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Link to part 1




“My lady?” Agravaine called into the small hut. There was movement within, he could hear, and a shadow fell under the door. Eventually it swung open and he found himself face to face with Morgana, who looked a little better than last time he had seen her.

“My lord,” she said. “Come in, please.”

“My thanks, my lady. I trust everything is sufficient. I know it isn’t much but…” he noticed the figure in the bed on the far side of the room.

“My sister,” Morgana said. “She was seriously injured as we were leaving Camelot. I fear for her life.”

“I am sorry, my lady,” he said.

“It is not you who needs to be sorry, Agravaine. It is Uther who is to blame, for all of this. Uther and Arthur - who follows his father blindly.” Her voice was cold and angry and Agravaine could see that her hands were rolled into fists.

“Will you tell me what happened?” Agravaine asked.

“I discovered the truth, and when I tried to voice my findings and take what was rightfully mine, I was exiled and forced from my home,” Morgana said. She looked out of the window.

“What truth?” Agravaine asked.

“The truth Uther has been hiding since my birth, that I am, in fact, his child.”

“Uther?” Agravaine said, his mouth falling open in astonishment. “Uther is your father?”

“Yes. But he will not acknowledge me.”

“If Uther is your father then…” Agravaine remembers Uther watching Gorlois’ wife, but then everyone had watched her, and Uther had had Ygraine, Agravaine’s own sister. He had betrayed Ygraine’s trust and…

“Then I have a right to the throne, or at least to part of Camelot. But he refuses to give it to me. He refused to admit my parentage and I had to force his hand. And still he denied me.”

There were tears in her eyes and Agravaine stepped up to put his hand on her shoulder.

“You should not work yourself up in the state you are in. You aren’t yet recovered.”

“I hate him,” Morgana said. “I hate him. He has the son he wants so he will not look at his daughter. Camelot is mine by right.”

“Sit down,” Agravaine urged. “You are still unwell.”

“I am well,” Morgana told him. “I am well. Or I will be well. Well enough to take what is mine.”

“I have no love of Uther,” Agravaine said. “I never have, but what you are suggesting is…”

“You were always my favourite of the family,” Morgana said, cutting in. “You used to talk to me like a person.”

“You’ve always been an interesting and inspiring young woman,” Agravaine said.

“Thank you. I know I must sound mad to you.”

“You sound like a woman who has been treated abominably. You may stay here as long as you like. If I can help you in any way, then I will.”

“Thank you, my lord.”

“Agravaine, please.”

“Thank you… Agravaine.”

“You are welcome, my lady.”

*

“This is the place,” Gwaine said, nodding to the small house with its windows shuttered.

“You’re sure?” Leon asked.

“Yep… There’s one place to go for gossip in a place like this.”

“And where’s that?” Leon asked.

“The dice tables. Young Taran and his Rhiannon were a favourite topic of conversation last night,” Gwaine said with a grin. “The favourite theory is that he’s been bewitching her into loving him and somehow she got free of the bewitchment and either he killed her to stop her from outing him as a sorcerer, or she killed herself in shame because she was carrying his baby.”

“Baby?”

“Drunken men are worse than palace servants for telling stories, and everyone likes a good embellishment. Of course, the girl’s brother’s been punching anyone in the face who suggests that she was carrying witch-spawn, but that’s only the people who are stupid enough to say it in front of him.” Gwaine shrugged. “Everyone else is pretending that they don’t know what’s going on and then talking about it under their breath.”

“What do you think the truth is?” Leon asked.

“Well I don’t think that he offered her as a sacrifice to the druidic gods,” Gwaine said. “I’ve met a few druids in my time. None of them was really up on human sacrifice. There was a man over in the east who liked virgin sacrifices, but it was the virginity he was sacrificing, rather than the maidens, if you get my meaning.”

“A deaf horse would get your meaning,” Leon said.

“Sorry, my lord,” Gwaine said with a mock bow. “ I didn’t mean to offend your tender sensibilities. I don’t think the kid’s got anything to do with this. His father moved here after the purge and didn’t really mingle. There’ve been rumours going around ever since. It doesn’t take much to go from hermit to witch and that got passed down to the kid. The entire village has been waiting for this for twenty years. We were just lucky enough to be caught in the middle of it all.”

“Excellent,” Leon said. “And what if the boy is a sorcerer?” Gwaine didn’t answer that, just went up to the door of the house and knocked on it.

“Who is it?” Taran asked from inside.

“Sir Leon and Sir Gwaine, from the tavern,” Leon said. “Can we come in?”

There was the sound of a bar being pulled up and the door swung open to reveal Taran, looking pale and lost in the shadows of the house.

“Come in,” he said, stepping aside.

“Thank you.”

*

They cannot leave the valley, they throw themselves at the invisible barriers, one after another, but they all hit an unseen wall, power that traps them here. They howl and screech their agony, but there is nothing they can do. The girl was not enough, not enough by far, and the first part of the spell has failed, broken by a human too stupid to understand the pact’s meaning.

