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A Word for Forgotten Songs (12/?)

Title: A Word for Forgotten Songs
Fandom: Merlin
Characters: Merlin, Arthur, Uther, Gaius, Gwen, Morgana, Leon, OMC
Rated: PG-13
Word Count: 1,126 (this chapter)
Summary: A strange warrior arrives in time to save Arthur and Merlin from bandits. He is wounded and falls ill. As Gaius cares for the wound, he knows the blade was dipped in a potion that only affects those with magic. After he heals, Merlin talks with him of magic and Arthur spars with him. They then learn that the bandit attack was not random.
Author's Note: This has been sitting on my computer for over 3 years! It's still not done but I couldn't put off the posting any longer. 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 2, somewhat early on. It's unbeta'd so all mistakes are my own.

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After Gaius left to advise the king, Alan took the time to explore the rooms. Aside from the herbs, potions and tinctures, there were bottles with strange things floating in them. One seemed to have leeches in it. With a sigh, he sat at the table and did some of the tasks that Gaius had mentioned needed doing.

As he sat there, hands busy, his mind wandered. Despite all the power and natural ability Merlin had, he was still learning. There had to be books somewhere. With magic punishable by death, they couldn’t be out in the open. And where is the one place kids always hide things? Under the bed! He stood and strode to the steps leading up to Merlin’s room. He hesitated at the door. Could he do this? Betray Merlin’s trust this way. If I don’t go looking for it, but just happen to find it, that should be okay. With that rationalization, he entered the room.

He looked on the floor around the bed and almost gave up right when he saw the corner of a book sticking out. Now he just had to manage to trip over it and bring it out into the open. It took a couple of tries, but once he knocked it out from under the bed, of course he had to pick it up. It was thick and leather-bound with a clasp; just how he expected such a book to look. It really wasn’t much different in appearance than the other books he had looked through with Gaius yesterday. Surprisingly, the clasp wasn’t locked and soon Alan was engrossed reading the spells. He contemplated trying a couple, just to see, but realized doing “magic” inside the castle unsupervised might not be such a good idea should anything go wrong.

He heard the door to the main room open and quickly closed the book before slipping it back under the bed. He opened the door fully and didn’t have to pretend to yawn.

Merlin and Gaius looked at him. “You’re still here.”

“No need to be so surprised, Merlin. I didn’t want to push my luck two days in a row.” He joined them by the table. “As we’re still here without swords pointed at us, I take it things went well.”

“I kept waiting for him to say I had magic.”

“It seems he was more afraid of Merlin than either his employer or Uther,” commented Gaius.

“Do we know the name of this employer?”

“No,” informed Merlin. “He said they were approached in a tavern in Aestodd. The man was a merchant – or pretended to be.”

“Where is that in relation to Camelot? Do we have reason to worry?”

“It’s to the south, in Essetir. It became a haven for magic users after Uther’s ban. There’s any number of people who would want revenge.”

“That still doesn’t explain how they know about Merlin’s magic.”

“Magic is cultivated and encouraged in Essetir,” Gaius told them. “With it discussed openly, there must be an exchange of information. They could have heard the Druid legend of Emrys who is the greatest sorcerer ever. ”

Alan looked at Merlin. “You.”

Merlin nodded. “They expect so much of me, but don’t tell me anything useful.”

“At least it’s something you ‘will’ do, not something you ‘must’ do, if that makes any difference.”

“Though, I must add, we don't know if they know about Merlin. They could have used a spell to locate a magic user within a certain area,” continued Gaius. “They then could have come to Camelot and refined the search, narrowing in on Merlin.”

“The spies then go home, tell their master who then hires the bandits. Why would he have poisoned swords if he wanted Emrys to serve him?”

“Unless he thought you were serving Uther instead.”

Merlin scoffed. “Why would anyone think that with his attitude towards magic?”

Alan caught Gaius’ meaning. “Because he wants to use magic against his enemies, he most likely thinks his enemies will use it against him. Uther banished or killed or magic users in his kingdom, finding one makes this guy think Uther’s holding back, keeping one for his own use.”

“So, whoever is after me thinks I’m Uther’s pet warlock?” He sat down heavily.

