Title: Master And CrusaderSequel to: Master and KnightUniverse: Master And... SeriesPairing: Merlin/ArthurFandom: MerlinRating: MDisclaimer: Don't ownSummary: Merlin, Arthur, Sir Percival, Sir Elyan and Sir Leon set off on a secret mission to find and claim Excalibur for Mercia and the war. They knew they would come up against powerful magic, but they never suspected the tests would so horribly overwhelm and weaken Merlin. Something else no one saw coming? The move of a desperate mother.
There was a village between the first and second marker stones, and the three weary travelers managed to find rooms in the local inn. They were nothing grand, but the three had been sleeping on the ground for two weeks by now and it was amazing to actually have a real bed to rest on at the end of the day. What was also amazing was having the food they'd feasted on instead of the rations they'd brought with them. Merlin had remained silent throughout the meal with the other travelers, and instead listened to Arthur and Sir Percival as they talked to the others. The men were good at conversing at length and gathering intel from those around them without truly divulging anything about themselves.
"What about you?" The wife of one of the older travelers asked as she turned towards Merlin now that her husband was enraptured with his conversation with Arthur and Sir Percival.
"I am sorry, I was not paying attention." Merlin turned his gaze on her. "What was the question?"
She smiled as she tilted her head so that she gazed at him through her eyelashes. "Do you find traveling so frequently… lonely?"
Recognizing the flirtation and invitation for what they were, Merlin's lips curled in automatic response. "One finds a way to keep entertained." His gaze slid to Arthur in amusement before he returned his blues to the woman.
"Is that so?" She leaned in closer in such a way that her cleavage was displayed. "You will have to teach me these ways."
"I am sure your husband would not approve, milady." Merlin leaned away and took a sip of his drink.
She stared at him in want as she bit her bottom lip and reached out to place her hand on Merlin's. "My husband is a deep sleeper."
Oh, she was far more direct than he'd expected, and Merlin turned to look at her in shock considering her husband sat next to her. But the man must be deaf in that ear because he didn't seem to have heard his wife's proposition, and was instead laughing at something Sir Percival had said.
Arthur, though, appeared to have heard, because his smile had slipped from his face and his blues rested on the two of them.
Merlin lifted the woman's hand to his lips and pressed a chaste kiss to it before he stood and gave a little bow towards her. "Have a restful sleep, milady." With that he turned and left despite the fact that his inner demon replayed the invitation in his head. Usually it didn't care about these things while Arthur was around, but Mordred, and Merlin's mother were right, Merlin was weak after whatever had happened to him within that enchanted forest, and because of that his body was craving much more nourishment than usual.
Reaching his room, Merlin kicked the door closed behind him as he yanked off his shirt and padded towards the bed before collapsing onto it with a groan as he stared up at the ceiling. He did not know how long he stared there, but the bed dipping under Arthur's weight brought him out of his stupor.
"That merchant's wife was surprisingly brazen."
Merlin snorted in agreement. "I expected the invitation, just not while her husband was right next to her."
"She is much younger than her spouse, I suppose he cannot keep her pleasured."
Merlin shrugged. "I have known many a virile older man."
Arthur hesitated before he cleared his throat. "Do you not feel… pity… for her?"
"Are you assuming it was a forced marriage?" Otherwise, Merlin didn't see why he should pity her. She'd been decked with jewels and visibly well-taken care of.
"I imagine being married to that man and I get shivers at the thought of him touching me. If I were her, I would've propositioned someone else, someone younger, someone more my taste."
This was one of the oddest conversations Merlin had had with his younger lover for a while now, and he wasn't exactly sure where it was going.
"Were you… were you not attracted to her?" Arthur's voice was odd. It wasn't accusing, merely enquiring with an odd, nearly choked tone.
Merlin thought over the question seriously, mostly out of curiosity of what was going on in Arthur's mind right now. "She was beautiful, yes, but while I have enjoyed the female form in the past my preference is for the male physique."
Arthur let out a choked sound. "Are you saying her husband is more in line with your taste?"
The laughter that spilled from his lips was genuine as he shook his head. "Far from it."
"Then who were you referring to?"
Merlin finally turned to face his lover. "I was referring to you, actually."
Arthur's lips curled in smug satisfaction at that answer before he cleared his throat and forced that expression off of his face. "What if I asked you whether you wanted to sleep with her?" He cleared his throat. "The two of us."
