Pairing/s: Merlin/Arthur (if you want - who knows where it will go)
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Leon, Gwaine, Percival, Lancelot, Elyan
Summary: Arthur had been missing for months. Merlin wasn't sure he had found him.
Word Count: 999
Prompt: Calm before the Storm
Author's Notes: Not sure this is really horror but I tried.
Merlin waited long enough for one of the knights to react to his call before setting off again at a run. He knew they were close now, he could feel it. After months of searching for the missing prince, Merlin knew this was no dead end or false lead.
An imposing castle rose in front of him, emerging from the mist. Merlin would have suspected magic, but he couldn’t feel anything untoward. That was what had made it so frustrating. He had lost Arthur to simply bandits, both of them being overwhelmed. No magic had been involved in the attack.
But sensing no threat now meant Merlin plunged on, ignoring Leon’s warning shout. The knights had been with him during every search, but they didn’t understand Merlin’s urgency. Arthur wasn’t his friend and leader; he was his destiny. Each day that passed without finding him killed Merlin a little more.
Gwaine ran past, Percival on his heels as they overtook Merlin. Merlin forced himself to slow his head-long charge, knowing the knights wouldn’t let him in first anyway. Lancelot fell into step with him, offering a reassuring smile. Out of all of them, he would understand Merlin’s desperation, would be aware of how close they were just because of Merlin’s reaction.
Without realising it, Merlin slowed to a walk, his gaze fixed unblinking on the castle ahead. He was certain he felt no magic, but something was giving him pause.
“What is it?” Lancelot asked, his voice quiet. Leon and Elyan peeled off, heading to the left while Gwaine and Percival went right. Merlin shook his head quietly.
“I’m not sure.”
He was telling the truth. He couldn’t sense anything, yet a trickle of uneasy spread down his back and caused him to shiver.
“Something isn’t right.”
“I’ve found the way in!”
The rest of the knights reacted to Gwaine’s shout before Merlin could say anything else. He didn’t know what there was to say. He was convinced Arthur was here and knew nothing would stop his friends from reaching their prince. Merlin didn’t know how to ask them to be cautious when there hadn’t yet been any sign of life.
The entrance was a half-concealed tunnel, brambles and rubble partly blocking it. But there was room for them all to scramble in. Merlin picked up a branch and pretended to fiddle with a flint as his eyes flared gold and set the head ablaze. They quickly lit a few more branches and ventured further in.
Merlin shivered again and this time, it was because of the cold. The castle felt deserted. Merlin sent a trickle of power ahead of them, adamant he wouldn’t let any more friends be taken from him by an unexpected ambush. But he couldn’t sense anything and could do nothing other than follow the knights further in.
The tunnel curved upwards and the men walked in silence. Merlin’s heart was thudding uncomfortably hard; he was surprised the others couldn’t hear it. Gwaine suddenly disappeared from view and Merlin started forward, only to realise the tunnel had given way to the main part of the castle. He brushed past Leon, hurrying forward to scramble through the gap after Gwaine.
Merlin stared into the depth of the castle, looking first one way, then the other. As the other knights entered behind him, he shut his eyes and let his magic escape again. This time, he could sense a definite life-force. He didn’t recognise it as Arthur’s, but wondered after a few months apart, whether his magic was still tuned to the prince in the same way. Lack of recognition didn’t stop him and he moved forward.
“This way,” he repeated. Only this time, his voice was a soft murmur rather than a shout. The knights had learnt to trust his sense of direction over the last few months and they followed without question. Merlin glanced back and saw Leon had his hand on his sword and Gwaine was clutching a dagger. They too, clearly, sensed the same unease as Merlin.
They moved through the castle in silence and Merlin tried to stop himself from shivering. No one was here, no fires or torches had warmed these corridors for some time. But his magic detected a life-force and Merlin wasn’t giving up.
It came as no surprise when his power led him down a set of crumbling steps and into what appeared to be a dungeon. The knights instantly fanned out, searching the cells. But Merlin move slowly towards the final cell, his palms sweaty and his mouth dry. Pushing on the door, Merlin stared.
If he didn’t know every inch of his prince so well, Merlin wouldn’t have known who he was staring at. Arthur didn’t react and from what Merlin could see of him, he appeared almost feral.
“Arthur, it’s me. It’s Merlin.”
Merlin stepped into the cell and Arthur jerked towards him. The movement was rash and abrupt and Merlin stopped, his heart skipping a beat. Arthur snarled but Merlin’s gaze was locked on the manacles binding his prince to the wall. Keeping his eyes down, Merlin whispered a spell and Arthur was released.
The next thing Merlin knew, Arthur’s hands were wrapped around his throat. Merlin stumbled backwards, driven back by Arthur’s weight, reduced as that was.
It took only seconds for Percival to pull Arthur off but he was forced to hold onto the struggling prince. Merlin coughed, rubbing his neck.
“Arthur? Arthur, it’s us. It’s your friends.”
Arthur snarled again, fighting Percival’s grip. Merlin stepped forward, ignoring Gwaine’s protective stance. He stretched out a hand, lifting Arthur’s chin and forcing the prince to meet his gaze.
As soon as he looked upon the man properly, Merlin jerked back again with a yell, panting and staring at Arthur in fear.
Instead of his usual gaze – whether that be annoyed, passionate or arrogant – Arthur’s expression was blank.
His eyes were no longer blue. Instead, a vacant white filled his gaze.