“You are his son’s servant. Someone who is as paranoid as this will believe it is just a way to keep you close.”

“How do we get Uther and Arthur to come to the same conclusion? They won’t take any action without proof.”

“Then we need to go on a fact-finding mission.”

****************

With the confession of the bandit, Alan was cleared and allowed to walk free. Uther still didn’t trust him completely, but had no reason to keep him under guard. So when Arthur had said he was going to Aestodd to try and find the man who had hired the bandits, he wanted Alan to come along.

So now they were sitting in a tavern disguised as itinerant workers trying to find jobs. Alan had taken on the role of uncle. It was as good a story as any. It was actually kind of nice if one forgot the reason they were there to begin with. Merlin had to keep nudging Arthur when he started acting superior. He still hadn’t mastered the undercover part.

“How long do we have to wait?” Arthur complained.

“Until we see someone who fits the description,” answered Merlin.

“Or until someone offers us the job to kill you.” Alan finished his ale “Another round?”

“Sure. Why not?” Arthur pushed the tankards towards Merlin.

“No servants here, remember?” Merlin shoved them back.

“Will you two quit acting like children? I made the offer, I’ll go.”

While Alan was getting the ale, Merlin felt a sudden change in the atmosphere, one similar to that he felt when near Nimueh and even Morgause. It wasn’t as strong, but still enough to set him on edge. If he could sense them, odds were that it worked the other way. He took deep breaths and tried not to look like he was a rabbit caught in a snare.

Alan returned and set the mugs on the table before sitting down. “I think our man has arrived.”

As Arthur took a long drink of ale, he looked towards the door. “He does look like a merchant, but the cloth is too fine. I think he’s one of Cenred’s court,”

“Do you think he’s the one?” Alan asked.

“It wouldn’t surprise me. He’s held a grudge against my father for years. I’m also not surprised that he’d be a coward about it and set up the attack instead of something more personal.”

“Like an assassination?” Merlin wanted to know.

“Sshh, he’s coming this way,” Arthur said as he watched.

“Head down,” Alan reminded. “He’s a noble, you’re not.”

Arthur lowered his head rigidly like it hurt, but at least he did it. It was strange how Alan could get Arthur to do things without arguing. Perhaps it was the authority in his voice, it sounded like an order, something the prince had been trained to respond to.

They looked up when a shadow fell across the table. Merlin and Alan bowed their heads in obeisance but Arthur looked at him directly. The man wasn’t put out at all. “You are new to town,” he stated as he sat down.

“Yes, my lord. We are only recently arrived to the kingdom looking for work. We tried in Camelot, but they do not take well to travelers for fear of us stealing.” Alan sounded angry and subservient at the same time.

“Yes, Uther has very narrow views of those from outside his kingdom,” the man answered. “Word is, his son’s not much more than a spoiled hothead.”

Merlin put a restraining hand on Arthur.

“Please excuse the boy, my lord. We practically had to drag him from the city. He wanted to take on all the knights of Camelot himself in retaliation for our treatment. If the prince’s temperament is the same, I almost feel sorry for the king.”

The man looked at Merlin. “And your other nephew?”

“Ah, Mercius. He’s the quiet one. He doesn’t speak much, but when he does, it’s usually wise.”

Arthur snorted and Merlin glared at him. Arthur had even commented on some of the things he’d said.

“What work are you looking for?”

“We can turn our hands to almost anything in these times,” Alan responded.

“I might have something for you, if you’re not too squeamish.”

“We’ve done a few distasteful things during our travels. I wouldn’t say we were particularly squeamish.”

“There was that time with the pigs,” Arthur commented. “Mer-cius was sick for some time afterward.”

Arthur would pick now to get into the role – at his expense, of course. “Not all of us can become immune to the stench of blood.”

“Is there a stench? I hadn’t noticed.”

Alan glared at them both. “Apologies, my lord.”

“Just youth, good sir. I think you will be just what I need. It does mean that you will need to return to Camelot.”

“We did make some friends there who could put us up should we need to stay.”

“I have people for you to contact who will help you.”

“Just what is this ‘task’?”

The courtier looked around cautiously before leaning forward.

Merlin prayed that he would not be named the object of the search.

“Uther’s warlock.”


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