Disclaimer: I don't own Merlin
He slouched against the wall with arms extended above in shackles, head pounding. His shoulders ached from the extended time in which his limp form strained them, but he lacked any strength to keep himself on his feet. His one and only hope of escape from the dungeons is to break the silver chains that cruelly wrapped and burned into the skin of his right forearm. They only burned hotter when he tried to reach his magic, when his first few days left him determined to break out.
Merlin was stupid.
If there was a word to describe him, it was stupid. Or idiotic, but he really rather avoid the idea of a smug Arthur when using the King's favorite insult against himself. Hell he probably deserved to suffer his King's prattish attitude for allowing himself to be caught; though it had been weeks since his imprisonment, Merlin kept thinking of it. Why did he not pay attention to his surroundings? He was easily handling the three sorcerers, but when Merlin injured one and the other two increased the ferocity of their attack, trying to keep the servant from gaining grounds. The warlock grew arrogant, seeing how the other sorcerers were frantic in their incantations. With his attention on the two remaining sorcerers, Merlin didn't notice when the third managed a spell, smashing the servant's head into the wall.
Waking up to consciousness was not pleasant. Morgana had been furious when she discovered Merlin was a sorcerer. The first two weeks was spent with Morgana tormenting the servant; she had the man beaten within an inch of his life, used wordplay and spells to destroy his mentality, and even allowed another sorceress to continue the man's endless suffering. Then the pain stopped, momentarily. Morgana had healed him with a request: the identity of the sorcerer, Emrys.
Merlin could laugh.
The one sorcerer Morgana wanted was already in the palm of her hand, and here she was asking him about Emrys. Yet the only thing Morgana managed to figure out was only one connection: if Gaius had known, then as his ward Merlin should as well. So began Morgana's questioning. Most of the time, it was the witch who entered the dungeon and asked about Emrys then tortured him when he refused to speak. Other times, she had her favorite sorceress go in her place. Either way, Merlin found himself in nonstop misery.
It was as he laid there contemplating his situation when he heard the footsteps echo from the dark hallway and stairs beyond. Moments later a light from a flickering torch pierced through the darkness and reached him from his cell. Holding torches, several guards marched past and stationed themselves before his cell before another figure approached. A dark figure dressed in a black lattice dress whose pale face and steel, green eyes framed by wild black hair, entered the room. Sitting atop her head laid a bejeweled crown. Behind her trailed a woman, hair just as dark held in a neat braid, body clad in a dark green tunic and leather. Her eyes were just as cruel.
"Hello Morgana," greeted Merlin, his voice strained. With a flash of gold, the prisoner found himself cringing against the walls as agony spiked throughout his entire body; with his typical brand of stubborn, Merlin kept his mouth shut as if deny the witch any pleasure from his cries.
"You will address me by my proper title. I will not have trash like you call me as a friend."
"I will not recognize you by a title that you do not deserve nor will I bow down before a false Queen."
"Do you have a death wish, Merlin? Continue as such and I will not hold back any more than I already have."
"So be it."
Morgana stared at the captured sorcerer. Then she knelt in front of him, making sure to be leveled with him so that their eyes made contact, as she continued to watch the servant.
"Why do you protect this kingdom?" Morgana asked, her tone revealed genuine curiosity.
"Because Arthur is the Once and Future King, I believe in the world he strives to create."
"You believe in the world of bloodshed and death. One where children are drowned for a gift they cannot deny and people are screaming as they burn upon the pyre." Morgana stated her face impassive but her eyes full of hate.
"No, I believe in the world of the Once and Future King who will bring peace and union across Albion," argued Merlin, "Which makes me wonder, why you will want to hunt down Emrys-"
Merlin was interrupted when Morgana hand came flying and slammed into the side of the warlock's head. The hit only served to intensify the headache he already had as he involuntarily gave a low groan.
"Emrys is nothing more than a coward, one who hides behind anyone foolish enough to help him," snarled Morgana.