Merlin's eyes widened as he stared at Arthur in shock. "Are you feverish?"
A scowl took over those features. "I am not boring, Merlin. I—I can experiment as well."
The warlock stared at his lover and wasn't exactly sure what to say. Arthur was usually very possessive, Merlin couldn't believe that suddenly the blonde wanted to do something like this. It went against what Arthur usually was like.
"You—you have done this before, don't pretend that you have not. The Mercian castle was rife with tales of your Grand Orgies before I became your sex slave." Arthur licked his lips and his gaze fell away for a second before returning, resolutely. "King Simon said that you also shared lovers with him, so that means that it wasn't done solely in Mercia. This was something you enjoy doing."
It was true. But he'd never imagined doing something like that with Arthur.
Arthur's gaze lowered. "Did you share lovers with Mordred?"
It took a couple of minutes for Merlin to answer. He thought about Mordred and the relationship he'd shared with him. While it definitely had been far from monogamous Mordred had become his Favored, and as such he'd been treated differently than the other loves. Merlin had been with other people the same time that he'd been with Mordred though, mostly women whom they'd shared, and now that he thought about it, it had always been Mordred who had initiated those encounters when Merlin was at his most desperate to feed. Looking back, Merlin realized that the boy had known that he alone wouldn't be able to satiate Merlin and had done had he'd needed to do to help the warlock.
A small smile touched Merlin's face as he realized just how well the druid had taken care of him. He'd been a true friend in so many ways, and Merlin hoped that their friendship could survive once Mordred returned.
Arthur's saw Merlin's smile and he frowned, darkly, before he blanked his face. He yanked his shirt off and moved without Merlin noticing.
It was only when the warlock felt his trousers being tugged down that he blinked back to the present in time for Arthur's mouth to descend on his cock. A groan escaped Merlin's lips as he leaned back on his elbows and watched as Arthur, cheeks hollowed, worked him to painful hardness in no time. Arthur's hands were at his own cock, which was rock-hard as well as he stroked himself.
There was fire and darkness in Arthur's eyes, a surprising, intriguing, and arousing combination. He relaxed his throat and took Merlin deeper. The feeling was incredible, and the warlock cried out as he threw his head back at the tightness, at the sensation of that tongue teasing his undershaft. Arthur let go of his own cock to fondle and caress Merlin's balls while fucking himself with Merlin's cock. He gagged once or twice as Merlin's cock reached as far back in his throat as physically possible, magic easing the way and removing any pain such intense intrusion might've caused him.
Merlin had been so hungry since they'd lost Sirs Elyan and Leon, so desperate for recharging, that he came embarrassingly quickly and without any sort of warning for the poor prince.
One his knees, Arthur continued to caress Merlin's balls as his shaft throbbed and spurted its warmth, thick cum deep down into his throat. The blonde's adams apple bobbed as he swallowed it all without complaint. In fact, there was a distinctively pleased glint in his blues as he finally slipped free and licked his lips.
Despite having cum only seconds ago, Merlin's hunger was painfully intense and his cock ridiculously hard. It trembled visibly as Arthur slowly began to remove his trousers, his hunger and need growing with every breath. Merlin hadn't realized that he'd snapped until seconds after he'd ripped off Arthur's trousers, thrown the boy face-first onto the bed and thrusted desperately into him with no warning whatsoever. He lay over Arthur's body, pinning him completely against the sheets as his hips met Arthur's roughly, rapidly. The boy's shocked cry fueled his desperation as his tongue and lips attacked the shell of Arthur's ear.
"Merlin, you—!" Arthur's voice was muffled by the sheets as he reached backwards and gripped Merlin's ass. The sensation merely caused the warlock to jackhammer harder and deeper into the blonde with unflinching determination. He could feel every inch of Arthur's ass clench around him and it drove him crazy, drove him wild.
Pushing upwards so that he straddled the groaning blonde, Melin reached back and gripped Arthur's calves, raising those legs backwards so that Arthur's feet were in the air as he rammed harder and harder into Arthur until the younger male's body rocked violently against the sheets with every thrust.
Clutching at the sheets, Arthur cried out words that weren't intelligible as he suffered through the abuse with twitches and whimpers. He kept trying to say something but the words continuously choked in his throat.
Lightning clashed outside viciously despite the fact that the sky had been bright and starry only seconds ago.
