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26 December 2011 @ 11:28 pm
Advent challenge; fic 25.  
Title: Across the Northern Sea (Part 1)
Fandom: Harry Potter/BBC Merlin
Summary: Strangers have arrived in Camelot, and no one seems to know who they are except for King Uther himself. The leader of this band is one Nymphadora Tonks, who is not only fleeing the enemies of her father, but is also hiding a secret that could see her killed. (nb: introductory sort of chapter.)
Characters: Remus/Tonks, Arthur/Gwen, Merlin, Uther, Morgana
Prompt: Magic
Genre: crossover, action, angst, romance
Rating: pg-13
Word Count: 1944


The castle is nothing but a blurry haze in the early morning fog as the cloaked riders gallop through the forest, every one of them visibly relaxing as they near the stone walls of Camelot. They’re a bedraggled looking group; their dark cloaks splotched with mud (and, in some cases, blood), the faces that weren’t hidden under deep hoods were starved and dirty. The horses had very nearly been pushed too far; it was easy to see that many of them were on the verge of collapse, if not death. And yet, the small band of riders did not stop; if anything their pace quickened as they raced to break free of the trees.
There were six of them. Three knights, dressed in dark blue cloaks with silken grey lining and boiled leathers, their long swords strapped to their horses as they rode. Two serving boys accompanied them, although they had proven themselves worthy of titles and knighthoods on the long journey from their home. One had a bow and quiver strapped to his horse; the other a short, sharp edged blade. They were perhaps the most nervous of the group, their eyes constantly darting in all directions, staring into the forest, in search of unfriendly eyes staring back.
Riding slightly ahead of them was a woman; not that you would know it to look at her. Her face was hidden under the folds of a deep blue cloak. She rode harder, faster, and better than any of the men, and had a hand-and-a-half sword belted at her waist. She was more relaxed than the others in her party, safe in the knowledge they would not be attacked or pestered so close to the castle walls; at least not by any who would not take her before the king as soon as she asked.
None of them had slept in four days; they had ridden straight, without stopping, after the last attack. It was a miracle, she knew, that neither they nor their horses had collapsed yet.
Almost there, almost there, she kept telling herself, letting out a sigh of relief as the large gates came into view. Finally, they were safe.
Merlin doubted his day could get any worse.
Arthur was still yelling at him. Occasionally words like “idiot”, “world’s worst servant”, and “moron” reached his ears, but apart from that, he was doing a reasonably good job of blocking it out.
“Merlin! Merlin? Are you even listening to me?”
His eyes darted to where the Prince stood, hands on hips, surrounded by the shattered and dinted items that ought to have been sitting on the table… somehow he’d knocked them all… Arthur hadn’t been pleased to be woken to such a loud crash and bang.
“Oh, yes Arthur. Of course!”
Arthur eyed him suspiciously. “Good. Well get it cleaned up, and quickly. I’ve got a lot of extra jobs for you today.” With a satisfied smirk, Arthur headed off to breakfast with the King.
Merlin sighed. Gods knew what kind of horrible jobs Arthur would find for him. The stables probably needed mucking, he would say, or something equally foul… and he hadn’t even had time for his own breakfast yet!
A small smile crept across his face as he held out his hand and muttered a few choice words under his breath. In seconds the cups and plates and cutlery were back where they ought to be, the shattered remains of the vase in a neat pile on a square of scrap cloth, waiting to be removed. Grinning, Merlin ran from the room, almost running head first into the Prince himself.
“Right, you can finish that later. We’ve got guests.”
“Who is it? Merlin asked, curious. He hadn’t heard anything about guests arriving in Camelot for the Royal family. Arthur was silent for a moment.
“I don’t know. But they told the gates men to have the King meet them. Father is actually getting up to meet them, so I can only guess that he knows who they are. Gather the Knights.”
Nodding, Merlin ran off in search of Gwaine, Elyan, Lancelot, Percival, Sir Leon and the others, wondering what guests could bring Uther down from his chambers. Morgana’s betrayal had broken him like nothing else, and now days he barely spoke or moved from the chair he was placed in. The King spent his days alone in his chamber, save for Gwen who cared for him, and Arthur, who visited him at the end of every day, filling him in on the new matters of council. They had tried to help him, all of them- Gaius had tried every herb and potion he could think of, but none of them had made any difference. Merlin wouldn’t have thought there was anyone who could bring the King out of his silent depression when his only son could not. They must be people of a special, personal importance to Uther…
The air was chilled, and the courtyard silent as they rode towards the castle. Merlin couldn’t see anything special about them- they bore no crowns or jewels, and their cloaks carried no Sigil, nothing to give any clue as to where they might be from. Their colours could have been associated with many of the other Noble families throughout the kingdoms. Merlin glanced at Arthur, but saw no recognition in his eyes. Gaius was frowning, confused; but Uther, looking drawn and ill, stepped forward with a smile.
