Merlin ran into Clarissa in the kitchens. He thanked her for covering for him during lunch, and offered that he could cover that night in her stead. It was only fair. She protested at first, but it wasn’t hard for him to convince her to leave the evening chores to him.
Arthur asked Merlin about the afternoon over supper, while Merlin stood by with the pitcher of wine. Merlin could only report on the suspicions that the baker’s youngest had been turned into a werewolf. He did not know what information Dean and Gwaine had acquired at the tavern.
“And what is your estimation of Sam and Dean’s characters?” Arthur asked Merlin. Merlin shot Gwen an apologetic for monopolizing the conversation; the evening meal was usually a time for Arthur and Gwen to talk.
“I think they are good men and great warriors,” Merlin answered, and then added, “kind and thoughtful, but also not to be trifled with.”
“Would they best one of my knights in a fight?”
“I don’t know, Arthur, I’ve not seen them in battle, but I certainly wouldn’t be surprised if they could.”
From there normal conversation resumed between the King and Queen. Once the meal ended, Merlin helped Arthur out of the hated blue shirt and into his beloved armour, cleared away the empty plates, and left Arthur to bid Gwen goodnight in private.
After dumping the plates by the sink, Merlin had time to steal a roll and a leftover drumstick from the kitchen. Then he hurried to the armoury.
At dinner in the Knights’ Hall, Sam and Dean were formally introduced to Percival, who complimented Sam on his armour before furrowing his brow in a bit of confusion. Sam thanked him and quickly changed the topic – asking Percival how it was that he had come to Camelot.
Percival gave them a melancholy smile. He explained how first he had met Lancelot – who spoke to him very highly of Camelot and the friends he had made there. Together Gwaine, Elyan, Percival, and a quieter knight, whom Sam remembered Arthur addressed as Leon, told Sam and Dean about Morgana’s immortal army. The story was quite amazing, Sam had to admit.
Sam observed the camaraderie among the tables as he ate. Percival and Gwaine drew attention with their good-natured boasting, clearly to the admiration of several of the younger knights; another group of men were having a discussion in low voices with serious faces. Leon, the knight who had escorted them to meet Arthur that morning, said that not everyone would attend the evening meeting with Arthur. “Everyone is equal at the round table,” Leon explained, “but an army doesn’t work if every soldier is a commander. Arthur selects a few of us as leaders. We report to Arthur and the rest of the knights report to us.”
Leon, Gwaine, Elyan, Percival, Dean, and Sam were summoned to the armoury. Arthur walked in wearing chainmail and despite his still youthful face, the air of command about him was tangible. Sam straightened to attention along with the knights. The King looked around the room as though he had lost something and then rolled his eyes. He turned and stuck his head out the door and bellowed a loud, “MERLIN!” that echoed down the corridors.
Sam glanced at the other knights and found them all wearing amused smiles.
Arthur sighed and turned back to the room, shaking his head.
“Leon?” Arthur asked.
“No news from Sir Glyn yet, Sire,” Leon answered.
Arthur nodded. “Percival?”
“The silversmith has made us a fair number of bolts. He also gifts you with this silver dagger.” Percival placed an elegantly simple dagger on the table in front of Arthur. Dean leaned forward and gave a quiet hum of approval. “He wishes only that we try to recover the bolts so that they may be melted down again,” Percival finished. “If not, he requests compensation.”
Arthur nodded, then suddenly quirked his head as if listening to something.
“My-” Leon started, but Arthur cut him off with a raised hand. That’s when Sam heard the footsteps running towards them. Seconds later, Merlin came barrelling through the door.
“Sorry I’m late!”
“And where have you been?” Arthur sighed.
“I had to pee,” Merlin shrugged with a smile. “Have Sam and Dean told you about our afternoon yet?”
“They were just about to,” Arthur answered, and looked at them. Sam realized that that was their cue to talk and nudged Dean in the back.
“Right,” Dean started. “The original werewolf is a male. His most recent strike was by the well, and it looks like he’s turned the baker’s daughter. The vamps, meanwhile, are staking out the tavern. The girl goes in, lures some poor guy out into the night with the promise of a good time, and then a second vamp swoops in for the kill...or, I hope it’s the kill, anyway. Now, it’s best to hunt the werewolves at night so that we can find the original and also get confirmation that the baker’s daughter really has been turned. The vamps though, it’s usually best to take them out during the day. The problem is the fact that they’ll probably kill again tonight, so we gotta be around to stop that.”
“Okay,” Arthur said. “Two small forces, one at the well the other by the tavern. Leon, I want you-”
“Whoa, hold it,” Dean said. “No.”
