Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Lancelot, knights
Summary: Merlin is missing. Can Arthur and his knights find him?
Word Count: 1012
Prompt: 304, Art by ObsidianSerpent
Author's Notes: Takes place between S3 & S4.
Arthur couldn’t believe it. It seemed like Merlin had been gone only five minutes, but when he looked around, he realized it had been much longer. There was no fire burning, no dinner cooking merrily over it. And all the rest of the knights were as puzzled as he was, each having lost track of time in the performing of their duties.
“Well, we obviously can’t be without dinner,” he told them, “split up into pairs and search in different directions.” He turned to Lancelot. “You’re with me.”
“Yes, sire.” Lancelot nodded.
Everyone chose a direction and began searching. Though it was getting dark, there was a full moon, so Arthur and Lancelot could see reasonably well. Every now and then, one of them would call out Merlin’s name. After two hours they had heard nothing back and were about to turn in a new direction when they heard a low moan. Turning in its direction, Arthur and Lancelot beat their way through the bushes as quickly as they could.
There, in a small creek, lay Merlin. His clothes were torn and a boot was missing. He had various cuts and scrapes on his face and arms, and something was definitely wrong with his left wrist. “Merlin!” Arthur yelled, rushing to his friend’s side. Lancelot followed. “What happened to you?”
Merlin’s eyes fluttered open then closed again. “’M okay,” he mumbled.
“I don’t believe that for a minute,” Arthur told him. “You should see yourself.”
Lancelot was looking around uneasily. “Sire, we should go. Whoever did this to him may yet be lurking.”
“Of course. Come on, Merlin.” He reached under his friend and hefted him into his arms. “Let’s get you out of here.”
“Sure,” Merlin replied.
Lancelot following behind, Arthur slowly made his was back through the forest they’d come through. “You need to tell me who did this to you, Merlin.”
“Not going to like it.”
“I already don’t like the fact that you snuck so far away from camp on some fool’s errand. Now tell me.”
“Arthur stopped. Wait, you saw Morgana? Why didn’t you come back for us?”
“Wanted to follow her.”
“I always knew you were stupid, but not that stupid.”
“Sire, are you sure this is a good time to question him? We need to get him back to Camelot as quickly as possible,” Lancelot interjected.
“I suppose you’re right. Merlin, don’t think you’re getting out of your questioning. You’re going to account for yourself one way or another.”
They continued on their way back to camp. At times, Lancelot carried Merlin to spell Arthur, but when they strode back into camp, Arthur carried Merlin to his own bedroll and gently laid him down. The other knights were immediately upon them, peppering the trio with questions.
“Easy there, guys. He’s been through quite a lot, and we need to get him back to Camelot as early as we can tomorrow. Elyan, you cook dinner. Merlin’s quite unable.”
The rest of the evening passed slowly away. When they finally bedded down for the night, Arthur lay Merlin’s bedroll down close to Merlin and lay beside him to protect him. Leon took first watch and everyone went to sleep.
Arthur rose automatically at dawn. He roused the other knights and they quickly packed up camp. They fastened Merlin to his horse and were off, riding the four hours back to Camelot.
As soon as they rode in, Arthur carried Merlin to Gaius’s chambers. The physician rose immediately from his work and cleared off a table. Arthur laid Merlin down and let Gaius get to work. “He was definitely attacked by someone, sire,” Gaius said, lifting up Merlin’s shirt. “These are marks left by fists.”
“He mentioned Morgana.”
“She must have minions. These were done with considerable force.”
“How about his wrist?”
“Yes, that is definitely broken. I’ll have to splint it and he’ll have to wear it for several weeks.”
“Gaius?” Merlin muttered.
“Shh, Merlin, you need to rest now,” Gaius replied.
“I’ll need to question him soon,” Arthur said.
“Come back in two days. He should be well enough rested then.”
“Thank you, Gaius.”
“Of course, sire.”
Arthur went away to report to his father. As Gaius had said, he returned to Gaius’s chambers in two days. He found Merlin sitting up in bed, eating his lunch. “You’re looking better,” Arthur commented.
‘What can I say? Proper rest does me well.”
“I need to ask you about Morgana.”
“Oh, of course. While I was picking up wood, I saw her walking through the trees ahead of me. I followed her a little way, where she met someone I couldn’t see. They talked and I must not have been as well hidden as I thought, because some of her men found me. They took me to her. She was so angry that she threw me up against a tree. That’s when this happened.” He held up his injured wrist.
“So you followed her? You should have come back for us.”
“I realize that now, of course, but I thought I was doing the right thing at the time.”
“And your beating?”
“That was done at the hands of her mercenaries. She wasn’t satisfied until I’d ceased moving.”
“And they just left you there?”
“She didn’t want to be bothered with me, and thought I was deterred enough. I certainly wasn’t going to get up and follow her at that point.”
Arthur sat back. “Well, I guess you’ve learned your lesson.”
“No more following Morgana on my own. Don’t worry, I won’t.”
“Good.” He ruffled Merlin’s hair then stood. “Well, rest up. Your chores won’t wait forever, you know.”
“Great. I get beat up and you’re worried about the state of your room.”
Arthur smirked. “Well, it is your job.” The smirk fell away. “Seriously, rest and take whatever time you need.”
“Thank you, Arthur.”
“You’re welcome.” He left the room, secure in the knowledge that his friend was in the best hands possible for healing and counted himself lucky that Morgana hadn’t done any worse.