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A Word for Forgotten Songs (16/?)

Title: A Word for Forgotten Songs
Fandom: Merlin
Characters: Merlin, Arthur, Uther, Gaius, Gwen, Morgana, Leon, OMC
Rated: PG-13
Word Count: 1,927 (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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Merlin raced the horses up to the courtyard. Guards and knights ran over upon seeing Arthur draped over the back of his horse. If they took his breathlessness as panic and not laughter from Arthur’s running commentary as they approached the city, all the better.

He dismounted quickly and hovered nervously as the knights gently lifted their prince from the horse. Leon arrived breathless. It was he who organized the men to carry Arthur to Gaius; two at the shoulders and two at the legs. Leon then directed a servant to tell Uther what happened.

As he followed the knights up the steps, Merlin heard his name called and he turned to see Morgana and Gwen running towards them. This was the one aspect of the plan he hated most even though he knew it was essential. He took a deep breath and prepared himself.

“Merlin, what happened?” Morgana’s voice quivered.

They fell in step on either side of him as he told his story.

“We were on our way back when Arthur’s horse reared even though there was nothing else around. Arthur tried to control him but he was thrown and landed on his back.” He took a deep breath and let his voice break like he was on the verge of tears. “There was so much blood.” That wasn’t hard to sell as he made sure to get some of the blood from the butcher’s on his clothes.

Morgana gasped and put a hand to her mouth. Gwen gripped his hand and held it tightly.

“I did my best to stop it, but there was so much. I don’t know if it was enough.”

They reached Gaius’ quarters behind the knights and watched as they placed Arthur face-down on the bed. Alan was there with clean water, cloths and herbs for cleansing. Uther entered, pushing everyone aside as he rushed to the bed, eyes glistening.

Leon, seeing his king’s distress, took the initiative. “I think we should all leave and let Gaius get to work.”

The knights walked out the door and Leon went over to Morgana. “My lady.”

“But I can help,” she protested.

Gaius paused in removing Arthur’s tunic. “My lady, I have Merlin and Alan to help me. There is nothing you can do. Please, go back to your chambers. You will be the first outside of this room to be told.”

Morgana nodded at that and Gwen took her hand as Leon escorted them out of the room.

“Are they gone?” came Arthur’s muffled voice.

“Wait a moment,” said Merlin as he went to the door. “Just want to make sure they don’t double back.” He listened by the door to make sure the trio was gone. “Now you can get up.”

“About time.” Arthur pushed himself up from the bed and tossed away the remains of his ruined tunic. He turned and tried to untie the bandage. “Merlin, how many knots did you put in this thing?”

“I had to make it look good in case somebody saw.” He walked over to Arthur. “Let me.” He pulled on the tail of the knot and it came undone.

“So now we just sit here and wait?” asked Arthur.

“While Gaius tries to save your life,” replied Alan. “It might take awhile as you’re a fighter.”

“What if someone should come looking?” questioned Uther. “Matters of state?”

“Your son could be dying, sire. I don’t believe anyone will interrupt us,” assured Gaius.

Merlin spent the ensuing time between doing his chores for Gaius and keeping Arthur occupied. Uther talked with Arthur those other times. Gaius worked with his herbs. Alan spent some time reading through Gaius’ books on herbs and their uses. It wasn’t long before he pushed it away and started walking around the room trying to spend some pent-up energy. Gaius glowered at him and he stilled with an apology.

“Surely this must be long enough,” Uther complained.

“I guess that would be best before Alan starts pacing and wears a hole in the floor,” commented Gaius.

“I should go tell Morgana and Gwen.” Merlin stood and headed for the door.

“Merlin, you can’t go like that.”

He stopped and looked back at Arthur. “What do you mean?”

“You don’t look like you’ve been trying to save my life for hours, You look too neat, too alert. You haven’t cried.”

Alan went over to Gaius’ shelves and took down a small vial. “Give that a whiff.” He handed the bottle to Merlin.

Merlin pulled off the stopper and sniffed. He gasped at the strong scent and his eyes began to water. The others smiled at his discomfort.

“What is that?” questioned Uther.

“Spirit of hartshorn,” answered Alan. “I think we’ll all have to sniff this to give the proper appearance of mourning.”

“Well, I hope the rest of you enjoy burning your nostrils,” Arthur stated smugly. “I don’t have to bother.”

“No, you just have to drink one of Gaius’ potions to knock you out,” Merlin shot right back.

Arthur made a face at the thought of drinking one of those nasty concoctions. It didn’t go unnoticed by Gaius.

“My medicines may lack in taste, but they work,” the physician admonished. “Taking it could save your life.”

Chastised, Arthur nodded and Uther placed a hand on his shoulder. “You will never be left alone. Someone will always be standing vigil.”

“I’d better get going before they send someone to check on us.” Merlin opened the vial again, the fumes irritating his eyes. He’d certainly be a mess by the time he reached Morgana’s room. He handed the bottle back to Gaius before rubbing his eyes. “Right then. Here I go.”

