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Wild Winter Stars (13/?)

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.

One Two Three Four Five Six Seven Eight Nine Ten Eleven Twelve

Alan woke feeling greatly improved. Yes, the leg still hurt, but he only felt a little tired, not as drained. There was a small fire burning and Merlin was warming something. Alan guessed he was using something from the medicine bag – hopefully something more nourishing than medicine. If there was a fire, they must be sheltered somehow. He propped himself up on his elbows for a better view.

[How long was I asleep?]

Gwaine turned from his place at the entry of their shelter, a grin on his face. “Look who’s awake. Half the time I’ve known you, you’ve been asleep.”

“Yeah, well--” He coughed from a dry mouth.

Merlin handed him a cup of water. “Drink this, it will help.”

[It’s not a sleeping draught, is it? Gaius has tricked me before.]

“No, just water. The sleeping powder’s in the food.”

Alan took a couple of sips and soon his mouth and throat could function normally. “So, what’s going on?”

“We’re in a large network of caves about a day’s journey from my village. We can stay there until you’ve regained your strength.”

“Won’t that put them in danger if Morgana sends people after us?”

“She will believe us to head straight for Camelot. Ealdor is a detour. She’ll think we’re in too much of a hurry.”

“Knowing one of us is injured, she must realize we’ll take shelter.”

“After witnessing what you did, she might believe you can take us all the way back to Arthur.” Gwaine made his way over to the fire.

“It’s a good thing she thinks I’m stronger than I am.”

Percival returned with a couple of small rabbits he had already skinned. “Glad to see you are feeling better, Alan.” He handed the rabbits to Merlin. “I saw no signs of Morgana or her men. We should be safe for tonight. I thought we could take the time to enjoy real food tonight.”

“I could use something solid.” Alan leaned back against the wall.

“Roasting them would be quickest,” Merlin seemed to think aloud.

Gwaine helped Merlin put the carcasses on a makeshift spit.

“Can I have some assistance?” Alan requested. “I don’t want to get too stiff.”

Percival came over and helped him upright. Gwaine waited to see if he was needed, Merlin took advantage of the distraction to give the fire a “boost”. While they waited for the meat to cook, Alan asked Merlin to tell him about his village. Merlin was reluctant because they were well-seasoned travellers compared to him.

“I will admit travelling around was fun. Saw lots of different places, met lots of people, but there were times – mostly when it was cold and I was sleeping in a barn – that I dreamt of a home to call my own and a family who cared for me.”

Alan looked at Gwaine. Opening up like that seemed so out-of-character. Though, if he were to confess to anyone, it would be Merlin.

With a smile, Merlin started talking of life in the village and the mischief he and his friend Will go into. He glossed over the hardships, times when the harvest barely got them through the winter. “I guess my mother realized I wasn’t meant for village life so she sent me to Gaius. But you all must have more interesting stories than mine.”

“Alan, you first,” Gwaine said quickly.

Alan wondered why it was that the knight wasn’t ready to share. He chose his words carefully as he told his story. “Growing up, it was just me, my parents and my older brother, who I adored. He went to fight and never came home. I became a soldier because I wanted to know what happened to him. I got to see new lands, new people. Even though I’m no longer a soldier, I still like to travel.”

“But what of your brother?” asked Percival. “Did you ever find out what happened?”

“You can’t end the story there,” agreed Gwaine.

“I found him. He hand been wounded and left for dead. The ruler of the land gave him a position in her court. It was quite the surprise when we returned home. My mother couldn’t stop smiling for a week.”

Merlin sliced the cooled rabbit and passed it around. Between mouthfuls, Gwaine regaled them with stories from his travels, mainly about women and fights. Percival told some stories of life in his village before his parents were killed.

Alan felt himself starting to drift off and decided it would be best to contact Gaius. [Gaius, just want to let you know we’re safe.]

[Where are you?]

