Title: A Binding Oath
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur,
Summary: He had sworn an oath that he wouldn't give in.
Warnings: Mentions of torture.
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: Sorry, bit gloomy.
The clanging of the door jerked Merlin from a slumber he hadn’t meant to slip into. Instantly, the warlock jumped to his feet and ran for his own cell door, being pulled up short by a few paces when the chains binding him to the wall snapped taut and yanked him to a standstill. Just like every other day, Merlin struggled fruitlessly against them as he watched their captors walk into the dank dungeon. As per usual, they ignored Merlin and headed for the cell opposite.
Arthur hadn’t even woken up this time, his sleeping slipping into unconsciousness. That didn’t trouble the men, they simply doused him in cold water and laughed cruelly as the prince fought his way back to consciousness. As soon as Arthur’s eyes were open, they hauled him to his feet, binding his hands behind his back and forcing him from the cell.
It broke Merlin’s heart seeing that Arthur now had to fight hard enough to stay on his own feet, he no longer had the strength to fight against their captors. Who could after being tortured every day for a fortnight? He had been half-starved, whipped, burnt, beaten… And Merlin knew it was all his fault.
As Arthur slipped on the uneven floor and the men only tightened their grip rather than helping him, Merlin struggled desperately against the chains.
“Leave him alone!” He yelled, willing Arthur to get up and fight back. He might have been bound, but that wouldn’t have stopped Arthur before. Then again, the Arthur before hadn’t gone through what this one had…
“You know how to do that, little sorcerer,” one of the men sneered. He motioned to his friends and they proceeded to bundle Arthur out of sight even while the man moved closer to Merlin’s cell. “Just try and stop us, go on. I dare you.”
Hating himself for letting Arthur down so badly, Merlin shook his head. The man sneered, shoving food through the bars before disappearing after the others, leaving Merlin alone with his thoughts. He wanted to save the food for Arthur, but knew that he would never get close enough to give it to the prince. Telling himself one of them had to keep their strength up, Merlin gnawed on the dry bread, sitting back down again and letting his chains pool around him.
This was all his fault.
They had been ambushed on a hunting trip. Even now Merlin wasn’t entirely sure how long the fight had gone on for as he had been knocked out within moments. If only he had fought back, if only he had lashed out with magic straight away rather than being cautious. It was his destiny to save Arthur and now his very means of doing so were what was causing Arthur’s pain.
Just like every other time, as soon as Merlin started to think too deeply about what was going on, he lost his appetite. Being knocked out had been it for him. The bandits had a sorcerer of their own, one dabbling in the darkest of the arts. While Merlin was sure he would have won against him in a match of sheer power, the sorcerer had got to him first. Merlin had awoken in agony, knowing that something was wrong.
They didn’t waste time in informing him what, gloating happily as they did so. As soon as Merlin used his magic, it would be bound to the sorcerer’s and the evil man would be able to use Merlin’s magic as if it was his own. They had clearly thought that Merlin would forget that and instantly use his power to break them free, but they had never met someone as stubborn as him before.
When they realised that even ignoring the prisoners wasn’t going to work, they had turned on Arthur. Merlin knew they were beating him to an inch of his life every day – sometimes he could even hear screams that Arthur would have never normally made. He didn’t want to know what they were doing to him. But he knew why. They were hoping it would make him break, clearly knowing the two cared about each other. All it would take was Merlin to snap once and try and lash out with the power at his disposal and he would be lost.
He would have sacrificed himself if it meant saving Arthur. But as the prince pointed out, the sorcerer could kill thousands with no one being able to stop him if he had Merlin’s power. Arthur had made him swear an oath, made him promise that no matter what happened to him, Merlin wouldn’t give in.
It was the only time that Merlin had ever done as he was told. He had to show Arthur that he respected him enough and just hoped that the knights would hurry up and find them. After all, the bandits hadn’t truly planned on taking the prince of Camelot, they had been after Merlin. They hadn’t covered their tracks well enough before finding out who they had hostage and Arthur had assured Merlin that the knights would have ridden out at first light the day after they had been taken. They would be on their way and then there would be hell to pay.
But as Arthur’s screams filtered through the door at the entrance to the dungeon, Merlin knew they weren’t coming fast enough. He knew how much pain Arthur could withstand, and the fact they were making him scream meant he wasn’t entirely sure how much longer Arthur could hold on for. Loathing just how weak and helpless the bandits had made him by not allowing him his magic, Merlin could do nothing but bite down on his fist to stop him screaming himself.
It was a battle keeping his magic under control, to stop it reacting instinctively to Arthur’s pain. But it was for Arthur’s sake he knew he had to keep in control. He had sworn an oath, after all.