More humans will come, they tell themselves, and they will become more powerful with each one that comes and eventually, eventually, they will break out, past that wall, and they will walk the earth properly again.

Until then, they howl and rage at their imprisonment, and every time one of them forgets and goes too far, coming up against that invisible barrier, it makes them angrier still.

*

“Where would she have gone?” Leon asked.

“I don’t know,” Taran said, his shoulders slumping. “She was never the sort to run off. I mean, there are other people in the village who have their places to go when they’re angry or upset, but not Rhiannon, she never hid from anything.”

“And you’d just asked the girl to marry you?” Gwaine asked.

“Yes.”

“And she said…?”

“She wanted to think about it,” Taran replied.

“Isn’t that just a way of saying no?” Gwaine asked.

“No,” Taran said immediately, without hesitating a second. “She would have said no to my face. She really wanted to think about it.”

“So she went somewhere to think about it, then.”

“The only thing I can think of is that she might have gone to ask the angels,” Taran told them.

“The angels?” Gwaine asked.

“In the valley,” Taran explained, as though that should make sense.

“There are angels in a valley?” Leon asked, confused.

“Not real angels,” Taran laughed. “It’s just what the stones are called by the villagers here. They’re all lined up along the edges of the valley and there are holes in them so the make sounds like singing. You can hear them when the wind’s in the right direction.”

“And people ask them things?” Leon asked.

“Yes, it’s old folklore. If you want to know the answer to a question you go and ask the angels and they give you an answer. But only one answer per person.” He shrugged. “No one really talks about it. But sometimes you see people going up there.”

“Have you ever been up there?” Gwaine asked.

“No,” Taran laughed. “I don’t believe in their angels. Neither did my Dad. He always said that Natural philosophy beat superstition every day of the week.”

“Natural philosophy?” Gwaine asked.

“Yeah, he was into finding out about things. He’d cut up dead animals to see how they worked. He always said that he believed that everything could be counted and understood.”

“What about magic?”

“Never did magic. He wasn’t a sorcerer!” Taran snapped. “Never.”

“We’re not accusing him of anything,” Leon assured him. “But did he ever do any research into magic?”

“No. He couldn’t stand the stuff. Said that it went against the brain. Not that he approved of the purge… especially not when people started thinking he was a sorcerer just because he liked to use his brain.”

“Right,” Leon said. Taran seemed to realise who he was talking to all of a sudden and his eyes went wide.

“Not that he ever meant anything against the king, of course,” he said, stumbling a bit.

“Back to the angels,” Gwaine said, tactlessly changing subjects, though tactless or not it was a move Leon was more than grateful for.

“Right… like I said, she might have gone to ask the angels for advice. But people do that all the time, it’s not like that could have hurt her.”

“Where is this valley?” Leon asked.

“North a ways, in the forest,” Taran told them, pointing at the north wall of his cottage.

“That’s on our way,” Leon said with a smile. “We can take a look.”

“Really?” Taran asked.

“Happy to,” Gwaine said. “We’re knights after all. We’ve vowed to protect the people of Camelot.”

“Precisely,” Leon said, flatly, giving Gwaine as hard a look as he could. Gwaine just smiled back.

“We’ll bring Rhiannon back if we can,” Gwaine said.

“Thank you, so much.”

“You’ll need to take us to this valley,” Leon said.

“Of course, when?”

“Right now,” Leon told him. “We have a mission to complete for the prince and we must complete it as soon as possible.” Taran’s eyes went wide again.

“Oh… right then,” he said.

*

The journey to the valley wasn’t a difficult one, and there was a flattened line of grass and undergrowth towards it, worn down by years of footsteps.

“Looks popular,” Gwaine said.

“Local pilgrimage,” Leon said, keeping his voice down. Taran was only a few paces ahead of them and he kept looking back, as though expecting them to disappear.

“Not a story I’ve ever heard before,” Gwaine offered.

They rounded the top of a hill and that’s when they heard it. The wind had changed, coming towards them from the north rather than pushing them onwards from the south, and on it there was the sound of…

“Is that screaming?” Gwaine asked.

“No,” Taran said, turning. “That’s the angels.”

That’s the angels?” Gwaine asked, he looked unnerved and Leon couldn’t blame him. It sounded like someone being tortured. “I thought you said they sang.”

“The wind must be higher than usual,” Taran said with a shrug. “When there are strong winds, the rocks make stranger sounds.”

The tone was making shivers tingle up Leon’s spine and he could hardly keep himself from shuddering at the sensation, which seemed to be cutting right into the base of his skull.

“We should go onwards,” he said, suddenly aware that they had stopped moving. No one took a step forwards. “Right.” He forced his feet to move, forwards.

“That sound,” Gwaine said. “Have you heard anything like it?” he asked.

