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Wild Winter Stars (1/?)

Title: Wild Winter Stars
Fandom: Merlin
Characters: Merlin, Arthur, Gaius, Gwen, Morgana, Gwaine, Percival, Mordred, OMC
Rated: PG-13
Word Count: 1,555
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.

Merlin was polishing Arthur’s armor when he shivered; an unexpected chill down his back. Something bad was going to happen – if it hadn’t already. Nothing on a grand scale like a full-on battle with Morgana, but something more…intimate, for lack of a better word. Someone he cared for was in danger. Arthur, Gwen and Gaius as well as the knights were fine, so, maybe it was his mother.

He hurriedly finished the armor and tracked down Arthur just as he was leaving his chambers. “Sire?”

Arthur looked at him, the retort on his lips forgotten when he took in Merlin’s agitated state. “What’s wrong?”

“I want to go visit my mother.”

“Now? Morgana is out there and is not above taking you to get to me or find a way into Camelot.”

“I just have this feeling that someone is in danger. As my mother is the only one not here…”

“You want to travel through bandit territory because of a ‘feeling’.”

Merlin sighed and started planning a way out of the city.

“Fine. You can go, but take Gwaine with you. You need the protection and he needs to get rid of excess energy before he starts another brawl in the tavern.”

“Thank you, Arthur.”

Merlin hurried to the knights’ quarters and found Gwaine sitting down for a meal.

“Merlin, what are you doing here? Don’t tell me the little princess needs me already?” he asked before taking a bite of food.

“Sort of. I need to go see my mother and he won’t let me go unless you join me.”

Gwaine swallowed. “Is your mother OK? She’s not sick, is she?”

Merlin was touched by his friend’s concern. “As far as I know, she’s fine. I just…”

“What? Are you having one of your ‘feelings’ again?”

“What would you say if I said yes?”

“I’d say we’d better get going,” he said around his final mouthful. “Your instincts have always been spot on.” He pushed back his chair and stood. “Meet you at the stables?”

“Great! Meet you in a few!”

Merlin rushed back to his room and started packing his bag. He had been on enough excursions with Arthur that he did it without thinking.

“Merlin, what are you doing?” asked Gaius as he stood in the doorway. “Arthur isn’t going out in search of Morgana is he?”

“No. I’m going to Ealdor.” He paused to face the physician. “I was polishing Arthur’s armor when I got this uneasy feeling, like someone I know is hurt or about to be hurt. And since I know everyone here is fine…”

“You need to check on Hunith.”

“I shouldn’t be more than a week. I’ll stay there a few days, just to make sure.”

“Just be careful. Morgana won’t hesitate at getting to Arthur through you--”


“And she won’t think twice about getting to you through your mother.”

“I will. Arthur wouldn’t let me go unless Gwaine came along.”

“In that case, be extra careful.” Gaius smiled and hugged him.

“Of course.” Merlin shouldered his pack and hurried to the stables where Gwaine was already mounted and had Merlin’s horse saddled.

“I figured you might be held up by goodbyes,” the knight said by way of explanation.

“Thanks.” Merlin strapped his bag to the saddle before swinging himself up.

As they headed through the town, they saw a cart being led through the streets by a farmer and his son. As the market was over, the man should have been heading out of the city, not towards the castle.

Merlin addressed the farmer. “Matthew, surely you should be on your way home by now.”

“Merlin. Sir Gwaine,” he greeted. “I was when we found this poor soul on the side of the road.”

Merlin dismounted and walked over to look in the cart. A man of about 40 was lying on the straw in the bottom of the cart and covered in a rough blanket. Underneath he could see the limbs were at odd angles. The man’s face was bruised and one eye was swollen shut. Merlin slowly eased down the blanket to reveal welts crisscrossing his body. It was the brand burned into the man’s chest that let Merlin know a visit to Ealdor was unnecessary. The brand was the seal of Camelot.

“I thought perhaps Gaius could ease his passing,” Matthew was saying

“Gwaine, go to the king and have him meet us at Gaius’ as soon as he can. Oh, and we’re going to need help carrying him.”