"Yesss—yesss!" Finally Arthur managed something intelligible, his voice agonized as his cock continued to be rubbed against the sheets while his ass was rammed desperately. "More! Harder!"
Merlin stopped in mid-thrust at the hungry tone in that voice. A small smirk tilted his lips when Arthur wailed at his lack of action, but that smirk quickly melted off of his face in an agonized cry as Arthur arched upwards, his hands clasping the back of his own neck, and he began to roll his hips into Merlin, his whole body undulating with the motion as his ass massaged the warlock's cock with his terrifyingly pleasurable actions.
"Arthurrrrrr." Merlin's face contorted with pleasure as Arthur fucked himself so amazingly on his cock. Merlin could merely hold onto Arthur's ankles as he lost himself to the intensity coiling deep inside of the pit of his stomach.
His little golden prince made painful sounds into the sheets, his voice crying out Merlin's name as he continued to roll his hips, the movement growing quicker and quicker until his whole body broke out in shivers and goose bumps as he came. His cum spurted on the sheets beneath him, and Arthur bit into the mattress to quiet his scream as his body spasmed in release.
Merlin closed his eyes tightly and groaned deep in his throat at the feeling of Arthur's ass clenching around him. The warlock threw his head backwards with a choked cry as Arthur milked an orgasm from him.
Arthur cried out, his body arching as Merlin seeded him, his cock twitching as it rubbed against the sheets.
"I need you." Slipping out, Merlin eased Arthur onto his back and then let out a cry of surprise as Arthur reached and out yanked him down on the bed next to him.
Taking advantage of Merlin's disoriented state, Arthur straddled him, weight on his knees as he shifted his hips to rub Merlin's cock against his ass-cleft, sending a jolt of painful need through the warlock. "Say it again."
For a moment Merlin was too consumed with the teasing his cock was receiving from those shifting hips. "I need you."
Arthur's lips curled as he reached behind him and guided Merlin's cock, causing both of them to groan once the warlock was sheathed deep inside of him. Arthur's blues met and kept Merlin's as he began to undulate above him.
Merlin reached up and pinched Arthur's nipples, causing the prince to clench around him with a cry. Gold flashed over his eyes as magic worked all over Arthur's body like thousands of mouths and tongues caressing his body, causing him to cry out and tremble in response.
"That is cheat—!" Arthur yelped as the magic curled around his cock and stroked it tauntingly slow while another wisp of gold began to slip deep within him and fill him with tingling warmth that made him extra sensitive. "Merlin!"
"My little princeling," Merlin groaned with tender regard as his hands locked on Arthur's hips. "My little princeling." He lifted Arthur's hips so that his cock was almost free, before he slammed the prince back down and caused them both to cry out and tilt their heads back as they were full of each other once more. He repeated the movement, harder and harder, faster and faster, hitting Arthur in the place that soon had him screaming out Merlin's name with abandon and desperation. Arthur's cock bobbed with the movement, covered in gold and pulsating with obvious need, and yet while he was sooo close he wasn't close enough.
"Merlin—Merlin please!" Arthur begged as sweat trailed down his golden, warrior's body.
Merlin's only answer was to capture one of Arthur's fingers in his mouth and suck on it, teasing the digit with his tongue and teeth.
Arthur made a terrible, despaired sound. "I need—you need—you have to—!"
Letting that digit slip from his lips, Merlin reached out and cupped the back of Arthur's head, bringing him down for a hungry, extremely dirty kiss as his cock slammed hard deep inside of the younger male over and over again.
Arthur clutched as the pillow on either side of Merlin's head and screamed into the sorcerer's mouth as suddenly his body convulsed in mind-numbing, bone-tingling pleasure. He rammed his hips down harder onto Merlin's cock as he cried out, his body spasming and his ass clenching tightly around its impaler.
Merlin wrapped his arms around Arthur and held onto him tightly as he kissed him harder and came deep inside of him. His sperm slowly escaped and slid down the inside of Arthur's thighs, more and more escaping as Merlin continued to pump through his climax. And once it was over he didn't stop. No. He flipped them over and continued to kiss Arthur as his cock moved in and out.
Arthur groaned and curled his arms around Merlin's neck as he wrapped his legs around the sorcerer's waist and kissed him back just as hungrily. The sounds of their lovemaking were loud and wet thanks to the excess of cum that filled the young prince, but neither minded as Merlin settled between his legs and thrusted home.
