AN: I own my minor OC and that's it.
This is going to be a short little story - four chapters, to be exact. They are mostly already written, so expect quick updates.
Also, anyone who's following If Only is not allowed to yell at me, because I wrote this to try and get rid of my writer's block.
The sun trickled through the branches and speckled the ground on which two horses plodded across. One held a blonde man with a red cape that cascaded down his back, the other tall, lanky and black-haired, wearing a neckerchief and brown jacket.
"Do you actually know where this man is?" The servant asked.
"Of course, Merlin," the king replied. "I told you this already."
"You said you knew the vague, general location," Merlin insisted.
Instead of responding, the king paused, a thoughtful frown on his face.
"That's not on the map," he said slowly. Merlin followed his gaze and saw a rickety bridge spanning a small ravine. It was not unlike the one Grettir had guarded on the way to the palace of the Fisher King.
Arthur pulled out one of the many maps in the pack strapped to his horse. Rolling it out, his eyes scanned it, examining the different landmarks closely.
"We should be around here," he said slowly, pointing to a spot, "because we just passed that lake there. But this looks like the only way across for several miles." Why wouldn't it have been marked? It seemed fairly important...
"Maybe it's more recent," Merlin said with a shrug.
"Look at the state of it! There's no way that thing is new," the king replied, eying the frayed ropes and splintering planks.
The warlock shrugged again. "So, it's not on the map. Must have been a slip up. Let's just go across it and see if we can find any of the other landmarks."
He started to urge his horse forward, then stopped. The hairs on the back of his neck stood up, and he stared around.
He sensed magic.
And then, before he could voice his suspicions to Arthur, a brown-haired woman in a green dress appeared out of nowhere right in front of the bridge.
Arthur's sword was out in heartbeat, the distrust he felt at any sign of magic flaring within him. For she was obviously magical, how else could she have appeared out of thin air?
To further prove his point, her eyes flashed and Arthur's sword disappeared.
"Who are you?" he demanded.
The woman did not seem perturbed by his less-than-welcoming tone. Her soft hazel eyes bore no malice, and she smiled an innocent smile at them. Still, the king regarded her with utmost suspicion.
"My name is Farah," she said cheerily. "And you are Arthur Pendragon, king of Camelot."
"How do you know my name?" Arthur said almost immediately, his wariness visibly growing.
"I know, that's all that matters," she said. "No need to look so worried, I'm not going to hurt you."
He didn't look reassured. "What do you want, then?"
"Only to lend destiny a hand. It's been a rather long wait, thought I'd help by speeding things up a little."
At this, she gave Merlin a significant look, and he felt nervousness bordering on panic roil in his gut. Did she mean what he thought she meant? He tried to communicate silently, pleading with her to stop and just let them pass, but she ignored it.
Be calm, Emrys. Do not worry so much. It may not end as badly as you think.
Arthur, oblivious as ever, looked even more confused. "And...what exactly does that mean?"
"Simple," Farah told him. "I will let you pass, but there is one thing you must do first - something you must both agree on."
"And that would be...?"
Farah smiled. "Allow me to show you both the other's worst fear."
The silence that followed was a tense one. Both king and servant stared at her in shock.
"That's a rather...personal request, isn't it?" Arthur said slowly.
Farah shrugged. "You don't have to. But it's my condition, and taking another route will add at least another day to your trip. And that's a while to leave your people who are suffering from a plague while you try and find the only one who can end it, is it not?"
The king visibly stiffened at this second blatant display of knowledge she should not have. He stared at her, apparently considering.
"Arthur, you can't actually be thinking of doing this-?"
"We may have no choice, Merlin," Arthur replied wearily. "I don't like it either, but she's right, the longer we delay, the more people suffer." He looked his servant in the eye. "I realize what she is asking of you. Can you do it for Camelot?"
Merlin deflated. I'm being selfish, he thought. Would he really allow more suffering to happen because he wanted to keep his secret?
He knew he had to do it. But that didn't shake the fear bubbling up in him. All he'd been expecting was the usual quest with Arthur. This...was so abrupt. He had mere moments to reconcile with the fact that Arthur was probably going to know his secret shortly.
But then the faces of those suffering from the foreign illness that had been brought from far off by a traveler entered his mind, along with Gaius' helpless explanation that he had no knowledge of how to cure it, and that he would have to find the healer from the place it originated from if Camelot wasn't to be wiped out. The disappointment when he realized the sickness was immune to his magic. He swallowed, trying and failing to quell his nerves.
Arthur noticed how pale Merlin was looking. He himself felt nervous. He always felt awkward whenever it came to sharing emotions. But, thinking about it, he suddenly realized something and turned back to Farah.
"I don't even know what my worst fear is." It seemed like he had so many...what was his worst?
"Don't worry," Farah replied. "The spell will know."
Arthur had suspected magic was going to be involved, but he still didn't like it. He frowned as Farah continued.
"And, of course, since everyone naturally fears their own death, you won't see the other dying, unless dying in a specific way is their fear. Also, your fear will probably be fairly vague, so a scenario will be created, and you will see it as though in a dream. For example, if someone were afraid of, say, fire, you wouldn't just see an image of a flame, but instead something like a situation where they were trapped in a burning building. If someone were afraid of drowning, you would not just see water but most likely see that person on a boat and then falling overboard and drowning."
She paused, and Arthur got the feeling she was about to add something unpleasant. He wasn't wrong.
"Unfortunately, you will literally be living it from their point of view, so you will hear their thoughts and feel their pain, both physical and emotional."
Both warlock and king cringed. "Fine," Arthur said gruffly. "Let's get this over with."
Looking satisfied, Farah motioned for them to stand in front of her, facing each other. She held a hand up to each of them, hovering slightly next to the sides of their heads, and her eyes glowed.
"Interesting," she murmured as the glow died down.
"What?" Merlin asked, trying to ignore the dryness of his mouth and the frantic thudding of his heart.
"You both have two very prominent fears...and there is one fear you share. I will show you the ones you don't have in common."
"Which fear do we share?" Arthur asked, genuinely curious.
She looked at him. "The fear that something bad will happen to those close to you because you failed to protect them."
The king couldn't help the slight shiver that ran down his spine. Yes, that was certainly a fear of his. He looked at his servant, who was paler than ever and couldn't help being slightly surprised that Merlin felt so strongly the same way. After all, it wasn't really his duty to protect anyone.
For the first time, Arthur felt a prickle of curiosity. What was his servant's greatest fear?
He took a deep breath. He wasn't quite sure why he was this nervous. Pushing away his doubts, he nodded.
"Let's start with the king, shall we?"
Farah's eyes glowed, and Arthur was sucked into darkness.