The leader of the small band pulled her hood back from her face, and the others copied. She was beautiful, there was no denying that, Merlin thought. Her face was pale and heart shaped, with a light smattering of freckles. Her eyes were dark and twinkling, and her long brown hair fell down past her shoulders in tousled curls. But despite her beauty, she had a hard look about her, something in the way she held herself atop her horse, in the flickering glances, and Merlin could tell she had her teeth clenched tightly as she tried to gauge the warmth of their welcome.
Fortunately for her, Uther was more than happy to welcome her.
“Nymphadora! I couldn’t believe it when I heard, that you came all this way! You are of course, welcome to stay as long as you like, I will have rooms made up for you and your men immediately! And perhaps the Lady Morga-” He checked himself, his bright appearance faltering for a second. “Perhaps my son, Arthur, will be able to show you the way.”
“Thank you, your Grace.” Her small smile was genuine. Turning to her riders, she gave a nod, and they all dismounted. She went to follow suit, but as soon as her feet hit the ground she swayed, her face turning white. In a second one of the newest knights, Remus, was there, just as she stumbled. She held him tightly for support.
“I fear I must apologise, Sire.” She took a breath. “We’ve been riding for many weeks, and it’s not been easy to reach Camelot.”
“Of course! Please, Arthur, show the Lady to the guests chambers below your own. And if you can spare him, perhaps she could make use of your servant?”
“I have my own!” She protested weakly, still clutching the knight.
“Nonsense! They too need rest. Until they are recovered, Merlin will assist you. And Gwen too, if you should need her.”
She was too tired to protest any further, so she just nodded.
“This way, my lady...” Arthur went to take her, but Remus quickly said:
“I’ve got her, sire. I’ll bring her.”
“Alright. Follow me.” Arthur replied after a moments pause. Gently, he helped her up the stairs and past the King.
As soon as she was out of sight, Uther’s face fell back into its blank, stony silence.
Merlin hurried to catch up with Gaius, who was already on his way back to his chambers. “Do you know who she is, Gaius?”
The Physician shrugged. “I’ve heard Uther mention that name before, but I can’t for the life of me remember who she is or where she’s from! Her name is interesting enough though.”
“Her name?”
Gaius nodded. “Nymphadora. It’s a name of the old religion. Nymphs were spirits of nature, like the early gods of lakes or mountains or rivers. It’s a Latin name; old language. But if my memory serves me right, then it translates to gift of the Nymphs.” Gaius frowned. “Watch her, Merlin. I’ve got a feeling. There’s something strange about that girl.”
The pillows were much softer than the tree roots and forest floors she had grown accustomed to sleeping on, and the mattress more comfortable than sitting on the back of a horse for days, weeks on end. With a quiet smile, she thanked the knight who had half-carried her to her room. It had been nice of him, to help her. None of the others had moved. Blinking through her exhaustion, she looked at his face, no longer obscured by her own hair, which had fallen between them. He had a kindly face, although it was raked with three long, vicious scars. His eyes were a warm brown, his short, shaggy hair the colour of sand, like the beaches back home. As she looked at him, his eyes were full of concern.
“I'm sure she’ll be alright, she just needs some rest. Thank you, Remus.” With a slow nod, the knight turned and left the room.
“I hope you’ll be comfortable here, my Lady.” Arthur said, looking around the room. “If there’s anything you need, anything at all, let one of the guards know and I’ll have Merlin sent down immediately.”
“Thank you. For now, I’d just like to rest.”
“Of course. Shall I send someone to wake you for supper?”
She nodded.
“Until tonight, then.” With a smile, he was gone.
Rolling her eyes, she let out a deep breath. This wasn’t going to be easy, not at all. Groaning, she kicked off her riding boots, glad she’d brought a change of clothes with her for when they reached Camelot. She could hardly dine with the King in her riding gear. Not that dining with the King was her biggest problem right now.
She hadn’t even taken time to grieve. She’d barely cried at all. She’d had to be tough. Her father had taught her that, courage as a leader in front of the men. Honesty, trust, and utmost courage, he had told her over and over again. That was what you needed for loyalty.
Look where that had gotten him. An arrow straight through the heart. His lands destroyed, his kingdom taken under siege. And all in a single night. She had barely managed to escape across what those in these lands called the northern sea, and she’d been harassed the entire way. But her father had told her that Camelot was the only safe place, the only Kingdom where magic was banned, where they would be unable to touch her.
Unfortunately, it also meant it was the only place where she couldn’t use her powers.
It was a rare magic she had; the power to change her appearance at will. It came in handy every now and then, but it could be hard to control when she didn’t keep her emotions in check. And under Uther’s watch, she couldn’t afford any slip ups if she valued her life, old friend or no. She would have to stay in control, no matter what. Her life was all she had left.
With a sigh, she closed her eyes. For now at least, here alone in her chambers, she was safe.
 
 
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shutupeccles: curiousshutupeccles on December 26th, 2011 09:35 pm (UTC)
very interesting AU