Title: Rough Justice
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur,
Summary: Merlin was a breaker of laws.
Word Count: 920
Prompt: #136 Oath
Author's Notes: None
Lungs seizing up, desperate for air, Merlin knew it was impossible. He'd never escape the hunters, not with his body working against him. Bruised and battered, the cost of tripping over his own feet, lost amongst the forests of Camelot, he knew he had very little time left.
It had all come crashing down. In trying to save Arthur, Merlin's magic shimmering in the courtyard was enough to condemn him. Uther screaming for the guards, Arthur's face contorted with disgust, Gaius's old face pale as death, he had no other option but to run.
Run he did, out of the castle, past guards and townsfolk scampering out of his way. There were arrows and a knife or two and he managed to send them off into the dust but still to no avail.
His body aching for relief, he knew that it was only a matter of time. In the distance, he could hear the hounds baying for blood, the shouts of the knights growing closer as they circled around his hiding place, cutting off any hope of escape.
Exhausted, his concentration wavered, his magic at long last deserting him, he wasn't going to be able to fight them, at least not for long.
All he could do was wait for Arthur's rough justice and trust that it would be quick.
And when his prince arrived, whatever hope Merlin might have had to persuade him to let him go died when he looked up into Arthur's eyes and saw them filled with hate.
Flinching back, babbling about forgiveness and love and doing everything for Arthur, giving everything he ever was for Arthur, but to no avail; no one would listen, least of all the prince of Camelot.
Instead, one of the knights threw a rope over a heavy tree branch and tightened it into a noose. Merlin was shoved forward, head thrust into the rough hemp even as he struggled but there was no quarter given.
Even as Merlin begged for clemency, Arthur watched impassively, looking so much like his father that it took Merlin's breath away.
And then it was too late. He was suddenly yanked up, the cord around his neck impossibly tight.
He couldn't breathe, his hands scrabbling at the rope, his feet dangling in mid-air, lungs screaming for relief. Pain at his throat and more pain looking at Arthur as he watched, impassive, hard as stone, staring at Merlin with cold certainty as if he knew he'd done the right thing in killing another worthless sorcerer and would do it again given half a chance.
If Merlin had had enough air, he'd have sobbed then, grief trying to get through, but the ropes tightened and there was only his heartbeat hammering in his head and a loud noise as if a wooden door was being battered.
Bang, bang, bang.
With a jerk, Merlin came awake. His hands were pulling at the tangle of neckerchief at his throat. It has twisted somehow, strangling him and he quickly loosened the knot. He must have fallen asleep and in his nightmares, given form to the terrors in his head.
His lungs trying to pull in as much air as he could, there was another sharp knock at the door. Arthur's voice just beyond. "Merlin, you idiot, are you in there? Get up, you lazy lout. We are on a hunt for a sorcerer and there is no time to lose."
When he pulled the door open, his body still hurting from the phantoms pains of his escape, he could only gape at Arthur. In his hands were rope and a sharp sword, and as Merlin shuddered, Arthur said, "Come on, Merlin. The sorcerer won't wait. My father has commanded that he be dealt with, by any means."
Stammering in shock, not sure that he wasn't still in the dream, Merlin said, "Are you… are you going to hang me?"
"What are you talking about? Hanging's not good enough for you, you idiot, unless you don't get a move on. We've a sorcerer to pursue and no time for your foolishness. Here, carry this." He shoved the rope into Merlin's hands. "You forgot it last time and we do need something to tie up the prisoner once we've captured him."
Horrified, he let go, the hemp slithering out of his grasp, pooling at his feet, and waiting, waiting for the moment when Arthur would pick it up and strangle him with it.
"What is wrong with you today? You are clumsier than usual." Then Arthur did pick it up and Merlin backed away. But the prince was in too much of a rush to notice. Instead, he said, "Hurry up!"
"I'm… I'm… will you kill him?" He couldn't stop shaking. That dream had been too vivid.
"He broke the law, Merlin." Arthur shoved the rope over one shoulder and pulled Merlin forward and down the stairs. "As all who practice magic, they have broken faith with Camelot and must pay. Now come on before I have to explain why I was late to my father and he puts you in the stocks again."
As Arthur let go, Merlin stumbled, then followed in the prince's grumbling wake.
It would seem that another magic user was to pay the price for Uther's insanity.
Yet Merlin was as guilty as they.
He was a sorcerer, a criminal, a traitor.
And he wondered, not for the first time, how soon before his nightmare became reality?