Arthur was so weak it made Merlin feel horribly guilty. The blonde was doing his outmost to try and play it off as nothing, but Merlin knew that he'd taken far too much from the blonde the night before. And what was worse was that Merlin wasn't fully recharged, still needed more, and was getting desperate enough that his devil side was whispering to him about how good looking Sir Percival was. That the knight wouldn't put up a fight, not if it was for the good of Escetia. That carnal side of Merlin tortured his hungry body with images of him thrusting into the muscled, taller warrior, of switching between him and Arthur all night long.
No. Stop it.
Merlin rubbed at the Gebo rune tattoo on the back of his hand and sidled Arthur and Sir Percival with a look. They were deep in conversation about the differences in treating thieves their respective kingdoms had (apparently Camelot flogged thieves publicly while Escetia cut off fingers) and were not paying attention to him. That served his purpose well, and Merlin continued to rub the itchy rune. While he doubted that the itch was the penalty they'd have to pay for Sir Elyan and Sir Leon's lives, well, it was distracting to the core.
Thinking about this penalty left him uneasy, and on edge, but there was no use crying over what could not be changed. They needed to continue on and hope the gods were in their favor - though, the longer they traveled, Merlin had the distinct impression that the gods were not in their favor at all.
He flinched at the unexpected voice before his eyes narrowed. Mordred?
Merlin, I cannot keep this connection up for long, it drains me too much, but I am worried. I can feel you. You are weak.
He let out a sigh and lowered his gaze for a second. When you return safely we will have much to discuss.
There was a pause, and then: Merlin, be careful. I beg of you. Do not do anything foolish.
His lips twitched in amusement. Since when have I ever done anything foolish?
The silence was the only answer he needed. Merlin failed to notice the attention he drew to himself as he chuckled.
"Is everything all right, Grand Court Sorcerer?" Sir Percival called.
"Yes, sorry, Mordred surprised me by communicating." Merlin hurried his horse towards them, noticing Arthur's stare darken at his younger brother's name. The sorcerer sighed and was about to remind Arthur that he cared deeply for Mordred, but that the golden haired prince was his, when suddenly the world around them began to glow red.
"What sorcery is this?" Sir Percival reigned in his horse as it rose onto its back legs in terror.
But Merlin didn't have to respond as darkness fell upon them so thick he couldn't see the hand he waved in front of his hand. He could feel the magic remove him from his horse and land him on his feet, but where? The sound of hisses and curses proved that Arthur and Percival were with him as well, wherever he was. Shifting his hand palm-up, a withchlight blossomed in his hand and rose in the air, casting shadows around them as it illuminated the cave system they seemed to be in.
Merlin looked around them, eyes narrowed. "This is the marker stone where the penalty will be exacted."
"Any idea what that penalty will be?" Arthur, like Sir Percival, was also on his feet and not on horseback. The horses had been left behind.
Merlin shook his head. "I do not know what it could be."
As if reaction to his witchlight, a line of purple witchlights appeared, revealing a clear path through the winding tunnels.
"Any idea what awaits us down this path?" Sir Percival pointed his sword's tip towards the tunnel indicated.
Merlin shook his head once more.
"Well," Arthur unsheathed his sword, "we wouldn't want it to be boringly predictably, would we?"
Sir Percival sent Arthur a glare.
Merlin's lips twitched as he followed the lights, the others behind him. His eyes were peeled and his magic alert, but he hadn't been able to sense the magic before during the other trial and it left him uneasy. Also, he was far from recharged.
All in all this could prove to be disastrous. But he kept those thoughts to himself as he moved from one tunnel to another, following the trajectory of the lights.
Suddenly the tunnel they were traversing through began to close up behind them, forcing the trio into a race. They took a right and a left, their gazes on the lights and the path before them, never on their feet, which was why it came as a surprise to all when the ground disappeared beneath them and they found themselves free-falling into the darkness as above them the tunnel closed completely, leaving everything pitch-black.
Merlin's eyes flashed gold and suddenly their rapid descent stopped as they hovered in the air. His witchlight returned and revealed that the way they'd fallen through had been sealed off. There was no going back up, the only place they could go now was below. Slowly this time. With another flash of his eyes they began to make their controlled descent, and as they drew closer to the bottom the witchlight revealed a chamber of gold, jewels, and inconceivable wealth. That wasn't what Merlin fixated on though, no, his gaze was on the small mountain of broken skeletons beneath them - proof that they were far from the first to try to find the Dragonblade.
