TITLE:Into the Woods

CHAPTER/TITLE:Chapter One/Of Dirt and Memories

RATING:T (just to be safe)

A/N:I have just about ALL of this written! Whohoo. (only about half of it typed up so far) I love Merlin and I love Robin Hood so I had to combine them. Obviously, I'm bending time a bit here, but really? It's AU. And it's all fiction anyway. Takes place for Merlin, after 4x3. Takes place for Robin Hood, in between Seasons 1 and 2. The central focus is on Merlin, with lots of Robin, Much, Will, Djaq, John, Allan, Sheriff, Gisbourne, Marian in the beginning, and (DON'T WORRY) quite a lot of Arthur, Gwen, Gwaine, Percival, Elyan, Leon later. Enjoy!

DISCLAIMER:I don't own Merlin or Robin Hood.

Chapter One: Of Dirt and Memories

Into the woods we traveled, with little fear and dought,
Into the woods we traveled, with no way out.

Into the woods we traveled, with thoughts of the new day,
Into the woods we traveled, with you and me.

Into the woods we traveled, with hopes of a new way,
Into the woods we traveled, with no more cares of our ways.

Without Fear, We conquered the way
Without Sorrow, We sit here today

To tell this tale one more day, seems to be my only way
For into the woods we traveled, to never see the light of day

Brad Combs

The dirt danced depressingly underneath Merlin's boots. He kicked up loose ground as he trudged forward, watching wearily as it leapt lazily into the air and then fell back to the earth from which it came. It was an odd sort of thing. Merlin had walked plenty of roads before. But these were all new roads. New dirt. It was still from the same earth, but not nearly the same ground. He could even see the difference. They way the color dusted his shoes in a new shade. The stones he did not recognize. The weeds and plants he stepped over that he had never laid eyes upon before.

Same earth. Different land.

It was just as he was.

Same Merlin. Different life.

How everything had changed still sent tremors of emotions through his entire being. How even mundane things such as walking caused him deep thought.

The woods he hiked through now were beautiful. It reminded him of the forests in Camelot. He supposed it was the one familiarity he allowed himself to hold with his old life. He had retreated into the woods that day, and never left them. Wherever he traveled, he did so through the forests. It filled him with a sense of fondness and fear at the same time for it seemed that every time Merlin had found himself in the forest, he also found himself in trouble. He trembled as memories of his father fading in his arms, of Morgana, of a mace against his chest, of Arthur being shot with an arrow, of far too many horrors, came upon him.

Merlin braced himself for what he knew would come next. Once the gates were cracked open, he could never stop it.

He saw Gaius and his mother. He looked up Gwen's kind smile and remembered Gwaine's infectious, yet irritating, laugh. And always, he saw Arthur. Images of the king flooded him. All the teasing, laughter, shared secrets, moments of brotherhood, everything.

Including the very last time he saw his former master and friend.

Including the raw hate that had filled his face.

Merlin shook off the dirt and memories. He had to leave them behind. He had to leave Arthur behind.

So, the young traveler kicked up his feet and continued forward.

He was still clearing his head when the sound struck him. Horses. At least three of them. And men talking. It was something so ordinary, and yet, Merlin could not ignore the sudden burning warning in his stomach.

With a small glance behind him, Merlin stepped off the path and stole into the trees. He didn't know exactly why he was hiding, or what he was hiding from. Still, Merlin had been in enough dangerous situations that he no longer questioned this feeling.

The wizard waited quietly amongst the woodland as the strangers passed. As they seemed to take no notice of him, Merlin released a slight satisfied sigh. The sound soon shifted into a small scream as a blade bore into his back.

"Who are you and why are you spyin' on us?"

Merlin suddenly recalled the third horse that had strode by had been lacking a rider. He could have kicked himself for failing to realize he had been spotted sneaking into the shrubbery.

"I wasn't spying, honest," Merlin swallowed strangely as he spoke.

"So we now know who you are," the man spat. "A liar."

"I swear, I wa –"

The blade twisted threateningly against Merlin's coat and he fell silent.

"Name," his attacker grunted.

"Merlin."

"Where you from, boy?"

The traveler hesitated. He wasn't sure how truthful he should really be.

"Speak, or be silenced."

"I am from nowhere," Merlin quickly supplied. "I am a traveler. That is all."

"Nowhere, huh?" Merlin didn't need to be facing the man to know that he was sneering. "No home means no one to miss you. What'd ya think, Samuel?"

A full bodied man who seemed far too large to be riding any animal, let alone the poor beautiful white stallion he was currently drawing forward on. He eyed Merlin in a way that made the boy feel like a slab of meat.

"Scrawny," Samuel scoffed, "but he could still be useful. With slavery outlawed and Hood puttin' the fear 'a God into those traders, there ain't much on the market. Plenty 'a folk willin' to buy Christians. Not like the king'll ever know."

"We could always keep 'im for ourselves," a snake like man with charcoal hair that matched his horse sneered. "He looks – fun."

"Just so long as you don't accidently kill 'em the first night like the last one," the one Merlin still couldn't see spoke.

"He was fragile," the serpent hissed.

"Well, this one looks as breakable as a twig," the man behind Merlin chuckled.

Despite his circumstances, Merlin scowled. He didn't quite enjoy being spoken about as if he wasn't there, and he certainly didn't appreciate being described in such a way. People always underestimated him. Yet, of course, he couldn't much blame these men. Merlin knew he must look pretty pitiful. What, with walking nearly nonstop for days on end, hardly pausing for food or rest. And then there was his magic. Always there. Always pounding against the underside of his skin. Still, he caged it inside of him. Something that was so much a part of him, every part of him, being suffocated for such a long period of time – was killing him.

"We'll see what we can get for 'im," Samuel ordered. "If there are no takers, then he's all yours Micah."

Merlin didn't desire to be anyone's property, but he was certain that he most definitely did not want to be Micah's. Merlin cried out and struggled as suddenly strong arms seized him. His magic rushed to the surface, but Merlin swallowed it down. Sure no one else would see, but he still didn't want to risk something going wrong.

Again.

So, choking down his powers, Merlin was securely bound around his wrists. The rope lead like a leash to a cart behind Samuel's steed. Merlin studied the contents carefully. Weapons, suspected stolen goods and scraps of food. Of course the swords and other weaponry were kept near the front, far out of the captive's reach.

Merlin hated the forest.

He trudged along as the group of bandits began to move forward. This time he paid no attention to the dirt.

A/N: I know, starts a bit slow. Picks up soon! Oh, and if you're wondering why Merlin refuses to use his magic, you're not supposed to know – yet. Let's just say 4x3 of Merlin went a TAD differently.