“Once,” Leon said. “A long time ago.”

“What was it? A monster?”

“No,” Leon said, drawing in a deep breath and letting it out as slowly as he could. “Horses.”

“Horses?”

“My father’s stable collapsed in a storm – the wood had rotted. Two of the horses were trapped in there, and huge splinters of the roof beams had cut into them. I woke up to hear them screaming. It sounded just like that.” Gwaine didn’t say anything just continued walking. Leon had been expecting something, perhaps a story about a monster Gwaine had met, or maybe commiserations, he had been bracing himself for whatever would come, but all that came was silence.

They reached the edge of the wood, and it might have been the noise, but this wood seemed different somehow, from the woods near Camelot. It looked darker and the trees looked twisted and malformed.

“It’s just ahead,” Taran said.

“I think we can find our way from here,” Gwaine said, beating Leon to it. “You should go back.”

“Go back?” Taran looked at them in disbelief. “You want me to go back? It’s just a valley. Those noises are just the wind blowing over holes in some old stones. You can’t tell me to go back. This is Rhiannon. I’m not going to just leave her.”

“Your bravery is commendable,” Leon said, “but we don’t even know she’s in there. We’re trained, you’re not.”

“There’s nothing in there to be trained for. It’s just a valley, a river, a few pools, and the angel stones. That’s all.”

“Go back to the village, stay there until we come back,” Gwaine said. “You’re probably right and there’s nothing there. But, if that’s the case, why would you need to come anyway?”

“Fine,” Taran said. “I’ll go back. But you come and find me if you see anything that could help find Rhiannon, okay?”

“Of course” Leon assured him.

Taran still looked unconvinced when he turned back, but he did turn back, heading towards the village, and Gwaine and Leon were left standing on the edge of the forest.

“It’s just the wind,” Gwaine said, as the scream rose to a new pitch. “When we get back to Camelot I’m going to tell the others that you were terrified of the wind.”

“I’m terrified of the wind?” Leon asked. “I don’t see you running in first.”

“Well, you have seniority,” Gwaine pointed out. Leon looked at him and then sighed.

“Fine, if you’re too scared,” he smiled and then stepped forwards. Nothing happened.

He wasn’t sure what he had been expecting to happen, but almost certainly something. Maybe he had been expecting the scream to change somehow, or for the ground to swallow him up. But there was nothing and all that had happened was that he felt a bit stupid.

“See, perfectly safe,” he said, turning back to Gwaine. Gwaine nodded and then walked past him, taking the lead.

They walked on until the ground began to slope downwards a little, and they followed it down.

“A bit of a trek for a young girl to make on her own.”

“She’d been before, grown up in the area,” Gwaine pointed out. “She probably knew this wood like the back of her hand. Never get lost in here.”

“Which discounts one theory about her disappearance,” Leon said.

Suddenly, hulking out of the green and brown in front of them, the land to either side of them shot up in rocky walls, and a small river, more of a fat stream really, bent in front of them, winding between the cliffs.

“I think this might be our place,” Gwaine said.

As if in answer, the screaming noise came again, so loud now that it almost drowned out thought.

*

Humans, right on the edge of their awareness. Coming for them, towards them. They hadn’t had to wait long at all, and these two felt strong too. This might satisfy their hunger for a little while.

They stilled themselves and quieted down. The humans were coming, and they couldn’t scare them off.

*

The screaming ceased completely and Leon and Gwaine turned to look at each other in astonishment.

“I thought Taran said it was the wind,” Gwaine said.

“He did. It must have died down.”

“Look at the branches,” Gwaine said, looking upwards. Leon followed his gaze to the canopy of the forest, where the tree branches were buffeted by a strong wind still.

“Maybe the wind up there’s different from the wind by the stones.”

“Maybe,” Gwaine agreed, but he didn’t sound convinced, and Leon didn’t blame him, because he wasn’t either.

“So… let’s go and meet the angels,” Gwaine said, heading for the gap.

“Wait.” Leon said. Gwaine paused by the gap in the cliff that the river wound through.

“What?”

“Swords drawn?” Leon suggested.

“I’m not sure that swords work against angels,” Gwaine said, but he drew his blade anyway and then he stepped in.

*

The first human passed through the entrance, but he wasn’t near enough yet, not near enough for them to reach him. They didn’t have the strength yet to act, apart from through the water. He would come to the water.

*

As soon as he stepped through into the valley, Gwaine felt a wind curl around him, pulling him inwards, like it was guiding him. He fought to keep his footing and backed against the cliff face, where the wind couldn’t get behind him. It whipped up faster, but it only pushed him further into the rock face.

This wind wasn’t natural. Taran could talk as much as he wanted about the valley being a local folk story, but this wind was trying to reach him, he could feel it, as certainly as he could feel anything. Gwaine was good at knowing when things were trying to kill him; it was a basic survival trait.

