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Wild Winter Stars (10/?)

Title: Wild Winter Stars
Fandom: Merlin
Characters: Merlin, Arthur, Gaius, Gwen, Morgana, Gwaine, Percival, Mordred, OMC
Rated: PG-13
Word Count: 718
Summary: “That Arthur has not always existed seems odd to me. Like the wind on the moors and the wild winter stars, surely he has always lived . . . and always will.” ― Stephen R. Lawhead, Arthur A man tortured by Morgana is left outside Camelot to taunt Arthur. Merlin, Gwaine and Percival along with the recovered man go to spy on Morgana.
Author's Note: This is a sequel to A Word for Forgotten Songs. The original character is from one of my series and I kinda place him in lots of fandoms. His original series starts here. The story is set in series 5, somewhat early on. It's unbeta'd so all mistakes are my own.

One Two Three Four Five Six Seven Eight Nine




After dinner, Merlin rinsed the pot and plates before taking a spot near the fire. Gwaine was on first watch, facing the road. Alan was still leaning against the tree and Percival was sharpening his sword. That’s how they stayed, the only sound the scraping of the blade. That is, until Gwaine opened his mouth.

“Alan.” He turned around to face the older man.

“Gwaine.”

“I’ve been thinking.”

“Don’t strain yourself.”

Merlin sniggered.

“Why did Arthur pick you for this? You said it’s because of your knowledge of other kingdoms and their attitudes towards magic, but there are other advisors in Camelot with the same knowledge. So, why you?”

“Maybe it’s guilt over what Morgana did. I don’t presume to understand the king’s mind.”

“You mean you didn’t compel him to do it?”

“What? You think I persuaded Arthur to give me a tedious, boring, thankless job that half the kingdom didn’t even want?”

“When you say it like that…”

“You do have to admit it’s strange,” commented Percival as he looked up from his blade.

Merlin stared into the fire. Gwaine had basically accused Alan of using magic on Arthur to get the position. If this conversation stayed on track, it would definitely come out. That would not help the situation, especially when going to face down Morgana. “Last time Alan was here, Arthur was impressed by his tactics.”

“Really? I thought he was annoyed because I took over.”

“Of course he wouldn’t tell you. I think giving you this position is his way of thanking you.”

“He has a strange way of saying thank you.”

“I saved Arthur’s life and was made his servant. It runs in the family.” Merlin noticed Alan wriggle in place and a small wince escape him. “Are you in pain? Do you need some medicine?”

“Just a little sore. I just need to walk around for a bit so I don’t go to sleep stiff.”

“I don’t think that’s wise,” advised Percival.

“There’s a chance of bandits in the area,” agreed Gwaine.

[Tell them you need to relieve yourself.]

“I appreciate your concern but, even though I’m not 100%, I can handle a few bandits. Besides, I really need to relieve myself.” The knights were hesitant. “Look, Merlin can come with me if you’re worried.”

“Me? What can I do?”

“I’ve seen you wield a tree branch,” Alan grinned.

“We’ll probably hear him shouting first,” said Gwaine with a chuckle.

Merlin mimed his friend as he helped Alan stand. “Let’s take it slow until your muscles loosen up.”

Alan leaned on both him and the tree before slowly heading towards the small creek where he could make sure Alan got some fresh water. He still had to keep the man hydrated and well. “Did you really need to go for a walk?”

“Yeah, I was getting stiff. And, since you mentioned it, I do need to relieve myself.”

“Ah, sorry.” Merlin stepped away to give Alan privacy. “I just thought you wanted a chance to talk of plans and stuff.” He heard water splashing and knew that Alan was finished at the creek. “Was getting Gwaine and Percival to accuse you part of the plan?”

“No, but at least it’s them. Any of the regular knights would have marched me right back. They both know good magic exists. They’ll keep a close watch on me as we get closer to Morgana to make sure it’s not some sort of trap.”

“Like you getting tortured and left for dead was part of the plan.”

“No one said anything about it being logical.”

Merlin looked back towards the campsite. “Do you think we should contact Gaius and let him know our progress?”

“Good idea.” Alan sat down on a log.

