Character(s): Merlin, Arthur, Morgana, Gaius
Prompt: Team-y goodness, a mythical beast threatens Camelot, our
heroes work together to defeat it. (Bonus points for sword fights)
Three Things I Don't Want: Character bashing, unrelenting darkness or schmaltz
Word Count: 2,360
Author's Notes: Well, due to time constraints, this as much of an ensemble piece as I would've liked it to be (and I was unable to fit Gwen in at all ):) and there isn't a lot of sword fighting...and I know it's a little rushed, and for that I apologize! So this probably really isn't what you had in mind at all, but I hope you like it anyway!
Summary: People are mysteriously dying around the kingdom, and of course magic is involved. Just business as usual in Camelot. Takes place early on in Season 1.
The first death had been labeled a mysterious, random incident.
It wasn’t until the third that Gaius discovered that the victims weren’t actually dead, but petrified.
“Some kind of magic is behind this, without a doubt,” Gaius muttered to Merlin, as he bent over the latest body. The victim’s eyes were wide open, body frozen. “If word of this gets out, it will cause a panic, and that won’t help anything.”
“There must be something I could do,” Merlin protested. “If this is magic, there has to be some spell I could use to—”
“What have I told you about consequences, Merlin?” Gaius interrupted sternly, shaking his head. “We need to find the cause first because there will likely be more, and your curing them won’t help us find it.”
With a sigh, Merlin said, “All right. We just better find some answers fast before Uther goes on a hunt for sorcerers. More encouragement is the last thing he needs.”
Merlin had not forgotten the circumstances surrounding the death of Gwen’s father, and nothing like that was going to happen again, not if he could help it.
There was only so long something this serious could be kept from Uther, and much as he was loathe to do so, Gaius knew he had to report to the King, at the very least in private.
Besides, he was running out of room to store the bodies, and there had been a fourth one earlier in the morning. And this time, the person had not been quite so lucky as to escape death. He needed a larger space for them, and for that absolute secrecy was going to be impossible anyway. The King was going to find out sooner or later, and there would be more trouble for Gaius if it didn’t come from him first.
“What is behind this sorcery, Gaius?” Uther demanded as he studied the bodies, eyes hard. “I want an answer soon, but will take action regardless.”
Gaius resisted the urge to sigh and held his tongue, knowing that if Uther were going to use this as an excuse to resume his sorcerer hunt, there would be little he could do or say to convince him otherwise.
Thus he made his exit with a bow, only more determined to find the answer.
It was time to pay a visit to the library.
Sometimes Arthur really hated being a prince.
They were no closer to finding the answer than they’d been at the beginning.
It had been a long, frustrating day, and the unrelenting rain had only worsened his mood. All he wanted to do was take a hot bath and then sleep for several hours, and while his knights might be able to manage some rest, he had a meeting with his father, and Arthur’s failure only made that more unpleasant.
No amount of mental preparation was ever good enough, and now he just wanted to get this over with. Taking a deep breath, he knocked sharply on the door to his father’s chambers, stepping in with what he hoped was an air of confidence at Uther’s sharp call of “Enter.”
Uther did not even have to turn around to know it was him. “Well?”
Mentally preparing himself for the response, Arthur said, “We searched practically the entire kingdom, but were unsuccessful…”
“Then you were not looking hard enough. This sorcerer has already been terrorizing my people for too long, and I will not stand for it. You will not rest until the sorcerer is found, is that clear?”
Resisting the childish urge to whine, Arthur gritted his teeth and nodded. “Yes, father.”
“Good,” Uther said, though his voice was just as cold. “Do not disappoint me again.”
Merlin had only just started to run the bath when Arthur stalked into his chambers.
“I’ve only been out all day, but is that good enough for him? No, because nothing ever is! I’m exhausted, my knights are exhausted, and he doesn’t even see that! I want to find this sorcerer as much as he does, but I’d like him to at least be realistic. Sometimes it’s like he doesn’t even know when he’s being unreasonable.”
Resisting the urge to sigh, Merlin said, “So why don’t you just tell him?”
