Arthur was supposed to go this alone and Merlin bloody well knew that, but of course his idiot manservant had to follow and of course Gwaine had to follow hia idiot manservant; Arthur wasn't entirely sure what it was, but it seemed that his knights were more willing to follow Merlin than they ever were him. Oh well- it didn't matter in the end, right? It didn't matter that his knights ignored his orders or that Merlin sabatoge hunts or that everyone but him seemed wary of Morgana because they were going to die soon.
The quest was simple. Prove yourself worthy of an audience with the Fisher King by completing a series of tasks. By the time you reached the old man, his trident was yours and you went home feeling good about yourself and your rule, as the Fisher King was the ultimate symbol of power and sacrifice and whatever else kings were supposedly made up of.
The first trial involved a pack of serkets, leaving Arthur, Merlin and Gwaine cowering in the trees until morning and struggling with a dwarf demanding answers to a riddle in order to cross the bridge. It wasn't really a nice bridge either, made of cracked stone and looping vine. The riddle itself was easy enough, as it seemed the three of them simply had to be present and the dwarf let them pass.
Arthur was sad to see the beautiful woodlands go, however, as the trio found themselves slagging their way through a vast desert. Golden sand stretched towards the horizon, the blue sky clear above them. The sun made his armor hot, his chain mail seemingly burning against his skin as he trudged a path in his shiny silver boots.
"Are we there yet?" Gwaine complained to Arthur's left, "I may not be in armor, but I'm dying, mate."
"Maybe you should have thought twice about following me into the desert then," Arthur hissed.
"Yeah, yeah," Gwaine blew a raspberry as he dragged his feet in the sand, "These are the Perilous Lands! You wouldn't have lasted a minute on your own without me and Merlin!"
Arthur made a noise; in hindsight, Gwaine was right. The rules were that he was to undertake this mission alone. At the gate he had a single horse with enough food to last a week. Morgana had even given him one of her bracelets for good luck- a silver cuff with a single amber jewel inlaid into the metal. He could feel it now heavy on his wrist, the sun glinting harshly off the perfectly cut facets.
If Arthur was being honest, he felt so tired. Merlin was to his left, sweat making the servant's blue shirt damp and stick to his chest. Black hair was plastered to his forehead and the heavy satchel wasn't helping him keep up.
"I think we should... should be more careful coming up," Merlin announced with a scratchy voice, "Wyvrens roam these lands, Arthur."
Arthur groaned, "What? Why would no one inform me of this?"
Merlin shrugged, "Uther forbade it. To keep you on your toes in the face of adversary, no doubt."
Arthur groaned as he stumbled in the sand. Of course his father would tease and withhold information. Did he want Arthur to fail? Did he want his son to die because he decided there was no reason to inform him of the wyvrens in the Perilous Lands?
"Sorry to break it to ya, Princess," Gwaine bemoaned, "But we're out of water."
Great. That... that should have been the last straw. He was hot and tired and gross and now he was going to have to make sure his stringbean of a servant didn't die and Gwaine drinking the last of their water should have made him lose his cool, but no.
No, what became the last straw was the tall grass they suddenly came across, followed by a woman's scream. Rushing, Arthur dashes into the tall grasses, Merlin and Gwaine not far behind- as they neared, the screams were louder, accompanied by the stomping of hooves and the clank of weapons. The grasses began to clesr out and the three found themselves in a sort of clearing, surrounded by strong men in scratchy looking clothes, skin hardened with scars and hair that reached their knees. Women were scattered amongst them, all dressed in drab brown but they held back, skirting the edges if the clearing to watch.
In the center, Arthur saw three people: two men and a woman. One man was tall, with thick muscles and brown braided hair that reached the heels of his feet. The other man was slighter, a lean frame in black and red leathers, his wavy hair as white as fresh snow. The woman was short, her hair just as white yet she wore the other man's colors, and she seemed to gravitate towards him, standing proud despite her smaller stature.
"What's going on here?" Arthur dared to ask once a rough silence fell over them, "In the name of Camelot, state your business!"
The man with the long brown hair simply snarled, tilting his head down to say something to the woman. She places a hand on his arm, giving him a small smile.
"My Khal wishes to know why you are here," the woman said, "In his lands when there have already been so many intruders."
Arthur raised an eyebrow, "I'm on a quest, as you can see. No one said anything about anyone owning the Perilous Lands."
The man with white hair snorted, "Just what we need. More bumbling fools to deal with! I will not stand for this, Dany! Do you understand?"
The woman, Dany, apparently, visibly bristled, leaning in closer to the one deemed Khal.
"Viserys, I-" she started, only to flinch as he placed a hand on his sword belt.
"I am the rightful heir to the seven kingdoms, I can't be dealing with meddling peasants because you need to take in every savage you see!"
