Character/s: (In this section) Gwaine, Leon, Gwen, Merlin, Arthur, Uther, Agravaine, Morgana
Summary: Uther learns of Arthur's escape
Word Count: 2122 (but in my defence, the prompt is the first scene and that is 750 words and well within the word count... I added a second scene because I'd like this thing finished soon)
Prompt: 86 Autumn
Author's Notes: Not betaed as I barely made the deadline. This is the next part of 'His' and 'The Cold Light of Morning'
It hadn't been the worst day of Uther's life, but it was certainly way, way up there in the top five and rising. Arthur, usually so capable and reliable, if perhaps a little headstrong at times, had completely lost his head over the wretched omega serving boy. Uther hadn't liked locking his son up, but there had really been no other option. It had taken six knights to restrain Arthur. Infuriating though it was, Uther still took a certain pride in that fact. His son was strong, a fighter. He had all the makings of a great king.
Perhaps it would have been easier if they'd just run the omega through there and then, had it over and done with? But there were laws in Camelot, and if such a fundamental one was broken then there were consequences, and those consequences had to be made plain for all to see. That would discourage it from ever happening again. Burning the omega like the common criminal he was would send a message throughout the kingdom.
Not that the law really mattered now, the damage was done. Arthur was going to be far less pliable when the time came for him to take whichever omega Uther chose for him. There was a high risk he would try to reject them, cause a scene. All over a stupid servant.
Uther was a warrior king. He had gained most of his lands not through inheritance but through battle. Such kings never lived to a grand old age. Uther knew that he was already well into the autumn of his reign, heading fast towards winter and the inevitable finale. And then would come Arthur's time. He would need to be strong and decisive, and he would need to make a good alliance with his chosen omega. Or rather, with the omega Uther had chosen for him. If Uther had ever had any doubts that he was doing the right thing in ensuring Arthur was kept away from the wrong sort of omega then they had been dispelled that morning. Arthur might be ready in every other way to be king, but in this his judgement had proved sadly lacking.
A Pendragon would never sit on the throne with a peasant as his consort. Never.
He must have made a sound, as Agravaine looked at him in concern, but any comment that his brother-in-law might have made was lost in the distraction of some kind of disturbance that was going on in the doorway. One of the knights hurried inside.
Uther regarded the bruised and bloodied man bowing before him with dismay. Sir Owain was one of the newer knights, competent enough but Uther couldn't recall ever being addressed directly by him before. It didn't bode well.
"The prince..." The young knight glanced up nervously, then away. "He has escaped."
"And you let him?" Uther roared. "You... how many of you were there guarding him? All of you, and you couldn't hold back one man?"
Owain winced, and ducked his head, almost cringing away from the furious king. "Sire, he's the prince. Without harming him it was impossible..."
"Find him! Have the entire castle searched."
"He'll have gone after the omega," Agravaine put in smoothly. "I'm sure that's where you'll find him."
He was right, of course, there was nowhere else Arthur would be.
"Go!" Uther snarled at the knight. "I want him found and restrained."
Owain backed out of the room as fast as he could, reached the doorway, turned and fled.
Uther gave a heavy sigh, sinking down on the throne. "Gods, will this never end?"
Morgana was frowning but Agravaine at least looked sympathetic. It was good to have him there, have someone who was in complete agreement with everything Uther said. The excellent man had even provided a few ideas as to how Arthur could deal with the loss of the omega afterwards.
"Perhaps it will end once Arthur is free of the omega's influence," Agravaine told him. "If that's the case then I wonder if waiting is wise? The prince is resourceful and likely to find another escape route even if you secure him again. He's your son, after all. Take the omega out and burn it now. Surely by this time they must have built a pyre fit to burn down a castle?"
It was excellent counsel. Uther nodded, ignoring Morgana's little gasp of horror from beside him.
The sooner he had his son back, the better.
Arthur glared at the man he had pinned against the wall of the dungeons.
How dare this creature, this other alpha be down here with what was his.
Merlin was calling to him. Arthur pressed the blade harder against the other man's throat, seeing a small trickle of blood where he'd broken the skin. They'd pay, all of them for keeping Merlin from him.
"Arthur don't! Please! He tried to help!"
Slowly Merlin's words started to sink in. The man... it was Gwaine, one of his knights, though it had taken Arthur a little while to acknowledge that fact, nodded frantically.
"We've been guarding him for you. Leon's gone to speak to the king," Gwaine gasped. "Come on, Arthur, it's me. You know I would never take what was yours. He reeks of you."
Merlin was at the door to his cell, pressing against the bars, still telling Arthur to stop. He was covered in some red garment, it looked like a cloak but luckily for Gwaine it wasn't his. That would have been too much to stand, the material had been wrapped over his omega's bare skin, and only Arthur was ever to touch that now. Reluctantly he eased off, letting the knight go.
The knight touched his throat gingerly, then looked at the blood that came away on his hand and winced. "Thanks."
Arthur didn't acknowledge what was probably sarcasm, snatching up the keys from the floor and hurrying over to Merlin's cell. Another moment and the door was open, his omega back in his arms.
"I was afraid they'd killed you," he whispered, pressing his face into Merlin's hair. He didn't want to ever let go.
