Title: Actions and Words
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Morgause, Morgana
Summary: Her actions were betraying her words.
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: Not sure how well this reads.
Arthur curled his knees up to his chest, trying to protect his vital organs as the blows continued to rain down. He clamped his jaw shut, swallowing the howl threatening to escape when one of the men kicked him in the back, causing fresh blood to burst from the cuts criss-crossing it. He never thought being beaten would hurt more than being whipped, but these men had their orders and they would not let their mistress think they were going easy on the prisoner.
When the whole pack suddenly drew back as one, Arthur knew a signal must have been given. He forced himself to kneel, despite it sending agony through every inch of his body. With his hands bound tightly behind his back, he knew he wouldn’t be able to balance like this for long. But it was enough for him to twist and look out through the bars of his cell.
Morgana and Morgause were both standing there. Morgause had a faint smile on her face, as if she was enjoying her enemy being beaten to within an inch of his life. She probably was. But Morgana was frowning and Arthur wondered if it was because the men had been called off before their blows had killed him.
“How the mighty have fallen, Arthur Pendragon,” Morgause sneered. Arthur forced himself to remain upright although he could feel trembles racing through his body and blood dripping from several wounds, including the now-open whip marks on his back.
“I would have let them continue but my dear sister wants your torment to drag,” she continued. Arthur glanced at Morgana, who stared over his head as if Arthur was now beneath her notice. “She wants you to suffer for days and who am I to deny her?”
Morgause gestured to the men. One shoved Arthur over as they left the cell and he didn’t have the strength to rise again. Morgause disappeared with her soldiers, but Morgana stepped forward.
“Why are you doing this?” Arthur rasped. Even his voice was shaking and he knew there was no way of denying it. Not from Morgana – she knew him far too well and would see through the mask, see the pain he was trying to hide.
“Because you deserve it,” Morgana spat. “Morgause would have run you through while you were unconscious, but that is too simple, too easy for you, brother. I want you to suffer, trapped and knowing you will be beaten to death like a commoner even if it takes days.”
Arthur stared at her, trying to find some hint of the Morgana he had known. But Morgana refused to meet his eyes and instead swept away. Once he was sure he was alone, Arthur let a soft cry escape him as he felt everything the men had done to him over the last few days. He almost wished that Morgause had run him through, for he didn’t know how he was going to get out of this.
Arthur knew he had toppled into unconsciousness, but the voice sounded real. It couldn’t be though. Merlin was far away from here; Arthur knew the pain must have finally got to him…
“Oh my god, Arthur!”
Fingers scrabbled at the ropes holding his hands and Arthur opened his eyes when his wrists were freed. He reached forward, weak fingers grabbing onto the bottom of Merlin’s shirt to check he was real.
“Don’t worry. We’ll get you out of here.” There was no smile on Merlin’s face, no relief in his eyes. Arthur didn’t blame him – he was absolutely covered in blood.
“I can’t walk,” he whispered brokenly. Merlin followed his gaze, anger clouding his eyes when he saw the deep slashes across Arthur’s feet to prevent such an escape.
“Percival’s here, you’ll be fine.”
Arthur felt Morgana’s presence before he saw her. His gaze slid past Merlin and out through the bars. She was just standing there, watching them. Merlin jerked around, clumsily pulling free a sword and levelling it at her. Arthur touched his servant’s leg – the only part he could reach.
“No,” he whispered.
“Arthur, she did this to you.”
“No,” Arthur said again. He understood now. Morgana had wanted his death to drag out because it gave him more time to escape. She had stopped Morgause, not because she wanted Arthur’s death to be painful, but because she didn’t want him dead. She had lied to her sister and Morgause had believed her. Arthur wondered if Morgana was truly on anyone’s side anymore.
“She saved my life,” he muttered. Morgana flinched as he said the words and Arthur knew he was right. She didn’t want to be reminded of it though, she hadn’t wanted him to figure it out. Arthur was getting tired of being underestimated, but now was not the time. Merlin sheathed the sword and turned back to Arthur. Arthur looked away from Morgana, and by the time he looked back, she was gone.
It confirmed everything. She could have stopped them from escaping…and she hadn’t. Merlin seemed to come to the same conclusion. He sighed, running his fingers through his hair as he stared down at Arthur’s broken body.
“Come on, Sire,” he murmured softly. “Let’s get you home.”
He moved to the cell door, softly calling for Percival. The knight must have been waiting for he appeared immediately. Without a word, he sheathed his sword and pulled the prince up and over his shoulder. He was gentle, but Arthur cried out, agony ripping him apart. His breathing came in short gasps and tears spilled down his face. He was in too much pain to feel ashamed.
“Easy, Arthur.” Merlin’s voice was soft and a hand touched the back of his head fleetingly. Warmth spread through him and Arthur embraced it, allowing it to drag him into unconsciousness again where he could escape the pain.
But he knew he really needed to talk to Merlin about his magic. Everyone needed to stop underestimating him.