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Wild Winter Stars (3/?)

Title: Wild Winter Stars
Fandom: Merlin
Characters: Merlin, Arthur, Gaius, Gwen, Morgana, Gwaine, Percival, Mordred, OMC
Rated: PG-13
Word Count: 2,292
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




Alan materialized in a shaded clearing and breathed deep. He always tried to take a moment upon arrival to just take in everything. With all the years he’d been traveling and all the places and times he’d been to, people sometimes thought he’d be jaded over the whole time travel thing. He treated each trip like an adventure; like an explorer stepping into the unknown.

This trip was on his own time, a chance to visit with friends. He checked that his clothes were appropriate for the time (sometimes there was a glitch in the hologram), made sure the seal given to him by Uther was secure under his shirt, shouldered his pack and headed for the nearest road.

Around midday he stopped at a small village where he was greeted warmly and offered a meal in exchange for stories of his travels. He obliged with heavily edited versions of his missions. He learned from the villagers that Uther had died over three years ago. The time of King Arthur has arrived. They also had no fear of raiding parties coming over the border due to negotiations with the neighboring kingdoms. All they had to worry about were bandits who would attack small parties travelling the roads to the capital. They gave him some apples for the road and directions that would get him to the next village before dark.

The second village was a farming community and a little more prosperous than the first. He was given a bowl of beef stew with fresh baked bread. More stories were told and Alan slept in the communal barn, content and warm.

The next morning after a breakfast of oatmeal sweetened with honey, he got a ride from one of the farmers taking produce into the nearest town. There was a tavern and more permanent buildings and shops. Alan entered the tavern and found it cleaner than he anticipated. He ordered a cider and asked where he could buy a horse.

The tavern keeper told Alan of a man who raised horses. “Only country horses, mind. Not the fine steeds that you are used to,” he commented as he poured the cider.

It took Alan a moment to realize the man thought he was a knight. He certainly wasn’t dressed like one so he wasn’t sure of the reason. “I’ve no need to be fast. A sturdy country horse will be just the thing for my journey.”

“Do you have a long journey ahead of you?”

“Probably two more days. I’m on my way to Camelot to visit friends.”

The man’s eyes lit up and Alan realized he just cemented his theory of Alan being a knight. God forbid people think the town is populated with ordinary people as well. When the keeper went to pour a drink for another customer, Alan circumspectly observed the other patrons. Mostly, they were older men discussing animal husbandry and crops. There was a group of younger men - maybe in their 20s and 30s - that put Alan on edge. He wasn’t sure how, but he knew they meant trouble.

The tavern keeper returned to see if Alan needed anything else. He noticed the men as well. “You won’t get very far before dark. I’ve a room upstairs…”

Alan knew the man was trying to save him from a mugging but he had the feeling they would come after him no matter what. He’d rather take his chances in the open than in a cramped room. He declined the room but accepted a meal of roast beef and vegetables. When he finished, he took out his money to pay but the man refused. “Please, you must take something.”

“I noticed your medallion,” the man said. “I won’t take your money.”

Alan self-consciously reached for the seal. Part of it was exposed by his collar and he tucked it back inside.

“To possess that, you must have friends in high places.”

“You could say that,” Alan grinned.

“Just be careful. There are those who would do you harm for possessing that.”

“I would have thought with Uther gone…”

“Some don’t care. It’s still the Pendragons.”

It was as he was walking to the farm that they attacked. There were only five of them so the odds weren’t that bad. He disarmed one and used the sword against them, staying on the defensive. The last time he had fought bandits was with Arthur and the knights. Things were much different solo. Knowing the laws against magic hadn’t been repealed, Alan was afraid to use his telekinesis in case they decided to take it upon themselves and burn him. The bandits continued circling and he tried to keep them all in sight but he couldn’t prevent the inevitable. One of them conked him on the back of the head and he dropped to the ground. At least I’m not dead.

He came to as he was being dragged into a large, cold room. The first thing he saw was a flagstone floor which made him think “castle”. The cold and the echo probably meant this was a temporary situation and whoever was here didn’t care about comfort.

He was thrust down to his knees and the seal swung free of his shirt. He kept his face down due to the sword at his back, not submission.

“So, there really is a seal,” said a cold feminine voice.

Alan couldn’t help himself. He looked up at the familiar voice. “Morgana?” She was dressed in gowns that had seen better days and were nowhere near the sumptuous velvets and silks she used to wear. Her hair was loose and long; curls running rampant. She was a cold beauty.

“Alan?” She stood and walked towards him, waving his guards away. She helped him stand. “It is you!” She gripped him in a hug.

It was strange. This was Morgana as all the stories had her, yet she was hugging him like a long-lost friend instead of despising him for his association with Camelot and her old life. He returned the hug thinking that was what she truly needed.

She then wrapped her arm through his and led him to a smaller room and ordered food be brought. She started a fire in the fireplace with a simple word. While they waited, she spoke like he was a guest and she was a chatelaine, not a witch who wanted to bring about the end of Camelot.

