Title: The Enchantment
Character/s: (In this section) Gwaine, Leon, Gaius, Merlin, Arthur, Uther, Agravaine
Summary: Agravaine's motives become plain. Uther's temper is aroused.
Word Count: 1966 (Sorry. Again)
Prompt: 87 Arouse
Author's Notes: Not betaed as I barely made the deadline. This is the next part of 'His' and 'The Cold Light of Morning'
Agravaine watched everything that was going on with a pleasure that he had trouble concealing.
Things couldn't be going better. Arthur was disappointing and infuriating his father in every possible way, and Uther's own inability to accept his son's choice of partner was rapidly widening the rift between them. All it needed now was someone to provide gentle hints and nudges here and there to further inflame their violent disagreement. The hot-headed pair would do the rest of the damage to their relationship themselves.
He'd been waiting for something like this to happen. Uther and Arthur were, in his eyes, jointly responsible for the deaths of both his beloved siblings. His brother Tristan had attempted to gain revenge for Ygraine's death giving birth to the wayward prince, and he had paid for it with his life. Agravaine was more careful than his brother. He had no intention of becoming the third member of his family to fall victim to Uther.
In theory Arthur was his nephew, but Agravaine didn't look upon him as such. Ygraine couldn't bear children, they'd known that for many years. So Uther must have done something, struck some bargain with a sorcerer to gain the son and heir he so desperately wanted. Agravaine had lived around magic for long enough that he recognised the signs, no matter how much Uther might claim to hate magic now. A life where there should be none, a death when there should have been a healthy living woman.
For all his claims to love Ygraine, Uther had clearly made a deal that cost her life. Agravaine wouldn't have been surprised if he had found out that Uther knew his wife would die during Arthur's birth. Magic always wanted a balance, after all. Uther might have been punishing her for her failure to produce a natural heir. Knowing that, it was all Agravaine could do not to lash out when Uther sat with him on his arrival, bleating about how much he had loved Ygraine and how he longed to make peace with her family. But Agravaine wasn't a man given to physical violence. Quiet and clever would do just as well for him.
And when the rift between father and son was too deep to ever be reconciled, when Uther was suddenly without an heir once again, that was when Agravaine would move in. There was the lady Morgana, of course. Beautiful, clever, unwed Morgana who had no idea that she was anything more to Uther than his friend's daughter. Her very existence was more proof, if any were needed, of Uther's tendency towards treachery. With Arthur out of the way it wouldn't take much to persuade Uther to gift him Morgana's hand and the position of heir all in one go. From that moment onwards Uther's days would be numbered.
Revenge was very, very sweet.
They went to Gaius.
Gwaine had wanted to run, to try to make a break for it and leave the castle before Uther could rouse all the guards to come out and stop them. Leon had suggested caution, that they should adopt a disguise and try to sneak out quietly. Arthur knew there were tunnels under the castle. He thought they should try to get out that way and as he was still the crown prince they did as he said. But the entrance to the nearest one was guarded, and they all knew the rest were likely to be as well. One quick look at the number of knights in the courtyard told them all they needed to know about their chances of getting across it.
Merlin insisted they should go to Gaius and that he would save them. It was ridiculous, because what could the elderly physician do? But they went, because Arthur would do whatever Merlin wanted whilst he could still smell that alluring heat. And also because they didn't have any other options. Gaius had always been able to come up with remarkable solutions, and Arthur secretly thought that if anyone would know how to help them out of there it was Gaius. So he went along with it, ignoring the concerns that Leon was voicing.
Miraculously they made it to Gaius' quarters without running into any of the other knights, though there were a few near misses.
Leon stood guard at the door, whilst Arthur and Gwaine followed Merlin inside.
Gaius was busy pouring a thick, foul-smelling liquid into a flask. At his side Gwen was waiting as promised to race back down to the dungeons with it. That need had gone.
"Gwen, leave us," Arthur ordered. "No sense in you getting caught up in this."
The girl exchanged a worried look with Gaius, but did as she was bid. Merlin hurried over to Gaius, and took the flask from him.
"It's ready," the physician told him. "But drink it slowly, it's..." he stopped as Merlin swallowed the whole lot down in one go with a grimace. "Or don't. Now all you can do is wait."
"How long before..." Merlin hesitated, glancing at Arthur worriedly. "Before the heat goes?"
"I don't know. Not long," Gaius reassured him. "You all need to get out of here."
"Hurry," Leon called from the door. "I can hear people coming. They're searching rooms."
"You should come with us," Merlin urged Gaius. "They'll know you helped me."
"I'll slow you down. Don't worry, just get out. Uther will be too concerned about you and Arthur to worry about me."
Arthur wasn't sure that would be the case, but Gaius was right about him slowing them down. He didn't like to leave him, but the old physician was resourceful and clever and if anyone could find a way to survive it would be him. Arthur turned to leave, then heard something that made him hesitate.