“Excuse me?” Arthur asked flatly.
“What my brother means... My Lord,” Sam said, “Is that he and I are much better trained to deal with this threat. It’s for the best if you just let us handle it.”
“Out of the question,” Arthur replied. “And if you interrupt me again, you won’t be involved at all.”
“Now, hold on-” Dean said, before Sam could kick him.
“You would have me let two strangers kill a citizen of Camelot and just trust that they are honest men?” Arthur asked, incredulous.
“That’s not-” Dean started.
“Of course not, Sire,” Sam interrupted. “But it’s much harder for us to do our jobs if we have to worry about protecting civilians-”
“The knights of Camelot are the finest in the land,” Arthur growled. Behind him, Merlin was making frantic ‘shut-up’ gestures.
“Fine,” Dean said. “Suit yourself. Can we at least agree that these forces have to be very small. I’m talking two or three men only, and that includes Sam and me.”
“I will go to the well with Leon and Sam,” Arthur announced, turning his attention back to the room at large. “Gwaine, Percival, Elyan, and Dean will watch the tavern. Those with me will need silver crossbow bolts and daggers, those with Gwaine can rely on their swords.”
“Yes, Sire.” The knights began to move around the room getting ready.
“Merlin,” Arthur said, picking up the silver dagger from the table and handing it to Merlin. “On this night, I would prefer if you were armed.”
Sam didn’t see Merlin’s response, as Percival and Leon handed Sam a crossbow and five silver-tipped bolts.
“Take this.” Gwaine held out his silver dagger.
“Dammit, we should be handling this on our own,” Dean muttered to Sam. “Uh, I guess you’re in charge of the King’s safety now, Sammy, so... good luck?”
“Merlin’s coming with us,” Sam said. “I’m not too worried. You okay with Gwaine?”
“Yeah, he’s a decent guy,” Dean said.
“Good. See you in a few hours. Good luck with the vamps.”
The two groups walked together to the edge of the lower town. As they separated, Merlin saw Sam and Dean nod to each other. He wondered if it was a mistake to split the two of them up – but the brothers didn’t seem distressed, so Merlin’s nerves were somewhat eased.
The plan was to head to the bakery first, on the chance that Lillian might lead them to the one that had changed her.
“How can we be certain that she has become one of these creatures?” Arthur asked as they walked.
“We’ve seen this before, trust me,” Sam said. “She was attacked two nights ago, this morning she woke covered in blood – she’s been turned.”
“But she claimed it was her own blood,” Arthur pressed. Sam threw Merlin a look over his shoulder. Merlin just shrugged – obviously he had relayed the entire afternoon to Arthur over supper. Sam shouldn’t have expected anything less.
“She lied,” Sam said. “It’s hardly something you’d want to admit to the King’s men, is it?”
“I suppose,” Arthur admitted, “but I won’t condemn her to death without proof.”
“I understand, but you can’t just walk up to a werewolf and ask-”
Just then, they turned a corner and came in sight of the bakery. In the cool light of the moon, they could see a hunched figure in a night dress moving slowly in the direction of the well. Sam immediately pushed Arthur into the shadow of the building beside them. Sam was focused solely on Lillian, and did not see the fierce look Arthur shot him, though Merlin did.
Sam pulled the crossbow from his shoulder and readied a bolt, nodding at Leon who did the same.
“Be on the lookout for the other one,” Sam turned and whispered back to Leon and Merlin. “Werewolves often turn people they have an interest in. Odds are he’ll be drawn to her again, and-”
Sam stopped as both he and Merlin realized that Arthur was no longer beside them. Arthur had stepped into the street during the seconds that Sam had been talking to Merlin and Leon.
“Damn it!” Sam brought the crossbow up, but Arthur stood between Sam and the girl.
“Hold! Declare yourself!” Arthur drew his sword as he stepped closer to the stooped figure.
It seemed to happen in slow motion. Sam threw the crossbow to the side and leapt forward just as Lillian turned towards Arthur with an inhuman face and an equally inhuman snarl. She exploded into sudden movement. She was too fast, Merlin could see that Arthur wasn’t going to be able to swing his sword in time.
Before the werewolf made contact with Arthur, Sam grabbed Arthur by his chainmail hood and threw him to the ground, letting speed and weight propel him as he tackling the werewolf. Then Sam and the monster were rolling in the street. The snarly noises of the creature were suddenly punctuated by a cry of pain from Sam. Merlin could see Sam’s arms straining as he lay on his back underneath the monster, his hands around the werewolf’s neck to keep her teeth from closing in on his unprotected skin.
