So, this is a fic loosely based on 5x10.
SPOILERS FOR 5X10 OKAY DONT'T SAY I DIDN'T WARN YOU.
I say loosely because it follows it slightly, but has a lot more whump, and extra Mordred and knights and bromance.
Enjoy, and review please~~
An old sorceress pledges her allegiance to Merlin, promising information that will help him in the dark times to come. But when Morgana finds out that this woman knows who Emrys really is, she plans to kidnap her. Merlin and Finna escape, but not before Merlin is shot in the side by a crossbow. And Arthur is just innocently pratrolling the woods, oblivious to Merlin's plight...
"Emrys, I can't heal you." Finna's concerned voice broke through the haze of pain but, oddly, he couldn't see her. Dimly, Merlin remembered that sound was meant to come with pictures and not just darkness. Struggling to sit up, he opened his eyes. He wasn't aware he'd closed them. "With power like yours, can you not, forgive me, heal yourself?"
Merlin tilted his head back until he was looking at the sky. The place in his side where the arrow had entered was pulsating angrily, blood slowly soaking into the torn fabric of his tunic, and with each wave of pain came another wave of nausea. The sky seemed dimmer than he remembered.
"I never was much good at healing," he admitted, his breathing ragged, "Maybe if it was Arthur or –" He hissed, knuckles white around the hilt of the sword he clutched, " –someone else, it would be fine. But I could never get it to work on me." He looked up at the old woman who believed so wholly in him, and shrugged apologetically, wincing as he did so. "I'm sorry that I'm not what you were expecting."
She simply stared at him for a moment, then reached forwards, placing her hand on top of where he was trying (rather unsuccessfully) to keep his lifeblood inside him. He could feel her magic pulsating around the wound, trying to knit the skin together, replace what was lost, but there was something lacking. He could only guess that Morgana had tinted those arrows with magic herself, to stop her victims from healing themselves. So that she could watch the sorcerer of her choosing slowly bleed to death.
Finna sighed, as she came to the same conclusion.
"You are only human, Great One, and, forgive me, but you are still so young. You have a good heart. There is not fault in that."
Their eyes locked and there was something more than pity in them, something that suggested that she understood at least a small part of the burden he bore. For some reason, it reminded him of home.
There was a rustle in the leaves behind them, and they both froze.
Not Morgana, Merlin begged silently, not now.
After a few moments, still nothing had happened. No attack, no magic. Looking furtively around her, Finna unceremoniously pulled Merlin to his feet, surprisingly strong for someone who looked so frail. He couldn't supress a cry as pain blazed through his abdomen, causing him to pitch forwards as his body doubled up in a desperate attempt to get it to stop. He leant on his sword, panting slightly.
"How much … further?"
Finna knew the wound was deep, but there was nothing she could do - it would be suicide to stay here. "Morgana will be coming after us," she said eventually, "I am sorry, but if we could just get to the abandoned tower on the other side of the valley, we could hide until it's all over, until it's safe."
Merlin said nothing, just nodded. His eyes were closed again, and he was finding it harder to keep them open. Grasping the sword hilt, he drew in a deep steadying breath.
"Emrys, will you be alright?" It was a stupid question, she knew, but she couldn't help it. Hissing slightly, Merlin straightened up, arm tightening around his injured side. His face was pale, but etched with determination.
"We need to keep going."
And he started walking.
Mordred knew he was going to get in trouble with Arthur for letting Merlin go. He knew that. But, equally, he knew that what Merlin was planning must be important if he was willing to risk not only his life, but Arthur's wrath.
He just wished that, for once, he hadn't been the only one to notice.
Mordred splashed the river water over his face, shivering slightly at how cold it was. He could picture it now, Leon waking up and finding Merlin gone, then Arthur springing up, and Gwaine, then Percival –
The question was repeated, and another shout rang through the trees. "Merlin?"