He tried to call a warning to Leon, but the words were snatched away as soon as they came out of his mouth, carried off by the wind in the opposite direction.

So when Leon walked in, he had no idea what was there.

The wind had worked itself up into a frenzy now, and as soon as Leon walked in he was dragged forwards.

It took all the effort that Gwaine could muster to prise one arm from the wall, where the wind had forced it back, and stretch it out to reach Leon were he stood. He managed to tangle it in the arm of Leon’s chain mail for a second, but it was long enough for Leon to twist his arm round and grasp at his wrist.

For a moment, Gwaine was sure that his arm was going to pop out of his shoulder, but then Leon was able to get purchase on a rock with his foot and shove himself against the rock face too.

*

They couldn’t reach them. They kept trying to grasp at them, but their efforts skated past, like the humans were protected somehow.

They screamed.

*

“Fuck!” Gwaine yelled as the screaming started again, louder this time, echoing around the valley. “What is that?”

“I think it’s the wind,” Leon replied, leaning as close as he could, and still having to yell to be heard.

“Not you too. That’s not wind. Trust me. I know wind. It doesn’t act like that.”

“That’s not what I mean,” Leon said. “Whatever’s pretending to be wind, I think that’s what’s making the noise.”

“How are we supposed to fight wind?” Gwaine asked him. “And why do we have to? Taran made it sound like people come here all the time. If they’re attacked by vicious wind monsters every time, you’d think they would have stopped.”

“What’s changed?”

“Since when?”

“Since people last came here?”

“I don’t know,” Gwaine shouted back.

“The girl went missing.”

“You think she definitely came here?”

“Unless you think murderous wind is a coincidence,” Leon told him. He looked back the way that they had come and wondered how much effort it would take to get back out of the exit, or even if they could. He was pondering the logistics of edging along the cliff until they got to the entrance when Gwaine’s hand tapped his arm insistently.

“What?” He asked, turning. Gwaine wasn’t even looking at him, his face was turned into the valley.

“I think I might have found our girl,” Gwaine said, nodding, in as much as the wind would let him, towards the pool in the centre of the valley. It took Leon a second to realise what he was looking at, then he saw the white shapes by the edge of the water, a small pile, haphazardly arranged like someone had dropped them: bones. Bleach white and picked clean. The skull upside down like it had rolled.

“Can’t be her,” Leon said. “That hardly looks like a recent death.”

“I think it might have been mentioned if this place was decorated with human skeletons,” Gwaine pointed out. “Who else do you think it is?”

“It’s too clean,” Leon pointed out.

“Nothing about this situation is normal,” Gwaine shouted back. “That’s Rhiannon. I bet you.”

“What happened to her?”

“There’s only one way to find out,” Gwaine said, grinning.

“Wha-“ Before Leon could finish even the first word of his question, Gwaine moved. He used his arms to lever himself off the wall and the wind caught him easily, before Leon could even make a move to reach after him.

“Hello!” Gwaine yelled. His own voice echoed back at him. Behind him, Leon tried to pull himself off the rock, but the wind was too strong for him to get any leverage. “Who are you? What do you want?”

The screaming died down and Leon was able to pull himself away from the rock, the wind all but stilling to a light breeze.

*

They didn’t understand the question. Who were they? Who were they? They were… they could not remember what they were. They were here and that was all that mattered. They were here and they were trapped.

What did they want? They knew what they wanted. They wanted to feast.

*

The sudden renewal of the winds, as they went from breeze to gale in the blink of an eye, took Gwaine by surprise, forcing him closer and closer to the pool.

Leon, however, seemed to have been forgotten. The wind near him was just as still as it had been before, the sort of calm that sailors would curse, the kind of calm that came before a battle or in the moment you loosed an arrow towards your prey on a hunt.

He saw Gwaine, swept almost off his feet, and acted without engaging his brain.

Since the… Morgana incident, he had felt like he was in some magic spell where time stood still. His body had been itching to do something, always hyper-aware of the threat lurking outside the walls of Camelot, but with nothing to attack.

It was a great relief to finally have something to aim his frustration at, even if it was only the wind, and he charged towards Gwaine.

He hit Gwaine with his full weight, bursting through the small tornado that seemed to have pulled itself together around him, and barrelling them both out of the way.

The wind slowed him down though, tugging at him, and he didn’t have the momentum. Enough to knock Gwaine out of the funnel of wind, but not enough to drag himself all the way through it as well.

Gwaine was pushed to the outside edge, where the wind picked him up and threw him to the other side of the valley, hurling him against the rock of the cliff hard.

Leon, falling into the centre of the wind, only succeeded in swapping himself for Gwaine.

He was lifted up from the ground entirely, and a shout of alarm dragged itself from his lips involuntarily, though it was thankfully lost in the roar of the winds.