Merlin watched as the older man closed his eyes and his breathing eased to the point where it stilled. It was as if he had died. He reached out hesitantly, afraid to touch Alan should it ruin the “connection”. He knew this ability for long-distance communication would be wonderful and save so many lives in sharing information and intelligence.

Alan blinked a few times and looked around as if remembering where he was.

“Are you okay?” he asked

“Yeah, just a little disoriented.” He stood slowly and Merlin was there to help him if he needed it. “Gaius is fine and all is well at Camelot, though Arthur is becoming aggravated with your replacement.”

“George does take being a royal servant quite seriously. Anything about Mordred?”

“According to Gaius, he’s been the perfect knight. I told him I’d check in again tomorrow night. We’d better head back before they come looking for us and hear something.”

Merlin agreed. “Just one more thing.” He placed a hand on Alan’s back and whispered a pain-easing spell, one with which he’d had a lot of practice. “That should help you sleep.”

“Feels better already. Thank you.”

“I see you’ve made it back in one piece,” commented Gwaine as they returned to camp.

“And ready for a good night’s sleep so your snoring better not keep me awake.”

“I do not snore!”

“Yeah, you do,” said Merlin, having heard the knight on numerous occasions.

Gwaine looked at Percival who merely shrugged. “As I have first watch, you will be asleep before me should that happen.”

“You’d better not wake me up then.”

Merlin watched Alan get settled and whispered a spell to make the ground more comfortable. He stayed awake, observing as Alan fell asleep.

“Merlin.” It was Percival. “Get some sleep yourself. We won’t let anything happen to him.”

Knowing the truth of the statement, Merlin let himself drift off.

* * *


It took them another day and a half to reach the castle believed to be Morgana’s base. Since Alan couldn’t give them a definitive answer, they set up camp atop a cliff overlooking the castle. They then divided into pairs – Alan with Percival and Merlin with Gwaine – so they could watch both approaches. Alan was pleased that he wasn’t with Gwaine as the man would have kept questioning him about magic.

He and Percival took up position watching the western approach. They took turns so there would always be fresh eyes. He was certain that Percival was taking longer stretches. Alan appreciated it and dozed off a little against his better wishes. He woke to a jab in the shoulder and opened his eyes to a group of Morgana’s soldiers. Crap! Maybe I should have stayed at Camelot. He stood slowly, not making any sudden moves. He looked over his shoulder and saw that Percival was already restrained by three others. Hopefully Merlin and Gwaine had a chance to get away.

He put his hands up in the universal sign of surrender and a second soldier searched him for weapons. With that complete, his hands were tied together with stout rope and the other end was in the hands of the soldier as he was pulled down the hill. [Merlin? Be careful. Percival and I have been taken by Morgana’s soldiers.]

[Too late. They already found us. I think Gwaine broke the nose of one of them.]

[Only one?]

[They realized their mistake. Wow, the castle looks much larger this close.]

Alan took a look ahead at the castle. It really was imposing in its bleakness. Part of him still felt sorry for Morgana. If only Uther hadn’t been so set against magic, she would have been accepted and all this bloodshed could have been avoided.

The men led the four of them into the large cavernous throne room that looked even emptier than last time.

Morgana let out a cold, amused laugh at their arrival. “Oh, this is too rich. Each of you has been a thorn in my side in varying degrees.” She looked at her soldiers. “Take the knights down to the dungeon. I wish to spend more time with these two.”

Alan knew at that moment what it felt like to fall from a frying pan and into a fire.

* * *


Merlin didn’t have to pretend to be nervous facing Morgana. He felt that every time they came up against each other would be the time she learned the truth. With her believing Alan had magic could help. He would just have to take his chances and hope that Alan could play along.

Morgana came down from her throne and walked slowly around each of them. Merlin kept his eyes straight ahead, not giving in to his curiosity.

“Gaius must be a better healer than I thought,” she said. “You shouldn’t be breathing, let alone riding out on a mission.”

“When I heard you were the object of the mission, I just couldn’t resist. We did have such a fine time together.”

Morgana smiled crookedly. “And the others?”

“Oh, volunteers. After I told of your hospitality, everyone wanted to come.”

She faced Merlin. “You volunteered?” she sneered. “You?”

Merlin thought carefully about his phrasing. “We wanted to repay you for taking such care of Alan, especially when you hadn’t seen him in so long.”

