This story features Evil!Merlin (far worse than Dark!Merlin), Torture, Mergana and character death.
Be warned, this story has a very slow start.
Chapter 1: Hunting, bloody hunting.
It was Merlin's least favourite activity apart from mucking out the stables, hunting. Problem was, of course, that none of the knights seemed to agree. The manservant had said that hunting was dangerous but not because of the beasts that roamed the forest. Merlin meant that the King of Camelot had a price on his head which no one seemed to have noticed. Morgana was still out there and who knows how many other vengeful sorcerers. Mary Collins, Nimueh, Sophia, Edwin, those were the ones that dare come to Camelot. Not everyone amongst the druids would be as 'peaceful' as some made them out to be. Oh, and then there was the abundance of bandits that never seemed to stop harassing innocent villages and caravans.
Arthur's voice brought the warlock back to the world.
"Sorry?" He asked.
The King sighed, clearly agitated, and replied "Make a wide circle and scare them this way."
"I still think this is a bad idea." Grumbled Merlin.
"I've got a brilliant idea! When we get back you can muck out the stables!" Arthur exclaimed in exaggerated joy.
Before doing as he was told, Merlin let his head hang and sighed "Yes, Sire."
Obscured by the bushes, Merlin needed to vent his anger.
"Polish my armour, muck out the stables, scare the animals, where is my bath..." He muttered and didn't actually look at where he was going.
The manservant did not hear the footsteps that weren't his own. He was far too distracted with voicing his anger for once. As one last taunt towards his royal pratness, he put on a ludicrously high pitched voice "I'm not fat, I'm fighting fit!"
Someone was laughing and turning around he saw Morgana leaning against a tree.
His heart fluttered. He wasn't as enamoured by her looks as he used to be but hearing her laugh was something he had grown very fond of. There wasn't the murder in her eyes he was slowly becoming accustomed to.
"Things never change, do they?" She smirked as she came closer to him.
"Arthur is... around, I think." He tried to sound confident and defying in the hope that she would beat down the feelings that still coursed through his veins.
"Surrounded by Knights, no doubt." Morgana raised an eyebrow in
"If only you had an army." He mocked her and a sudden force shot through his cheek, pain following swiftly
"Don't test me." She'd slapped him!
When had Morgana gotten so physical? Her failed attempts at taking the throne of Camelot might've been one of the reasons. It also seemed that every time she was about to kill someone such as him or Arthur, she liked to drag it out. His chain of thought was interrupted by a voice shouting in the distance, a man's voice shouting a name, his name. There wasn't a single thought in his mind that it wasn't Arthur but before the warlock could utter a word, Morgana's cold hand was on his mouth and a dagger was close to his manhood. It was a little something Morgana had worked out over time. Men were far more attached to their manhood than their lives. Her smile mocked the fear in his eyes.
One thought remained in the warlock's mind. Why was he still alive?
What pained him was that he could hear the horses pass them by and his fate was in Morgana's hands once more. She took him back to her home, her hovel, but on the way there she too had a thought she couldn't shake. She'd let him lead the way and it unnerved her to see that he knew where he was going. She didn't have to correct him at all.
Halfway there, she made him stop. He seemed confused at her tactics or whatever else she was doing.
"Good, confused is good." She thought.
Merlin did not voice his confusion. He was in no hurry to be tortured again.
"I've been on my feet all day." She clarified though it was a complete lie.
The manservant sat down against a tree. She followed his example and sat opposite of him so she could not only watch him but study him as well.
What made him so bloody loyal to Arthur? The prat was out hunting again and sent his servant further into the forest, alone. How stupid was he? Better put, which of the two was more stupid? Arthur for commanding him or Merlin for following it?
The crunching sound of leaves being stepped on pulled Morgana from her thoughts.
At first she thought they were Arthur's men but there were just two of them and only one of them was a real man, the other merely child. They weren't soldiers but travellers or, just maybe, smugglers but that didn't seem likely judging by the state of their clothes.
The witch stood up and glared at Merlin to warn him in case he would do something stupid. Morgana's eyes were not unkind to the travellers but rather curious, not may passed through her little part of the forest.
The two came face to face with her. Merlin eyes the man and what he presumed to be his young daughter. The man was a bit scrawny but the child, a young girl, was skin and bones.
"Greetings. Could you, ehm… perhaps you could tell me where I might… ehm." The man stumbled over his words.
The man was rather hesitant to ask her but she thought he was asking for directions.
Morgana squatted and with sad eyes looked at the girl before standing back up.
"She has magic, doesn't she?" Morgana asked sympathetically. The man merely averted his eyes in some sort of shame. "The druids are that way." She pointed west of where they were.
"Thank you." He exhaled his held breath.
Morgana went back to her spot and took a small pouch from her bag. "These are edible mushrooms. You look like you need them more than I do." She handed it over.
"Bless you." The man now smiled at her and took the path shown to them by the witch.
Morgana noticed that Merlin's face just got a whole lot more interesting. It never occurred to him that 'the wicked witch' still had a kind heart and surprise and wonder were all over his face.
"I'm not heartless, Merlin. I can still be kind when I want to." She said casually.
"You mean when it suits you." He taunted her.
She looked down on him with a smirk that said she was up to something. A lot of things had crossed her mind. A tiny bit of torture as an appetizer before the main course, a mocking retort, an insightful insult, so many things to choose from and she picked something else. If she was right about him and their past, then this would mess him up for quite a while.
She kneeled besides him and Merlin shifted uneasily. Her lips moved close to his ear, her breath taunting yet pleasant warmth.
In a playful tone she whispered, almost moaned "I can be very kind, Merlin."
Of course this kind of seduction did not affect him much. It was an act and even in a sultry voice the words meant nothing. When she backed away she gave him a peck on the cheek, the very same she slapped earlier. This unnerved him completely. He thought she found him revolting. She would never touch him, the traitor, let alone put her lips on him. Yet in the past he had often wondered how her lips felt, how soft they would be against his rather than his cheek.
Arthur's voice could be heard in the distance once more and this time they'd gone off the path and into the forest.
Morgana stood up and took one last look at the bewildered manservant.
"There!" The King was close by and Merlin looked at her with an inner conflict still raging.
"Think about it." She said as her eyes glowed gold and all the leaves flew up from the ground to obscure her like fog would.
She was gone before the leaves return to the soil from which they came. The manservant couldn't care less about the leaves, Arthur or her disappearance. His mind was still trying to make sense of her word.
Think about it? She had made him an offer but it felt impossible to tell what it was. Did it have anything to do with the peck on the cheek or was it merely her kindness she offered him? Was this how she made her spies? With promises of kindness?
"Merlin!" The King's hand on his shoulder made him snap back to reality.
"Sire." He greeted Arthur as he got back on his feet.
"Are you hurt?" He repeated the question and Merlin shook his head in denial.
They went home after that and Arthur came by the physician's chambers later that evening with Gwen. Gaius was out for reasons unknown to them and opening the door to his ward's chambers, they saw he was sleeping.
"He's a child, really." Arthur joked as Gwen slowly and carefully made her way over to her bed.
"Sleep well, Merlin." She said and gave him a soft peck on the cheek.
Arthur stifled a laugh as she made her way back.
"You're not his mother." He joked.
Then they heard the clumsy boy whisper the name of the accursed witch. They looked at the boy and expected him to be tossing and turning from a nightmare. Only when they looked, he was smiling.