Morgana did not understand where they were going. Last night Arthur was all about finding allies within the neighboring kingdoms and taking Camelot back by force and then when she woke this morning that plan had somehow changed. Now they were all following Gaius to a small village within the borders of Camelot looking for one man, or really stories about this man rather than the man himself, and no one would tell her why.
Not that there was much talking at all this morning. Arthur and Leon kept giving each other pointed looks and having silent conversations while almost refusing to say anything more than necessary to poor Gaius. Gaius just kept his eyes straight ahead pretending not to notice Arthur and Leon at all.
Leaving her and poor Gwen to bring up the rear completely in the dark about what was going on and why the plan had just suddenly changed. She did not know about Gwen but she had had just about enough of it.
“Arthur either tell me where we are going and why or I swear to you Gwen and I will not go a single step farther.”
“Morgana…” She knew that tone, it was the ‘the delicate female is getting hysterical without cause’ tone, like hell. She would not be spoken down to by the boy she used to beat at nearly every childhood game.
“Don’t you dare Morgana me in that tone Arthur. Like it or not Gwen and I are a part of this and we deserve to know where we are going and what is going to happen once we get there.”
She watched in amusement while he tried to come up with an argument against her logic and as per usual he failed. She always could talk circles around him. She was sure he would tell them everything now, but it wasn’t Arthur who explained. It was Gaius.
“We are going to a little village near the eastern boarder of Camelot where we hope to find someone to help us find the man we truly need. Back before the purge there was a man by the name of Balinor who lived in Camelot, if we truly want any chance of regaining our home we will need his help.”
She knew that was only a partial explanation, but she had no plans to push for more, at least it was something. Gaius seemed unwilling to tell her even that much and she respected the old physician enough not to press when it was clear that he was already on thin ice with the other half of their party. No need to make him feel even more at odds with his companions. For the moment anyhow, she would give them all a chance to take a deep breath and calm themselves before her next assault.
“Very well, thank you Gaius for the explanation. Shall we?” Holding her head high and not fighting the look of smug satisfaction she could feel tugging at her face one wit, she continued on towards their now shared destination.
A few hours passed before they broke through the tree line and they could see the village they had been searching for since before dawn. Finally, maybe now they could rest, or at least travel at a more sedate pace?
Arthur could tell the others, mainly Morgana, were relieved when the village was finally in their line of sight, but it was still a few miles off over rough terrain. He knew better than most that all it would take would be for them to lower their guard because the end was in sight and then something bad would happen.
He had just gotten through telling Morgana to stay closer to the group, she had begun to lag too far behind, when movement to his left caught his attention. Turning quickly, he found a young dark haired woman in her early twenties a few feet from them.
“Oh, hello.” Of course, Morgana would want to make friends.
She seemed startled to see them, but he would not let his guard down. Not after Nimueh.
“Are you headed to the village?” What else would she be doing here? Really Morgana, the village was the only thing within miles and the woman was on foot.
“Yes, I am, are you?” What else would they be doing here? Honestly, there were days when women baffled him beyond reason.
“Yes, we are, if you would like you could travel this last bit with us. Safety in numbers.”
While part of him wanted to rescind the invitation, a larger part could not bring himself to leave a woman alone like this. With their horses they would be at the village by dawn if they didn’t stop to make camp, mid-day tomorrow if they did, on foot the woman most likely would not reach it until after dark the next day or the next morning if she ran into any trouble.
“That is very kind of you; if you’re sure it isn’t any trouble.”
“No trouble at all you could ride double with Arthur.” Thank you, Morgana!
He was so busy glaring at Morgana that he didn’t notice the woman’s gaze lock in on him when, if she was truly a stranger, she shouldn’t know which of the men Morgana had been talking about.
“I am Morgana by the way and this is Gwen.”
“Pleased to meet you, my name is Mary, Mary Collins.”
Mary could not believe her luck. She had been trailing the group for days now and finally she had seen her opening to make contact. What kind of a knight would simply ignore a lone female traveller on the road, she had simply wanted to establish her presence so the sight of her later would not raise undo alarm. She hadn’t expected to be invited into their group that would make things just too easy.
Others might have seen the fall of Camelot as an end to her vengeance but it wasn’t enough. Uther had lost his home but he still had the hope that his son represented and most galling of all, he still had his son. Uther had killed her boy, his final act as King of Camelot, and now for her son to really be at peace Prince Arthur had to die. It was only fair after all, she had promised a son for a son not a crown.
Her burning hatred only increased when not one of them recognized her name. They had, all of them, stood there and watched her boy die and then forgotten him. They would pay, they had to!
Arthur couldn’t shake the feeling that something was off with their new traveling companion. She never spoke beyond their first introduction, which could be because she was shy around strangers, but it was more than that. She kept her gaze focused in front of her never glancing around like most people would just staring straight ahead. At times he could swear he heard her muttering to herself and her grip on her skirt would tighten until her knuckles were stark white.
