Hey guys! Thanks for all the reviews last chapter :)
Beta-ed by Paralelsky
Hope you enjoy this, it's over 6000 words!
It was not often that Nimueh could be taken unawares, but her younger brother always had the knack. They stared at each other until the high priestess broke the silence.
"Selwyn," she said. When her brother did not speak she smiled. "I've missed you."
"We tried to find you," Selwyn said hollowly. "But you did not want to be found. Even by your own family."
Nimueh frowned, but her voice was sad. "I have changed, little brother. Neither you nor Isaac would have cared to follow me."
"Well thank you for asking us anyway," the druid spat, "but that is not why I am here."
"You're angry," she noted. Nimueh walked closer to him but Selwyn backed away. She looked hurt, but fell still in resignation. "I am sorry, Selwyn."
"You are twenty years too late," he informed her.
Nimueh narrowed her eyes angrily. "What would you have had me done? Uther killed Aedán and father. And countless others."
Selwyn's eyes became sad. "You do not need to remind me of that. And revenge serves no one. Do innocent deaths please you?"
"Who is innocent?" Nimueh sneered. "Uther has corrupted all under his rule."
"Please, Nimueh," Selwyn said, "you always were foolish, but this?"
The unnatural blue in his older sister's eyes darkened. "Careful, Selwyn."
He laughed at her. "I am not a child anymore, Nimueh."
His words cooled Nimueh's anger and sadness returned to her eyes. Selwyn always hated it when she was sad. "No you're not," she agreed and came closer. Her eyes studied him with affection.
"You must leave here, Nim," Selwyn told her gently, "let Prince Arthur be."
She did not let her anger rule her features but Selwyn heard it in her tone. "Why would I do that?"
The high priestess' younger brother sighed. "He's the once and future king," Selwyn told her bluntly.
Nimueh scoffed. "I already know."
Selwyn's eyes narrowed and he refrained from asking her why. "And the boy you poisoned... do you know who he is?"
Nimueh did not answer right away but her mouth opened in surprise. "You're lying."
He thought he knew which conclusion she reached so Selwyn shook his head. "When did I ever lie?"
"You lied to Isaac all the time," she stated.
"Only to annoy him," Selwyn defended himself, "but never to you."
A small smile formed on Nimueh's lips. An unfamiliar smile, as her face was different from what Selwyn remembered from his childhood, but genuine nonetheless. "Because I was always more of a mother to you than a sister, wasn't I?"
Selwyn smiled sadly at her. "For what it's worth, you raised me well."
They fell silent and Nimueh's eyes drifted into the trees where Selwyn knew her monster was. "Emrys was that little boy?" she asked him and when the druid nodded, she laughed harshly. "The son of Uther, being protected by a child. Well isn't that sweet. All of our dear king's work will be undone by his son." More peals of laughter burst from her lips and caused the hair on the back of Selwyn's neck to stand on end. Nimueh had always been vindictive, but never cruel. He realized that he hated what Nimueh had become.
"And that is why you cannot harm him. Or Mordred, ever again," Selwyn said strongly.
"Mordred," Nimueh mused, "he truly is Emrys?"
Selwyn nearly stared incredulously at her for her lack of remorse. The Nimueh that he knew would have never harmed a child. But the Nimueh he knew, Selwyn reminded himself, was gone.
"He is a child," Selwyn stated with a cold voice.
"Interesting," Nimueh said idly. She apparently took his statement as confirmation but Selwyn did not correct her. Mordred was the guardian and far less vulnerable than Emrys, the child he was sworn to protect.
"You must leave," he pressed just before Nimueh looked back the way Selwyn had come.
"The Once and Future King," the sorceress stated. Selwyn looked back and could see a figure in the distance heading towards them. He doubted that the prince could see them yet.
"Nimueh," Selwyn said.
His elder sister gritted her teeth but looked up at Selwyn. "Consider it an apology. Goodbye, Selwyn. Perhaps we will see each other again."