When their feet touched the ground Sir Percival took a step forwards, eyes wide in awe. "Look at these riches."
"We could finance the war—a million wars—with the treasures here." Arthur, too, was awestruck by the endless gold, jewels and riches around them.
"We only want the sword." Merlin was blind to the glistening treasure around them. "We do not need to finance the war, we need to end it." He moved forwards, magic alert as he started down the small pathway winding throughout the mountains of treasure.
Arthur joined him at his side. "You are not tempted? Not a bit?"
Merlin sent him a sidelong glance. "With this?"
Si Percival, a step or two behind them, made a sigh. "You make it sound like this is a trifle thing to be tempted with."
The warlock's gaze strayed onto the riches around him and wondered if maybe it was unusual for him not to care, not to be tempted. He could see in both Arthur and Sir Percival's gazes that they were tempted by the riches and doing their best not to succumb to it, to keep their minds on the task at hand. But he really wasn't interested. He was here for the marker stone, which he was almost sure was at the end of this pathway. For him, the riches were nothing more than obstacles keeping him from what he truly wanted. "Every man has his weakness. Treasure is not mine."
"What would be your weakness then, Grand Court Sorcerer?" Sir Percival seemed intrigued. "Carnal pleasure? Would it be harder for you should this be a harem?"
Merlin thought that over and then gave him a small grin. "It probably would." He rested a hand on Arthur's tense shoulders, his gaze returning ahead of them. "And yet I still wouldn't have a reason to succumb to the temptation."
Arthur remained silent next to him. "How certain are you of that?"
Merlin sent him a look but didn't get to ask his younger lover why he'd asked that because up ahead the path opened up to a chamber in which stood Arthur Pendragon next to the second marker stone.
Merlin's eyes widened and he turned to look back at Arthur, who looked just as shocked.
Sir Percival pushed passed them, his voice shaken. "What are you doing here, milady?"
Milady? Merlin narrowed his eyes on Sir Percival before they ventured to 'Arthur'. He turned to Arthur and whispered. "Who do you see?"
Arthur, hardly able to look away, whispered: "You."
A suspicion grew as Merlin grabbed Sir Percival's arm before he could move towards the being. "Do you see Miss Guinevere?"
Sir Percival turned to him in shock. "Of course I do! Do you not?"
"No." Arthur shook his head. "I see Merlin."
"And I Arthur." Merlin's gaze returned to 'Arthur'. "Whatever that is, I believe it takes on the form of the person you hold dearest."
Arthur's eyes widened as they turned on Merlin, and then, despite the situation, he outright grinned. "Is that so?"
Rolling his eyes at the cocky prince, Merlin tried to feel for magic, but once more was unable to. His unease grew but he led on forwards, towards the being. "Hello."
'Arthur' turned his blue eyes on him. "Through the first test ye have tread, yet none of yours are rightly dead, a penance thus you must now pay, or all shall die within this day."
Merlin had known this was coming, but he was still nervous. "What is the penance for Sirs Elyan's and Leon's lives?"
'Arthur' smirked. "You kept something which should be lost, and so, in turn, will be the cost."
"That makes no sense," Arthur hissed.
"It's obviously a riddle." Sir Percival frowned. "But I do not understand what it could mean."
Unfortunately, Merlin did understand. "You can't expect us to—."
"A penance owed I will collect, now choose which one you'll less regret." 'Arthur' ordered.
"What is the penance, Merlin?" Arthur turned to him, eyes narrowed.
"Does he want one of our lives?" Sir Percival wanted to know.
"No." Merlin took in a deep breath. "Not in the true sense, at least." He cleared his throat. "Why do you think that being is in that guise?"
"What do you mean?" Sir Percival frowned.
It was Arthur who froze, and then his eyes narrowed on the being as he yanked his sword out. "No."
'Arthur' appeared completely unfazed.
"What is it?" Sir Percival growled. "What am I missing?"
"It is appearing to us as the one we care for the most, Percival." Arthur's voice was taunt. "Don't you understand what it wants to take away?"
Sir Percival went pale. "It wants us to choose between the lives of those we see?"
"Crueler than a life for life, this wound will be worse than a stab with a knife, for what punishment is more real, than an emptiness only the heart can feel?" 'Arthur' raised his chin.