"Not yet," Merlin told him. He nestled closer, and it felt so right that just for a moment Arthur forgot about everything else. The scent of his omega's heat filled his nostrils, soaking down and filling his entire being with want. But that was one thing they couldn't give in to, not whilst they were within the castle and Merlin was in danger.
"Gods, Merlin, you smell so good. But we need to get out of here, there's no time for this."
"I'd stop it if I could," Merlin gasped. "You have no idea."
That cut. He could remember Merlin the night before practically begging Arthur not to claim him. It was too late now, and Arthur didn't think he could possibly have let him go anyway. But he had to know. "Because you don't want to be mated to me?"
His omega shook his head. "No! Don't think that, don't ever think that. But I could get us out. If we could stop my heat I could get us out of here."
Merlin wasn't talking any sense. Arthur knew it was just the influence of his heat, maybe the stress of the situation as well. As if an omega could stand against a group of alphas.
The borrowed cloak smelled far too strongly of another alpha, it was Leon that Arthur could smell. But there was nothing that could be done about that, Merlin was going to have to stay wrapped in it. Arthur bit down on the urge to rip it away from him again. These were his knights, his loyal knights, and even through this they were just trying to help and he was going to need them if he stood any chance of getting his mate to safety.
There was a little squeak of surprise from behind them. Arthur turned to see Morgana's serving girl standing there with a pile of clothes in her arms. Gwaine was standing protectively in front of her. He hadn't run. Admirable, given the way he'd treated him, Arthur thought.
"Gaius sent me," she told him, thrusting the clothes towards him. "These are for Merlin."
"The potion?" Merlin asked. "Has he finished it?"
Gwen shook her head. "He says it will take a little while to brew."
Arthur let Merlin take the clothes from the girl, then left him to get changed. He glared at Gwaine until the knight realised the reason, and turned away.
"I'll go and wait with Gaius for that potion," Gwen told them, and hurried away.
"We can forget about that," Arthur growled. "We need to get out of here."
"I need the potion," Merlin called, struggling into his tunic.
"I can cope," Arthur told him. The heat had definitely lessened, it didn't feel so urgent and desperate as the night before.
"But I need it," Merlin insisted. "I could help us escape..."
Arthur didn't get the chance to ask how on earth an omega could help. There were more footsteps on the stairs, and he drew his sword again. It was a relief to have Gwaine move to stand beside him, and even more of a relief when Leon appeared. The tall knight looked momentarily shocked to see Arthur, and raised his hands briefly in surrender to prevent any attack. Arthur lowered his sword.
"The king wouldn't listen to me," Leon told them. "We're running out of options."
"There's only one." Arthur glanced back, saw Merlin was almost dressed and was now tying up his boots. "Merlin and I are leaving here. Anyone who follows is going to end up banished, or worse. Go. You can say I overpowered you."
Gwaine and Leon exchanged a look, then Gwaine shook his head. "No. We're coming with you."
"One question," Leon was looking at the bloodied sword Arthur was carrying. "The knights guarding you... did you kill any of them?"
Truthfully, Arthur couldn't be sure. His only thought had been to get away from them. Sometimes after a fight someone who appeared to only have a minor wound would suddenly worsen and die. Gaius had told him that bleeding could take place inside a body, and that nobody would be able to tell until it was too late. And blows to the head, those could have all sorts of consequences.
"I don't know. I don't think so."
"But you've maimed some?"
"I had to get out. Bors and Lionel were persistent."
Arthur hadn't got away unscathed, but there was no point in letting any of them know that. Sir Lionel had struck him across the back of the head with a blow that almost rendered him senseless, and he had a deep cut across his back from Bors' sword. That was without the other more minor injuries he'd sustained, and the constant pain in his left arm and shoulder from where he had used his body as a battering ram to break down the door. Everything hurt, and now that the immediate urgent need to find Merlin had abated he was starting to feel it.
"Bors probably deserved it," Gwaine muttered, though Leon still looked a little concerned.
"They were only following Uther's orders."
"Ones that we're disobeying," Gwaine pointed out. "I'm not sticking around to see if the king suddenly decides we're involved in this."
"Why would he?" Arthur asked. Merlin appeared at his side and Arthur pulled him closer, putting a possessive arm around his mate's waist.
"I tried to persuade him to spare your omega," Leon explained.
"And you know how reasonable and broad-minded he is if things haven't gone his way," Gwaine added. "So, we're out of here, right Leon?"
The tall knight didn't look particularly happy about it, Arthur thought. But then Leon, unlike Gwaine, had a father to answer to. A father who from what Arthur could tell was almost as overbearing as Uther could be, no matter how hard Leon tried to be the perfect knight. The man would no more forgive Leon for this than Uther would forgive Arthur. Leon wasn't even the eldest son, the heir. It would be all too easy to cut him off without a trace.
"You don't have to," Arthur assured him. "We could make it look convincing, as if you'd put up a fight."
Leon gave a sigh, and just shook his head. "Let's go."
Arthur wished that he could reassure them that when he was king they'd be rewarded in some way. But the chances of that ever happening were moving further away.
Making sure Merlin was behind them, protected, Arthur led the way.