Selwyn nodded, but before Nimueh was to leave, he grabbed her hand. "Thank you. I don't think I've ever told you that before," he said quietly.
Nimueh looked at their joined hands and gave his fingers a light squeeze. "I have missed you," she told him. Selwyn let her go and she left shortly after. The vestiges of the gale that had carried her off whipped at his cloak making it flap noisily in the wind. He stared at the spot where his sister had been standing and did not look away until suspicious footsteps sounded behind him.
Selwyn turned and feigned surprise at the approaching prince. The boy he had entrusted Mordred and Merlin to, called out to him cautiously. "Hello..." He was leading his impressive horse through the leaves but stopped a good distance from Selwyn. The druid opened his own mouth to reply when but a shape entering the corner of his vision cut his words off. He snapped his gaze to the side to find a cockatrice stalking over a leafy hill. Selwyn stepped back in surprise, wondering if Nimueh had forgotten about it. He didn't think that she had though, and the numbness of that realization caused him to back up another step. He had not felt such despair since his father and brother died in the purge. To think that Nimueh was alive after all this time but to realize the sister he once knew had not survived was crushing. The back of his leg hit the log Nimueh had been sitting on and he fell backwards with a grunt.
"Stay back!" he heard the prince shout. The blonde man paced in front of him to meet the advancing beast.
Selwyn glared at the back of Prince Arthur's head, more to do with shame than anything. The druid quickly lifted himself from the ground and regained his composure, casting Nimueh out of his thoughts for now.
The golden haired prince slowly progressed towards the beast, gauging the monster's bearing. The cockatrice was hissing and spitting and Selwyn watched the prince avidly, ready to intervene should he be needed. Silver flashed as Prince Arthur slashed at the beast in warning but it did not retreat. He tried a few more times but was forced onto the defensive when the cockatrice reared and dove for him.
The prince rolled forward under the creature as it soared over him, its claws only missing him by a few inches. Then in a move that surprised Selwyn, Prince Arthur spun and flung his sword toward the cockatrice. The blade spun in the air and plunged into the belly of the beast. With a horrible screech the cockatrice fell and died. Selwyn watched as the prince straightened and turn toward him.
"Impressive," Selwyn said simply.
Arthur nodded and wiped the sweat from his brow. "Are you alright?"
"Yes, thank you."
The prince breathed out and went to retrieve his sword. He pulled it out swiftly and snapped the blade out to fling away the dark blood.
"I didn't expect to encounter anyone else near the caves," Selwyn lied. The caves of Balor were near, a black hole in the nearby rock face.
Prince Arthur spoke as he walked to his light bay horse. "I'm looking for something. It can only be found here."
"I can help you if you wish," Selwyn told him. The faster Mordred got the flower the better.
Arthur looked at him and replied, "It's a type of flower that only grows inside the cave. It's very rare."
Selwyn nodded. "The mortaeus flower."
"You know where it is?" Arthur asked hopefully.
Selwyn had been to the caves of Balor many years ago when he had first fled Camelot with Isaac. Deep inside them, the rare yellow flowers grew on the wall- a strange sight where not even fungi grew.
"Yes," he answered and waited for the prince. "But they are not easy to get to."
Arthur walked by him with his horse and tied the stallion to a branch closer to the caves. He rummaged through his saddlebags and drew out two torches, then threw one to the druid. Selwyn caught it deftly and nodded with thanks.
Without wasting time, the prince lit the torches and led the way into the caves. Selwyn followed and shadows closed in around them.
Darkness waited outside their torchlight as they walked. Arthur followed the tall man, whose name he found out was Selwyn. He hadn't batted more than an eyelash when Arthur told him he was prince of Camelot but he hardly cared about that right now. Their footsteps echoed off the cave walls, the only sound in the gloom as neither man was keen on talking.