"It's a soul bond, isn't it?" Gwaine asked Gaius in a whisper, but Arthur still caught it.
"I don't know what you mean," Gaius told him, carefully pouring more of the potion into another flask.
"I've seen one before, years ago."
"Then you know what causes it?"
"Arthur, we really need to go now!" Leon hissed, but Arthur ignored him, concentrating on what Gaius was saying to Gwaine.
"And that can't possibly be something that would happen in Camelot, now can it?"
Gwaine didn't answer immediately, watching Merlin. Arthur hated it when the other alpha did that. Gwaine seemed quite fascinated with the omega. His omega.
"Perhaps not," Gwaine said eventually, infuriatingly. It told Arthur nothing.
"What aren't you telling me?" Arthur growled, angry at being left out of whatever they were discussing. It was bad enough Gwaine appearing to know something that Arthur didn't, now Gaius appeared to be in on it. "Yes, we're soul-bonded, what of it?"
Gaius raised an eyebrow. As a child Arthur had always been a little afraid when the physician did that. It usually heralded him being found out for doing some mischief.
"Are you aware of what a soul bond is, Sire? What causes it?"
Arthur had no idea what it was, but he wasn't going to let it be known that Gwaine knew more than he did on the subject. "Of course I do!"
"Well then you understand the problem."
All Arthur understood was that when he claimed to know all about a soul bond and what it meant, Merlin had looked at him with so much love and adoration that he thought he might collapse under the weight of it. The heat was fading already, he could sense it, but their bond was still right there. It had to be a good thing.
Gaius was saying something else, but Arthur was only half-listening. He'd been worried that when Merlin's heat was gone he wouldn't feel anything for him any more, that everything his father had shouted about the omega just being a servant would suddenly become apparent to him as well. That wasn't the case. The urgent need for his omega was fading, but what remained was something he'd never encountered before.
That would probably be love, then. The thought warmed him.
"I won't let anything happen to you," he promised, drawing Merlin closer. "We'll find a way out, live far from here."
Merlin really did look far too happy given their situation. It was infectious, Arthur found himself smiling back.
"I was afraid to tell you," Merlin admitted.
Arthur knew he really did need to find out what the soul bond actually meant. But it was Merlin, it couldn't possibly be anything bad when everything about him was so very, very perfect.
"Arthur!" Leon's cry was all the warning they were going to get. The door flew open and suddenly Uther's men were everywhere, swarming into the room. There was little chance to fight, Sir Pelinore had his sword at Merlin's throat before Arthur could do much more than release him and draw his sword. The omega was too precious to risk and Arthur had the sense to know when he was defeated. He was surrounded anyway, and with his existing injuries he knew he wouldn't last long in a fight. Not that he would have given up if they hadn't threatened Merlin. He wished he had thought to ask Gaius to give him something for the pain, but quelling Merlin's debilitating heat had been the main concern.
"You've got me. Let him go."
Pelinore ignored him. Behind him the king was striding into the room, Agravaine at his heels. Arthur could almost feel the full force of his father's fury as he entered. Once aroused it was difficult to contain.
"How dare you disobey me!" Uther raged. "I should have you flogged for this, Arthur! I am your father and your king and you will obey me in all things! This creature, this servant is no concern of yours. You'll give him up!"
"I can't. I won't."
"Don't be ridiculous."
"We have a soul bond, you can't break it."
"Arthur!" Gwaine hissed in warning, but Arthur ignored him.
Uther's furious scowl deepened. "A soul bond?" He looked to Gaius. "Is this true?"
Gaius' brief hesitation before speaking answered the question. "I can't be sure."
"It is," Arthur confirmed confidently.
Uther stared at him in disbelief. "Do you even know what a soul bond is? Do you know what it means, you foolish boy?" he snarled.
"It means we're meant to be together. It means you can't part us!"
"It means your damned omega servant must have magic!" Uther roared.
Magic! For a moment Arthur couldn't take it in. He stared at his father, and then at his mate. Of course Merlin didn't have magic. Merlin was just a simple servant who happened to have the love of a prince.
A simple servant whose heat was causing him problems because it was blocking something he thought he could do to save them. Something Gaius and Gwaine had thought needed to be hidden. Oh.
His horror had to be showing in his face, because Merlin was gazing at him sadly. "You didn't know. I thought you understood what it was. What I am."
It was as much of an admission as Arthur needed. His shoulders slumped in defeat.
"You've been enchanted," Uther warned him. "Your knights too. I'll deal with you all later. You!" he spoke to the guards who had taken hold of Merlin. Merlin, Arthur noticed, wasn't putting up much of a fight. "Take him out and burn him like the sorcerer he is."
"Arthur..." Merlin's voice was pleading, hard to resist. But perhaps it really was all an enchantment. Perhaps his father was right.
Arthur just stood there, staring at his omega in disbelief as they led him away.
It couldn't be true. But he had a horrible feeling that it was.