Reluctantly, Mordred realised that his own absence would not go unnoticed for much longer. Trying to look completely oblivious, he returned to the group to find Arthur pacing angrily up and down.
"Sire, he's not in the area," Leon confirmed, voice low. "You don't think he could have been –"
"No." Arthur's answer was short and left no room for argument. "What I think Merlin has done," the King continued angrily, in that voice that he only ever reserved for when Merlin was being particularly infuriating, "is that he has, for whatever reason, decided to run off back to wherever he was going before. Despite my explicit orders not to. Despite knowing that there is a dangerous sorcerer in these woods who would not hesitate in killing him." His voice had risen to an infuriated growl, his fingers flexing around the hilt of his sword. "Sometimes I think that man sticks around just so that he can disobey my orders."
"He doesn't." The words fell out of Mordred's mouth before he could stop them. All eyes turned on him, and Mordred felt his face flush. Just slightly. "What I mean, Sire – " He stepped forwards, head bowed in apology, " –is that I accompanied Merlin out of the forest earlier, before first light." He sounded so humble, so tentative, that for a moment all the fight left Arthur as he stared at his newest knight in incomprehension.
"You did what?"
"I heard noises in the night, and when I woke up , Merlin was trying to leave. I told him not to, that you wouldn't allow it, but he didn't care. He said he needed to get back to the castle urgently."
"And you didn't try to stop him?"
"He said he would go regardless. What was I meant to do? Draw my sword on him? He's an unarmed servant – I couldn't do that."
Arthur conceded the man had a point.
"And you just let him go?" Gwaine's voice came angrily from somewhere behind Leon's shoulder. Mordred could feel the hostility towards him building.
"No!" He said it with as much incredulity as he could muster. "I wouldn't leave him undefended like that. I accompanied him to the bridge, where I knew he would be safe to make his own way back, and then returned here."
He hoped that what Merlin was doing was worth it.
"I am sorry, Sire," he said, hanging his head, "But I would rather have accompanied him safely than let him roam on his own. Or keep him here against his will."
Arthur studied the man, so young and inexperienced, yet so full of promise. Mordred's actions reminded him of Merlin's misguided attempts, in a way. He placed a hand on his shoulder, reassuring.
"I forgive you, Mordred." He gave the knight a wry smile. "But next time, do not disobey my orders. And," he added, as an afterthought, "It would do you well not to be beguiled by Merlin again."
Mordred couldn't tell if Arthur was joking or not.
"Morgana is at the bottom of the tower, we need to move faster!"
Merlin could barely make it up the first flight of stairs.
"You need to get to the top – you'll be safe there."
His foot caught the edge of uneven stone and he struggled to catch his balance. Instead of falling backwards, he managed to orchestrate it so that he fell forwards, stars exploding in front of his vision as his head connected painfully with the wall and –
Merlin let out a cry of agony as he fell onto his wound, body crumpling into a heap on the cold steps. His vision blurred as he struggled to know anything but pain.
Desperately, he tried to straighten up, using his sword as a support. He hadn't even got halfway up before his legs gave out and everything dimmed for a moment.
Oh gods, he panicked, I can't do this.
He bit his tongue, silencing the whimpers building at the back of his throat, and pushed himself back up. The same thing happened again. Growling now, he put all of his weight onto the sword and violently threw himself forwards. The pain was white hot, but he was on his feet.
Panting, he cast a glance behind him. Finna's expression was unreadable. "I have a confession."
The words were all too familiar. This is it, Merlin thought, this is the part where she betrays me. He was too weary to care.
"It is my fault that you are like this. I cannot let Morgana find you, nor let you die." She moved towards him, placing her arms around his shoulders. "I know you trust your King with your life, no matter how much I do not."
Letting him lean on her, they slowly made their way up the rest of the stairwell, the pounding of feet disturbingly loud on the floor below.
"I left clues for your King – a trail to find you by after Morgana has left. He's the only one who can save you now."