Rounding on him with his you-really-are-an-idiot-Merlin expression, Arthur said, “Why don’t I just tell him. Simple as that, eh? I’m sorry father, you’re being unreasonable today. That would go over swimmingly. Sometimes I wonder about you, Merlin.”
There were lots of things Merlin would have liked to have said, but instead he flashed Arthur his most charming smile and quipped, “Only sometimes? I don’t know about you, but I wonder about myself all the time.”
Arthur snorted. “Then maybe you are smarter than you look.” But Merlin knew that couldn’t be the end of it, and true to expectation, Arthur continued, “But seeing as how you don’t look all that smart anyway, that shouldn’t be comforting.”
“Oh, I wasn’t comforted at all, don’t worry,” Merlin said, because sometimes it actually was fun to play along. “I mean, I feel dumb enough as it is being around you all the time, since you’re so smart and all.”
Arthur narrowed his eyes. “Are you mocking me, Merlin?”
Putting on his best innocent look, Merlin answered, “I would never.”
But oh, it was hard saying that with a straight face.
Scowling now, Arthur snapped, “Get out of my sight Merlin. But don’t get too comfortable—I’ll be needing you shortly.”
Merlin left, shaking his head and muttering. Arthur could be a little more appreciative. After all, he’d only been working for him for a few weeks and he’d already lost count of the number of times he’d saved his life.
When he got back to Gaius’s, all thoughts of Arthur were momentarily put on hold when he saw the serious look on the physician’s face. “What, Gaius? What is it?”
“This is no sorcerer, Merlin, though the monster responsible has to have been created by one,” Gaius said, voice heavy with the weight of truth, “The creature is a basilisk, and can kill you with one glance, but if you are fortunate enough to see its reflection, you are only petrified. It can only be made with extremely dark magic.”
Merlin’s eyes widened with realization. “Nimhueh.”
Gaius nodded. “I’m afraid so.”
Merlin was on his way back from delivering the news to Arthur when he ran into Morgana.
Grabbing her shoulders, he was surprised to see her cheeks wet with tears when he looked into her face. “Morgana? What’s the matter?”
A pleading look in her eyes, she said almost desperately, “You can’t let him go.”
“What are you talking about?” Merlin asked, but he knew that she was at least referring to the future, and a possible outcome for Arthur in it. Because of course it would be about Arthur—everything always was.
“Arthur,” Morgana said, every letter twisted with fear and worry. “He did not say it outright, but I saw it in his eyes—he plans to go after this creature himself tonight so he doesn’t put his knights at risk, but if he goes alone it will end in his death, I am sure of it!”
Frowning, Merlin asked, “We’ve only just recently figured out that it was a creature, but it seems as though you knew that before speaking with him.”
“I saw it in a dream,” Morgana said, her tone of voice daring him to say he thought her to be ridiculous. “I saw everything.”
“So you know where this basilisk is hiding?” Merlin asked, eager for the information.
Morgana blinked. “You mean—you believe me?”
Clearly she’d been expecting to defend herself anyway. Merlin gave her a small smile, a bit of sadness etched in the edges for the things that could not be said. “Of course I do. Morgana, please—tell me all you saw.”
“Where you going to tell me you planned on going to find this thing yourself?”
“Merlin, how many times do we have to talk about knocking before you actually remember to do it?”
“Were you?” Merlin was not about to let himself be distracted by Arthur’s snide comments.
“So Morgana got to you, I see.” Arthur sighed. “If this basilisk really can kill with his eyes, I won’t put so many of my knights at risk.”
“Arthur, a basilisk can only be created by extremely powerful dark magic, which means it probably requires magic of some kind to be killed—”
“I need to do this, Merlin,” Arthur interrupted sharply. “What kind of king would I be if I asked people to risk their lives for Camelot, but didn’t risk mine in return? If I ever have to send my people out to probable death, they need to know that I have faced the same. We’ve been through this.”
“I know.” And Merlin did. In spite of Morgana’s warning, he knew nothing he said would change Arthur’s mind, and he was fairly certain Morgana knew that too. “I wasn’t trying to stop you. I just thought I’d remind you of that. And let you know that I’m coming with you.”
