AN: Um... two years later?

So, a quick, explanation... I moved out of country... and while I was out of country I moved a total of nine times, trying to learn a different language and constantly doing volunteer work... While also becoming severely depressed for several months.

And then I got back... and well, life was hectic, I feel that is safe to say... and then I thought you know, I should get back to this story... (By the way all of the support you guys have sent along has been amazing...) Unfortunately, I've been struggling with depression again. Things are hard right now. Really hard. I'm trying to figure out life, and trust me, it doesn't want to be figured out.

Plus there have been some family emergencies and hospitalizations... It's been a mess.

Anyways, to sum things up, I made a promise to myself that I would, no matter what post something by tomorrow. And I know this is short... and hopefully not to terribly disappointing, but I'm trying really hard... I want to try and update on a weekly basis, and after this really short chapter I'm hoping the rest of them will be more up to snuff.

There's not much more time left with Merlin in Ealdor... he's going off to Camelot soon... Yay for Camelot!

Thanks for your support... Hopefully there is somebody out there who still wants to read this... if not, well, I suppose I only have myself to blame!

Anyways, I don't own Merlin. Just so you know... But, you're all clever, you already knew that. So we shouldn't have any problems.

But here you go! Let me know what you think...

Merlin was walking alone today, Will was spending the day with his Father and having finished his chores Merlin was off to go and talk to Bartholomew, Archimedes perched on his shoulder, appearing to be asleep. Percival smiled at that.

Merlin turned the corner, "Oh, hello there!" The group turned the corner after him and found Merlin face to face with an old woman. It looked like a casual passing of the ways, but Percival felt a cold thrill rush down his back. There was something wrong.

The old woman smiled at the young boy. "Why Hello, and what's your name young man?" The fifteen year old Merlin seemed to grow a little at the thought of being called a man.

"Merlin, and your name, ma'am?"

The woman hesitated. "Heumin. It's nice to meet you Merlin. I don't suppose you could do me a small favor could you?"

"Of course Ma'am!"

"I'd just like to take a rest, these old bones are ever so tired. I don't suppose you could take some time to keep an old woman company."

Merlin nodded and walked the woman over to Bartholomew and sat with her in the trees shadow. The whole group sat around them. Percival couldn't get rid of the feeling of wrongness that was racing through him.

The woman was watching Merlin as they chatted, there was this terrible calculating look in her eyes. Who was she?

The woman smiled at reached forward to grab her bag which was a few inches out of her reach, pausing, almost dramatically, she seemed to wait just a moment, Merlin moved to pass the bag to her when suddenly it flew into the woman's hand.

Merlin gasped, and Percival stared as the woman's eyes glowed gold. A look of fear passed through the woman's eyes.

"I… I… Oh you won't tell will you? I'm just an old woman, I never intend to harm a soul." The words were similar to the words that Merlin had said to Will, but there was something different to them.

Merlin shook his head. "Of course not. Of course I won't."

The woman cocked her head. "You aren't afraid of magic?"

Merlin shrugged. "Um… No?" He seemed uncertain of how to answer. The old woman seemed to be thinking.

"Hmm, now that I think about it, there is a feel to you."

Percival suddenly felt very very bad about this. Merlin seemed to be unsure as to how to respond.

"You don't perhaps also happen to have magic, now do you?" It was said gently, kindly. But Percival was screaming inside, wanting to pull Merlin away.

Merlin looked scared.

"You can trust me. We're alike the two of us." The old woman smiled at him. "Don't worry."

Merlin seemed to take comfort from her words, they began to chat again. But there was a look in the woman's eyes.

The scene shifted. It was similar, the two were talking again under the tree Bartholomew. Percival heard the woman laugh a little, before saying, rather despondently "No, boy, I'm afraid…" She sighed, "Never mind. You're far too young to help me." There was a small protest from Merlin before the scene shifted once more.

They two were sitting under the tree again. "Is something wrong Heumin? You often seem as though there is something unspeakably terrible bothering you."

She seemed to hesitate, "I don't wish to burden you my boy."

The fifteen year old hesitated, "It's no burden."

"I'm dying, there's a terrible curse upon me. And the only way to revoke the curse is if I could find someone to help me with a terribly difficult spell."

"I could help you!"

The old woman sighed, "No no, It's far too difficult, and a little dangerous."

"No really! I can!"

The woman seemed to hesitate… "Perhaps…" There was a look of victory in her eyes.

"Don't do it Merlin!" Percival was surprised to realize that the words had come from his own mouth.

Gwaine turned to him. "You feel it too?"

Percival nodded, "There's something wrong with this whole thing."

Gaius was nodding. "I know of no one named Heumin, but nonetheless she seems frightfully familiar to me. I feel that this bodes ill."

The old woman and Merlin had moved positions and the woman was whispering something in Merlin's ear.

She pulled away "Do you think you can repeat that exactly?"

Merlin nodded.

"Say them for me." Merlin said something that Percival didn't understand.

The old woman corrected him, and they repeated the words until Merlin had it.

Gaius was staring horrified, "No! She can't… Merlin… No…"

Percival noted that Mordred looked similarly terrified.

"What is it? Gaius, what is she trying to have him do?" Gwen seemed terrified, there was an air of near hysteria pulsing through each of them.

