from the back which was why he had been startled for a moment.
The reason Merlin was fired was because he had now become an ambassador after their adventure last year. Camelot had found an entire city hidden from the sight full of magic users and their allies. Naturally, when it came to magic, Arthur had led a small group to investigate it and things had changed. Merlin was now that city's ambassador and representative in Camelot's court since it was technically within Camelot's borders. His secret life as a sorcerer was now known to the whole kingdom and Arthur could still remember the shock and hurt he felt at that revelation. Now...the two of them were civil to each other; they had to be for the sake of the Truce that had been reached. Yet, they still didn't talk with each other like they used to do. Mostly, it was about business that they talked with each other now.
Merlin wasn't even here in the city at the moment. He was with Sirs Galahad and Kay in Albion giving their annual visit and report to Lord Connor. It was a condition of the Truce that the three of them return to the city of Albion to make an annual report on how they were doing here in the city and if Camelot was following their part. Also, if memory serves right, this was also the time of Albion's Founding Festival. Considering how the last one ended, they probably were putting everything into it to make up for last year. They probably also wanted to stay for the entire thing which lasts for a week. He guessed he would see them again in a few days.
There was then a knock on the door which brought him back to the present. "Enter." he said.
It was Leon. "Arthur, Merlin and the others are back."
He almost tripped on his own feet to face Leon. He privately thought Merlin would've been proud. "What?"
"Merlin, Galahad and Kay are back in the city. They're walking their horses into the city for the castle now."
"You know," he said putting on his shirt. "After a year, you would think that they would know it's okay to ride within the city."
Leon shrugged his shoulders. "It's their way. Old habits die hard I guess."
"Well...I guess that I should be there to welcome them. Those three have been gone longer than usual. Does Gwen know?" he said as he put on his royal robes.
"Tristan is letting her know now."
Gwen had walked into her brother's room to see that he already had a pair keeping him company. He was sitting in his bed taking a potion that Gaius had handed him. Elyan had been hit with a cold as did a few others in the city but thankfully it was nothing serious. A small outbreak had hit the city after a week of stormy weather for the city but there were no fatal cases. Elyan had been on excessive patrols in that horrible weather and paid for it by catching the cold. Gwen then looked on the third occupant in the room - Eli.
Eli had been Gaius apprentice for a year and he was coming along nicely. He was formerly from the village that was now under Albion. Gaius had seen that he had great medical potential and decided to take him under his wing. He was given Merlin's old room and it seemed that he was adjusting well to his new home. Already he was as common a sight as Merlin was when he had first come to Camelot all those years ago. From time to time, Gwen had seen Eli go into the town and talk with the other young boys to play or roughhouse with. When it was time for his duties, he could see him right by Gaius learning about different potions and herbs or carrying the supplies that he gathers for him. Gaius was also teaching him how to read and write and while it seemed slow going, Eli was getting a grasp on it and was excited. Thanks to his new writing skills he was able to start writing letters to his father back home. As for the two of them personally, they seemed to be getting along well. Eli clearly respected Gaius and Gaius seemed to be growing fond of him.
Yet there will always be one who Gaius will always love as if he were his own son.
Everyone looked to the door to find Tristan there.
"Yes?" she asked turning to face him.
"It would seem Merlin, Galahad and Kay have returned. They're walking to the castle now."
"I'll be right there," she said following Tristan out the door.
"As will I," said Gaius. "as soon as I finish checking Elyan over."
"I feel fine Gaius," said Elyan halting him. "Just a little tired but other than that I'm as good as new. Go, see Merlin. I know you've been missing him."
"I can't in good conscience just do that Elyan. Merlin would understand if I'm not there to greet him at the door. Eli, hand me the blue vial."
Merlin was slowly walking for the citadel pulling his horse forward with Galahad and Kay right behind him. Both of them had on their Order armor and colors on while Merlin had majestic robes with the Order's colors and their crest etched on the right though he had his neckerchief peeking out at the neck. Their slower trek to the castle had the people take a good look at the return of the magical presence in the city. Even though it had been a year, the sight of known sorcerers in their midst still made a lot of the people nervous. The only thing that made them even more nervous was the fact that they returned from a now known city filled with sorcerers.
Despite the unease, things had been progressing well. In the last year, there had been a total of 11 magic users within the limits of Camelot that had been found or came forward to be taken to Albion under Merlin's care. Four of them were found within the first month of the new regime set up in Camelot. He had to wonder if the news of the city of Albion's existence may have had something to do with it though he couldn't blame them if it was. A few years ago, if he had heard of such a place and that there were people to escort him there, he would've come out of hiding in all his magical glory. So far, there weren't any problems meeting with them and taking them there. All eleven of them wanted and were eager for their relocation though both Galahad and Kay kept telling Merlin to be ready for one that wouldn't be. They never really said anything beyond that but there was hidden meaning in those words and he could feel it.
