Work Header

Out in the Wilds

Work Text:

It wasn’t often that the king and the knights of the round table went on border patrols these days. With Arthur being king, he had other duties to attend to, and the knights of the round table were often there to provide counsel to Arthur. So, the responsibility fell to the other knights, including Sir Cador.

It was a chilly morning when Sir Cador, along with a few other knights, were getting the horses ready to go on a patrol when Arthur approached him saying that they would be going on the patrol that day.

“Sir Cador shall come with us. The others are dismissed for today.” Arthur said, just as Merlin brought out their horses. The knights bowed before turning around to leave when Arthur noticed Sir Pelleas among the crowd.
It was Sir Pelleas’s first patrol that day. Or supposed to be. Had Arthur not dismissed him so.

“Sir Pelleas! This was supposed to be your first patrol, I take it?” Arthur asked, beckoning Sir Pelleas.

“Yes, your majesty.” Sir Pelleas replied, bowing his head once.

“Then you shall join us today.” Arthur swung himself up onto the bridle.

Sir Pelleas looked gobsmacked. It was a great honour for a knight to ride with the king as only Arthur’s closest knights and Merlin were usually allowed to ride with him. “I… Sire, this is a great honour. Thank you.” He tilted his head with an awed expression. Merlin smiled ecstatically, but Sir Pelleas’s expression immediately soured and he twisted towards his horse. Sir Cador frowned as Merlin's grin faltered. He was definitely sure that Sir Pelleas’s dislike of Merlin had to do with magic, but the reason behind it, he did not know. He glanced at Arthur to see if he had noticed, however he was laughing at something with Percival and Leon, oblivious to his surroundings.

“Don’t worry about it Merlin.” Sir Cador smiled, clasping his hand over Merlin’s shoulder. “He’s a bit of an uptight fellow. He’ll get over it, eventually. They always do when it’s you.”

“Thanks, Sir Cador.” Merlin's smile was warm even though it didn’t quite reach his eyes.

Sir Cador dipped his head, smiling before swinging himself over onto his horse. Merlin smiled briefly at him before urging his horse forward to the front of the procession, next to Arthur.

Arthur muttered something to Merlin, which made him throw an offended glare at Arthur. Arthur smirked before urging his horse forward, the rest of the procession close behind him.

They were almost upon the border that divided Camelot and Essetir when they were attacked by bandits.

Sir Cador let out a resigned sigh, before throwing himself into the fray, his sword in his hand. It was always bandits, wasn’t it?

He quickly stabbed one man before slamming the hilt of the sword into another man’s head. He was about to block a swing from another sword when he heard the distinct sound of chanting. Not a moment later, they were all thrown backwards. Sir Cador hit a tree before sliding down to the ground, but he was fortunate enough to not to be knocked out immediately. While Sir Cador tried to orient his mind again, a single thought echoed. They had a sorcerer.

From the corner of his eye, he saw a cloaked figure move towards the unconscious Arthur when Merlin rose from the spot he had been knocked onto.

“Forb fleoghe!” The dozens or so ambushers went flying. The sorcerer smacked against a tree before crumpling to the ground, unconscious. In that instance, Sir Cador felt so relieved that they had the most powerful sorcerer on their side.

The knights scrambled to their feet before going to the now unconscious bandits while Merlin had immediately gone to check on Arthur, who was slowly regaining his consciousness.

“They’re Saxons.” Gwaine said, rolling a body over. It was then that Sir Cador heard a pained sound. His gaze swung in the direction it came from in time to see Sir Pelleas fall to the ground, clutching his side where an arrow was embedded.

“Pelleas!” He shouted before rushing to Sir Pelleas’s side who was spasming. He barely registered Merlin dropping to his knees beside him as his complete attention was narrowed in on the now sweating Pelleas.

“He has been poisoned. They have used poisoned arrows.” He heard Arthur say.

“It’s Aconite.” Merlin said after checking his dilated pupils.

“Sire, we have to take him to Gaius.” Sir Cador said, scrambling to his feet to face Arthur.

“No. There’s not enough time. He’ll be dead before we reach Camelot.” Merlin’s words felt like a blow. Sir Cador glanced at Pelleas’s youthful face. He was five summers younger than him, only twenty-one summers old. Even if he was only a recent addition to the knights, he felt a bond with the young man as were every other knight with each other.

But then Merlin said something that made him hopeful once more. “I can try to save him.” Merlin glanced up at Arthur. “I don’t know for sure if I can bring him back, as the poison has spread in every part of his body by now. But I did it once for you-” What did Merlin mean by that? “The least I can do is try.”

Arthur nodded his head once, his expression solemn. Merlin turned back to Sir Pelleas, and held out his hand over his heart, grimness coating his face.