He could see Gwaine stand up, even blurred as his vision was by the gale, but then he was being propelled backwards, fast, flying through the air, and as quickly as he had started going backwards, he stopped, hanging in the air for one long second before it stopped and he dropped.

The splash and sudden cold of the water were the last things he remembered for a long time.

*

Morgause was restless, but not restless in fever dreams, Morgana knew those well by now, her sister’s injuries had made her delirious in the first few instances; now she tossed and turned on the small pallet and her voice murmured words of magic.

Morgana knelt beside her and tried to cool her down with a damp cloth, but it did no good. The words kept coming, flowing out so fast that Morgana couldn’t even recognise if it was magic that Morgause was speaking any more, or just gibberish.

She would pay them back for this, Morgana knew. She would not let them get away with having cut her sister down so far, leaving her broken and lost. That was too much for anyone to bear. Arthur, Uther and all of those brave knights of his, so willing to give up their lives for a worthless man. Merlin and Gaius and all of them… and Gwen, little Gwen who had always, it seemed been waiting to steal Morgana’s place.

Her hand was grabbed in a grip so tight that she had to gasp in pain, and Morgana broke from her reverie to see that her sister was wide awake, sitting up and looking at her with huge, open eyes, transfixed.

“Sister?” Morgana asked, wincing at the pain in her wrist. “What is it?” Morgause said nothing, just stared through her as though she wasn’t even there. “Sister? Say something…”

At Morgana’s plea, Morgause did indeed say something, but not what Morgana had wanted to hear – words of reassurance or greeting – more of the syllables from before, but clearer this time and undoubtedly magical.

Morgause’s eyes flashed with gold and then she slumped back, releasing Morgana’s hand instantly, her eyes fluttering closed.

Morgana could not breathe for a second, her heart in her throat. What had happened? The magic that Morgause had done seemed not to have done anything in particular nearby, but she could not doubt that her sister had performed magic.

Morgause’s sleep seemed easier now, her breathing even and no words escaping on each breath out. She even seemed to be smiling a little, but Morgana was none the wiser.

“You need to wake up,” she said to her sleeping sister. “You need to wake up because I don’t think I can do this alone. Arthur hunts us both; he knows that I am still alive. Please, sister. Help me. Agravaine can only guard us so long.”

There was, unsurprisingly, no reply.

*

There was something wrong. They had surged to feast on the newcomer, but he was not… there was something wrong. At the moment he had touched the water a different magic had interfered, it had blocked their connection for a second, just a second and they had been unable to get their hold. The magic flared and they had feared it for a moment, and scattered back to their own hiding places, leaving him in the pool, half submerged.

*

Gwaine watched Leon drop like a stone, the look on his face one of astonishment. This had not been what Gwaine had intended when he asked for adventure. He had not wanted wind, he had wanted something he could see, something he could fight. Give him a dozen wyverns over some invisible magic trick any day of the week.

The wind seemed to have gone, but even if it hadn’t, he knew that he had to get to Leon. He must have hit his head in the fall, because he wasn’t moving. It was lucky he had fallen backwards, though. If he had fallen face down, he would have been drowning.

Gwaine kept low to the ground as he scrambled towards Leon, looking around him every few seconds, as though he would even be able to see their assailant if it decided to return.

He made it to the pool without incident though, and hauled Leon out. He was dead weight, and the chainmail and now sodden cloak did nothing to save Gwaine’s arms from strain. Picking him up would have taken more time to arrange, and the wind-monster thing from earlier might come back at any second, so Gwaine decided to choose expediency over grace, and just dragged Leon away from the water and to a small alcove type hollow in the cliff wall, where wind would be less likely to reach them.

He had been wrong. There was no head injury that he could see when he checked. No blood came away on his fingers as he ran them through Leon’s hair and across his scalp, unless it was one of those injuries that hid on the inside of the skull. Gwaine had once seen a man fall against a table one evening and then die the next day; After complaining of a slight headache, he had just keeled over mid-sentence.

“Let’s hope your head’s as stubborn as you are,” he said to Leon’s unconscious face. He had vaguely been hoping for a response, but he wasn’t surprised when none came. “I’m just going to go check on the entrance, now whatever it was seems to have gone.”

He set Leon down on the ground and headed out, sticking as close to the cliff as he could. He felt idiotic, bracing himself against the rock, staying clear of an enemy he wasn’t even sure was there, but reckless was one thing and plain stupid was another.

Gwaine reached the entrance in one piece, but when he tried to walk out, it was like walking into a wall. The air felt as solid as the walls of Camelot. He tried a hand, he tried a fist, he even tried his sword, but all three stopped abruptly, hitting solid nothingness.

“Well, if things were easy, they’d be boring,” he said to himself. “And I always did like climbing.”

Climbing was the last option, though, First to explore their rocky prison a bit better.

The valley stretched a good long way from the entrance, more of a crevasse than a valley though, Gwaine thought, as he walked through it. The stream ran all down it, surrounded by mossy boulders and rocky cliffs, expanding to pools occasionally, but never for very long before it bubbled away further.

