Title: Shackled Secrets
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: No matter what, the bandits couldn't find out about his power.
Warnings: Implied violence.
Word Count: 1000
Prompt: Saviour by Obsidan Serpent
Author's Notes: Oops, it's been a while.
He tried to keep his breathing even, tried to keep his fear and panic from overwhelming him. If he gave into it, he had no idea what would happen. Besides, by focusing on controlling his breathing, it meant he could ignore the pain coming from the various wounds scattered across his torso.
At least, he could try.
Merlin wasn’t certain he had ever felt this helpless.
The attack had come out of nowhere. Merlin hadn’t flinched – regardless of what Arthur might say – but let his magic swell within him. The first few bandits had fallen prey to Arthur’s sword, then Merlin’s power had rolled off him and the men hadn’t had a chance to get close to his prince.
But he had been focused on Arthur. He forgot to defend himself.
A blow to the back of the head had left him reeling, while a second, then a third blow had crumpled him to the floor. He had seen Arthur’s horrified expression but knew he couldn’t let the prince come to his rescue. There were too many of them.
Clinging to consciousness, he had brought a branch crashing down, blocking the way. It bought just enough time for the rest of the knights to approach and the bandits had fled, taking Merlin with them.
They had beaten him before he woke up.
He had come around, tied to a post, his hands twisted cruelly behind him. He couldn’t stop shivering, and quickly realised it was the dark magic permeating the air.
The enemy had made himself known quickly, lashing out with both his fists and his power. But it didn’t take Merlin long to realise they hadn’t realised he was the one responsible for their misfortune in the woods. They were taking it out on him because they had a servant rather than a prince.
Merlin knew they couldn’t find out about his power.
He was weak, disorientated and could barely control his power on the best of days when his emotions were running high, let alone in a situation like this.
There were other sorcerers in the camp, but they all bowed to this one man. There was hatred in their expressions though, and Merlin realised he was controlling them somehow. It hardened his heart and mind: he could not reveal himself until he had a plan of escape.
It was the hardest thing he had done. But if the man got control of Merlin’s power, there would be no hope for Arthur. If there was one thing Merlin prided himself on, it was his ability to keep his destiny safe. He had managed it this far; he wasn’t giving in now.
But as he realised the men were staring at him again, Merlin tried to draw back. The sorcerer approached, his lip curled in hatred and his fist already clenched.
Realising there was nowhere for him to go if he didn’t want to reveal himself, Merlin stopped struggling. He glared defiantly at the man and hoped he would make Arthur proud as the sorcerer lost his temper.
Smoke and ash filled the air.
Arthur could barely see ten paces in front of him but he knew the battle had been won. The rage-filled cries that had filled the air only moments before had dwindled to whimpers of pain.
He kept his grip on his sword though, edging through the camp carefully. Movement caught his eye and he turned, but the tell-tale flash of a red cloak made him relax. No one could withstand against the Knights of Camelot in a fair fight and Arthur knew they had taken the bandits by surprise.
He had taken the knights by surprise, as well. He had refused to return to the castle for reinforcements, claiming the trail would go cold. He had seen the look in the men’s eyes; they had come for him.
Merlin had been taken instead. This was his fault and Arthur was not returning to the castle without his servant.
“Sire! Over here!”
Arthur broke into a run, sprinting through the fog-filled air. He didn’t see who called him, but he didn’t care. He could see why he had been summoned and that was enough for Arthur.
He sheathed his sword and drew his dagger, closing the gap between them as he did so. Dropping to his knees, he trusted his knights to guard his back as a hand reached out, touching Merlin gently on the neck.
Merlin groaned even while Arthur was still trying to find a pulse and the prince sagged in relief. Reaching around, he cut Merlin’s bonds, wincing at how tight the rope had been digging in.
“Come on,” he said softly, fondly, “let’s go home.”
He grasped Merlin by the arm and drew him to his feet. His movements were slow and gentle but Merlin cried out. He was leaning heavily on Arthur and when the prince glanced down, he realised Merlin was only putting one foot on the floor.
There was no way he was walking out of this.
“Always were the damsel in distress, weren’t you?” Arthur murmured. He couldn’t be certain Merlin was even conscious – his eyes hadn’t opened and his entire weight was being held up by Arthur’s arm around his waist.
Merlin’s breathing was shallow and his face was pale. Arthur suspected a broken rib at least and knew he couldn’t throw the servant over his shoulder like he had planned to do.
Instead, he lifted Merlin, bridal-style, and tried not to flinch at how the movement caused Merlin to moan in distress, despite not being conscious.
Altering his position to try and make the man more comfortable, Arthur tried to calm the anger burning in him. He wanted to make someone pay for hurting Merlin, but the bandits were already dead. The knights had seen to that, on his orders. No one was to be spared.
There was only one thing left for him to do.
Slowly, step by step, he started taking Merlin home.