Khal said something Arthur didn't understand, pushing Dany behind him as he stepped towards the other man. Arthur glanced at his own companions- Gwaine looked unsure if he should intervene, his face contorted with worry as he stood with his fists clenched. Merlin, on the other hand, was quiet, eyeing the scene warily. Usually he had a quip or two prepared, but thankfully his servant knew when to keep his mouth shut.
Khal was saying something to him, Arthur realised belatedly, a harsh series of sounds he couldn't identify. Shoulders sagging, Arthur asked tiredly, "I'm sorry?"
"He asks if you're a warrior," another man stepped forward, wearing dsrk leathers with yet another sword at his hip, "The Dothraki don't speak Common, you see."
"Dothraki?" Arthur asked, "My father didn't say anything about Dothraki, whatever that is-"
"Seems the king saw fit to not say anything," Gwaine whistled, "Seeing as he sent you here to melt in your armor like a egg."
"You will not speak of the king in such a manner!" Arthur shot back, but Gwaine was right. Only a few hours in and he was feeling so tired, too tired to be normal. But he had to get this done, just to prove to his father he was fit to rule.
"From where do you hail?" the man asked, offering a short bow, "I am Ser Jorah of Mormont."
Arthur nodded his head, "Prince Arthur of Camelot. My father, King Uther, sent me to fetch the Fisher King's Trident in the Perilous Lands."
"May I ask that we stay with you for the night?" Merlin piped up, wringing his hands, "Milord is unwell, and we must be going soon."
Viserys snorted, "He's fat round the middle! Dany, tell the savages to keep going and leave them here!"
Arthur could tell that this was going to be a long day.
They found themselves back with the Dothraki at their camp, watching men best each other to a pulp as women danced naked with jingling bracelets. They sat off to side where Daenerys and the Khal Drogo sat upon a set of stone stairs, both looking quite regal despite the roughness. After the festivites came to a halt upon three men duking it out to fuck a woman, everyone was sent inside to what looked like a communal tent, with stools and charms hanging from the ceiling. In the center was a platform of sorts, on a table next to it, a horse.
A dead horse, Merlin realized with disgust. Gwaine looked fine enough, leering at the dancing women and Arthur looked slightly on edge as he sat with Ser Jorah. If it weren't for the dancing amd the drinking and the music, Merlin thought the quiet would be quite nice. Judging from the stars he'd seen before entering the tent, he knew they couldn't be far from the Fisher King himself, deep in the heart of the Perilous Lands as they were.
He still couldn't shake the feeling of the bracelet Morgana had given Arthur before he left. She probably did mean it in good faith, but that's what she wanted them to believe; Morgause had twisted her thusly, and she was no longer the sweet ward of the king.
"Are you alright?"
Merlin turned to find the white haired woman eyeing him curiously.
"Fine, just fine," Merlin said a little too quickly.
"I am Daenerys of House Targaryen," the womam sat down slowly, and Merlin finally noticed in the fire how she held her belly. He could feel something emanating from her, the soul of her unborn child perhaps? It felt odd to him, but he squashed the notion as she asked, "I am to understand that your friend is a prince?"
Merlin nodded, giving her a sly grin, "A royal prat, he is. Arthur is King Uther Pendragon's son."
Daenerys hummed, "I am sorry if my brother's antics frightened you earlier. Drogo has not known of anyone willingly traveling through his lands."
"We didn't know the Perilous Lands were under someone's rule," Merlin explained, "Arthur was sent to find the Fisher King, bring back his trident."
Merlin could feel Daenerys' eyes on him, boring into him as the heat embraced him from the fire pit in the middle of the tent. Thr dead horse sat forgotten on the ground and he could still smell the blood from when Daenerys had eaten the heart.
No normal human could have done that, Merlin knew. They would get sick and die if it wasn't cooked or heated in any way to kill bacteria.
"A Dothraki myth?" Daenerys' laugh brokr through his thoughts, "Drogo believes the Fisher King to have ruled when these lands were all water. The only reason they are barren is because he was too headstrong. That he was undeserving of being Khal."
Merlin frowned, "Khal?"
"It means King in Dothraki," Daenerys offered.
Before he could say anything else, the other white haired man from earlier barged in, swaying violently; Arthur and Jorah wrre at the ready, Gwaine quick to push any women or men away from the middle of the tent as swords were suddenly drawn.
"Daenerys!" he spat drunkenly, wobbling towards them, "Tell your savage to give me what's mine!"
Merlin helped Daenerys up, ushering her to sit beside Drogo. Thr mam gave him a cursory glance before saying something to the drunkard.
"I...I am the true king of thr Seven Kingdoms!" he spat, sneering at his sister, "I am owed a crown! Of gold! Dear sister, where is it?"