Then there was the moment she introduced herself, he could have sworn she was disappointed that they did not recognize her name. Again, not unheard of, many people thought themselves more widely known than they truly were, but there was something about her that was just nudging at the back of his mind. Like maybe he did know that name he just could not seem to remember why.
Pushing it to the back of his mind he told himself he was just being silly, all that mattered now was regaining their home; all other concerns would have to wait. It wasn’t like the mystery of Mary Collins and her strange ways would be life changing after all. Best to focus on what was important, the journey ahead.
From where she lay Mary could see everyone. They had made camp shortly after night fell and the men were taking turns standing watch, not that it would do them much good, she stayed silent and waited for her opening. They had all simply fallen asleep, she had thought she would have to nudge them along sure that their minds would be too scattered to settle easily but she was wrong and that caused her fury to rise even higher. How could they be so calm? So at ease, so unburdened when they were the cause of so much misery and pain. She had thought for a moment that the loss of their home would be at least a small repayment of the strife that Camelot has sown for so long, but she was wrong. They were all fine. Well not for much longer.
All the components of her spell needed to be in place before dawn or they would make it to the village and she would miss her chance. She couldn’t allow that to happen. Soon Arthur Pendragon would be dead and all of his friends with him. Then Camelot would truly be lost, never to rise again.
As the sun began to creep over the horizon Arthur moved to wake the others, they had to get an early start if they planned to do any looking when they finally made it to the village, but he found they just would not wake. Becoming more and more alarmed he began to shake them, but they didn’t even groan. What was going on? Standing to move back to Morgana and try again he turned to find Mary Collins standing in front of her with a smile on her face and a dagger in her hand.
“You truly don’t remember me do you young Pendragon? I do admit I look a little different so maybe this will help jog your memory.”
With the wave of her hand she transformed from a beautiful woman in her twenties to a white haired old crone.
After the execution of her son just before Camelot fell to Nimuhe she had sworn vengeance on his father, and had promised to kill him. He hadn’t thought about her since his home fell, but now he supposed he should have. From the way she had changed her appearance and was obviously keeping his companions asleep she had magic. Which if he had learned anything recently meant he was screwed.
Drawing his sword he prepared to fight to the death to protect the few people he had left.
Merlin was just walking by on his way out of one of the villages he visited for news of the other kingdoms when he made his twice yearly trip to see his mother and Will, even if they could no longer answer him the act of talking out his problems with the only two people who had ever truly understood him in his youth was always helpful, when he felt the pull of magic. Someone was casting near here, and they were using up a lot of energy. If he was smart he knew he would just keep walking and let them be about their business, this was Uther’s land the last thing he wanted to do was get caught with someone this careless with their magic, but everyone who knew him knew he wasn’t that smart.
Looking through some trees he found… an old woman, a young knight, and a bunch of sleeping people.
Only he could stumble onto something this ridiculous.
It was obvious, to him anyway, that the woman was keeping the others asleep and was planning to kill the knight. A knight of Camelot no less, if his colors were any indication. This was not good. The way he saw it he had two options, act like he’d never seen them and just let them sort it out themselves, basically let the brave knight die and maybe his companions as well. Or he could step in, save the day, and possibly get arrested. Who was he kidding? He knew he only really had one option; he just hoped everything wouldn’t get too far out of hand.
“Hi there, you mind telling me what’s happening here?”
Both the woman and the knight turned towards him in unison and gave him nearly identical looks of pity the simpleton. That was fine at least he’d gotten their attention off of each other and on to him which was the point of his greeting.
With a muttered word and the glow of his eyes he sent both his sword and her dagger flying away from them. No need for anyone to get stab happy, especially while he was this close to them.
A simple enough gesture had the woman’s powers bound and the people around them beginning to wake.
One final word had the other knight’s sword stuck in its sheath. Now that everyone was unarmed and awake they could all just handle this.
Gaius woke to find Arthur facing an old woman who hadn’t been there before they fell asleep, a young man with a goofy grin standing between them but a little off to the side and out of arm’s reach, and everyone else shaking themselves as they attempted to fully wake. One thing was for certain this was not to be a good morning.
Seeing the two new people in their camp and the absence of Mary, Leon jumped up and grabbed his sword. Or at least he tried to, his weapon seemed to be stuck, quickly realizing it was no use trying to dislodge it he stepped up to the side of his prince prepared to defend their group in any way he was able.
Morgana woke up faster than Gwen and knew instantly something was wrong. Grabbing her maid and friend by the hand she dragged her further away from the impending conflict towards the cover of the trees. They were without weapons if a fight truly began she and Gwen would run into the woods so they wouldn’t distract Arthur and Leon with their presence.
“Who are you?”
The question was directed at Merlin by the blonde knight and he did not appreciate the tone one bit. He knew he would have been smarter to just walk away.
