Title: Silver Song and Golden Eyes
Character/s: Arthur, Gaius, Gwen, Leon, Percival
Summary: When Arthur wakes up, everything is wrong.
Warnings: cliffhanger, anxiety
Word Count: 563
Prompt: No. 284 Angst Month - Anxiety
Author's Notes: Ties into last week's theme, insomnia. Part 1 of a series.
Every night, a siren’s song would ensnare Arthur Pendragon’s mind like briar, its thorns prodding and poking at his dreams until he’d snapped awake, gasping for breath, eyes wet with tears. A taper lit, body glistening in sweat, the melody long forgotten, he’d lay in bed and wonder when the madness would stop.
When Arthur had awoken in his chambers that first day, his friends had all huddled in close.
The first thing he realised as he lay there was something was missing.
His heart jolted with fear as he realised he had no clue as to what that thing was.
“What happened?” he croaked. The last thing he remembered was—
“You’ve been asleep, Sire,” Gaius said, placing a cool hand on Arthur’s forehead.
“No,” Arthur said and shrunk back into his pillow. Something was wrong—Arthur could feel it in his bones.
Gwen, who had been sitting on edge of his bed, enveloped him in an embrace, the smell of her curls and the warmth of her skin almost lulling him into sense of peace.
But a prickling of panic in his heart left him short of breath. Palms shaking, he gently pushed Gwen back.
“Arthur?” Gwen’s face was stained with tears, her eyes wide.
“I demand you tell me what has happened,” Arthur said and looked beyond Gwen to Gaius, to Leon and Percival. Every one of their expressions was grave.
Arthur tried to get out of bed, when he stopped short.
He shifted in his bed and he winced. Dread washed over him like a bucket of ice water.
His legs wouldn’t move.
He clawed back the covers, revealing black lines which spidered out from a bruise-like mark on his stomach—like the flesh had died— crawling up towards his heart.
“Is this some sort of curse?” Arthur asked, disturbed at how the lines felt cooler to the touch than his skin. Then, louder, “Who did this to me?”
Gaius clasped his hands together. “It is difficult to explain…”
“Mordred is the one who'd dealt you a fatal blow. A dangerous method was required to stop the shard of blade from piercing your heart. This is the result of such a remedy.”
Arthur remembered Mordred’s smile and shivers snaked up his spine. He felt his stomach drop. “It was magic, wasn’t it?”
“We had little choice.” Gaius’ gaze flickered to Gwen.
His legs felt like logs that had been strapped to his body. He tried flexing his toes—a futile effort. Grunting in exertion, he grabbed a bed post and pulled himself to the edge of the bed, panting. Out of the corner of his eye, he could see Gwen hands clenched in her lap.
“At what cost?” Arthur yelled, his eyes burning. White-hot anger flooded his chest. What had they done to him?
Gwen spoke, stroking a careful hand along Arthur’s turned back. “The immobility of your legs… it’s temporary. The mark, I’m afraid, cannot be removed. I’m sorry, Arthur.” She dabbed a sleeve across her eyes. “But I’m so happy you’re alive.”
Arthur frowned. If this was the price he must pay, so be it. However, a question like a writhing snake in the back of his mind would not lay to rest.
“Who used magic to save me?”
Leon shifted his footing and spoke up. “Arthur…surely you must know it was Merlin.”