The cliffs didn’t change much either, towering over him, their sentinel rocks spaced out all the way along, until, when he had been walking for a good twenty minutes, the valley grew darker. At first he had thought that the events of the day had taken up more time than he had thought, and the darkness was twilight drawing overhead, but he noticed that the valley, which had been so wide that three of him, standing arms wide open, would not have been able to reach both sides, was now distinctly narrower. He walked on further and found that the cliffs drew so close that he could reach both at once on his own, and he had to walk with one leg either side of the stream to do so.

Before long, the cliffs drew so close that Gwaine could walk no further. He peered into the darkness, and listened to the gurgle of the water that came from it. There was no escape in this direction then.

Gwaine looked up. There was one final ‘angel’ directly above him, bridging the narrow gap between the two cliffs, and this one – perhaps it was just his imagination, but he could almost make out a head, and a face, staring down at him impassively.

“Sorry to intrude,” he said, needing to break the silence, even if it was only for a few seconds and to a rock, of all things.

It didn’t move or speak and Gwaine would admit that he did feel relieved. The echoing voices of the angel rocks had died down since Leon had fallen into the pool and Gwaine was grateful for that.

Thinking of Leon, though. He had been gone too long. He turned back and began to think of how he was going to lug Leon’s unresponsive body up the sheer wall of a cliff. This was, he thought, the sort of thing that Arthur used Merlin for. Merlin who would, undoubtedly say ‘Do you need this?’ and produce some rope out of seemingly nowhere. But only the prince, ungrateful sod that he was, got a manservant. The rest of them had to manage alone, which Gwaine was all for in a general sense. But in a more specific sense, right now, he could have really done with someone.

Leon lay where Gwaine had left him, still breathing, thank heavens, and Gwaine reminded him that he had better wake up because if Leon went and died, then Gwaine would take forever to find Agravaine, because he had no idea where they were going, and Arthur would need someone to blame and that someone would, as always, be Gwaine.

“When really,” he concluded, examining the cliff face above them, and contemplating how to make some sort of Leon-carrier from their cloaks, “I am entirely blameless in this situation. You didn’t have to go and make a fool out of yourself by tackling me into a cliff.”

Leon didn’t answer.

“Really, I had it covered. It was just a little bit of wind.”

As if in time with his words, there was a familiar howl of noise and the angel stones sang out a mournful note again.

“Just a little bit of wind,” Gwaine repeated, trying to sound sure of himself. “If a knight can’t handle a little bit of wind… imagine what Arthur would say.”

Arthur, Gwaine felt sure, would be sulking right now, glaring at everything available before coming up with some harebrained scheme that was bound never to work – but then inevitably did.

More than once Gwaine had wondered whether Arthur was gifted with some sort of unconscious magic, because the number of times now he had seen the man take utterly irreconcilable odds and somehow win despite them, that was quite some luck. And then, at the end, he would act as though he had always known everything would work out, and order the rest of them to clean themselves up.

“Never thought I’d want to be Arthur,” he told Leon conversationally. There was still no response. “How angry would you be if you woke up to find that I’d cut your precious cloak into strips to make a rope?” No answer. “You’d probably throw me back down here again… Fine, I’ll use my own.”

*

There was something wrong. They could feel it. The magic had knocked something free. The man was there, but his soul…

Where was his soul? The soul they had wanted so much. Where had it gone?

*

Leon came to, blinking his eyes as they opened. There was too much light. He brought a hand up to his face and became aware in a strange sort of way that he was warm and lying in what seemed to be a bed. It certainly felt like a bed, though it was different from any bed he had been in before.

He remembered the valley, and the bones, and Gwaine being bloody stupid all over again and…

“Finally woken up?” Gwaine’s voice asked. “About time. You’ve slept through half of the morning. What happened to Mr ‘I wake with the dawn’?”

Gwaine was leaning in the doorway, looking entirely like himself, though seemingly unconcerned about the fact that Leon was in bed.

“How did we get back?” Leon asked.

“You really were drunk last night,” Gwaine said with a chuckle. “I thought you could hold your drink better than that.”

“Drink?” Leon asked.

“Yes… drink, at the Rising Sun. Last night,” Gwaine’s grin was growing.

“What about the Valley of the Angels?” Leon asked.

“Valley of the angels?” Gwaine asked, his grin turning into a leer for a second. “Not something I’ve ever heard it called before… but you weren’t up for anything like that last night. I carried you back as you told me that you could fight a bloody dragon, and then I got you back here, you collapsed face first onto the bed and started to try and eat your pillows. I know I’ve got a bit of a reputation, but even I wouldn’t take advantage of a man so drunk he mistook his own wardrobe for the King.”

“What?” Leon asked, knowing that he was unlikely to get a decent answer, but unable to phrase a more precise question.

