Summary: In Ealdor one day, Merlin finds an injured, wounded and unconscious blonde man in the woods. Though he wants to take him to the village to be taken care of, the blonde is conscious long enough to beg to be hidden, and against his better judgment he takes the blonde to his special hiding place and takes care of the unconscious male...never realizing that the one he was watching over was Prince Arthur of Camelot.
When he first found him, Merlin had been strolling through the forest, as he usually did after doing his chores. Ealdor was a small village surrounded by the vast forest on every side of it, and it only helped them feel more like an independent village and not a part of Aesctir, King Cendred’s kingdom.
Thus they were usually quite happily ignorant when it came to the affairs of the kingdom or of the surrounding kingdoms. As a village, Ealdor was small, but it was beloved, and while mostly everyone knew of everyone’s secrets, they took care of each other.
Merlin, most of all, was grateful for this. While Aesctir in itself didn’t ban magic like in the bordering kingdom, Camelot, did, it was frowned upon and those found practicing magic were ‘politely’ asked to leave and find residence somewhere else. This had been part of the fragile treaty between King Cendred and King Uther of Camelot.
None of this would have mattered if Merlin hadn’t been born magic. It was a white-hot energy that’d been as much a part of him as his skin since birth, and it’d been impossible for the villagers not to discover it.
And yet the son of Hunith wasn’t outed. His magic was at times uncontrollable and frightening due to the apparent lack of limits to what he could do, but he’d helped the crops flourish, had managed to awkwardly scare away some very superstitious bandits who terrorized the surrounding villages, and Merlin himself was such a fumbling, bumbling, klutzy sweet thing the villagers couldn’t help but love him and protect his secret as theirs.
So it was during one of his walks throughout the forest, communing with nature and wondering about the power inside of him that’d left Will hanging upside-down after an argument the two had had over something tremendously inconsequential, that Merlin came upon the bloodied body of the golden haired youth who couldn’t have been more than two or three years older than him.
For a moment Merlin had been still, horrified at the bloody mess before him. He’d been sheltered from a lot of the evils of the world, Ealdor was basically a paradise for those who enjoyed simple lives, and even during the bandit raids of his youth he’d never seen anything like this.
A weak sound emerged from the torn body.
Eyes wide, Merlin hurried towards the young man and went to his knees. “You’re okay. You’re okay. I’m going to help.”
Slowly, painfully, those eyelids lifted to reveal blue eyes that mesmerized Merlin with their intensity. “Cant—need—hide.”
And then his eyes rolled back in his skull, leaving Merlin worried and wondering what exactly to do with him. The boy needed medical help, immediately, but it was obvious he was hiding and didn’t want Merlin to take him to his village.
He might be part of a group of bandits, or might have killed someone or done something to deserve what’d happened to him---but the more Merlin thought of it the more he doubted it…and the more he realized that he couldn’t leave him there to die of his wounds or get eaten by a wild animal.
Taking in a deep breath, Merlin’s eyes flashed golden and the injured man’s (though, truly, he seemed like only a boy) body rose limply into the air.
While he felt a little odd doing this, Merlin brought the unconscious boy to the secret cave he’d found and played in as a child, and was glad that he’d brought his own things to make it more comfortable. There was a bedroll on the ground and a pail of water that hadn’t gotten completely stale. He could also bring some fruits or some meats as soon as the injured one was strong enough to chew.
Lowering the blonde on the bedroll, he hesitated for a moment before looking around for a pair of shears and beginning to cut away at the clothes. They were sticking to the man’s body due to the dried blood, and when Merlin finally got rid of the material he winced in horror at the slices and injuries on that body.
Shaking his head, unable to believe that someone could do something like this to someone else, Merlin pulled off his neckerchief, motioned over the pail of water from his last visit, and ducked it in. He didn’t know much about healing, but he knew that whenever the women of the village tended to wounds they washed away the dirt and blood with warm water to keep them from getting infected.
Eyes flashed gold as he looked down at the water, watched as slowly it began to grow warmer and warmer until he couldn’t take the heat anymore and took his hand out. The young man squeezed out all of the excess water and began to softly cleanse the wounds.