Leon dropped his useless crossbow and darted towards the struggle. Arthur was also getting to his feet, his own dagger drawn. Merlin’s only thought was to keep Arthur away from those teeth. Thinking quickly, Merlin saw the heavy wooden shop-keeper’s sign hanging close to Arthur, and, with a flare of magic and a gust of wind, the sign was falling between Arthur and the melee. Only as it fell did Merlin realize that the sign was too close to Arthur. It knocked him onto his back as it toppled and also cut off Leon’s attempt to rescue Sam, as Arthur fell into him.
“No!” Merlin cried. He fumbled for the dagger at his waist, rushing forward. Before Merlin reached Sam, a shattering howl erupted out of Lillian’s small frame as she arched back, the moonlight reflecting off the dagger piercing her chest. Sam pushed her suddenly limp body aside as he took in deep gulping breaths.
Merlin looked over at Arthur, who was staring at Lillian’s dead body – now deceptively human in appearance. Leon ran forward and offered a hand to Sam, who was pushing himself to his feet.
“Are you all right, Arthur?” Merlin asked softly.
“I’m fine,” Arthur said, staring at the sign, and then up to the broken chain that had held it up. “Did you see that?”
“A gust of wind,” Merlin said. “The chain must have been rusted through.” Merlin turned his attention, and hopefully also Arthur’s, to Sam. There was dark blood running down Sam’s arms. “Sam? Are you all right? Let me-”
“It’s okay, she just clawed- GET DOWN!”
Sam jumped at Arthur, knocking Arthur to the side again and plowing into the second werewolf mid-leap.
“Merlin! Give me your dagger,” Leon yelled, as he rushed toward the tangle of monster and man. Merlin threw the dagger towards Leon’s outstretched hand, a burst of magic ensuring that his aim was true and the hilt landed safely in Leon’s palm.
“Hold him! Hold him!” Leon yelled, then he thrust the silver blade in the creature’s back. Sam jerked away from the death snap of its teeth.
Merlin’s heart was pounding in the sudden silence.
“A little help, please?” Sam said, pushing against the weight of the dead creature pinning him. Leon helped him shift the body. The werewolf, who now looked like just a man, was in strange clothes.
“You saved my life,” Arthur said, as soon as Sam was on his feet.
“I shouldn’t have had to!” Sam replied angrily. Leon’s eyes went wide and Arthur looked taken aback. Merlin’s heart now raced for an entirely different reason. Sam was terrifying, angry, covered in blood, and suddenly very much a man of legend towering above them in righteous fury. “This is exactly why we work alone, so that idiots like you don’t get themselves killed!”
“I’ll forgive your words because I owe you a debt,” Arthur said evenly, his jaw tense, ““but you will speak to me with respect.”
Merlin wondered how Arthur kept so calm – perhaps it was simply his ignorance as to who Sam really was. Merlin felt, though, that even if he hadn’t known Sam’s true identity, he would have still been as intimidated.
“I’ll speak to you with respect when you’ve earned it!”
“I am the King!”
“Lot of good that would do if you’re dead!” Sam snarled, “Or a werewolf! What part of ‘one bite’ don’t you understand, Arthur?! All it would have taken is one bite, and you’d be a curse on your own people – is that what you want? So when I say to stay back, you STAY BACK! And when I say someone’s a werewolf, you TRUST ME. You want me to treat you with respect? You... goddamn...”
Sam clenched a fist and breathed deeply instead of finishing his sentence. Merlin watched warily. Sam was the fiercest of warriors – more dangerous than his brother, if the stories were to be believed. The dragon had warned Merlin not to anger the brothers.
Leon tensed, his hand on the hilt of his sword, waiting for his King’s command. Arthur was staring at Sam dumbfounded.
“I thought your brother said that one had to swallow the blood of the monster to become-” Arthur started to say.
“That’s the vampires,” Sam cut him off, speaking slowly through his teeth. “These are werewolves. It only takes one bite and there is no cure. Do you understand?”
Arthur nodded, his eyes now wide and staring at Sam’s bleeding arms.
“They’re just scratches,” Sam said, following the King’s stare.
“I can take you to Gaius,” Merlin offered, trying to diffuse the atmosphere. Sam looked at him confused. Merlin pointed to blood on Sam’s arms. “To, er... tend to your wounds, My Lord.” Merlin couldn’t help but drop his eyes in deference.
“Right, fine,” Sam said, before he took a deep breath and turned back to Arthur. “I’m sorry for getting angry, but I hardly want the King’s death on my hands.”
