A/N: Yay! Now that My Demons Lay In Wait is all done, I can start on this story. :D So excited for this one. Hope you guys like it!

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Something was different this time.

Merlin yelped as he narrowly dodged a falling axe, and then, with a discreet flash of gold, lent strength to his arm as he brought his sword down in a smooth arc. The pommel collided with his attacker's skull, and the man fell face forward into the dirt. Merlin allowed himself a small smile of triumph, before whipping around and rejoining the battle.

Merlin paused for just a moment directly outside the perimeter of the warring, and scanned his eyes through the chaos frantically. His eyes locked upon each of the smaller battles within the entirety of the fray, in turn. Gwaine was fighting a man twice his size who was wielding a vicious looking mace. Leon was back to back with Percival, fending off several different men coming at them from all angles. Elyan and Gwaine were fighting alongside Arthur, working together in subduing the large numbers of bandits surrounding. Merlin felt an inexplicable rush of relief at the sight of the king, and then again when he saw Gwen and Gaius were nowhere in sight, off hiding somewhere, hopefully in safety.

The group of twenty and five or so bandits had come out of nowhere. This wasn't an unnatural occurrence in and of itself. In fact, this had happened so often, that leaping into action against them had been a calm and rehearsed thing overall.

But there was just something different.

Merlin was pulled from his rapid fire thoughts as a sudden battle cry sounded from his left. He turned just in time to parry a jarring blow from a bandit's large sword. The man cried out and lifted the sword again, dropping it down in what should have been a fatal blow. But somehow, miraculously, Merlin's clumsy, ill-timed block was enough to knock him backward, for it had been fueled by his magic, and gave the warlock enough time to slash him across the leg, debilitating the man, who he cried out, clutching at the deep, bleeding wound and collapsed to the forest floor.

And with a quizzical glance at his weapon, Merlin's went back to fighting.

But he was distracted. There was something strange in the air. Something powerful. Merlin could feel the unmistakable presence of magic nearby, and he was so busy whirling around in search of the source, and in an ongoing attempt to keep an eye on Arthur (for unfamiliar magic nearby could mean nothing good for the king) that he didn't properly defend himself against one opponent, and ended up with a slight, shallow slash across his bicep. He yelped at the pain and then retaliated with a stab of his own, a nonfatal one in the man's thigh that sent him sprawling backwards with a cry.

All the while, amidst the pandemonium, the terrible feeling that something dark, something dangerous was far, far too close began to grow and grow until Merlin was consumed with a desire to escape, to get his friends out of there.

Filled with a sudden, instinctual panic and need to get out of there, Merlin yelled and turned around to find the still fighting form of his prince. However, at the sudden, static charge of what he knew was magic began tickling the nape of his neck, he screamed in warning,

"Arthur!"

The prince finished off the man he'd been fighting, and then spun around at the sound of his name, a look of alarm on his face quickly fading into annoyance as he saw his manservant standing, unharmed, at the edge of the battle.

Merlin took one step forward, opened his mouth to speak, when suddenly…

There was nothing.

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A/N: Please Review and tell me if I have ensnared your interest. :D Toodles!