He eyed the tall man in front of him and just before he was going to ask how much farther, Selwyn took a turn and stopped. "There they are," he said and pointed to the far wall where yellow flowers grew in a clump. His voice echoed in the chasm, deep into the shadows below and above. Arthur walked forward and looked warily off the precipice they were standing on. The bottom of the cave was unseen due to the shadows sitting like a black ocean below. Above was not much better and he could not guess how much distance there was to the surface.
The prince leaned over the edge trying to see downward but stepped back when his weight caused some small rocks to clatter down into the dark abyss.
"Keep back from the edge," Arthur warned the taller man. Selwyn had no compunction with that and he nodded.
"Be careful," Selwyn bid him as the prince crept further out the ledge. The precipice was narrow, and thinned the further he got to the opposite wall. He set his torch down and stepped carefully over the gap to place his foot on a sturdy looking rock. When he assured himself that it wouldn't crumble when he placed his full weight on it, he grabbed onto the rough cliff face. It wasn't too far to the mortaeus flower but he had his chainmail weighing him down. He took small solace in the many available handholds within his reach.
Just as he ascended a few feet, a sharp gasp was uttered behind him. "Pendragon!" Selwyn shouted out.
Arthur looked back to see the tall man staring to the prince's right. He followed the gaze to see a spider the size of a small dog creeping toward him. Arthur did not waste time cursing and he took one hand away from the rock wall to brandish his sword. His weight was now mostly supported with his one arm and he struggled to hang on and strike out at the creature. If he fell, he wasn't sure if the precipice below would take his weight.
The spider he was trying to slash at was agile and easily avoided his strikes. Arthur grunted as he almost lost balance trying to reach the beast.
"Forbaernan!" Selwyn shouted, his voice echoing into the reaches of the caves. Arthur had a second to wonder what the word meant before the spider clicking its sharp fangs burst into flames and fell squealing into the darkness below.
He gasped and turned accusingly to the man. "You're a sorcerer!" he yelled.
"Druid," Selwyn corrected. Arthur hung on gasping in breath but did not sheath his sword. "I only want to help, Prince Arthur."
"Help? Why?" Arthur asked him with hostility and adjusted himself to a more stable position.
"To save the life of your servant," Selwyn revealed sharply. "There isn't time to squabble."
The prince remembered Mordred, dying because of the poison and he decided to accept the druid's help. He didn't exactly have a choice after all. Arthur growled before sheathing his sword with difficulty and in that moment he heard a clicking sound and light patter from below. He looked down to see the shadows glistening and swelling upwards. Thousands of scarlet eyes glared up at him and more spiders than he cared to count hungrily advanced towards him.
Without further ado he hurried as fast as he dared toward the mortaeus flowers. "Hurry!" Selwyn shouted along with more strange words. As Arthur climbed, flashes of fire burst below him, sending spiders careening toward the endless bottom. "Go faster! There's too many!" the druid called.
Arthur put on a spurt of speed and reached out his fingers for the yellow flowers. They were just out of his reach causing the prince to grunt in frustration. He leaned his weight a little more and was just able to snatch away a single flower from the clump. Arthur then safely placed it in a pouch on his belt. He glanced back at the druid to see him standing with his arm out stretched and causing more bursts of fire to hit the spiders. With alarm the prince saw that some spiders were creeping on the ledge and toward Selwyn.
"What are you waiting for?" the druid snapped. "Go!"
Arthur looked down at the advancing spiders and hurriedly proceeded with the steep climb. He had to take off his gloves with his teeth in order to find purchase on the rocks before he could go more than a few feet. As he ascended upward he felt each pound of his armour weighing him down. It was getting darker the farther he got from the firelight and when a plume of golden fire flickered to life above him; he looked down to the druid. Selwyn was slowly losing ground to the spiders but shooting gusts of fire and wind at them. His emerald eyes flashed at Arthur when he noticed that the prince stopped which urged Arthur on again, swishing his arm up to move along the light above the prince's head. The next time Arthur looked down he could not see Selwyn he had climbed so high. The spiders were gaining and the meagre light from Selwyn's fire did little to help Arthur see. With his heart in his throat, Arthur realized that he was in trouble.