“Merlin, you try too hard to be witty and it falls flat.”

“Arthur doesn’t mind,” he defended.

“Yes, well, Arthur’s never had a well-developed sense of humor.” She went back to stand in front of her throne.

Merlin sidled over until he was behind Alan. Morgana would think nothing of him hiding behind the fighter – he did it all the time. It would keep him from her view so he could do something to help Alan.

Morgana slowly created a fireball in her hand. “Let’s just test your magic.” She threw the ball but Alan had put up his shield.

Merlin added a little of his own magic to reinforce the shield. If Morgana realized he couldn’t hold a simple shield, she would look elsewhere for the source of strong magic and that could not happen.

“You’re stronger than I expected,” she stated. “Not many can hold a shield this long against me.”

“I like to surprise people,” Alan replied, a little strained.

[We have to let her win,] Merlin directed at Alan. [She’s the strongest magic user out there.]

[Minus one.]

Merlin ignored him. [We can’t let her get suspicious.]

[All right. On three.]

They counted down and let the shield die. Morgana’s energy blasted them across the room. He could hear her laugh as he lost consciousness.

Merlin wasn’t sure how much time had passed when he woke up. Though it was dark, experience told him he was in a cell. He heard a rustling sound and really hoped it was Alan and not a rat. He crept towards the sound and, as his eyes adjusted, he saw Alan unconscious on the floor. The man would be aching all over when he woke so Merlin laid a hand on Alan’s head and whispered a healing spell.

“Merlin?”

The magic user hurried to the bars to peer out. “Percival?” He could only see the passageway.

“Are you and Alan all right?”

.Alan’s still unconscious and will be very sore when he wakes. I’ve got a bit of a headache and will come out in bruises later, but I’m fine. What about you and Gwaine?”

“Two of the guards took him away. I don’t know how long ago. I hate to think of what kind of torture she’s inflicting on him.”

Merlin remembered when Morgana took over Camelot using Helios. She had forced Gwaine to fight her men for food. “She likes to make strong people break. That’s what she tried to do to Alan.”

“Gwaine won’t break. He’d never let her win,” Percival stated.

“If she uses her magic on him, he’d have no choice. With Gwaine so secure in his strength and ability to fight, I doubt she will.”

“She likes to use a person’s own strength, belief, against them,” came Alan’s voice.

“And your belief?” asked Percival.

“Arthur. I know what type of king he is – and will be. When I wouldn’t turn against him and join her, well, you know what happened.”

“What about Gwaine? Will she…” Merlin didn’t want to think of another friend going through such a harrowing experience.”

“He should be fine. She’ll want us to see what lies in store for our defiance.”

“Will you be able to help him?” questioned Percival.

“I don’t have any of my medicines so I can’t say for sure…” Merlin drifted off when he realized Percival hadn’t asked him.

“I might be able to get her to focus on me and leave Gwaine alone…”

“I was hoping you could use your magic.”

Merlin held his breath. At least Percival and Gwaine were the most accepting of Arthur’s knights. He wasn’t one to condemn someone for using magic to save another.

Alan moved towards the door. “Now that you know, what do you plan to do?”

“Why would I do anything? We’re not in Camelot so any magic you do isn’t illegal. As for you being a magic user, I suspected. I have never seen anyone heal from wounds like yours, no matter how capable the physician.”

“I’ll make sure to die next time,” Alan remarked drily.

“Will you be able to help Gwaine?”

He looked at Merlin, who nodded. “It depends on the severity of his injuries but, yes, I think so.”

“Good.” Percival sounded relieved. “We need him healed enough before we can even think of escape.”

They heard a heavy metal bolt slide open. Merlin did his best to peer out the barred window in the door. Three guards entered the hall, two were pulling a semi-conscious Gwaine along by the arms. Merlin couldn’t see his friend’s face but knew that it was bad. He would have a big job ahead of him.

The lead guard looked into the other cell. “Back against the wall!” he ordered Percival. After a pause, he unlocked the door and entered, followed by the others with Gwaine. Merlin could only guess that the single guard was watching Percival while the others put Gwaine down. Then they were gone.

“Can you get us over there?” Alan asked him in a whisper.

Tóspringe!” The door unlocked.

“Silly question.”

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