[Some caves Merlin knows. I’m still recovering so we’re going to Merlin’s village until I’m strong enough to get us home.]

[Ealdor? That makes sense. Morgana would expect you to head straight for Camelot.]

[Tell Arthur to set up patrols to watch for her troops.]

[I will. Take care and stay safe.]

Alan fell asleep as the others discussed the order of watches.

* * *

Merlin loved it each time he came to Ealdor. He enjoyed having his mother fuss over him as it made him feel like a child again. Every time he realized how much his life had changed. How much he had changed. He looked back at Gwaine and Percival carrying Alan on a makeshift litter. He had insisted on taking a turn carrying, but he just couldn’t last as long and the frequent stops to switch ate up too much time.

“Hoorah!” Gwaine declared as they came in sight of the village. “You are heavier than you look,” he told Alan.

“I can walk the rest of the way to the village.”

“Oh, don’t want Merlin’s mother to see you weak?” Gwaine teased.

“The reason for the litter was for speed. We don’t have to worry now and I want to walk.”

After a moment of deliberation, Gwaine relented. “Fine.”

The knights tilted the stretcher so Alan would be standing upright. Merlin stood next to him to help keep him steady. The older man stood for a few moments, legs apart, to regain balance. He took a few wobbly steps, waving off the support of the others. Merlin looked at Percival and Gwaine with a shrug and fell in beside his injured friend. The more Alan walked, the stronger he got. How much of it was confidence, he couldn’t sure. A large percentage, certainly.

A woman carrying a water pail looked in their direction. Her smile matched his. “Merlin!”

“Mother!” He quickened his pace and practically ran to her. He then hugged her and buried his head against her shoulder. He almost wished he was a child again so she could care for him once more.

“I’ve missed you.” She looked past him to the others. “What happened?”

“You remember Gwaine and Percival.” He nodded at the knights. “This is Alan, a friend from years ago – he helped save Arthur’s life.”

“You can tell me inside. He needs to lie down.”

“Thank you,” Alan responded. “Merlin said it would be okay for me to rest up here before going back to Camelot.”

“Certainly. This village owes Arthur for saving us from raiders.”

“Raiders?” Alan questioned.

“Not long after I became Arthur’s servant. Because it’s in another kingdom, Uther wouldn’t send help. Arthur, Gwen and Morgana came with me and helped the villagers. He still likes to check on them from time-to-time.”

Hunith had Gwaine and Percival help Alan to the bed. “I was just going to get some water and firewood when you arrived.”

“We can fetch that for you,” volunteered Percival.

“Aye,” agreed Gwaine, “Especially if it will help you make your marvellous stew,” he grinned.

“Away with you both,” she smiled.

As soon as the knights left, Merlin hurried to check Alan’s leg. “It’s looking much better but let me help.” He placed his hands above the wound.

“Merlin!” His mother scolded.

“He knows, Mother. He has magic too.” He concentrated on healing as well as easing the pain. “There. That should hold you for a bit.”

“Thanks.” He looked at Hunith. “Thank you for giving up your bed. Hopefully, with Merlin’s help, it won’t be for too long.”

“Just long enough,” Hunith stated.

“Gwaine and Percival know he has magic so will believe that’s why he’s healing so quickly.”

“Knights of Camelot know and he’s still alive?” She gave Alan a cup of water.

“I thought you needed water.”

“She gets water every morning,” Merlin told him. “She just wanted them to leave so we could talk.”

“I should let Gaius know we’re okay. Then he can tell Arthur.”

Merlin almost laughed at his mother’s reaction to Alan’s way of long-distance communication. He sat at the edge of the bed. “What news is there?” he asked his mother.

“How? What is he doing?”

“He is sending his thoughts to Gaius. I’ve done it before but I don’t have the ability for long distances yet.”

“It takes practice,” Alan said. “Everything is fine. They’ve been sending out patrols waiting for Morgana and her army to appear. Did I miss anything?”

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