Night had wrapped its blue cloak around Camelot, and in the physician's chambers settled into the back room where Merlin was fitfully sleeping. Soft moonlight rested on the boy's form, allowing Gaius to see his troubled expression. Merlin's round face was drawn with worry, causing Gaius to sit with him for another moment and leave Gwen with the ailing Mordred for just a while longer.
"Come now, Merlin," he said and stroked the boy's hair back. "Everything will be alright." Merlin only moaned in his sleep and turned his head. Gaius sighed and rubbed Merlin's head to comfort him. It seemed to work so the physician made sure that the blankets kept Merlin warm enough before leaving him to sleep. The night was early still and Gaius hoped he slept through all of it.
Moments after Gaius left, Merlin whined again and his eyelashes fluttered open to reveal a glimpse of gold. "Fromum feohgiftum..." the words were quiet. "On fæder bearme. Fromum feohgiftum." Merlin's brow pinched and more words left his lips. "Hine on ylde eft gewunigen wilgesiþas, þonne wig cume."
A globe of blue light grew in Merlin's palm and he slept on, one more word leaving his lips in a plea. "Arthur," he whispered.
"Damn," the prince cursed, nearly missing a handhold on the rock face. Arthur felt his adrenaline fading away, and he risked a glance down to the chattering spiders below. He could not see them. "Come on, Arthur," he said to himself and reached for a place to grab onto. The rock under his fingers cracked and then crumbled, falling between them and down into the shadows where they hit a spider and caused it to snap its pincers menacingly. They were closer now and just when Arthur made the decision to draw his sword, a tiny pinprick of silver flickered in front of him. It swirled around and left a trail of light behind it, soon forming a globe of blue light that took Arthur's breath away. He stared at it for a moment, having the odd notion that it was staring back. Then it drifted upwards and hovered near Selwyn's fire.
The shadows moved below and Arthur could make out the spider's eyes, which sent a stab of fear through his gut. Looking upward he found that the globe of light illuminated the rock face and he immediately seized a gap he could haul himself up with. As he climbed, the light rose with him, never leaving him in darkness. It felt like an age with the blue orb guiding him but then cool air brushed his face and he peered upward to see a gaping hole in the rock ceiling and the night sky waiting for him. Selwyn's light flickered out but the orb stayed with him.
Hope kindled in his chest and he forced his limbs to move. "Prince Arthur!" Selwyn's voice called from above. The druid appeared amidst the dark sky and went to his knees, extending his hand to Arthur. The prince gave one last surge of strength and climbed faster. When he was close enough, Arthur launched his hand to Selwyn and the druid hauled him up. When he helped Arthur over the edge they both lost balance and stumbled back. Arthur drew his sword once he found footing and let it hover threateningly over the hole. Selwyn held his arm out in much the same manner but no spiders came pouring out. Their eyes met and they jogged away from the caves before the spiders could change their minds.
Both of them were breathing hard by the time they reached Arthur's horse. Hengroen whinnied when he saw Arthur and rocked his head. The prince walked to his horse and untied it, eager to get back to Camelot. Arthur turned to regard Selwyn. The tall man was staring at him and Arthur felt unnerved before he realized that the orb, above his shoulder, was the object of Selwyn's gaze.
"You helped me. Thank you," Arthur forced himself to say. The druid was sweating as well and Arthur noticed the hem of his cloak was burnt.
Selwyn did not reply right away but mouthed a single word the prince did not make out. He began to walk forward but Arthur's eyes were taken off him when the globe of light circled around and hovered in front of his face. It slowly faded out and then Selwyn was in front of him, looking collected once more.
"You got the flower. Give it to me and it will be all the thanks I need." Arthur's face immediately darkened and he took a step back. "Prince Arthur, I only want to help."
The prince's expression did not change. "You honestly expect me to trust you?"