As for the three of them personally, they were still working out the kinks of actually being in the city between escorts. For both Merlin and Kay, they refrained from using magic in plain sight except when they were in the training fields. Though most of Camelot's court had preferred that they not use magic at all, the three of them had to insist that even magic needed time to be used and practiced. Kay would train his magic in target practice as well as any other battling magic like he did back at Albion. Even Galahad insisted that he needed to practice using the magical properties of his sword from time to time as much as the knights had to practice with their assorted weapons skills. Merlin was starting to get a few spells and teaching from Connor during their annual reports that he would work on when he returned to Camelot with Kay and Galahad helping where they could. Though, without anyone knowing, Merlin and Kay often used magic behind the closed doors of their room.
The three of them arrived in the citadel where their horses were taken by the stable hands. Arthur was there at the front entrance with Gwen and a few others to formally welcome them back.
"Welcome back," he said extending his hand to Merlin.
Merlin took it and gave it a firm shake. "It's nice to be back."
They then let go. Arthur looked to both Galahad and Kay and nodded to each of them and they nodded back. "You were gone longer than usual. I guess you wanted to stay a little for your city's Founding Festival."
Merlin tried not to flinch at 'your city' as it slipped out of Arthur's mouth. He kept his expression blank as he answered back. "Albion's celebration was distracting but we thought it best to return to Camelot and not stray too far from our duties. We were already caught up enough by it so we thought we shouldn't stay for the whole thing. Excuse us sire, we better go unpack. We've been traveling all night and we need some rest."
Arthur pushed down the nostalgic feeling of missing Merlin giving him some sarcasm at such a prime opportunity. "Of course. You three should get some rest."
Gwen looked between the two of them and she felt numb from the exchange. Ever since they came back from Albion a year ago, that was the flow of their conversations. Arthur only ever talked with Merlin relating to business or duties while Merlin responded with very respectful answers. It wasn't at all what she was used to with them. She was used to Arthur teasing Merlin and Merlin giving sarcastic lip to Arthur. Them being so formal with one another was more bizarre to her than anything so far.
"It's good to have you back Merlin," said Gwen with a smile. "Galahad, Kay, you too."
Merlin gave her a small smile. "Thanks Gwen. It's good to see you too."
At least with her, he was still somewhat the same happy young man she'd known. She still was a little uncomfortable whenever he or Kay used magic on the grounds but other than that they were virtually the same.
Merlin went through the corridors, with Galahad and Kay right behind him, where any servants who caught sight of them either hurried past them or backed into the walls until they passed by. This was so common that the three of them hardly noticed it anymore. It was an improvement from the start as often they would jump in shock or drop whatever they were holding when they got back last year. At first, it had been a little amusing but it quickly lost it's humor. They came upon their room and they went in. Normally, the three of them would've been given three separate rooms but they insisted on one shared room. The three of them had said that they didn't need such a large space for themselves. In the room were three cots instead of one large bed with their belongs spread about. and there was still a lot of room.
"Home sweet home," Merlin said dropping his sack on his bed.
"I still can't believe we have to miss the final day of the festival," said Kay slumping onto his bed. "I think I was starting to catch the eye of one of the growers. She'd been eying me for the last few days and I thought she was quite lovely."
"I'm sorry Kay but we were already three days overdue."
"It's not like we had a time limit in our visits Merlin. Something tells me that it wouldn't have been an issue in Camelot's court. I think they would've proposed a feast if we asked to stay longer."
"Kay," Galahad said pointedly.
"Sorry." he said sitting up in his bed.
"The point is," said Merlin. "that we are here to protect the rights of those with magic in this kingdom. I didn't want us to be gone too long. We're at a fragile stage right now."
"Right...I'm sorry." said Kay. "It's just that I'm not used to staying so long in a place where I'm clearly not wanted. And being home during the festival where we celebrate our union...I guess I'm less than enthusiastic about our duty here."
"Neither am I," said Galahad. "I may not have magic but I'm still a firm supporter and friend of it. Arthur's court isn't very happy towards me any more than you two but I understand how important it is to be here. If I have to endure steely looks and backtalk for magicians to not fear for their lives then that's what I'll do."
"I know but I still don't like it. Especially when they're making us round up our kin to move them off their lands."
Merlin was confused by that. "Yes...but we are offering them a chance to not be alone."
"Merlin," Kay got to his feet. "You've only been around our ways for a year but you haven't really learned much. Granted you're skilled in magic and getting better but you still lack knowing about magical people. The most important fact that you have to know is that they're people and like all people...they're not all the same."
'What did Kay mean by that?' thought Merlin.
"Don't worry about it Merlin," said Galahad. Obviously, his question showed on his face. "You'll get it soon enough and hopefully you can help your friends get it too."
In the throne room, Arthur and Gwen were listening to some issues presented by the court. Gaius was there with Eli right behind him where Merlin used to be. There were knights and lords were also in the room and they were all listening to some reports. Right now, a farmer from the northern borders was before them.
