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Wild Winter Stars (12/?)

Title: Wild Winter Stars
Fandom: Merlin
Characters: Merlin, Arthur, Gaius, Gwen, Morgana, Gwaine, Percival, Mordred, OMC
Rated: PG-13
Word Count: 1,406
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.

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Alan rather enjoyed sneaking past Morgana’s guards. Some of the excitement was lost by both he and Merlin using their “gifts”. They made it to the courtyard only to be spotted by a soldier relieving himself. Of all the things to cost us a clean escape: a call of nature.

“Prisoners are escaping!” he shouted. “Prisoners are escaping!”

Percival took the lead followed by Merlin and Alan with Gwaine covering their backs. They made their way to the main gate, making use of what little lead they had. They all heard the clanking of gears and chains.

“Move it!” shouted Gwaine. “They’re lowering the gate!”

Even though they ran fast – Gwaine pushing from behind – only Percival made it through before it closed. The knight grabbed the bars and shook it in frustration and refused to leave without them.

“You have to get back to Arthur and tell him about Morgana and the castle,” said Merlin.

“We will make it out,” added Alan. “I’m not sure how just yet, but we will.”

“We all have to move now,” Gwaine said looking over his shoulder.

With a final nod, Percival ran, leaving the others to disappear down a narrow alley.

“Where now?” Merlin asked. “There has to be another way out.”

“There’s always the garbage chute.” Alan looked at the others’ faces. “What? It’s a perfectly viable option.”

“I don’t want to smell like rotting food.” Gwaine pushed them against the wall as some soldiers ran past. “Can’t you just, you know…” He waggled his fingers.

“You can say ‘magic’, Gwaine. It’s not a bad word, especially here,” Merlin told him.

“Of course not. It’s only a word.”

They turned around to find Morgana smirking at them, knights on either side of her, swords pointed at them. Gwaine raised his sword to defend his friends. Morgana simply waved her hand, sending it flying.

“I cannot believe Arthur sent such fools against me. But where is the tall, silent one? He actually ran off and left you? Well, what does that say about you?” She turned to one of her knights. “Send a party out to find him.”

“Yes, my queen.” He bowed and hurried away.

“Now, what to do with you? I could use some amusement.” She threw a small fireball at them.

Alan deflected it with a thought. It only made Morgana smile. Great. How do you do, Cat? My name’s Mouse. He kept deflecting individual items until she started using more than one. That’s when he brought out the shield.

[Do you need help?]

[Protect Gwaine in case anything gets past me.] Alan let Morgana think she was pushing him back. She was, but he wanted her to think it was all up to her. He felt a burning in his leg just as he gripped the other men on the shoulders. He then thought of Percival.

* * * *

Merlin was surprised at how well Alan was handling Morgana, especially after all he’d done in the last 12 hours. He either had a great reserve of energy or a remarkable recovery time.

He sensed Alan’s shield weakening and was prepared to put up one of his own to protect Gwaine. He wasn’t expecting the large firebolt that came right at them and flinched.

When he opened his eyes, they were in woods and Percival was staring at them. “What...”

“Told you we’d make it out.” Alan made to walk forward and his left leg buckled.

That’s when Merlin noticed the burn hole in his trousers. “You were hit.”

“Oh, that’s why it hurts.”

Percival caught him as he fell. “Can you heal yourself?”

“I don’t have the strength. Merlin will have to use his medicines until I can.”

The three men looked at Merlin. He took a deep breath before he knelt beside Alan. “This is becoming habit for you, isn’t it?” He took his pack off his shoulder, thankful Morgana didn’t take it. “I’ll do what I can to clean it and then put a salve on it.”

“Thank you.”

Merlin deftly cleaned the wound with St, John’s Wort and applied a tea tree salve before wrapping it in a bandage. He murmured a quick spell to ease the pain.

“We have to get moving,” said Gwaine. “We’ve been here too long.”

“Can you walk?” Percival asked Alan.

“I should be good for awhile. Gwaine’s right, we gotta keep moving. Horses would’ve been nice, but…”

“I’ll look for herbs that can ease pain.” Merlin packed his bag. “I’ve a feeling we’ll be needing more before long.” He stood and the three of them helped Alan stand. “How are you two?”

Once the knights assured him they were fine, Gwaine led them away from Morgana and her men. Merlin let the knights worry about the physical while he kept an eye on Alan and his senses open for any signs of magic.

* * * *

Gaius kept busy as he waited to hear from Alan who had missed his last check-in. Of course, the problem with busy work is that it gave his mind time to wander and worry over what could have happened. The worst scenario was that Morgana had captured and killed them all. As this was Morgana, torture had entered his thoughts as well. He shook his head. No, do not go there. Do not invite trouble.

He then tried to convince himself of the positive. Gwaine and Percival are masters of the sword. Alan is no slouch either, plus he has magic. And, of course, Merlin. Even if they’ve been captured, they can escape. I just have to be patient.

Gaius looked down to see he had chopped all his herbs, some almost to a fine powder. It was a good thing he had stopped when he had, as Merlin wasn’t around to harvest more.

There was a single knock on the door before Arthur entered. “Have you heard anything?”

“No, nothing yet.”

The king sat at the table. “I knew this was a foolish undertaking from the start.”

“They volunteered, my lord. You voiced your opposition but they chose to go. I know you feel responsible, which is a sign of a good ruler. But you also must know that your people will follow you out of loyalty, no matter what you order.”

“It’s Merlin and Alan I’m most worried about. Merlin’s not a soldier and Alan isn’t ready for such a mission. After what Morgana did to him before, I can’t believe he would volunteer to go.”

Gaius had to bite his tongue regarding the times Morgana had hurt Merlin as well. “It all comes down to loyalty, as I said. He knew this was something that needed to be done. Probably next to you and Gwen, Merlin knows Morgana best.”

“And yourself.” Arthur gave a small smile.

“Yes, but I’m not about to leave Camelot on a mission.”

“So, you’re willing to go on one here?”

“I think I’ll stick with healing and the odd bit of advice.”

“Your advice can be rather odd.”

Gaius felt the tingling in his mind that always preceded contact from Alan. He held up a hand to silence Arthur so he wouldn’t be distracted.

[Gaius, sorry about the delay. We got caught by Morgana but escaped.]

The physician could tell something was wrong with Alan. His thoughts weren’t as “sharp” as previous connections. [Are you okay?]

[Ah, not really. Caught a blast in the leg and then transported the others. Using the last bit of strength to contact you. I’ll try again later.]

Gaius opened his eyes to see Arthur staring at him, leaning forward in his seat. “Well?”

Gaius repeated what Alan had told him. “They’re on the way back now, but on foot and one of them is wounded. It will be some time before they return.”

“What are we supposed to do in the meantime? Morgana attacked my men.”

“We must behave normally. If Alan weren’t with them, we wouldn’t know anything until they return. We need to protect Alan’s secret – and your reputation – by treating this as any excursion. I’ll keep you informed with any updates I receive.”

“Thank you, Gaius.” Arthur stood and headed for the door. “I won’t be able to relax completely until they’re back.”

“I miss him, too.”

Arthur looked like he was ready to deny it, but left, closing the door behind him.

Feeling more at ease, Gaius returned to his work, his mind wandering with more pleasant thoughts.

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