Selwyn glowered angrily. "Mordred needs that flower now, every second counts."
"I'm not placing his life in your hands," Arthur informed him and bravely pushed past him.
Selwyn's hands twitched but he did not move. "Then ride fast, Pendragon," the druid warned.
Arthur nodded and vaulted onto his horse but he did not leave right away. "Why are you so interested?" he asked suspiciously.
Selwyn gave him a cold stare. "I am not one of the druids who want to harm Mordred."
Arthur frowned. "With that Isaac bloke then?"
"Yes, he's my brother."
Arthur blinked with surprise but did not see the resemblance, perhaps because he spent less time with the other druid man.
"Well, I'm grateful," Arthur told him even though the man used magic which admittedly made him highly uncomfortable.
Selwyn nodded. "Go now, and be wary. Those spiders belong to the sorceress who orchestrated this whole scheme and she does not wish you well."
Before Arthur could demand what he meant, the druid disappeared in a flurry of wind and he had to squint his eyes against the whipping dust. The prince was left momentarily nonplussed but then he remembered the mortaeus flower and spurred his horse on. The only rest he would receive on this way to Camelot would be in the saddle for he meant to ride as fast as his horse was able.
Arthur's arrival back in Camelot was not what he expected. Instead of being allowed through the gates, the guards stopped him and carted him to the dungeon no matter how much he threatened them. They threw him in the cell but could not hide their nervous grimaces. Arthur did not appease them and instead glowered at them until all but one retreated. A guard stood with his back to the door and looked ahead unruffled as the prince paced like an angry lion in the cell. He threw off his chainmail to the thin bedroll on the floor and resumed his pacing. The mortaeus flower was still in his pouch and completely useless to his servant.
Luckily he did not have to wait long until the familiar footsteps of his father thundered down the corridor. Arthur stopped prowling around the cell and tried to achieve a semblance of calm. He was in the upmost level of the dungeons and stared out the window on the far wall outside the bars of his cell. Uther strode into his view and silently ordered the guard to open the door. The second it was opened the king made his glare be felt. "You disobeyed me," Uther frowned.
"Of course I did, a boy's life is at stake," Arthur said impatiently, "Do not let Mordred die because of something I did."
"Why do you care so much? The boy is just a servant," the king said in genuine confusion.
Arthur responded at once. "He knew the danger he was putting himself in," he began and the king began to turn away in incredulity, disbelieving of his son's continued stupidity. Arthur's tone became louder in response to Uther's bearing. "And he knew what would happen if he drank from that goblet, but he did it anyway. He saved my life."
The king had now turned his back and Arthur could not rid his angered expression. "There's more," he stated, and his father turned around. He had a long time to think over Selwyn's words and he came to a single conclusion. "A sorceress must have known I was there for the flower, she set giant spiders on me. I don't think it was Bayard who tried to poison me."
"Of course it was," the king stated.
Arthur scowled but shoved his indignation aside. The fact that his father disregarded what he said was nothing new. He dug into his pouch and pulled out the morteus flower.
"Gaius knows what to do with it," the prince said and gave the flower to Uther. The king took it silently and Arthur went on with his appeal. "Put me in the stocks for a week, a month even, I don't care. Just make sure it gets to him. I'm begging you."
Arthur stepped back and resisted the urge to hold his breath. Uther's eyes were hard as he slowly crushed the flower in his gloved hand.
"No!" Arthur shouted and leaped forward. He stared at his father's closed fist and then into his ruthless eyes. They looked blue in the dull light of the dungeons.
"You have to learn there's a right and a wrong way of doing things. I'll see you're let out in a week," Uther said calmly and strode out the door. Arthur stared furiously after his father and stopped himself from saying something rash. His father turned to him again and said, "Then you can find yourself another servant." He let the mortaeus flower fall to the floor and strode down the hall, with his crimson cape billowing behind him. Arthur stared at the spot his father vacated in stark disbelief. Only when the door closed with a clang that he came to his senses. He dove to the floor and stretched his arm out of the bars to reach for the crushed flower.