"Bringing about an age of peace between magic and non-magic people is deemed cowardice?"
"Lying low and hiding behind a king to survive while more and more people are persecuted is what I call cowardice. I suggest you choose your side wisely. You give me the information I seek, you go free and get to live a life in comfort for the rest of your life, though you hardly deserve it."
"I will never tell you anything."
"Then you leave me no choice," Morgana stood, turned on her heel, and began toward the door, stopping only to give one last glance at the bound servant before she turned to the young woman who stood silently in the corner of the cell, "Tara, make him scream."
"I'll get him to talk milady," the woman, Tara, bowed her head.
"He won't talk yet. He's too stubborn in his loyalty to Arthur," said Morgana, a smirk grew on her face, "just make him scream, show him where he stands right now. When you're done, I want you in the throne room."
"Yes, milady," the woman gave one last bow before Morgana left, taking with her the few guards that stood outside the cell.
Tara turned to Merlin, pacing around her prey as she began to measure the current state of the servant. Merlin allowed his head fall onto his chest, eyes drooping. He didn't know how much more he could take of this; it was only a matter of time before he snapped. He could barely stay conscious now as he heard the woman chant the language of the Old Religion that promised him pain.
Though his magic was bound, Merlin believed he might be able to overpower the restraints; grit his teeth against the pain and break his magic free. After over a month chained, he felt his magic burn within him, the power building against the chains. It had been the longest time he had gone without magic, a magic not meant to be kept restricted. It was all Merlin could do to not break out, lash out against his tormentors and stop Morgana's reign.
But Merlin knew he was too weak. Morgana's treatment had ensured it. Her sorcerers alone provided more than a challenge for the young warlock but to go against witch's sorcerers, creatures and soldiers as well? Hell, he would have better chance at convincing Arthur to give him a day off than break the chains and face an army.
All he could do was hope and wait for the opportune moment, one that Merlin was resigned to wait for as the pain began to pierce through his body
Screams began to echo through the hallway again.
Even in an ally's castle, the battlements were still perfect for quiet thoughts as the King of Camelot leaned against the walls, elbows resting on top with hands clasped, as he took in the view of the land. Nemeth may not have had as much power and grandeur Camelot had but that did not mean the land was not beautiful; however, said beauty was the last thing among Arthur thoughts.
Arthur was miles away, his thoughts mused over his own kingdom. Back to the kingdom that was still beneath Morgana's control in a little over five weeks. Though he tried to push the images from his mind, Arthur could not help but think back to the panic and fear the populace held as they tried to run and hide from Morgana's ruthless army. Even if they had known she was approaching, Arthur knew they stood little chance. The Blood Guard and army King Alined provided alone would have been more than a challenge against Camelot, but the added sorcerers and creatures was enough to slaughter the defenders of Camelot. It was all anyone could do to get the King and Queen out of the citadel.
The attack occurred within mere minutes of the guard's report. The soldiers were brutal as they charged through the lower town, cutting down all they met. In their midst, sorcerers stood proud as they shielded the men from the brunt of Camelot's retaliation; arrows stopped mid-flight were returned, swords were deflected off an invisible barrier, knights were thrown from their feet. Yet those were not all there was to Morgana's army, nor were the sorcerers the biggest worries. None matched the true horror the creatures of the Old Religion brought forth.
Arthur could not help but shudder when he remembered the beasts that flooded into lower town; the way the savages tore through the people as if they were nothing but parchment. They appeared in the form of ferocious lions, their spines lined with wicked spikes while their teeth and claws stained in the blood of their victims. The fur blended into scales towards the tip of what should have been its tail but, instead, was the head of a serpent. The serpent's eyes gleamed red with bloodlust equal to its feline counterpart, its reflexes not stunted as they quickly struck anyone who dared to be near. The deadly duality of the creature ensured that those few who were able escape the lion's maw fell before the fatal bite of the snake. Thus, with Camelot's forces out matched, the despair settled heavily among the ranks.