“That wardrobe right there,” Gwaine said, nodding towards the item of furniture. “Went right up to it and bowed – or tried to bow, should I say. Called it ‘your majesty’ and everything.”

“We were on our way to see Agravaine,” Leon said. Gwaine blinked and looked at him.

“Agravaine?” he asked. “Why would we be going to see him?”

“Because Arthur sent us.”

“Arthur sent us to get a dead man?” Gwaine asked. “When you get drunk you really get drunk, don’t you.”

“I…” Leon said. Magic was the only explanation. It had to be. Agravaine dead, drinking with Gwaine, the disconnect with where he was knocked unconscious and where he woke up. But you didn’t declare magic in Camelot, particularly not now. He swallowed. “Yes, really drunk,” he agreed. Gwaine blinked.

“You alright?”

“Fine… just…” Leon trailed off.

“Morning after. Got you.” Gwaine walked over to the bed. “Don’t worry, I’ll make your excuses to his majesty. Arthur had a good cup or two himself last night, so I doubt he’ll be up to much himself.”

“Right,” Leon said, nodding. “I’ll just get… up.” He was expecting Gwaine to turn around and walk out the door. But instead, he walked right up to the bed and rested a hand on Leon’s shoulder.

“World still swaying?” Gwaine asked, looking less cocky than Leon would have ever expected him to look. He actually looked genuinely concerned. Leon nodded.

“Yes,” he said. “Completely off balance.”

“Turn up for the books when I’m the one telling you off for drinking too much,” Gwaine commented before winking and walking out of the room.

Leon stared at the door as it closed behind him and then he stared around at the room. It was definitely his room. It was definitely his bed. It was, after careful examination in the mirror, definitely him.

Magic, it had to be. He would have to inform Arthur and the king immediately. But how exactly to phrase it?

*

“You know, for all that training you do,” Gwaine said. “You could do with losing a few pounds.” His words were more of a grunt really, as he tried to tie Leon onto his back. Leon didn’t answer, which was a pity, because Gwaine suspects that his answer would have been something along the lines of ‘well if you put more effort into training then maybe you’d have the strength to lift me’.

But there was no answer. Gwaine sighed and adjusted the cloak rope, tying it more tightly. He had created a bizarre hammock out of Leon’s cloak and used his own to tear to pieces and strap it on. The result was that Leon’s body was, with no art or grace, sprawled across his back, one arm looped over Gwaine’s shoulder, cloak tied between some interesting places.

Leon was still breathing, and still warm – which Gwaine could attest to even through his chain mail, though the man’s damp hair was tickling the side of Gwaine’s neck, just under his ear.

“I’ll be needing you to buy me a drink for this,” Gwaine commented. “That’s all I’m saying.”

Plan A didn’t work, which Gwaine realised as soon as he set off trying to climb the cliff, had always been going to happen. There was too much weight too far away from the cliff, and it dragged him backwards, meaning that Gwaine fell backwards, almost on top of Leon. He swore, and looked up.

He rearranged Leon, cut his own cloak into narrower strips – starting each tear with his sword before finishing it by hand – and tied it into a longer rope so that one end would tie around Leon and the other around Gwaine’s waist.

“I’ll try not to bang your head again when I pull you up,” Gwaine said, looking over his shoulder.

*

The day was drawing to its close and Morgana was relearning skills that she had seldom previously had use for.

It had used to be fun, on hunts and trips away, to cook things over the small camp fire, but she had always left the more onerous tasks to Gwen and Merlin, her mind grew bitter at the thought. It was not as easy as it had looked to make a stew. She could start a fire with her magic, but the magic would not stop it from burning, or help her with the ingredients. She was left to her own skill. Tonight, the stew was edible at least, which was more than could have been said for some of her previous attempts. Bland, but edible.

She was spooning some of it into a bowl when a noise caught her ear.

“Sister…” She dropped the bowl, turning round. Morgause’s eyes were open, looking right at her, no sign of magic or fever in them now. Her voice was raspy and hoarse, though. “Sister.”

“What is it?” she asked, rushing to the bedside. “Are you in pain?”

“Yes,” Morgause admitted, “but none that you could help with. I shall not survive this injury, I think.”

“It was Gaius who did this to you, Gaius and Merlin,” Morgana said. “I will kill them for it.”

“I know,” Morgause said. “But… but you cannot do it alone.”

“I can manage.”

“Arthur has many protectors,” Morgause wheezed, wincing as though merely speaking brought her pain. “You cannot expect to get past them all so easily.”

“I’ll find a way.”

“We are in Agravaine’s lands, are we not?” Morgause asked.

“Yes. He has provided us with shelter; he always liked me,” Morgana said. “I don’t know how long we can stay before Arthur sends word, though.”

“He already has,” Morgause said. “There are two knights on their way.”

“Where?”