After struggling for a few moments, Arthur reclaimed the flower and started to pace but stopped when he feared he would damage the mortaeus further. The hard riding and little rest caught up with him and he sank onto his bedroll and moved his chainmail aside so he could sit. He brooded and stared at the flower for what seemed like ages, every thought about Mordred and whether he would be alive. Arthur paid no attention to the light footsteps approaching or to the opening of his cell door until a gentle voice spoke.
"Food for the prisoner," a vaguely familiar voice said.
Arthur looked up and when he laid eyes on Morgana's maidservant, he didn't think he ever saw anyone more beautiful. There was still hope, but he dare not let his relief show. "Set it down over there," he ordered.
Guinevere hesitated but did as Arthur asked. She set it down on the small wooden table and stepped back, waiting for the prince to do something. Arthur stood up and began to walk over to the food. "Thank you," he said carelessly.
As he picked up the food, Gwen slowly shuffled back toward the door. "Wait a minute," the prince called out. With his back turned, no one saw him place the mortaeus flower on the plate. "I couldn't possibly eat this, it's disgusting." Arthur left the plate of food on the table and went back to his bedroll. "The state it's in, I'm not sure it's fit for anyone."
When the maidservant went back to retrieve it she smiled at the new addition to the food. Arthur tried to look casual as she walked out of the cell. When the door was closed and the guard back in place, Arthur allowed relief to touch his features.
Merlin was still asleep when the sun peeked out from around the clouds. The wane light trickled into the physician's chambers and accentuated the waxy quality of Mordred's skin. Breathing came difficult to him and he was moaning in pain. Morgana futilely tried to cool the young boy's brow but to no avail. He was burning up and sweating buckets while tossing fitfully.
They heard Gwen's running footsteps before the door burst open and Gaius, Morgana, and Selwyn looked up hopefully. "How is he?" Gwen wondered immediately, running to Gaius with the mortaeus flower in her fingers.
"Have you got the morteus?" Gaius asked.
"Here." She quickly gave it to the physician and Gaius gently took it.
"His breathing is much worse. We have to hurry." The physician strode to his work table and began to crush it with a pestle.
Gwen hurried to Morgana's side to see Mordred for herself. She looked worriedly at both the lady and at Selwyn across from them at the sound of his wheezing. The druid was leaning forward with his elbows on his knees and was looking tired. He did not mention where he had went the previous day and he had not slept, but his emerald eyes were still sharp.
Gaius paused and the suspension of motion caused them all to look at him.
"What is it?" Morgana rushed out.
"The poison was created using magic. We may need magic to make an antidote," Gaius answered. He glanced to Morgana but the lady had already turned to Selwyn.
"Well we have a druid right here," she pointed out. "We have to help Mordred."
No one contradicted her and Gaius marvelled that even Morgana would so blatantly disregard the laws. He was not unhappy about it however. Selwyn nodded and stood up, volunteering himself. "What must I do?" he asked Gaius.
The physician wasn't ashamed to be relieved that he would not have to do magic in front of the king's ward. He told Selwyn the incantation and gave him the mortar.
"Sythan arrest wearth feasceaft funden. Denum æfter dome. Dreamleas gebad he gewinnes longsum," Selwyn said the spell quietly but his words rang with power. The leaves in the bowl sizzled and bubbled into liquid. Selwyn gave it back to Gaius who rushed it back to his work table. The druid sat back down, utterly unruffled by the looks Morgana and Gwen were giving him.
The physician soon hurried back with a small vial containing the dark green potion and told Gwen to hold Mordred's nose. Morgana hurried out of the way and around the other side to give Gaius room. The old man leant over Mordred and tilted the bottle into the boy's mouth.
"Swallow, Mordred," he urged, "swallow it."