The King clenched his hands once more, his eyes observed the ways the muscles tightened turned his knuckles white. It was in this position, clenched fist by the battlement walls, that Princess Mithian found Arthur. She hesitated monetarily at the sight of the King before she strode to stand beside the man.
"Gwen was looking for you," Mithian said as she beheld the landscape. Arthur gave a slight nod but said nothing. "The patrols have returned."
"What have they found," Arthur sighed and relaxed his hand before once again leaned into the wall.
"Morgana has the border well protected. It seems she knows your location; however, we have yet to see her act upon it. We can hope that remains as such, we are still gathering our army and the messengers have not returned from the other kingdoms. We are not prepared for an attack from Morgana."
Silence fell upon the two as Arthur absorbed the information. From what they had gathered from patrols and the confession Gaius had made soon after the handful of them escaped the citadel, Arthur knew just what caused Morgana's hesitation in an invasion Nemeth; what stilled her hand in fear.
Emrys' identity remained concealed.
"Welcome Sir Knights of Camelot. I hope your accommodations are to your satisfaction."
Knees slammed into the stonework as guards dragged and pushed down three men before Morgana, who stood tall before the throne. Behind her, to the right, stood a young maiden with raven hair braided into a ponytail while clad in a simple green tunic and dark leather pants and boots. Though slightly faded, blood splatters could be seen on her clothes. Her young face feigned innocence while eyes betrayed the sinister personal beneath. To the left was King Alined. He stood stock still, his unfocused eyes stared off into the distance.
"For a man who obsessed with war and weaponry, he is awfully quiet now," laughed Morgana, watching as one of the knights, Gwaine, observed the king, "Then again the fool bit more than he can chew when he tried to control me with that pathetic excuse of a sorcerer. How the table have been turned."
"You will step down from the throne, Morgana. You have no right to the crown!" shouted Leon from where he knelt between Gwaine and Percival.
"I have more right than your precious Arthur! I alone can bring justice the people of this kingdom are sorely in need of!"
"And what kind of justice do you preach when the people stay within their homes in fear. Let's face it witch, you're not exactly an inspiration of security and compassion," came Gwaine's sarcastic reply.
With a flick of her wrist, Gwaine's head crashed down into the ground, the force of the impact left him briefly dazed while the guards stepped forward once again to straighten the knight back into a kneeling position.
"I suggest you hold your tongue, knight, else I might slip again." sneered Morgana.
"I suggest you release me and my friends and leave else I might slip my sword between your ribs and rid this world of another monster," Gwaine's response dripped with hatred as he glared at the witch, "What the hell are you doing to Merlin. I will have your heart fed to the dogs if you dare touch him!"
"My, my, my. Someone doesn't appreciate his evening entertainment. Why I thought you would have loved to know your friend was still alive."
"What use is it to you to torture a servant? Why are you keeping him alive?" Percival finally spoke up, concern only noticed by the friends that knelt beside him.
"I must admit, part of it is for my own satisfaction to have that pest squirm" Morgana giggled before twisting her face into a snarl, "though you are correct, he would be long dead if it was just that. Merlin has information I seek, so until he has told me I will ensure he stays alive. I will break him."
Gwaine gave his own laugh, "You would have more luck keeping me from drink than you would in getting Merlin to betray anyone to you. When the rightful King is restored back upon the throne, I will make sure you suffer every punishment you forced on my friend."
Morgana's fury flared once again before she composed her face and her eyes cooled into a simmering anger, "I am the rightful Queen of this land, and you will pay for your impudence. Guards, take them, but leave Sir Leon. Strip them of their armor, give them rags. I want them collared and chained; they will be nothing more than slaves. Allow no one to show them any sympathies, anyone who does will join them, and make sure they are properly punished for even the smallest mistakes. Tara?"
At the sound of her name, the woman beside her stepped forward and gave a small bow to Morgana beside her.
"I want you to prepare Sir Leon to bring Arthur a message. Make sure he understands his current situation."
