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A Word for Forgotten Songs (18/20)

Title: A Word for Forgotten Songs
Fandom: Merlin
Characters: Merlin, Arthur, Uther, Gaius, Gwen, Morgana, Leon, OMC
Rated: PG-13
Word Count: 1,650 (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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Alan sent a telepathic message to Gaius letting him know that Merlin and Arthur were safely ensconced at Gwen’s. He then changed into the outfit he wore while undercover. He teleported into the lower town and made his way to the courtyard with the residents.

Alan positioned himself within the sight line of the dignitaries and towards the center of the crowd. He didn’t want to appear too ghoulish or too aloof. It also gave him a 180° view of his surroundings.

The people hushed as the nobility appeared on the dais beside the pyre. Then the procession arrived slowly with Arthur’s knights acting as pall-bearers. He was able to see past the glamour Merlin had placed on the dummy and it still looked pretty damn good. He couldn’t say the same about Morgana. The poor girl was draped in black and clung to Gwen who walked alongside her. The maid looked only marginally better than her mistress. The dress she wore was probably one of Morgana’s. Uther was stone-faced, putting on the front for everyone. A king could not show weakness. His red-rimmed eyes were the only sign of any mourning. Gaius walked behind the king, his place as a long-time advisor and family friend the reason for the honor.

Merlin’s absence was noticed by some of the crowd. One woman noted that the “poor boy” had been hit hard with the loss of his friend. Alan couldn’t hide a small smile at the thought of the skinny servant boy being mothered by half the town’s female population. Probably wanted to fatten him up – or introduce him to their daughters.

The knights set the pallet bearing “Arthur” on the pyre and stepped back, flanking either side. Uther glanced at Gaius, who gave a small nod, and then stepped forward. He spoke, opening with the whole “outliving a child” thing before moving on to stories about Arthur as a child, telling of his inquisitiveness. Uther then praised Arthur the prince, Arthur the knight, and bemoaned Camelot’s future, knowing what a wonderful king he would have been. Alan was amazed at the heartfelt beauty of the eulogy. Too bad Arthur would probably never hear it from his father face-to-face.

After taking a moment to collect himself, Uther stepped down to stand beside the pyre. Leon handed him a torch which he then used to set his son’s body ablaze. He stumbled on the steps and Gaius rushed to his aid. Alan took this moment to catch Cenred’s delegate’s eye and nodded. The crowd slowly began to disperse after Uther was taken inside and Alan mingled with the crowd as he left the courtyard.

[Merlin, I’m on my way. Our friend won’t be too far behind me,]

{All right. I’ll get Arthur going and meet you there.]

Alan entered the tavern and got a table in a dark corner. When the tavern keeper came to ask what he wanted, he ordered three ales – for appearance’s sake, of course.

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

Merlin looked out the window and saw people starting to return from the funeral. He could use this and not have to say he heard from Alan. “Arthur, we should leave now. The funeral’s done.”

“How do you expect us to get there unseen? We can’t have them see their dead prince walking the streets.”

Merlin scoffed. “I’m more familiar to them than you are. We’re dressed like this to blend in. If we stick to the sides, no one should notice. Just…just don’t act like yourself.”

The two stepped out the front door when there was no one to see them. Merlin led them through the side streets to the tavern.

“It scares me that you know your way around so well.”

Knowing he couldn’t tell Arthur that it was mostly due to evading patrols, Merlin answered with the partial truth. “Doing rounds with Gaius.” He could see the tavern. “Remember, act like a commoner.”

“Act like you, you mean? I’m not that good an actor.”

Merlin ignored the jibe, not wanting to give Arthur any more fuel. They hurried across the road and inside. Alan spotted them and raised a hand. They crossed the room and took their seats, keeping their backs to the rest of the room.

“Lovely service, Arthur. Too bad you couldn’t be there.”

“I was there in spirit.” He took a sip of his ale. “So, tell me.”

“What?”

“You were a witness to my funeral. Tell me about it.”

“Arthur, are you sure?” Merlin didn’t think it such a good idea for Arthur to dwell on his “death” like that.

Alan must have thought the same because he refused to go into any detail.