When the vial was empty Gaius drew back and everyone waited with bated breath for something to happen. The pressure was too much for Morgana and she seized Selwyn's hand with her own shaking one. Mordred's breathing visibly calmed but not in a good way. Morgana nearly fainted and Selwyn had to keep her up.
Just when Gaius thought that Mordred's chest would stop moving, his breathing evened out and became stronger. Everyone froze as the boy squinted and his eyebrows fluttered open. Morgana laughed out loud when Mordred's vivid turquoise eyes blinked at the ceiling and she surged forward to gather the boy in a hug. She was crying and Mordred tried to speak in his confusion. The lady drew back and ran her hands down his pale face, laughing and sobbing all at once. "You're alright, oh you're alright!" She brought him into a hug again and this time Mordred sank into it. His tired eyes looked around at them and stopped on Selwyn.
The druid could not resist grinning and he laid a hand on Mordred's damp head. "It's good to see you, Mordred."
The boy smiled tiredly in return and he looked around once more. "Where's Merlin?" he asked.
In answer the back door squeaked open and a morose looking Merlin climbed down the steps. When the child looked up he froze and his eyes centered on Mordred. Quicker than anyone thought possible, Merlin had climbed onto the bed and wedged himself between Mordred and Morgana, hugging the boy fiercely. The lady allowed Merlin the room and she wiped at her tearful eyes.
"What happened?" Mordred asked with his arms still around Merlin.
"You should rest," Selwyn told him, "there is plenty of time for answers later."
Gaius never thought he'd see Mordred smile at being told to rest, but considered that since it was Selwyn doing the ordering, he wasn't all that surprised.
Mordred blinked tiredly and his eyes remained shut. The boy's breathing became deep once more and the occupants of the physician's chambers let out a combined sigh of relief. Merlin decided to curl up beside his guardian but did not fall asleep. He clenched his fingers on Mordred's shirt and lay awake staring up at the older boy.
Morgana rested her hand on Merlin's head and combed his hair gently. "Everything is alright now, Merlin."
It was the next day when Arthur was let out of the dungeons. It was proven that the poisoned chalice was the work of a sorceress and Bayard had no involvement. He and his retinue were leaving Camelot in a rolling blue sea of people and horses. Arthur watched them from the battlements with Morgana and his father at his side.
"Okay," Morgana's voice chimed, "Let the bragging begin. How'd you manage it?"
Arthur looked at her and once again noted the dark circles under her eyes. Both of them had endured a few sleepless nights. Uther kept his gaze on Bayard's procession but tilted his head slightly, letting Arthur know he was listening.
"All I know is that I had help," Arthur told her, not keen to name Selwyn. "Someone knew I was in trouble... they sent a light to guide the way." The prince's eyes were trained below and did not see Morgana blink.
"I'm glad you made it back safely," she smiled. Arthur glanced at Uther and the king met his gaze but both men looked away. "I'm going to the physician's chambers."
Arthur turned toward her and seized the opportunity. "I'll escort you," he offered. Morgana nodded and led the way, giving Uther a particularly cool look as she did so. Arthur acknowledged his father before following her and leaving the king behind. They made their way in silence and Morgana picked up her pace when the door to the physician's chambers was in sight. Arthur trailed behind and slightly hesitantly looked in the chambers Morgana had hastened through.
The prince scanned the room and his eyes first travelled to Gaius who turned around from a bookcase near the back. "Mordred!" Morgana called happily. Arthur then followed her line of sight to the physician's bed. The former druid boy was sitting upon it, propped up by pillows and burdened with blankets. Mordred's skin was ashen and he had visibly lost weight but his lips curved up into a smile for them, looking more like a child than Arthur had ever seen him. Merlin was sitting cross-legged at the foot of the bed and gave them a much more exuberant smile than Mordred's. The small child lumbered off the bed as Arthur smiled cheekily at his servant.
"Still alive then?" Arthur opened his arm and let Merlin hug him. The small child did not let go so Arthur rested his hand on the back of Merlin's head.