“My name is Merlin and that’s a fine way to talk to someone who not only woke your friends, but also disarmed the vicious old lady who was intent on your slow and painful deaths. You’re welcome by the way.” He kept his tone cheerful and light, though he was prepared to make a swift get away any time now. Getting tossed into prison or worse into the dungeons of Camelot was not part of any of his future plans just now.
“You used magic.” The knight sounded more accusatory with every word that left his mouth, though he looked more bewildered than enraged by the apparent revelation.
“Oh, you’re a slow one aren’t you? Of course, I used magic you git, how did you expect to wake them? Shake them?”
By the blush that worked its way up the man’s face that’s most likely what he’d done when he found they wouldn’t wake. Oh bless him, he was just so adorable.
“You had no right to interfere, sorcerer!”
This from the homicidal granny. Of course, she would feel that way and he couldn’t really blame her, the magic she worked for someone at her level would have taken a great deal of planning and that level of malice usually meant one thing in Camelot. Vengeance.
“Wow, I really should have just let you two kill each other. You’re giving me a headache.” To emphasize his point, he brought his hands up to rub his temples, they really were beginning to make his head hurt.
“He would not have killed me. I would have paralyzed him before I wounded him mortally then I would have killed his companions in their sleep while he watched helpless as they died before finally succumbing to his wounds and dying himself.”
Damn, he had to give her points on this vengeance plan. Cold, vicious, and a dash of showmanship. It was a good plan. Judging by the slight pallor of the others in the small clearing they would not have agreed with him. Time to point out the flaw he supposed.
“Yeah it wouldn’t have happened exactly like that. See, you have a very low magic level, you had totems to put everyone into their deep sleep initially, but after that it was your energy keeping them under. By the looks of surprise on their faces once they woke I’m guessing you were also using glamour to hide your true identity, which you would have had to do if this is vengeance like I think it is, just so they wouldn’t recognize you right off and attack. The glamour was also using energy to sustain itself. Then add onto that a spell to paralyze him which by the looks of him he would have fought, would have taken even more energy.
“By then you would have been lucky if you still had the strength to stand let alone kill so many people with nothing but that dagger you had. Once you’d stabbed them the first time the sleep spell that wasn’t very strong to start with would have been broken by survival instinct and they would have fought back killing you. Then since I’m guessing the older man with the medicine bag is a healer they would have saved the paralyzed man and the only one who would have died today would have been you.”
Everyone was looking at him like he’d grown a second head. What like that was hard to figure out? He’d just pointed out the inevitable conclusion to this very bad, though very imaginative, plan.
“Now you have two options, judging by the rage in your eyes and the guilt in his, your vengeance was justified. But justified or not it failed. Option one, you could try again, though now they’re on guard and I’ve bound your magic so you’d have to come at them the old fashioned way and you would likely die in the attempt. Though who am I to judge, maybe death is what you’re truly after, if so best of luck to you in your future endeavors. Or option two, I could send you somewhere to heal and get better. The place I speak of is full of people like you and there is peace and understanding to be found there. Decide.”
By now the old woman was crying her eyes out, the old healer was looking at him like he was trying to figure him out, the two women were just staring at everyone trying to figure out what would happen next, and the two knights were looking at him like he’d overstepped his place and should have known better. Oh well, everyone deserves peace and he would always offer it to those in need of it. He just hoped she would take it.
“This place you speak of, is it nice there?” Her voice was shaky and uncertain, she likely thought he spoke of the afterlife.
“Very nice, would you like to see it?”
Her answer was barely above a whisper like she was afraid the offer would be snatched away. Without a word he waved a hand and she was transported away in a flurry of lights back to Haven to find her peace. While he wasn’t there to get her settled there were others who would see to her comfort until he could return.
Looking back to the others in the clearing he found equal looks of shock and outrage. He shifted his weight to the balls of his feet and rocked back getting ready for round two.
“Where did you send her?”
“You had no right to let her get away. She has broken the laws of Camelot and should stand accountable for her actions before the King.”
Before he could respond both knights stopped suddenly as though what they had said had just caught up with them. Something was definitely wrong here and judging by who was standing before him if he had to guess he’d say that something had happened to Camelot or at least to her King.
“Alright then if we’re done here I’ll be on my way.” Seeing no reason to stick around he turned to continue on his journey back to Haven when a new voice stopped him. It seems the old man had finally decided to be heard.
“One moment if you please. You came from the village just ahead, yes?” Where else would he have come from on foot? Honestly.
“Yeah.” No need to volunteer information especially not to this magic hating lot.
“We go there seeking information, maybe you can help us.”
The old man looked so earnest and desperate he just didn’t have it in him to tell him to shove off. No matter how much he disliked Camelot, her knights, and all they stood for he supposed it wouldn’t hurt to simply hear them out.
“What is it you seek?”
“A man by the name of Balinor.”