More patrons began drifting into the tavern encroaching on their privacy. It was time to use their false names. The topic of conversation seemed to be the funeral and Arthur himself. There was a trio at a nearby table that were the most vocal.

One went on about how arrogant Arthur had been. “Just because he was privileged didn’t mean he was a better person than the rest of us.”

Merlin laughed as he felt Arthur tense at his side.

“You have to admit he got better after Merlin started working for him,” said the second man.

“I heard tell that Gaius had to give him a sleeping draught, the boy was so distraught,” added the third man.

“Do you think he’ll go home?” asked the first. “No other noble would put up with him.”

They never got to hear the response as their contact chose that moment to enter. Having a noble in the establishment didn’t go unnoticed. Everyone watched where he went and who he sat with. When they didn’t recognize anyone at the table, they went back to what they were doing, though the conversation was more subdued. Merlin barely registered the large group of men came in after him.

“Why did you insist on meeting here?” the noble asked.

“I thought you liked taverns since that’s where you found us,” Alan replied. “Besides, no one from the castle would think to look for you here.”

“They just might. They were starting a search for Arthur’s idiot of a servant. Supposedly he’s heavily medicated and unsupervised. For some reason they’re worried he’ll do himself a damage. All that fuss for a mere servant.”

Merlin didn’t really mind being thought an idiot. It helped him maintain his charade. No one would suspect him of being a powerful wizard. He knew he wasn’t and that was all that really mattered. “He must be an idiot, having worked for the prince.” Arthur glared at him. “C’mon, you said the very same thing very vocally before. It’s why we had to leave.”

“You did say nasty things about his intelligence,” Alan smirked.

“Yes, well, maybe we shouldn’t be saying stuff like that here the day of his funeral.”

“Have you gained a conscience, boy?” asked the noble.

Arthur bristled at being called “boy”, but controlled his temper. “No, I just don’t want to be thrown out again.”

“Shall we get down to business?” the noble said rather stiffly.

“I believe a hefty sum was mentioned.” Alan, being the adult, led the negotiations.

“I believe no sum was mentioned.” He pulled out a small pouch and slid it across the table. “This should more than compensate.”

Alan picked up the pouch and tipped the contents into his hand. “This is nowhere near the amount you led us to believe.”

“But it’s more than what you have.” The noble was smug.

“We risked our lives coming back here, let alone doing what you asked.” Alan was trying not to shout.

“This is what the lives of commoners are worth.”

Alan was near livid. Merlin had a feeling that this was part of the act for he had never seen the man so angry before. It made him want to cower or run away. Instead, he played along. “Uncle, please. You said we weren’t to draw attention to ourselves. You have chastised Will for doing the very same.”

“If we’re not to be paid, then this poor excuse of a man will be punished with us.”

“But, Uncle, you can’t,” Arthur protested as well.

“You’re bluffing. There is no way you would risk the lives of your nephews over something so petty. They are young still with their lives ahead of them.”

“As the prince was young? You are a hypocrite, my lord.” He stood, motioning for Merlin and Arthur to do the same. “I will find one of the knights out searching the town and tell them the truth.”

“And tell them what? That I paid you to kill the prince? Who would believe you?”

“It would at least arouse suspicion.”

The three of them headed for the door. Merlin and Arthur did their best to keep their faces hidden. While turning his head, he caught sight of a familiar face at one of the nearby tables. Leon gave a small nod and Merlin suddenly understood any Alan had gotten angry. He had wanted the noble to confess when someone else could hear. But wouldn’t he just claim that Leon was in on it? Merlin spared another glance at the table. He didn’t recognize any of the other men with Leon and he prided himself on knowing most of the knights on sight, even if he didn’t always remember their names.

“You will not walk away from me!”

Merlin could sense the build-up of power. He looked at the noble and saw his hands raised, aimed at Arthur. Instinctively, he dove in front of the prince, creating a small shield of magic. Alan mimicked the move from the opposite side, going in front of them both. The three of them fell to the floor.

“Lord Ayburn!”

All heads turned to the doorway where the delegate from Nemeth stood with Gaius. What is the meaning of this?”


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