"Our cattle have been disappearing for the last few weeks. Every rancher has lost livestock and our grain stocks have been picked clean."
"Thieves?" asked Arthur.
"We're not sure. If it is then they are the most slippery thieves we've ever seen. No one suspicious has been seen and there have been no tracks or trails to follow. It's as if the cattle and crops just vanish from their spots. And many of us are losing our supplies at the same time as each other. We need your help sire before this turns to a real problem."
"Do not worry. We will help you solve this mystery and keep your food and livestock safe."
"Thank you sire." the man said before he left the room.
"What could be making their food supplies just disappear like that?" asked Gwen.
Arthur thought on what he just heard about what was stolen and the lack of clues. "It could be bandits. This sounds like looting to me though I never heard of bandits that were this stealthy before. They usually just use brute force to take what they want."
"Could it be some type of flying beasts that are taking the food?" asked one of the lords. "That would explain the lack of trails and tracks."
"Is it possible Gaius?" Arthur asked.
Gaius thought on it for a while but then shook his head. "I don't think so. If it was just the livestock then I would say it was possible. Yet...with the crops, there aren't any beasts that I know that eat both crops and animals. The only thing that I could see that would take both like this would be people."
Now Arthur was lost. "But, then what kind of people could be taking their stocks without being seen?"
"The only way I can see that happening..." said Gaius a little hesistantly. "is with sorcery sire."
At that, the court went into a frenzy. Gaius and even Eli were holding in their irritation at the accusation starting to form within the court.
"Sorcery, then obviously the Albions are to blame." said Renmar.
"We should bring those three in here right now and demand they return those provisions that were taken," added Sir Ferris.
Gwen cut him off. "Ferris! Merlin, Galahad and Kay just got back today from Albion. Not to mention its to the south. They aren't responsible for anything."
"Let's not forget that they were late in returning to the city." pointed out Lord Calhoun. "They could've doubled back and have done this."
"They were in Albion for their Founding Festival," she defended.
"So they said." he shot back.
Arthur slammed his fist on his throne's armrest to bring everyone to silence. "Enough!" he said standing to his feet. "We can't just start pointing fingers at them without proof. We don't even have real evidence that sorcery is even at work here. Let's not forget that Merlin is Albion's ambassador and Sirs Galahad and Kay are guests here. We are within a truce and it is still fragile. We can't just accuse them of doing wrong as soon as something does go wrong. The last thing we want is to start a war when we didn't need to."
Arthur may still have hard feelings towards magic, Albion and even Merlin but he was not going to be unfair. He couldn't just let fingers be pointed at them even if magic was suspect. He had to handle this like any incident before looking to appoint blame and find out exactly what happened first.
Sir Ferris stepped forward. "Sire, then what do we do?"
"What we always do in these situations. Investigate." He turned to Gwaine. "Gwaine." He turned to Percival. "Percival." He then turned to Tristan. "and Tristan. Would you three be willing to lead some men to the northern borders and see what you could find out?"
Gwaine answered first. "Of course sire. I'd be happy to go."
"I will go sire." said Percival with a nod.
Tristan nodded himself and stepped forward. "You can count on me Arthur."
"You should leave immediately. Those people will need to have their supplies to become secure again as soon as possible. They've lost enough already."
Eli tried to step forward and started to open his mouth but Gaius held out his arm and moved him back. Eli looked up at him to see Gaius shake his head as he held him back. "No," he whispered.
"This meeting is done." said Arthur dismissing them.
The room dispersed and Gaius took Eli with him and headed for their chambers. When they were far enough, Eli held his hands out in protest.
"Why did you do that Gaius? I was going to tell Arthur that they could ask one of the Albion growers to go to those farmlands and help them regrow their grain to full size within three weeks."
"Yes, well Eli I'm sorry to say that your suggestion wouldn't have been taken well. You saw how everyone reacted with just the fact that magic could be responsible for this. They wouldn't have taken well to asking magic for help on top of it."
"That's stupid." Eli said folding his arms. "Those people might starve if they don't get their food back in time."
"Let's just hope that doesn't happen." As they walked on Gaius almost smiled. Eli just reminded him of Merlin when he first arrived. So quick to use everything that they had to help people without a second thought.
Things may be different now...but in a sense, they were almost the same. He just hoped nothing else would arise to complicate things further.
A Camelot patrol was riding through the eastern border forests when they caught sight of some smoke. The knight leading them dropped off from his horse and went to investigate. He told his men to stay behind while he went to see what it was. He went through the brush and the sight of a druid camp came into sight. He took out a map and marked the spot and headed back to his patrol. He had to head back to the city and inform the king of more magic users for the ambassador Merlin to help relocate to Albion.
End of Chapter 1
A/N: I hope you loved the start of this story. If you have any questions or comments than please feel free to review. I love it when people point out things and have questions. I personally can't wait to see more of Series 5.