Title: Warlock's Wrath
Word count: 1000
Summary: The nightmares weren't getting better.
Author’s notes: As with lasts week's, this drabble is also part of a bigger story that I'm trying to figure out.
The sounds of battle raged around him. The clang of metal on metal was deafening, the screams of men wounded and dying all around him. But Arthur viewed it through detached eyes, as if he wasn’t there.
He wasn’t. He knew he wasn’t.
It was a memory; a dream.
That didn’t stop the fatigue weighing heavily on his body, or the various bruises and small cuts from stinging and aching in equal measure. Judging by his state, it was the third day of the siege: three days of trying to break through the enemy lines; three days of fighting to defend his kingdom and his king. Three days of pretending they weren’t losing.
His feet took him from the front line, away from the battle. He didn’t consciously process where he was going until he started climbing the battlements.
He tried to stop. Tried to turn around, unwilling to face what he knew waited for him when he reached the turrets. But his body wasn’t his own and he continued climbing, his breath coming in ragged gasps as he pounded up the steps, his armour weighing him down.
He burst out of a small door. His father was standing near the edge, surveying the battleground below, mentally planning their next strategy. Arthur was sure it would have been the winning plan if only they had had the chance to follow it – or even hear it.
“Father-,” Even as he stepped forward, preparing to pull his father back from the ramparts, out of range, he knew he was too late.
A beam of magic shot through the darkness. It was gold, pure and beautiful, and Arthur was transfixed even as it shot straight into the king’s chest. Uther turned towards him, but crumbled before he made eye contact with his heir.
“No!” Arthur’s scream tore from him and he hurtled forward. He managed to catch the falling king before he hit the ground, but the weight was too much and he dropped to his knees along with his father’s body.
Magic bathed the area. Arthur looked up, tears streaking down his face as the murderer rose over the ramparts, suspended in mid-air by his own power.
This hadn’t happened: Arthur hadn’t seen Merlin until he was already a hostage. But the mind was a fickle thing. In his dream, Merlin rose…
…but he didn’t look like Merlin, with blood red eyes and burns covering his entire body.
His face twitched into a sneer, and Merlin’s visage fell away: Edwin looming in his place, arms raised in triumph…
“Arthur? Wake up.”
The commanding tone cut through the shrill screams tearing from Arthur’s throat as Edwin’s magic turned on him, burning him where he crouched, his father’s fallen body in his arms.
He didn’t realise the screams weren’t just in his dream until he suddenly realised that he was awake. He swallowed the next one, choking as he tried to control his emotions.
“Arthur.” Fingers brushed away his tears, soft and gentle. Arthur blinked, the light from a small candle casting the room in a soft illumination.
Merlin was perched on the edge of his small bed. He was dressed in his night-clothes and his hair was rumpled as if he had just rolled from the bed. But his eyes were alert and his expression sympathetic.
“I-,” Arthur coughed, praying his voice didn’t give out on him. “I saw my father die.”
Merlin’s face closed down. He shifted back a pace, as if worried being in such close proximity would be a bad idea. Arthur – to his surprise – reached out a hand.
“It was Edwin,” he muttered, “then he…”
He trailed off, suddenly ashamed. His father had been killed by a beam of magic to the chest; just as in his dream. But there had been no gloating, just an efficient clean-up operation as Merlin attempted to save as many lives as possible. His kingdom had fallen, and Arthur was trapped in a dream where he had been the only one hurt.
“He turned on you?” Merlin said, scooting closer again. Arthur briefly wondered if he should tell the warlock he was getting closer to the edge of the bed. “You know I won’t let that happen.”
Merlin had made it clear the instant Arthur had first stepped through his door – before that, even – that Edwin would never be allowed to hurt him, or touch him again. Arthur thought he had believed that promise – up until he had woken up screaming for the third night in a row.
“You might not have a choice,” Arthur muttered. He fleetingly met Merlin’s eyes before looking away again. “Cendred gave me to you. What’s to stop him from taking me back and giving me to someone else? Giving me to him?”
“The wrath of his Court Warlock?” Merlin said mildly. “Have I mentioned I have ten times the amount of power Edwin does?”
Arthur smiled. He had been with Merlin for long enough to know the man didn’t boast. He wasn’t saying this to show off his power, but to prove he could, indeed, keep Arthur safe.
Merlin reached out, brushing Arthur’s hair back from his eyes. “You should try and get some more sleep,” he murmured, “dawn is still some way off.”
“So should you,” Arthur retorted. Merlin smiled, but didn’t answer. Instead, he waved a hand, lighting another candle, this time near his desk. Knowing the man planned to start working, Arthur lunged forward and grabbed his hand.
At least, he attempted to. Merlin automatically jerked back at the moment, and promptly fell off the edge of the bed, landing on the floor with an oomph of surprise. Arthur stared at the vacant spot for a moment, blinking stupidly, before he leant over to see Merlin sitting in a heap on the floor.
“Yes, I see it now,” he said, “the wrath of the Court Warlock is a powerful thing indeed.”
Merlin didn’t even have a verbal answer. He simply poked his tongue out.