Gwaine looked at him, unused to hearing the servant order anyone. “And what should I tell him other than because you said so?”

“Tell him it’s Alan Kelly. He’ll understand.”

With a nod, Gwaine turned his horse around and galloped back to the citadel, people scattering out of his way.

Merlin rested a hand on Alan’s forehead, seemingly to test his temperature, and mumbled a spell to cushion his journey. He then looked at Matthew’s son. “Thomas, run to Gaius and tell him about the man and how you found him. That way he can be prepared when we arrive.”

After a quick look at his father, Thomas ran ahead of them.

“You know him, Merlin?” asked Matthew as he started the cart moving once again.

Merlin remounted and walked his horse alongside the cart. “He was here five years ago and helped uncover a plot to kill Arthur.”

“I remember. There was even a funeral.”

Merlin smiled at the memory. He still found it interesting all these years later how Alan had gotten everyone to follow his plan – including Uther. To see him like this, it was heartbreaking.

“Wasn’t he the same man who helped you and the king fight off bandits not knowing who you were?”

“He was wounded and Gaius took care of him. As he healed, he helped Gaius and sparred with Arthur.”

“There was a rumor at the time that Uther almost arrested him.”

Merlin chuckled. “Uther believed that Alan was with the bandits and saved us just to get into Camelot. We went out to set a trap for the bandits and Uther forbade Alan from joining us. He snuck out and joined us anyway. We went to Essetir and uncovered the plot to kill Arthur. The rest, everyone knows.”

“He sounds a very brave and loyal man,” Matthew said as they arrived at the courtyard. “I hope Gaius is able to help him.”

“Thank you, Matthew. I’ll let you know.” Merlin dismounted when he saw Gwaine and the rest of Arthur’s inner circle waiting with Thomas.

Gwaine and Elyan climbed into the cart on either side of Alan and gently placed their arms under his torso and slowly eased him forward to where Leon and Percival could slide the pallet underneath him. Merlin helped discreetly. They each then took a corner of the pallet and carried him up the winding stairs, treating him as if he were crystal. Once in the physician’s chambers, they put the pallet down directly on the bed. Gaius then shooed them out because there was only so much room.

With the knights gone, Merlin hurried over and rested his hands lightly over Alan and recited a spell to keep him from feeling any pain as Gaius worked. He had timed it well as Arthur burst in not too long after.

“What happened? Gwaine didn’t say much.” He saw the figure on the bed and all energy drained from him. He watched as Gaius cleaned the wounds and applied salve. “Morgana?”

“Most likely, sire,” said Gaius. He motioned Merlin to help him and the two wrapped Alan’ ribs.

“But why would she harm him like this? I thought she had been enamored with him.”

“She probably saw the seal first and, by my guess, she found out about his magic while questioning him.”

“And she would believe him to be a traitor for siding with Camelot.” Arthur looked back at Alan. “I want updates on his condition. Merlin, since I was going to give you time off anyway, you can stay and help Gaius.” He turned to his servant. “I take it you won’t be going to Ealdor.”

“No, Arthur. I guess it wasn’t my mother in danger.”

“I don’t think I’ll ever get used to you and your ‘feelings’, but they’ve been oddly accurate.”

Merlin felt uncomfortable under Arthur’s gaze. It was almost as if he were trying to put something together.

The king shook his head, dismissing whatever was on his mind. “Right. I’m going to find out what I can regarding Morgana. Someone has to know where she is. Maybe Alan can tell us when he wakes.”

“I wouldn’t count of him talking for some time yet. He’ll be unconscious for hours. In addition to that, he has sustained severe damage to his throat.

“We need to know if he heard anything of Morgana’s plans.”

“He can always write,” Merlin commented, not wanting to bring up how Alan could talk with his mind like the Druids.

“With which hand? The right hand in a cast or the left hand in a cast?” Arthur shook his head. “Sometimes you amaze me, Merlin. No wonder you keep walking into things, being observant as you are.”

There was no malice in the words and Merlin smiled at Arthur’s retreating back.

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