Mordred breathed a small breath through his nose but did not reply right away since Morgana wrapped her arms around him. "Hello, Morgana," Mordred greeted in a tired voice. The lady pulled back and smiled warmly at him.
"How are you feeling?" she asked gently.
Mordred put a brave face on. "I'm alright," he responded and then looked gratefully at the prince. "Thanks to you, Sire."
Arthur brushed the gratitude away. "Yeah, well, it was nothing. A half decent servant is hard to come by. I was only dropping by to escort Morgana."
The lady glared hotly at him but Mordred did not mind. "I'm in your debt."
"I'd say we're even," Arthur declared. To get off the subject he searched for the physician. Gaius had wandered near the bed and tilted his head up when he caught Arthur's gaze. "How long before he can come back to work, Gaius?"
The physician thought for a moment. "Perhaps in a week. His body will need time to recover some strength." Mordred scowled but was mollified when Morgana rubbed his shoulder.
"And Gaius," the lady said, "remember that should you need anything, I'd be happy to arrange it for you."
A smile passed over Gaius' lips. "Thank you, my lady. We do appreciate it."
"I'm happy to help," Morgana smiled.
Gaius returned the sentiment and then flicked his eyes over to Mordred. The boy's head was bobbing up and down as he tried to fight sleep. Merlin looked up at Arthur and pressed a finger to pursed lips.
"Get some rest, Mordred" Arthur ordered and was obeyed without protest. Morgana patted down the blanket but did not move from her chair. The prince heard Merlin sigh so he tousled his raven coloured locks. Merlin gazed at him with big eyes and held his arms up, momentarily stumping Arthur with what he wanted. But then it occurred to the prince who was helpless to say no. So he obligingly lifted Merlin who laid his head on Arthur's shoulder and hugged his neck tightly.
Arthur exchanged a glance with Morgana who smiled a bit sadly. "Why don't you take him back to your chambers, Arthur? He hasn't been outside these quarters since the banquet," she said quietly.
The prince turned to look at Gaius who looked like he was considering it. His smile was placating. "It is perhaps not wise to separate them so soon."
"Yes, you're right, Gaius," Arthur conceded.
"I am sure Merlin will appreciate your company though, Arthur. One moment," Gaius said and shuffled around the chambers looking for something. Arthur did not have to wait long before the physician casted a disapproving stare to his work table. He grabbed a toy knight before advancing to the prince and Merlin. "This one is Sir Mordred."
Merlin turned his head on Arthur's shoulder and offered Gaius a small smile after grabbing the toy from the old man. "Don't cause trouble for Arthur, Merlin," Gaius bid gently but forcefully. Merlin nodded and increased his grip on the back of Arthur's collar.
Arthur nodded to him and Morgana before heading to the boys' room at the back.
When he closed the door behind him, he looked down at the boy in his arms. Merlin was staring up at him with his big eyes a little too avidly than was comfortable so Arthur offered a smile. "You look tired, Merlin," he noted.
The boy settled his head against Arthur's shoulder in reply and sighed softly. The prince brought the child to his bed and set him gently on it. Out of some strange instinct, Arthur tucked Merlin in and received a tired but bright smile in return.
"Sleep for a while, Merlin, everything is alright now," Arthur said quietly. And Merlin, whom Arthur was learning did exactly what he told him, closed his eyes.
The prince leant back and smiled before stifling a yawn. He decided to stay with Merlin for a bit rather than heading back to his own chambers. Arthur sat on the other bed and slumped fully onto it. He only meant to stare at the ceiling for a little while, he never considered falling asleep. But his exhaustion overcame him. When he was to wake in the morning he would find Merlin curled up against his side.
Well? I'm dying to know what you guys think of this! Originally I didn't have Merlin make the orb or speak but since so many of you were wondering about it, I realized that the first one needed to happen and the rest was history I suppose.
Thank you for reading! I hope it was up to snuff :)