“Ic þe þurhhæle þin licsare mid þam sundorcræftas þære ealdaþ æ!” Sir Cador waited with bated breath as Merlin’s voice rose to a crescendo. Awe rose within him at the display of raw power. It was as if this young man held the fate of the world in his hands.

Merlin rose, staring at the now still body of Sir Pelleas.

“Did it work?” Arthur asked, as Sir Cador felt for Pelleas’ pulse, but he could only feel it faintly.

“I don’t know.” Was Merlin’s desperate reply.

Sir Cador felt hopelessness rise within him as the body lay still. But then Pelleas gasped, his eyes fluttering open.

“Pelleas!” several of the knights exclaimed in joy.

Arthur threw his hand over Merlin’s shoulder, dragging him to a tight hug, his face breaking into a tear filled laugh.

"You did it." Sir Cador heard him whisper to Merlin while the others crowded around Sir Pelleas.

Cador felt as if he could burst with joy as he hugged Sir Pelleas, his once pale cheeks now dusted with a healthy pink.

Merlin truly was a blessing to them all.

That evening, they made camp near the border of Camelot. The Saxons were tied to the trees, and Merlin had enchanted a pair of iron cuffs so as to prevent the sorcerer from using magic.

The sorcerer’s eyes had widened when Gwaine jokingly called Merlin ‘Lord Emrys’. Apparently, he had not known that Merlin was Emrys and had apologized profusely to Merlin. However, Arthur had ordered them to be taken back to Camelot so that they could stand at trial and be judged for their crimes.

Sir Lancelot and Sir Percival had succeeded in catching a rabbit for supper, and Merlin had cooked it. Sir Cador was definitely puzzled and when asked why he did it, Merlin had said, “I don’t mind. It’s more of a habit. Beside none of you lot know how to cook some decent stew.”

The knights around the fire had chuckled at that.

“I have to give him that. Merlin here cooks very fine stew, don’t you, Merlin?” Arthur said, chuckling. Merlin, who sat beside him, just rolled his eyes.

“To young Pelleas and his renewed health.” Arthur raised his cup of mead as others followed suit.

“Thank you, sire. Though I have disrupted today’s mission.” Sir Pelleas said with a sheepish smile.

“Not at all. I’m glad that you’ve recovered well.” Arthur inclined his head.

“I’m going to get some water for the horses.” Merlin said, heaving himself on to his feet. He whispered something in Arthur’s ear before heading in the direction of the creek. Sir Cador watched on curiously as Arthur gazed at the retreating back of Merlin with a soft expression that he had never seen on the king’s face before.

Even stranger was the intense manner in which Sir Pelleas stared in the direction that Merlin had disappeared to.

Abruptly, Sir Pelleas got to his feet and excused himself before walking towards the creek.

Sir Cador debated on following him or not, to ensure that Merlin was safe. However, he knew Merlin was perfectly capable of taking care of himself. Besides, neither Arthur nor his closest knights looked even slightly worried.

Before he could decide on anything, Pelleas returned, dropping down to the log beside him.

At seeing his inquiring gaze, Sir Pelleas let out a soft sigh. “I wanted to apologize to Merlin. It was wrong how I treated him.”

“That’s good. Merlin is too much of a sweetheart and if the king or any of the knights ever discover, you really don’t want to find out what they would do to you.” Sir Cador said teasingly. Pelleas huffed out a laugh, gazing at the fire with an unreadable expression.

“They are very protective of him.” Pelleas stated, not quite a question.

“Yes. We all are. Everyone in Camelot is.” Sir Cador said, but he did not state the reason, knowing that Pelleas would know it by now.

Sir Pelleas was silent for a moment. Cador could see that he was struggling with something.

“My father was a cruel man. He wasn’t like Arthur. Not in the slightest. When I was nine summers old, a woman came to us begging for food and shelter, saying that her son was ill. My father turned her away. He held no sympathy towards the commoners. The woman was angry and the next day we heard that her son had died in the morning. The very next day, my mother and my brother both fell ill and died not a few days later. My father found out later on that the woman had been a sorceress and that she had cursed them for what my father did. By that time, the woman had fled from our lands. We never did find her, nor the reason as to why I wasn’t cursed. Since that day I hated magic…” Sir Pelleas’s gaze held so much sorrow. Cador wished he knew a way to ease the young man’s pain. “But today, I realized that magic is not evil. And it’s not fair to blame Merlin for the wrongs of another.”

“I’m truly sorry for your loss. And I’m glad that you finally saw the true nature of magic.” Cador clasped Pelleas’s shoulder in comfort. Pelleas gave a slight nod of acknowledgement. Cador smiled briefly at him before turning his mind back to the surrounding conversations.