Gaius never had a chance to enter, Merlin had chanted the words again, and his eyes glowed gold, just as the old woman said her own words while gesturing angrily.

There was a flash of light… and Merlin was gone.

Gwen screamed and threw herself forward. Percival just stared blankly at the spot where Merlin had been. He couldn't hear anything that was going on around him, all he could hear was a blank roar in his ears, inside he was raging, he turned to the old woman who looked supremely victorious. Her eyes glinted gold again and suddenly there was a much younger looking woman before them.

Gaius gasped, "Nimueh."

The woman was staring forward at the tree, "The old religion was whispering of you boy, of how you were to help the filthy Pendragons. I assure you, they will receive no help from our kind. Not after what they've done." And with that she disappeared.

Chaos reigned. "Gaius, what has she done to him?" Gwen was in tears, and they all turned towards him.

It was Mordred though who answered. "She's locked him in the tree." He was in shock, and staring blankly at the tree they all knew as Bartholomew.

Percival turned and stared at the tree, not even questioning how Mordred knew that. He stepped forward blankly and rested his hand on the tree. For one moment he could feel the rough bark and then suddenly everything was gone.

He struggled to describe what was going on around him. There was an intense feeling of being encased, he turned around and saw Merlin sitting there curled in a ball staring out blankly.

Percival moved forward hesitantly, "Merlin?"

There was no response, not that Percival had expected one.

Merlin's eyes flashed gold, and for a moment Merlin seemed to shimmer. But then he solidified again. Again and again it happened. Merlin seemed near tears. "There's no way out. No way out!" He was shaking violently and Percival ached to be able to help him.

The two of them remained there, in the small area that was the trunk of Bartholomew. Percival wondered silently why the rest of the group hadn't followed him in. Perhaps they couldn't. In the end it didn't matter, he was here with Merlin. He didn't even try to move to see if he could leave, if Merlin wasn't leaving then he wasn't either.

Merlin's shakes seemed to be calming down. And Percibal was surprised to hear him speak again, and rather calmly at that. "Well. Bartholomew, I guess we're going to end up even closer friends for this experience don't you think."

Percival seemed to feel the tree shake a little, almost as though the tree was laughing. Merlin seemed to take it that way at least.

"It's not funny!"

There was a soft noise and Percival blinked in surprise when a figure appeared next to him staring fondly at the boy before the two of them. It was a tall man with dark rugged brown hair, he looked a strong figure, Percival wouldn't want to try and fight him, and he knew that he himself was a big man.

"No child, I suppose it's not." Percival just stared in shock. Merlin only seemed a little surprised.

"Is there no way out?"

The man smiled softly, "Worry not child, I can help you out. The witch Nimueh chose the wrong tree to entrap you in."

"Why did she do it… I thought we were the same?"

"It is not your skill with magic that defines either of you, it's your heart. And your heart is far purer than hers."

Merlin seemed lost. "But why? Why would she do this to me?"

Bartholomew seemed to ponder the question. "Her heart is filled with fear… and anger… and hate… and in the end, all that will lead to, is suffering. Be wary child, for you too live a life of fear. You must not let it turn to anger."

Merlin nodded. "I think I understand." And there was a look on his face that told Percival that he really truly did.

"Now let me help you out of here young warlock, I fear that you've been in here some time, I am not used to having to find a human shape, were it not for your magic I fear I would not have succeeded."

Merlin smiled, "I'm glad you're here Bartholomew."

"I am glad as well. Now concentrate."

There was a flash of gold and Merlin started to shimmer again, Bartholomew spoke one last time "And Merlin, I will always keep your secret."

The world screamed out of focus and Percival gasped for air as he landed painfully on his side. He looked up to see the rest of them in a similar position.

Merlin was lying in the middle of the group, panting in exhaustion.

"Well, Bartholomew… I think I'm going home. I'll see you tomorrow."

And then the world went white.

"Well, that was… utterly terrifying on so many levels." Gwaine was the first to speak and he sounded a lot like he was trying to stay calm but was losing the battle.

"Wait, did the rest of you make it into the tree?"

They all nodded. Percival frowned, it made sense he guessed, there wasn't space for all of them, but since… well, since they weren't really there they had probably all encompassed the same space, but therefore had been unable to see each other.

"Who was that woman?" It was Elyan.

Gaius sighed, "A witch. She… has never forgiven the Pendragons or Camelot for the purge. Apparently… Well, she must have seen something that told her that Merlin would eventually help Arthur, and well, she wouldn't have wanted that."

"Nimueh. I've heard that before haven't I?"

Gaius just sighed. "Oh, we'll be seeing her again. That's for sure, I'm sure all of your questions will be answered then."

Percival just sighed. He was tired of all the unanswered questions. He was a simple soul, and it seemed that Merlin's story was anything but simple. But, he did want to understand, he wanted to understand what had made Merlin into the person that he was. What he'd lived through, what he'd fought, experienced, suffered… and how he was still one of the kindest men Percival knew.

A man who had, as Bartholomew said, lived a life of fear… but somehow had never fallen into anger and hatred.

Now that was strength.

AN: Well, review? Tell me what I need to work on? It's been a while since I've really written... A long long while... So, help me figure out where I'm struggling, tell me what you want to see, and I'll see if that's something I can fit in... No promises...

But... well, reviews make me happy and I need to know that this is being seen and liked? Yeah, that sounds accurate.