Character/s: Merlin, Lancelot, Arthur
Summary: Merlin protects Arthur. Lancelot tries to help.
Word Count: 480
Prompt: #63 Hiding
Author's Notes: This is part of a longer unposted fic. I'm lazy this week. But it seemed to fit.
As Arthur and the other knights moved ahead through the tunnel, Lancelot slowed his stride to match Merlin's uneven shuffle. When he was sure the sound of his voice would not carry across the dampening dark, he asked his friend the question that had been burning his tongue ever since they entered this subterranean cesspit. "What's wrong?"
He expected it to be bad news. He expected it to be magical in nature. He wasn't quite prepared for the way Merlin's eyes snapped open, blazing gold. He found himself taking an involuntary step back, and was ashamed of his fear.
Merlin did not appear to notice. His attention was elsewhere, and he spoke with difficulty, as though the air itself were too thick for words. "This place hates us. It hates the light. It hates our blood and hungers for it. We shouldn't have come down here."
His next words were whispered in the guttural tongue of magic and were not directed at Lancelot. But the knight was surprised to feel a shiver of wind and lightning, resonating just beyond the limit of his hearing. There was a hum of power in the ground beneath his feet. The air seemed to settle, and the gold in Merlin's eyes faded to a dim but steady spark. "I have to stay with Arthur." He started to stumble after the others, and Lancelot grabbed his arm to steady him.
The knights were ahead of them, clutching torches and swords, and glancing back every once in a while. There wasn't any shouting, so they probably hadn't seen the incriminating shine of Merlin's eyes. Lancelot tried to keep the torch close enough that the strange hue was not so visible.
"What did you do?" he whispered.
"Holding it. Away and down. Dormant." Merlin spoke as though his mind were somewhere else, but after a few moments he stopped walking like he was about to fall over. "There is something here, Lancelot. A power. If it wakes and senses us, it will destroy us."
"Do you mean this place is cursed?"
"A curse would be lovely, compared to this. Slepe," he hissed suddenly. There was another slight tremble and the sound of earth shifting. Ahead, Arthur paused again and then continued when the tunnel showed no more signs of instability. "I don't know how long I'll be able to keep it off us."
Lancelot could see the strain already showing on the man's face. He could not imagine what effort Merlin was exerting to protect them from this invisible danger. It was hard to remain optimistic when their only protection against magical assault was doubting his strength.
"We'll keep Arthur safe," Lancelot assured him. "I'll help you. Whatever you need."
Merlin had squeezed his eyes shut again and didn't respond, but he gripped the knight's mail-clad arm in a gesture that was half support and half gratitude.