Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: There was something forbidden happening in the forest and Arthur wanted to know what.
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: Not quite what I first thought of, but never mind.
Arthur thought he should be congratulated on his… escape wasn’t the right word. It wasn’t as if he had been a prisoner. But his father had strictly forbidden him to enter the forest over the next few days, even posting guards on his door in order to “persuade” him otherwise.
But no sixteen year old prince was going to do what their father said, even if he was also their king.
Something was happening in the forest and Arthur wanted to know what.
He had waited until nightfall, just before his guards changed. They would be weary now and would no doubt put movements in Arthur’s room down to their prince preparing for bed.
Instead, Arthur had been climbing out of the window, down a knotted bed sheet and sprinting across the courtyard. He led his horse out, keeping to the shadows, but no one challenged him.
Arthur knew he should bring the matter up with the knights the next chance he got. If he could get out this easily, did it mean others could get in as easily? But now was not the time to dwell on it and Arthur had mounted up as soon as he was out of the gates and shot for the forest.
Something was different.
He didn’t know what, but there was something off. He knew these forests. His father had told him not to go because he knew Arthur rode out most days. He knew the trails, he knew the best hunting spots and the best position to set up camp. Half of his training happened out in the forest, the older knights believing their prince should be able to survive a night in the forest without discomfort.
But his knowledge of the forest wasn’t helping him. Physically, nothing looked different. It was a feeling, a sort of throbbing in his veins that made him jerk erratically with excitement. If Arthur didn’t know better, he would have said it was magic.
Once he made it further into the forest, Arthur tethered his horse and continued on foot. The animal was already getting harder to train and Arthur knew it was because it too was sensing whatever was penetrating the air. In a way, Arthur was glad. It meant he wasn’t imaging it.
He made it to the depths of the forest where the trees grew closer together and the moon struggling to make it down to the forest floor. That was when Arthur started to hear the chanting. He edged closer, keeping low in the bushes even as he drew the branches of one apart so he could see through.
There was a clearing in the middle of the trees. Figures were dancing and chanting in the centre of it, moving around a large fire. Arthur blinked, shaking his head. Unless he was much mistaken, the fire was flashing different colours. Every time it did, the chanting changed tempo or volume.
“You shouldn’t be here,” the voice made Arthur jump and he whirled around, his hand instantly going to his sword belt. Then he remembered how he had left the weapon on his bed, worried it would trip him as he climbed out of the window. There was a man standing in front of him, looking faintly amused. Arthur gulped.
He was gorgeous and the prince felt his sixteen year old body twitch in interest. He had to only be a few years older than Arthur, but there was something about him that made him a man rather than a boy. Arthur almost felt the magic sparking off him.
“What are you?” He had meant to ask who the man was, attempting to gain some sort of control over his rapidly pounding heart.
“That matters not, Prince Arthur.”
“What’s going on here? Magic is outlawed…”
“Did you father not warn you to stay away from the forest this night?” the man continued and Arthur tried not to gulp. That meant his father had known. Whatever this was, even his father couldn’t – or didn’t want to – control it.
“Come and watch, My Prince.” The man took him by the hand, his slender fingers wrapping around Arthur’s. His grip was stronger than Arthur had expected and he was led further into the clearing. Realising he was getting a bit close for comfort, Arthur resisted and the man drew them to a stop.
“The forest is only this size because of us. We draw on the intervention of the divine spirits, praying for fertility for the land. The fire represents life, creation. The people dance with perfection. Do you not think it is beautiful, perfect even?”
“What’s it called?”
“Elysian,” the man murmured, the word rolling off his tongue. As soon as he said it, Arthur felt his body react. He understood. The Druids – for that was what they must be – were encouraging the forest to grow. He could hear animals crashing through the undergrowth looking for mates. No wonder his father didn’t want to stop it; a stronger forest meant a thicker border for Camelot.
“Mortals cannot be here for our ritual, you must leave now.”
“No. I want to stay.” Arthur spoke boldly, but his voice betrayed his arousal. The man placed a kind hand on his cheek and his eyes flashed.
“Go…” He whispered in Arthur’s mind and the prince felt the forest disappearing around him. His room started to materialise.
“I want to know your name!” He cried out, barely noticing the guards opening his door to check who he was talking to. Arthur knew he was flushed and the guards quickly backed out, clearly believing they had interrupted a private moment for their prince.
“Merlin. We will meet again, My Prince. Now rest and tend to your body’s needs, for the spell was strong…”
The voice faded away and Arthur took himself in hand. Only as his eyes fell shut as he collapsed back onto the bed, it was the stranger’s long slender fingers he felt wrapped around him.