When the food came, it was something small – rabbit, hopefully – and scrawny vegetables but it was presented like it was a feast. Then there was the wine. Alan wondered if she was trying to loosen his tongue. It was then he felt the probing of his mind. Oh, she definitely wanted answers he wasn’t going to give. He slammed the virtual door in her face. He innocently looked up from his plate. The stunned look on her face was priceless. She probably didn’t get surprised too often. “Something wrong?”

“You should not have been able to do that!”

“What?”

“You blocked me from your mind. You shouldn’t have felt it.” Her eyes narrowed. “You have magic.” She laughed. “Uther gave one of his prized seals to a magic user!”

“To be fair, he didn’t know.”

“But someone there did know. You couldn’t have carried out that plan in secret.”

Merlin’s been doing it for years.

“I bet it was Merlin. He helped Mordred escape and never said anything. He is always getting in my way,” she added to herself. “I’ve been wondering how to get a message to Arthur. Now I can use you to deliver it.”

Alan knew he should get out of there. All he had to do was think of Camelot and he’d be there. But nothing was happening. It was getting harder to think. He looked over at Morgana who bore a smile that gave him chills. “Why?”

“This was my plan for the bearer of the seal. That it is you is a bonus.”

The last thing he remembered as he lost consciousness – again – was Morgana’s laugh.

When he came to the second time, he was stripped to the waist and hanging from chains in the ceiling. Whatever she had drugged him with still kept him fuzzy enough to keep from forming any coherent thoughts or accessing the part of his brain that housed his “powers”. He’d been tortured before and he’d kept himself sane by reciting Shakespeare. Maybe I should have memorized Mallory or Tennyson. His main concern was if he could hold out against whatever Morgana decided to dish out.

He heard the clang of metal as the cell door was unlocked. He looked up to see Morgana saunter in. The look in her eyes now made him long for the cold, aloof Morgana. She was now eyeing him like he was a piece of meat. She ran her fingertips across his body as she circled him. “It will be a pity to break such a fine specimen as you. If you weren’t so staunch in your loyalty to Arthur, we could have had some fine times.”

Alan shuddered inwardly. It didn’t take much imagination to guess what “fine times” she meant. What did that say about him that he would rather undergo physical torture than have sex with a beautiful young woman?

“Alan, every day my men here will hurt you. They will start off slow. At the end of the week I will ask you a question. If I like your answer, you will be released. If not, they will move to the next level.” She fingered one of his scars. “I see you are no stranger to pain and I would like to know how long it would take to break one such as you.”

Alan thought there was a compliment somewhere in there. She saw him as a challenge obviously, but would she go so far as to kill him? Would his corpse be the message for Arthur? The best he could do was hold out for as long as he could in the hopes of an escape or rescue. He didn’t have much hope for the latter as no one knew he was here. If he did die, he vowed to do so with honor, refusing Morgana. Even though he wasn’t clairvoyant, he could see the months of imprisonment awaiting him. Oh joy.

The first week was basic beatings. Just punches and kicks mainly to the torso with a few minor ones to the face early in the week. Morgana must have ordered them not to mar his face.

At the end of the week, Morgana entered the cell ignoring the puddles on the floor. She looked him over to see the damage done. Satisfied at the torturers’ work, she asked her question. “Will you renounce Arthur and swear fealty to me and the Old Religion?”

“No.”

“Very well then.” She looked at the other men. “You make begin the next stage tomorrow.” She left.

The next stages happened to be shallow cuts everywhere but the face. They stung and would pull the skin whichever way he turned. When the week was over, Morgana came to ask her question again and he refused.

This continued for weeks to the point where methods were combined. Morgana got so frustrated she didn’t care about saving his face anymore. Soon there was no part of his body that wasn’t affected and he had screamed himself out of a voice. To keep him alive longer, he had been lowered from the chains and moved to a raised cot. He couldn’t be sure exactly when it happened, he just realized it during one of his brief moments of clarity. Between the pain and hunger, awareness was rare.

Then came the time when he knew he was close to dying. He was too weak to even move and breathing was a losing battle. Morgana’s arrival confirmed it.

She looked at him with a strange expression on her face. It was as if she was impressed that he didn’t break while at the same time disgusted that that loyalty was for Arthur. “This devotion of yours is proving tiresome,” she said. “It is time for you to fulfill your final purpose.” She placed a hand against his head, clearing his mind.

He knew with certainty that she was going to do something horrible and wanted him to be aware of it. She stepped out of his line of sight for a brief moment (one of the problems of having only one functioning eye) then returned holding the Seal of Camelot. It dangled from her hand and spun lazily from the chain.

“If I were ruler of Camelot, you wouldn’t have to hide this under your clothes. No one would dare raise a hand against you.”

[Every ruler has their detractors. Just as Uther had those who feared him, you would have those who feared you.]

“I am nothing like Uther!”

[Uther had a crusade against magic, not caring who he killed. You are doing the opposite in killing those who oppose magic. No one will win.]

“And where does Arthur come into this?” she sneered.

[I think he’s trying to find middle ground somehow. He just needs to see that not all magic is used to hurt or kill.]

“You will not be the one to show him.” At a simple word, the seal turned orange and she used telekinesis to have it float to where it hovered just above his chest. He could feel the heat radiating from it. “So everyone will know you are a traitor to our kind.”

With that, the seal lowered to his chest. He heard himself scream in his mind as the metal seared his flesh.

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