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

After Merlin left, looking like he was on his way to the executioner, Alan found the stretcher and set it on top of the bed. Arthur then settled on it, making himself comfortable before tilting his head up so Gaius could drop the medicine into his mouth. It reminded Alan of feeding a baby bird. He wisely kept that comparison to himself.

As they waited for the drops to take effect, the three vertical men sniffed the hartshorn. Alan and Gaius made sure to have some blood on their clothes and remnants on their hands.

Once Arthur was under, his chest imperceptibly rising, Alan and Gaius took up the stretcher. Alan went first, facing forward so he would be able to hold the stretcher higher to keep it even with Gaius as they went downstairs. Uther would walk in front of them, alongside them or to the rear depending on his acting. Whenever they passed someone, they would bow their head in respect to the “dead” prince. Most of the women’s faces were tear-stained.

They reached Arthur’s rooms and Uther was just reaching for the door knob when it opened. Merlin was already there and he wasn’t alone. Morgana and Gwen rose from their seats by the fire and leaned into each other as they watched the physician and his assistant carry the fallen prince to his bed.

With a sob, Morgana ran to Uther and pressed herself to his chest as she cried. The king played his part well, taking his ward in a hug, albeit an awkward one.

Alan got Merlin’s attention and then looked to the women. Thankfully Merlin caught on without resorting to telepathy.

“Gwen, I think it best that you take Morgana back to her room now,” Merlin said softly. “We have to prepare him, and, uh…”

“Oh.” A faint blush appeared on her face. “That probably would be best.” She walked over to Morgana and gently pulled her away from Uther. “Come, my lady. We can come back later so you can sit with him.”

Morgana nodded as she took deep breaths to regain some control. She gripped Gwen’s hand and walked from the room. Gwen spared a quick look over her shoulder before following Morgana.

Uther dropped into the chair beside Arthur’s bed. “I didn’t realize how hard this would affect Morgana. I hope she’ll forgive me for lying to her.”

“Sire, when she learns it was to save Arthur, she will understand. She will be hurt that she wasn’t included, but she will understand.”

“Thank you, Gaius.” The king stood with a sigh. “I must make the announcement of Arthur’s passing.”

“Shouldn’t Geoffrey…”

“No, Even though this is pretense, I have to be the one to do this.” He left the room.

After Uther left, they quickly prepared the dummy that would take Arthur’s place atop the pyre. Gaius mixed plaster and applied it to Arthur’s face to form a mask to be used with the dummy. Merlin used a little magic to help it dry quicker. Gaius then took the dried mask back to his rooms to paint it.

With help from Alan, Merlin changed Arthur into formal clothes and wrapped him in his scarlet cloak. They then placed him on the pallet the guards would use to carry him down to the chapel where Uther would hold his vigil.

There was a knock on the door and Leon entered. “Is he… Are you done?” he asked softly.

Merlin closed his eyes in exhaustion and nodded, stepping out of the way so Leon could see Arthur laid out on the table. Even though exhaustion and stress were part of the ploy for him to escape the funeral, right now he wasn’t faking.

Alan and Merlin stood back as the knights entered and took up positions along the pallet. At Leon’s call, they lifted their prince and carried him downstairs.

Merlin and Alan followed at a respectful distance and were ready to stay inside with Uther until he bade them leave. “The boy looks near death himself.”

“I’ll take him to Gaius, sire, and get him to eat something,” Alan said as he guided Merlin across the floor. “Please send for me in Merlin’s place should you need any…thing.” He bowed his head before leaving Uther’s presence.

“I don’t need help.” Merlin tried to push him away and nearly succeeded in falling flat on his arse. Leon was there to help him regain his balance. “Thanks,” he mumbled.

“You need to get some sleep, Merlin. I’m sure everyone would understand if you were to…”

“I have to go. I can’t not.” This wasn’t acting. There was no way he would miss something this important in regards to Arthur.

“We’ll see what tomorrow brings and what Gaius says.”

They made their way through the corridors and practically everyone they passed looked at him the same way: with pity and sympathy. It soon got to the point where he couldn’t take any more. “Can’t you just transport us there?” he asked when no one else was around.

“Those looks are getting on my nerves too, but we need everyone to see you like this. We’re almost there. We’ll get some food and sleep just like we told everyone.”

At the tower stairs, Merlin pulled away as there was no longer any need to act like he was too weak to walk on his own. “Who knew that pretending to be exhausted was so exhausting?”

Alan chuckled as he stretched his arm and shoulder. “A good night’s sleep should help. We’ve got a busy day tomorrow.”

“Smuggle a dummy into the chapel, sneak Arthur out and then expose an assassin. Really not that busy.”

“After the time I’ve spent with you, I don’t doubt it.”

Merlin grinned as he opened the door to Gaius’ chambers. He could hear his bed calling and he desperately wanted to answer.


17

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