"So he does want a life." Arthur tightened his grip on his sword.
"No." Merlin shook his head. "He wants the memory of that life."
"What?" Sir Percival turned to them.
"The emptiness only the heart can feel." Merlin took in a deep breath. "He's going to remove any memory of ever having loved the person we did. You can't remove what was in the heart, not completely, so deep down inside you'll always feel empty, like a part of you is missing, but you'll never remember what it is that you're missing to be whole again."
"The words he says are true," 'Arthur' declared. "I will do this to one of you."
Arthur shook his head. "We are not going to—."
"Prince Arthur, it is okay." Sir Percival took in a deep breath and sheathed his weapon. "T'will not be your memory, or that of the Grand Court Sorcerer, that he will take."
Merlin turned to look at Sir Percival in the same horror Arthur did.
"You will not give up on your love for Guinevere!" Arthur moved towards him, voice low. "You have admired her so fervently for so long! Only now have you gotten the nerve to approach her brother! I will not let you—!"
Sir Percival rested a hand on the prince's shoulders. "Tis not your choice to make, my friend." His smile was sad yet genuine. "I cannot allow this to happen to you or the Grand Court Sorcerer." He tightened his grip on Arthur's shoulder. "Your feelings for each other have shaped events too powerfully, and without it this war would already be lost." He took in a deep breath. "I give up my love of fair Miss Guinevere not only for the kingdom, but for her future, and her life. Should we not win she would suffer greatly as being both from the inner court of Camelot, and as the attendant of the Mercian Queen." He shook his head. "We must win this war, and I am willing to do what must be done, both for our realms, and for her."
Merlin turned to 'Arthur'. "Please, do not do this to him."
'Arthur' moved closer, eyes blazing. "Will you go against your word like this, when all that is asked for is a kiss?"
So this being would erase the memory of Sir Percival's love for Guinevere with a kiss. "He is a good man. He has done nothing to deserve this."
'Arthur' tilted his head to the side. "What does that matter?"
Merlin felt the Gebo rune on the back of his palm fire to life but he fought the pain and the weakness that overwhelmed him as once more his magic was turned against him almost suffocatingly by these ancient forces.
"Grand Court Sorcerer, please, stand down." Sir Percival's voice broke into Merlin's haziness. "Prince Arthur, let Sir Elyan know that I truly did care for his sister, and that my change of heart was to save her." He let go of Arthur and moved towards 'Arthur', brave and ready for when 'Arthur' wrapped his arms around him and kissed him, light enveloping them.
When the light disappeared, Sir Percival stood alone, his hand on his head.
"Percy?" Arthur's voice was soft as he stepped forward.
Sir Percival turned to him and let out a breath. "I am fine. Let us continue on our way."
Merlin eyed the knight and moved passed Arthur to him, placing his hand on the burly man's shoulder. "I will not forget this, Sir Percival."
Sir Percival tilted his head in curiosity before he chuckled and shook his please. "Please, Grand Court Sorcerer, call me Percival. We are on a quest together in which our lives depend on each other. Let us not stand on formalities."
"I agree, Percival." Merlin nodded, a moment's dizziness taking over before it was gone. "In turn, please call me Merlin."
Percival nodded with a small smile. "Now, were is the second marker stone? It was here a couple of seconds ago." It indeed was gone.
Arthur pointed with his sword towards the path leading out of the area. "I think that is where we need to go."
Merlin nodded his agreement as they started down the pathway towards the pathway.
They continued onwards, and yet once they turned the corner in the tunnel, they found themselves back where they'd come from, mounted on their horses, as if nothing had happened.
"I do not understand." Sir Percival frowned as he looked around them. "Was the penance the second trial?"
Merlin frowned, unable to truly concentrate thanks to the terrible drain 'Arthur' had done to his system. "It would seem so."
Arthur sheathed his sword. "Something is odd about all of this."
He wasn't the only one who felt that way. Merlin had thought the first trial odd, and now the second one was even more—had they even had the second trial? Was the penance the second trial? If so—did that mean that they were supposed to have lost both Sir Elyan and Sir Leon in the first trial? What if they hadn't? Would they have had a different second test? Or the same one? Or—or—it was all so confusing.
It was with great anxiety that the trio rode towards the third, and last, marker stone.
It wasn't until they reached the next, and last, village that Merlin realized that the Tiwaz rune was now next to his Gebo rune on the back of his hand.