“You?” Arthur snorted. “You’re hopeless, Merlin. What could you possibly contribute?”
“I could…help you…distract it?”
“Ah, live bait!” Arthur’s face lit up, though now that Merlin was learning what to look for, he could see a hint of distaste lurking in his eyes. “Just when I was thinking you were a total lost cause, you manage to surprise me.”
Merlin couldn’t resist rolling his eyes. “Glad to know you have so much faith in me.”
Arthur merely gave him a cheeky grin and clapped his shoulder. “Oh, stop being such a sensitive girl, Merlin and try to be masculine. Don’t worry, I won’t let it eat you.”
Merlin just shook his head. “Gaius thinks the basilisk has been lurking in the lower levels of the castle since that’s where most of the bodies have been found, so we should start there.”
“All right,” Arthur declared, grabbing his sword. “Let’s go kill ourselves a basilisk.”
“Can’t imagine anything else I’d rather do,” Merlin muttered, hoping his luck continued and that they managed to make it out alive.
Once they made it to the tunnels beneath the dungeons, it was clear this was where the basilisk had been commanded to stay.
The place smelled of death—Merlin could only assume the huge snake had brought some of the bodies back of those it had actually been able to kill—and as they walked further, they could hear the sound scales sliding across cold stone.
Until now, they’d been making a conscious effort to stay as quiet as possible—though Merlin had managed to trip over something once—and Merlin almost jumped when Arthur whispered, “Now that we’re getting closer, I want you to make as much noise as you possible can so its head is in your general direction, and then I’ll kill it.”
Merlin had to bite his lip to keep from laughing. “Just like that, eh?”
“Should be easy,” Arthur answered, the last word an arrogant drawl.
“Oh yeah, should be easy,” Merlin mimicked, “why don’t you go confront its head Merlin, never mind that all it needs is its eyes to kill you. But I’m only Merlin, so its okay if I have a staring contest with it.”
“Shut up, Merlin, and stop complaining—being live bait was your idea, after all,” Arthur snapped, “and since you wanted to come, you might as well make yourself useful. But do try to be careful.”
Merlin had come to see that this sort of response was Arthur’s way of showing his concern, and was grateful the darkness hid his smile.
Holding his torch farther out in front of him, he took off at a run, waving the firebrand wildly and shouting. The loud hiss was his only warning as the basilisk’s head suddenly loomed in front of him, and Merlin twisted around, stumbling to the ground in the process.
And then Arthur attacked, looking impossibly small that close to the giant snake.
Counting on the darkness to make it hard for Arthur to see what was going on, Merlin crouched in the shadows waiting for Arthur’s sword to pierce the skin, and when it did, concentrated as hard as he could and muttered the spell he’d learned specifically for this.
The basilisk let out a piercing screech as its eyes were covered in darkness, and Arthur took advantage of the moment to leap onto its back, and Merlin had just enough time to bathe Arthur’s sword in magic before it sliced the creature’s head straight off.
There was an explosion of light as the monster shattered, sending Arthur crashing to the ground.
Merlin rushed over to the prince’s side, and Arthur groaned. “I think I may have sprained something, but I’m all right.” Pushing himself up to a sitting position, he added, “Well, that was intense, though I have no idea what Morgana was so worried about—clearly she was just overreacting, as usual.”
Merlin just shook his head and smiled.
When Merlin returned to the apothecary, Gaius was waiting up for him.
The physician’s shoulders slumped with relief. “It is good to see you back and in one piece, Merlin. I assume it went well?”
Merlin gave him a bitter smile. “Oh, yes. This is only the billionth time I’ve save Arthur’s life now. How he survived before me, I honestly have no idea.”
With a frustrated sigh, Merlin continued, “But if he ever finds out, I can only imagine what he’d say: you mean incompetent Merlin is the only reason I’m alive right now? You have got to be kidding me,” Merlin said, doing an exaggerated imitation of Arthur’s voice.
Gaius sighed, giving him a comforting pat on the shoulder. “He will find out when he is meant to know, and he will be appreciative. You just need to give it time.”
Merlin knew all this, but he had never been good at being patient.
And, though this was only the beginning, he was already tired of waiting.