“They have run into trouble in the woods,” Morgause looked away, her eyes going distant. “I am not a seer like you, but my injury and my magic connected me to something in the forest – old magic, older than any I’ve used before. I saw them.”

“Trouble?” Morgana smiled in relief. “Then we have more time. Tell me where they are and I will see that they don’t escape it.”

“No.” Morgause said. Morgana stared in amazement. “If you attack directly, you cannot succeed. I saw that too. You need an ally.”

Morgana looked down at her sister in confusion. “What do you mean?”

“A spy, on the inside. Like you were before.”

“No one in Camelot will help me,” Morgana pointed out. “They made that more than clear enough last year. And anyone with any sympathy for us will be under careful guard.”

“Then you must find help outside Camelot,” Morgause told her. She shut her eyes for a second, drawing in a shuddering breath. Morgana watched with concern, but her mind was quietly working through her sister’s words.

“You mean Agravaine?” Morgana asked. “But how do I get him to go to Camelot? His arrival in a time like this would be seen as suspicious, surely.”

“Arthur has summoned him,” Morgause said. “The message is with the knights. If they get through then he will go to Camelot. If you work on him, then his loyalty will be with you, not Arthur. If they do not get through, you will be the first person Arthur thinks of. They will come looking for us here.”

“You want me to save the lives of the men who refused to acknowledge my birthright? The ones who mocked me?” Morgana asked. “The same men who almost killed you and deposed me?”

“Arthur cannot suspect,” Morgause said, her voice growing quieter. “He will be wary of everyone at the moment. He must have no reason to think Agravaine…” she broke off, breathing in and out carefully, “…more or less than what he supposes.” Morgana frowned, but nodded. “Can you handle Agravaine?”

“Agravaine?” Morgana said with a mocking laugh. “He’s already half in love with me. I just need to pour on more talk of the injustice of it all and he’ll be eating out of the palm of my hand.”

“Good,” Morgause smiled weakly. “The knights are to the south of us…”

*

As Leon dressed himself in clothes that did not stink of the tavern, he realised that he could not go to the king or Arthur with this. The greatest problem he had was that he did not know if anyone in this world he had woken up in was really who they said they were. He could not tell how much was magic and how much was real.

The only thought he could come up with, long shot as it was, was to return to where his last memory had taken place – the valley. If he found out what had happened to that girl then maybe he could find out what had happened to him.

He and Gwaine had gone at a leisurely pace – with no reason for urgency. On his own it should take him less time to get there.

*

The cliffs were more difficult to climb than Gwaine could have imagined. They were not smooth by any means, but the hand holds and foot holds were so strangely spaced that in places he could barely reach from one to the next. And some were so shallow, he could barely find purchase on them.

By the time he was half way up, his fingertips were bleeding along with his knees where he kept scraping them against the rock as he kept undershooting ledges.

“You know,” Gwaine called downwards to Leon’s still unconscious form. “This is almost fun… well, it would be more fun with better refreshments, but still. It has a certain charm.”

There was still no answer.

Gwaine hated the silence, and he wondered when he had started taking noise for granted. There had never used to be much noise, during the in-between parts of life, the parts where there was no tavern or danger, and he had used to manage perfectly well. But Camelot, it seemed, had worked its way into his brain. The city was always noisy, even in the middle of the night, and the knights, Merlin, even Arthur, were always talking or at least making some noise – even if it was the clash of training swords. It was a world full of noise, Gwaine contributing perhaps more than most.

“You know,” he shouted down. “If you don’t wake up soon, I’m going to have to start telling more stories.” Still no response. “Then you’ll have to wake up just to tell me to shut up.”

It wasn’t Leon who told him to shut up, though, from nowhere, the wind sprung up again, and as if they had heard his thoughts, the angels began to sing again, echoing, lonely and cutting right through Gwaine’s brain to send a shiver down his spine.

The wind tore at him, and he flattened himself against the rock as best he could. He was less than six foot from the top of the cliff now. The end was in sight. He just had to get up there, haul Leon out and then find someone who knew how to get foolish knights to wake up.

“Simple,” he said. The wind howled again and caught at his side, pulling at his arms. Gwaine dug his fingers in as best he could and held on for dear life. A fall from this distance would probably end up breaking his neck and then where would the pair of them be?

With the wind attacking him, it took twice as long for him to climb the last six feet as it had taken for him to climb the rest of the cliff, but finally he was within reach of the top.

He reached out a hand and shouted curses as it hit the same invisible barrier he had hit before. They were trapped.

*

Camelot seemed different as he walked to the stables. Maybe it was the sun, which was shining far brighter than it should have been at this time of year, but everything seemed brighter. The few servants he met walked with lighter steps and the tension that Leon had been feeling constantly since Morgana had gone, faded away into nothing. There was something in the atmosphere that almost felt like hope.

He shook his head to erase the thought and walked onwards. Just another sign that something was wrong. There was very little hope in Camelot these days.

*



Link to part 3

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