He didn’t know how long he was there, all he knew was that the water was red with blood by the time he was finished, and the wounds looked worse now that they were uncovered. Merlin could also now get a better look at the face of the other man.
Despite his many bruises and cuts, the swelling in his cheek, and the black eye, the man was beautiful. Merlin was sure that had any of the girls from the village been the ones sitting here right now they’d have swooned before taking care of the man.
Shaking his head at the thought, Merlin sighed as he rubbed his hands together, feeling them warm up with his magic, and then he rested them on the torn body. He couldn’t control his powers enough to fully heal the wounds, but enough to close them up more, to try and dull some of the pain.
Standing up to lean over the body, Merlin paused when a groan escaped those lips and those eyes opened halfway, looking up at him.
“It’s okay.” The young warlock repeated, meeting that gaze and giving the man a weak smile. “You’re safe. Try sleep.”
He seemed to be trying to say something, but then his eyes closed and he slipped back into unconsciousness.
Merlin got up and realized he’d need some salve and some bandages. He wondered if he could go home and get them from his mother, with maybe another bedroll, before the stranger awoke again. His mother would understand, and while she would want to come and help as well, she’d understand, she’d send him off with what he’d need and wish him the best.
Giving the sleeping stranger a last look, Merlin left.
Arthur drifted in and out of unconsciousness. He didn’t know how long he was like this, but he did know that he was being watched over by an angel. During his few moments of consciousness he’d be confronted by the caring face of his savior, blue eyes would stare down at him and a soft voice would tell him everything was fine, that he was safe.
And, despite the fact that he didn’t know who his rescuer was, despite the fact that his situation proved that he shouldn’t trust anyone, Arthur trusted him.
He was the only one Arthur could trust.
“Shhh,” there was a cool hand on his feverish head, cooling him down. “Go back to sleep, you’re safe now.”
Arthur wanted to reach out and grab that hand, to keep it against his skin, but he was too weak.
Thankfully, though, a cool rag was soon pressed to his forehead as the person continued to rub down his feverish body.
Arthur hadn’t felt safe since what’d happened while he was returning with his knights to Camelot from their trip to King Cendred’s court. As sole heir to the throne of Camelot, it was his duty to make sure that he developed a good relationship, a solid trust, with the neighboring kings so that when he ascended to the throne he wouldn’t have to worry who his allies were.
Sure, you could never be too certain who wanted your death, but Arthur believed himself a good judge of character, and while King Cendred seemed wary of him he hadn’t harbored any ill will towards Camelot or its crowned prince.
Appeased with this, Arthur and his knights had spent three days of merrymaking in King Cendred’s Court and had then went off on their way back to Camelot to bring news to his father that the once fragile treaty was now stronger than ever.
Now that he thought of it, Arthur should have been more wary, but he’d been arrogant and self-righteous and hadn’t thought that anyone would dare attack the prince of Camelot while surrounded by his best knights and on a peace mission.
He’d forgotten how King Bayard of Mercia saw the strengthening of the truce with Aesctir as potential problems for his own kingdom. He should have expected Bayard to act in some way to break the alliance. But he hadn’t. So when Bayard’s most trusted men ambushed Arthur and his knight on the border between Camelot and Aesctir, dressed in Aesctir uniforms, the prince and his followers hadn’t been ready.
Arthur didn’t know who exactly had been lost, but he knew that there’d been heavy casualties on both sides…and the enemy had been too vast a number.
In the end he’d been tortured and ridiculed and left for dead.
If it hadn’t been for the person backlit by the sun coming upon where his tormenters had left him for dead, to be eaten by the birds of prey or the animals of the forest, he’d have died.
What’s your name? He thought, feverishly, trying to force his eyes open so he could catch another glimpse of his rescuer. Who are you? Why are you helping me?
“Shhhhh, rest.” The voice soothed him.
Arthur pressed his face into the touch of the damp cloth, and despite his every efforts to stay in this half conscious state, he fell asleep knowing, somehow, that he was safe.