Title: The Elusive Prince
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Kilgarrah
Summary: Merlin couldn't find Arthur, but it wasn't as if the prince had anywhere to go.
Word Count: 1000
Author's Notes: As you all asked for more, this is a continuation of The Dragon Prince.
“Arthur?” Merlin pushed open the door carefully, looking around (and up) as he did so. The prince didn’t like anyone sneaking in on him and although Merlin could understand why, he felt there was a darker reason than Arthur not liking to be caught unaware.
It had been a month since Uther had first ordered him to visit the concealed prince and Merlin knew there was a firm friendship blossoming between the two of them. Arthur had been cautious at first, hesitant even. But when Merlin had got past his defences, he found a charming and surprisingly witty young man. For someone who had been raised in isolation, Arthur was unexpectedly good with social contact. Merlin supposed Gaius had been visiting him all these years.
“Arthur, are you here?” Merlin winced as soon as he spoke. The bolt on the outside of the door meant Arthur had nowhere else to go. But only silence met his call and Merlin still couldn’t see the prince. Deciding that if he couldn’t see Arthur, then Arthur couldn’t see him, Merlin let a trickle of magic escape him, searching for life. Worry clawed at his stomach when it returned negative. Arthur wasn’t here, but Merlin had no idea where he was.
There was one candle lit on the rickety desk and Merlin took a step towards it. As he did so, his foot caught on something on the floor, something that clanged loudly. Merlin glanced down, icy dread clutching his airways when he saw the manacles resting on the floor. He crouched down, his hand ghosting over them. His arm gave a tremble when he realised they were stained with blood, both old and new. He stood up, snatching dangerously at the candle as he pulled it closer. There was no denying it, there was fresh blood on the chains.
“Arthur!” Fear took the place of anxiety and Merlin glanced around. If Arthur was injured, he would need aid quickly. This dark room was hardly an ideal location for a wound to heal. Merlin searched thoroughly, trying to keep his emotions in check. It was hard though. The manacles indicated this had been no accident; someone had deliberately hurt Arthur and considering barely anyone knew he was here, Merlin had a good idea of who.
Bending down, Merlin decided to check under the bed one more time before heading out into the corridor. As he did so, the candle flickered. Merlin bent closer and the light was extinguished. He lit it with a flare of magic and watched as it flickered out again. There was a strong draft and Merlin tossed the useless candle to one side and crawled under the bed.
He couldn’t believe he had missed it on his first look under the bed. But there was a hole in the wall, lose rocks piled to one side. Arthur had obviously worked them free and crawled through the gap. For the first time ever, Merlin was glad of his skinny frame as he scrambled through after the elusive prince.
He emerged in a large cave and shivered, drawing his jacket closer to him.
“Hello, young warlock.”
It wasn’t Arthur’s voice nor did the prince know about his magic. Merlin turned…and promptly swore out loud, his heart hammering hard at the sight of a dragon looming over him. The creature chuckled and Merlin tried to find his voice. But as his gaze roamed the dragon, he saw a figure curled up by its feet.
“Arthur,” Merlin breathed, hurrying forward. He used magic to float across the gap, ignoring the thought that Arthur had jumped it. The dragon blood in his veins clearly made him good at things like that. Merlin reached him, crouching down carefully. Arthur appeared to be asleep, but Merlin could see no signs of injuries apart from cuts around his wrists.
“What happened to you?” He murmured, not expecting an answer. He shrugged off his jacket and draped it over the prince, his hand brushing across Arthur’s hair in a tender gesture as he pulled away.
“My – and his – jailer happened,” the dragon growled. Merlin looked up, realising he would be nothing more than a snack to the creature. But there was no aggression in his voice, not towards the pair of them, at least. Instead, Merlin was sure he detected protectiveness and wondered if the dragon was connected to Arthur. They had the same eyes; Merlin looked at the dragon and it was like looking into Arthur’s eyes.
“Uther did this?” Merlin wasn’t as controlled and magic sparked from him. The dragon snorted in amusement and Arthur stirred.
“Shh, you’re safe now.”
“How did you find me?” Arthur asked. He sat up slowly, blinking in confusion but holding Merlin’s jacket around him. Merlin sat back.
“The gaping hole in your wall gave me a clue.”
Arthur smiled, but it was a weak shadow of his usual grin. Merlin put a hand on his shoulder.
Arthur told him in a few short sentences how his father sometimes came down, chaining his son up while he ranted about how unfair it was.
“He didn’t unchain me afterwards,” Arthur muttered. “So I had to pull free.”
Merlin winced, wondering what other dragon qualities Arthur had if he could get out of chains.
“I came here. I always come here. Kilgarrah has been my friend for years, he always helps.”
Merlin suddenly realised why Arthur had the intelligence he did considering his upbringing. The dragon had taught him.
“And now your destiny has come, young one,” the dragon said. He brushed his snout across Arthur’s head and Merlin detected fondness in his tone. The dragon saw Arthur as more than a friend.
“Him?” Arthur spluttered. “He’s who you have been going on about for years?”
“What am I missing?” Merlin asked cautiously. Arthur groaned and wrapped the jacket closer around him.
“Ask him,” he said shortly, and Merlin settled himself down for a tale that would change his fate forever.