Merlin had still not returned, and Arthur was getting to his feet. “It’s late. I’m going to retire. You all should sleep too. We have a long ride back to Camelot ahead of us.”

“Sleep well, sire.” Elyan said, grinning. Arthur waved his hand without glancing back, heading off in the direction of the creek.

“Bet Merlin’s going to teach him some poetry.” Leon chuckled. Sir Cador and Sir Pelleas watched on in puzzlement as the others laughed.

“What do you mean?” Sir Pelleas asked.

“You’ll see soon enough.” Leon smirked mysteriously.

Cador and Pelleas shared a confused glance.

“Not soon enough, though. Not with how oblivious those two are.” Gwaine gulped down half of the wine in one go.

“We’ll have to do with Lancelot till then.” Elyan said, elbowing Lancelot in the side.

“When is the big day?” Percival asked.

“What day?” Sir Pelleas’s brow was furrowed so much that Cador worried it would hurt. At least this one Cador knew about. Lancelot had been courting Queen Guinevere for almost a year now.

“I’m going to ask Gwen's hand in marriage tomorrow.” A smile, slight, yet so warm, lit up his face.

“Good luck then,” Cador said, grinning at him.

“Thank you.”

“I’m going to sleep now, gentlemen. Who’s going to take the first watch?” Gwaine staggered up, his bedroll tucked under one arm and the wineskin in the other.

“I’ll take it,” Percival said as the others got up to prepare their own beds.

“Make sure to keep an eye on them.” Elyan pointed at the tied-up Saxons. “We don’t want any funny business.” Elyan clapped Percival on the shoulder before retreating from the fire.

Sir Cador lingered for a moment with Percival in peaceful silence before making his way towards the creek to wash himself before sleeping.

As he went further and further away into the woods, the darkness descended all around him, thick and coiling. The moonlight filtering through the dense foliage provided little guidance, as it was a cloudy day. He had to step carefully so as not to disturb any nocturnal creatures waiting for prey. Which was why he did not see the two dark silhouettes bent towards each other until he was almost upon them. He quickly stepped behind a tree, before either of them could see him, placing a hand upon his sword and peered.

The darkness made it harder to see who they were, but the distinct handkerchief and the bit of moonlight glistening off of armor made him relax his grip on his sword. It was only Arthur and Merlin, conversing in low tones.

Suddenly, a bright ball of blue light appeared between them and rose up to hover above their heads. Sir Cador had to stifle his gasp at the display of magic, so as not to alert them to his presence.

“It was you then.” Arthur’s breathless voice drifted over to him. “It was you all this time.”

Arthur sounded awed as he continued to gaze at the glowing sphere that bobbed in the air. Sir Cador knew he should not be listening to this, but try as he might, he couldn’t seem to move his feet.

“Yeah. I didn’t know that I had conjured this to help you. I only knew after Gaius told me later. Apparently I had been muttering in the old language and Gaius had to send Gwen away with the pretense of bringing some water so that my magic wouldn’t be discovered.” Merlin seemed almost sheepish.

“You have done so much for me, Merlin. So much for me and Camelot.” Cador had never heard Arthur’s voice sound so... broken. “All these years... Gods, I’m so sorry-”

Sir Cador watched in shock as Merlin grabbed Arthur’s face, and suddenly they were kissing. They parted just enough so that they could hold their foreheads against each other. “Arthur..." Merlin’s voice sounded breathless. “All of that... It doesn’t matter now. What I’ve always wanted was for you to know who I truly am. And now you are here with me... All of this... It’s so much more than what I thought I could possibly have... more than I could ever imagine..."

“Merlin,” Arthur caressed Merlin’s cheek before sealing their lips together once more. This time Sir Cador felt as if he was suddenly released from a spell. He stumbled backwards, and a twig snapped underneath his feet. He glanced up, panic rising in his throat, but Merlin and Arthur were too absorbed in each other to notice him.

He quickly hurried away, not too keen on finding out what Arthur would do to him if he was discovered out there. He reached for his bedroll and snuggled underneath the blankets, discarding the idea of a wash in the creek.

“They were learning poetry, weren’t they?” Sir Cador jumped out of his skin when he heard the voice. He glanced to his side to discover Sir Leon staring at him, his lips spread in a wide grin.

Sir Cador simply nodded, not trusting himself to speak coherently in that moment. He heard Leon huff out a laugh and then a rustle of blankets, showing that he had turned to the other side.

Sir Cador stared up at the starless sky that peeked through the leaf cover, still trying to comprehend what he had seen. In the end, it took a long time for Sir Cador to fall asleep.