Merlin could sense the change in the air as Drogo swept the room with a piercing gaze. He said something, eliciting an unsettling silence- Merlin caught Gwaine looking unsure, almost like he wanted to pull Daenerys' brother aside, but Jorah's hand on his shoulder made him think better of it.
Merlin edged closer to Daenerys, the energy he felt from her absolutely raging; as Drogo spoke, he could see the flames in the pit lick higher and suddenly Drogo was lifting a black stone pot, the handle tiny in his thick fist.
"Viserys, please!" Daenerys was cool and collected, "Calm yourself!"
Merlin realized he could feel thr same energy from Viserys, as well. Extremely faint, but still pulsing. He locked eyes with Arthur as they watched Drogo approach Viserys with the pot, Viserys ranting something about dragons and thrones and-
Suddenly he was pulled back by two of Drogo's men, an arm being snapped as his head was pulled back harshly, baring a pale throat.
"Dany! Please!" Viserys was begging and for a minute, Merlin considered using his magic- Viserys and Daenerys must possess some and as Emrys, wasn't he supposed to help? He could hear Arthur trying to convince Drogo, but Merlin knew it was a lost cause.
Merlin leaned over to Daenerys, tilting his head into her shoulder, "If I am correct in my assumption, Viserys will not die."
For a minute, he heard Daenerys hitch her breath, then:
"You have blood of the dragon too?"
Merlin breathed through his nose, "I am Emrys. I can feel the dragon's blood in your veins now tell me, am I wrong in my assumption?"
Daenerys didn't say anything, and the tent was soon filled with agonized screaming, and Merlin could hear Arthur yelling for Drogo to stop but there was nothing to be done as Viserys fell to the ground, his face etched in perpetual agony as his skull was bathed in molton gold.
"Viserys was no dragon, Emrys," Daenerys said plainly, "for fire cannot kill a dragon."
The body waa burned the next morning and Merlin roused Arthur and Gwaine as early as possible.
Daenerys was waiting at the horses, white hair and gray dress flying in the wind.
"I must say, Merlin," Daenerys said, catching him as soon as Arthur and Gwaine went off on their own, "I did not think I would meet another Dragonborn for quite some time."
"I never expected it myself," Merlin agreed, "How canI help you?"
Daenerys held her hands out, offering to Merlin what looked like pure stone. It seemed to glow green and gold and Merlin could feel the same energy he felt from Daenerys the night before. It was heavy in his hands and he scooped it up just in time before it cracked on the ground.
"Please take care of this one," Daenerys said, "I hope one day it will hatch, but I think your Arthur might need it more than I."
Merlin shook his head, "It's illegal, I can't-"
"We are not in Camelot," Daenerys cut him off, "And there are many dangers in these lands. I assume you haven't told him about your magic. Nor about the bracelet- don't give me that look, I could sense the dsrk magic the minute he stepped into the clearing."
"Do your people need help?" Merlin blurted. It would be nice to be open with his magic, Merlin mused, but at Daenerys' sad smile he knew he couldn't. He had Albion to create. He had the Druids to protect.
He had Arthur to guide.
"I know not of these Perilous Lands, but I do know that being a ruler means making the hard choices," she said, "It means sacrifice. I hope your Arthur knows what you've sacrificed to get him here."
Merlin averted his gaze, "These are your lands, how will we know when we get to the Fisher King?"
"Upon the horizon you will see a pack of wyvrens," Daenerys explained, pointing to the sandy hills ahead of them, "You will walk alongside the Narrow Sea and if you see a three eyed raven, you follow it."
Merlin nodded, staring down at the egg. He could hear Arthur and Gwaine calling for him, so he hurriedly put the egg in his satchel, waving to Daenerys as he rushed to catch up with his friends. He skidded to a stop as he saw Khal Drogo standing at gis horse, taller than the animal and looking every bit ferocious as he was the night before.
Gulping, Merlin bowed, "I thank you-"
"Dragonlord," Drogo barked in Common.
Merlin froze, "What?"
He said something again, this time in Dothraki, but Merlin didn't understand. He heard thr name Daenerys, though, so it had to be good. Before Merlin could get on his horse, however, Drogo shoved something into his hand and stalked off, his long braid swinging as he went.
Merlin opened his hand to find the bracelet Morgana had given Arthur. The silver was dented in places and slightly covered in sand, but Merlij couldn't feel thr same dark energy from Morgana as he had before.
He noticed finally the cracked orange gemstone in the middle, slightly faded to a muddy brown color.
Getting on his horse after Arthur yelled for what was probably the millionth time, Merlin pocketed the bracelet, making a mental note to ask Kilgarrah if he knew of a House Targaryen when they returned home.