Orders given, Morgana rose from the throne and turned away, taking a side door to leave the room. At her departure, the guards stepped forward and took ahold of Gwaine and Percival. Though they struggled to remain beside Leon, the guards forcibly escorted the knights from the room. The last they saw of their friend before the door was closed was of him, back straight and chin up, waiting as the woman, Tara, predatorily approached the man, her eyes held the faintest flickers of gold.
Under the orders of the witch, the two knights found themselves back in their cells clad in tattered clothing, heavy chains that kept their arms from moving more than a shoulder width apart, and a collar that bit coldly into each one's neck. With a sigh, Percival slumped against the far wall and watched Gwaine as he began to pace across the room, chains clinked as his fist clenched before he stopped at a wall and slammed his fist, with as much force he was capable of while chained, against the wall.
"Damnit!" cursed Gwaine as he stared at his bloodied knuckles.
"Damnit…" he repeated, his voice came out as nothing more than a strangled whisper. It was awhile before Gwaine once again spoke up, his voice tried but failed to keep a light tone.
"After five weeks in here, I started thinking she had forgotten about us."
"It was as if she just realized we were here," Percival agreed. It was minutes afterword that, deeper down the hallway, screaming could be heard reverberating through the dungeons.
"I can only assume that whatever distracted her has to do with the information Merlin possess," Gwaine murmured as his face paled and fist clenched again while staring into the direction of the screams.
The two stayed in silence as they allowed the screams to envelop them; neither had a wish to speak through the sounds of their friend's torment. The past five weeks were brutal for the knights for though part of their stress came from the anxiety of what was to come, what decision Morgana would have to deal with the most loyalists of knights to Arthur, it also came from the knowledge that Merlin was being tortured.
Gwaine began to think back to the moments after Camelot had fallen to the witch when the two of them and Leon were thrown into the cell together; they were given little food, little water, and forced into a cell much too small for three full-grown men. It was during the third hour of waiting and initial plans of escape when they heard footsteps approach. Quickly the trio quiet down and watched in anticipation to see what news the footsteps brought of their fate.
First Morgana appeared before them, causing the knights to tense up when they expected her to turn to their cell. Much to their surprise Morgana merely gave them an indifferent glance as she past them and continued further into the dungeons. Six guards who walked in two columns flanked her, but it was the middle pair that grabbed the attention of the knights. Held between them was the slumped form of a familiar servant. Merlin was unconscious and pale; from beneath his hair, blood ran down his face, a possible reason for the servant's current state.
Leon and Percival froze in shock and Gwaine rushed the front of cell, hands wrapped around and shook the bars as he shouted obscenities after the witch, who had long been gone with her men, demanding that she released Merlin.
When the screams started, Gwaine grew only more desperate. He banged against the bars with all his strength; an irrational belief consumed him that he could knock down the bars and defeat those who caused his friend agony. But the bars would not budge and the screams continued relentlessly. It felt as if hours passed before they stopped, whether Morgana relented or the servant lacked the strength and voice to express his agony, the knights did not know. Leon and Percival could only watch in sympathy, concern for their mutual friend gleamed in their eyes, as Gwaine slumped in defeat, his hands bloody from beating against the bars.
Now the all too familiar screams continued. Gwaine could not help but feel he was partly responsible from their confrontation with Morgana. Oh how he hated sitting around, doing nothing, while he knew his friend was suffering. What kind of person was he if he could not even save his first true friend from torture? How could he just stand there and allow it? No matter how much Gwaine knew that nothing could be done, it did not stop the guilt from consuming him every time the screams began.
By the expression of Percival face, Gwaine assumed that the fellow knight was of similar mind.
AN: Well here's the first chapter, hope you guys enjoyed it. I can say one thing, I glad I took the time to get this fic organized since I have this story, for the most part, outlined to keep from forgetting things ^^
I gave it a read through and edited as best as I can so if I missed any grammar/spelling issues let me know so I can fix it and learn to avoid the same mistakes.
Thanks for reading, and constructive criticisms and reviews are welcomed!