Title: Not On His Watch
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Ragnor, Mordred
Summary: Small tag to Arthur's Bane, Part 2
Word Count: 785
Prompt: #37 ~ Snow
Author's Notes: I always wondered how Arthur didn't freeze to death that first night in Ragnor's captivity. I think I've discovered the answer.
[Not On His Watch]
One thing that Merlin had quickly learned about Ismere…the wind here was bitterly cold. It whistled through the canyon where they’d made camp, funneled in by the barren, snow swept hills on either side of them. The sun had set several hours ago, and the temperature had plummeted, leaving Merlin shaking violently in his light jacket and woolen breeches.
While the other captives huddled into a mass, trying to conserve body heat between them, Merlin sat apart from the others, facing his captors. His bottom so cold it was numb, staring straight ahead, he refused to be cowed by the likes of Ragnor and his scraggly band of mercenaries. He would be damned if he would show them fear, show them pain. He would be stubborn to the last, even if it meant he froze to death.
But of course, he would not freeze. Merlin’s magic would see to that. Even when he did nothing to encourage it, the magic simmered under his skin like a banked fire. It held off the worst of the chill and kept his extremities from being attacked by frostbite. Of course, it didn’t stop him from shivering like crazy.
“What’re you gawping at?” Ragnor taunted him. Merlin just closed his eyes and turned his head away in a deliberate act of defiance, mentally clamping down on the impulse to have that damnable fire flare and singe off the Scot’s eyebrows.
“Is this what you want?” The burly man smirked as he held a piece of bread aloft.
Despite himself, Merlin felt his stomach grumble in protest.
“Catch…” Ragnor offered and tossed the bread, making sure it landed well out of Merlin’s reach in the snow. Merlin’s eyes narrowed angrily, but he said nothing. No matter how sorely tempted, he knew that using his magic right now would not be prudent. Instead, he needed to think.
They needed a plan; he and Arthur needed to escape. At all costs, they needed to avoid being brought to Morgana like pigs to a slaughter. But Morgana could also not know of Merlin’s magic…that part was crucial.
Merlin’s eyes slid uneasily toward Mordred. He was the fly in the ointment. Mordred knew both of his magic and of his destiny as Emrys… and he was fond of Morgana. What would happen when the two were brought together?
Merlin’s stomach churned and bile rose in his throat, picturing the vision he’d been shown; knowing now that, if he didn’t do something to change it, Mordred would be Arthur’s doom. Yet, even knowing that, could Merlin actually bring himself to kill the boy in cold blood? What kind of person would that make him if he did?
Sighing, Merlin’s eyes rested instead on Arthur. In a petty act of one-upmanship, Ragnor had decided that, because he was a king, Arthur was too good to share his warmth with the peasants. Instead, he tied Arthur off away from the others; even out of Merlin’s reach…forced to lie in the snow huddled and half-frozen in his frigid chainmail.
Studying Arthur’s still form, Merlin frowned. Arthur’s shuddering had stopped. It could mean that the king had finally dropped off to sleep; but it was more likely that he was slipping into unconsciousness, succumbing to the cold that he had no means to protect himself from. Perhaps they needed to keep up pretenses for the time being, but there was no way that Merlin was going to let Arthur freeze.
Merlin snuck another glance toward the fire, but Ragnor and his men no longer found him interesting. Even Mordred’s penetrating gaze was turned elsewhere.
Merlin tucked his head onto his knees, his tied hands shielding his face from view to all save Arthur, and Arthur’s back was to him. Under his breath, Merlin whispered the words of the Old Religion, knowing his eyes must be glowing, so he narrowed them into slits. He felt his magic flow away from him, slip-sliding over the frigid white toward his friend, his king. It seeped into the metal plate and chainmail, subtly warming them, enveloping Arthur in a warm pocket and holding back the chill from both ground and air.
After a long tense moment, Merlin sighed with relief as he heard Arthur’s groan, saw him turn on his side, now facing Merlin. Slowly, the bluish tinge bled away from Arthur’s lips and he sighed in his sleep.
Confident now that his spell had worked, Merlin smiled and continued his silent vigil. He would stay up all night, watching over Arthur. Tomorrow, they would formulate a plan. Tomorrow, they would escape. But tonight? Tonight, he would keep his friend safe and warm. Nothing would happen to his king.
Not on his watch.