“He has a point, Arthur-” Merlin started.
“Thank you, Merlin,” Arthur cut him off, glaring. Merlin cringed, realizing just how much of Arthur’s ego had been injured that night. Arthur turned back to Sam. “I apologize for my behavior that resulted in your injury tonight. Merlin, take Sam to Gaius and see that his wounds are tended to, and see that Gwaine reports immediately to me upon his return.” Having humbled himself enough, Arthur resumed his imperious tone. “And Merlin, you have chores to do, you’ve been slacking off lately and I’ll have an end to it. Leon, have these bodies removed from the street.”
“Yes, My Lord,” Leon said, but he continued to stare at Sam.
“Go,” Arthur barked. Leon flinched and ran off. As they turned to walk back to the castle, Merlin undid his neckerchief and handed it to Sam, to wrap around the worst of the wounds. Even as the fabric darkened with blood, Sam walked with powerful strides back to the castle, head high and back straight. Merlin followed a pace behind, Arthur a distance behind them. Merlin knew Arthur needed a moment to scrape back together his dignity.
“Merlin,” Sam said. “Find me armour with some goddamn sleeves, would you?”
“Yes, My Lord,” Merlin cringed.
While walking to the tavern they decided that Percival and Elyan would check out the inside of the tavern, while Dean and Gwaine would wait outside. They’d wait until she picked her vic of the night, and then follow at a distance and hope she lead them to her mate.
They hadn’t been waiting long, when they heard a distant howl pierce the night air. Gwaine turned his head towards the sound, concerned, but Dean smiled.
“Good job, Sammy.”
Gwaine looked at him and raised an eyebrow.
“Death howl,” Dean stated. They resumed silent their watch of the tavern door.
“I have a question,” Gwaine said after a few minutes. “If these creatures are not of this world, how do you know so much about them?”
“Books,” Dean said, because it was the answer that Merlin gave whenever they asked him how he knew so much about them.
“But we found no mention of them.”
“Yeah, well,” Dean shrugged, “I guess we have different books.” At Gwaine’s measured look, Dean added, “Look I don’t know what to tell you, life is very strange and full of mystery.”
Dean kept his gaze firmly on the tavern, even though he could feel Gwaine’s bemused gaze boring into him.
“You don’t seem the reading type,” Gwaine finally said.
“Well, looks can be deceiving,” Dean muttered, just as the door of the tavern opened and a woman dressed in what looked to be an altered Victorian dress emerged. She was leading a rosy-nosed older man. “Take for instance, that lovely woman there,” Dean said. “Would you describe that dress as ‘fine’? Would you say that she looked charming?”
“Aye, I would indeed,” Gwaine said, growing serious. “I would believe she were a Lady, save for the fact that Ladies don’t often visit the taverns, nor leave on the arms of peasants.”
“Right,” Dean said, “and that’s because she’s not a Lady at all, but a bloodsucking freak who’s about to make a meal of that peasant. Let’s go.”
Seeing Elyan and Percival exit the tavern, Dean nodded in the direction the vampire was taking the victim. They watched as she was leaned into the man flirtatiously, before pulling him into an alley. Dean signalled Percival and Elyan to circle around as he and Gwaine took the more direct route.
As they approached the mouth of the alley, they could hear the woman giggling. The man had her pressed up against the wall. Dean scanned the shadows for her partner, but didn’t see any sign of him.
The woman abruptly flipped her and the victim’s position, the guy grunted as he hit the wall. . Then her hand was on his chin, forcing his head to the side.
“Damn it,” Dean muttered. Percival and Elyan appeared at the far end of the alley just as the woman latched onto her victim’s neck.
Dean rushed forward, the noise of his approach causing the vampire to stop feeding and turn towards him. Dean swung his sword, severing her head with one strike. The body toppled, nearly falling against the poor freaked-out drunk. The victim now had his hand pressed to his neck as he stared at Dean with terror.
The Knights surrounded Dean as he stayed ready for, in case the newly turned mate appeared, but the only sound was the victim’s panicked whimpering.
“Hey, you had to have known that was too good to be true, man,” Dean said as he moved the man’s hand to check the bite. “You’re fine. Go home, sleep it off. Pretend it was a bad dream, understand?”
The man nodded and scrambled past the body and fled.
“I thought you said there were two?” Gwaine said.
“There are,” Dean replied, sheathing his sword. “Apparently they’re not hunting together tonight, though. We’ll have to get the second one tomorrow. It’ll be easier in the day, he’ll be slower. Hopefully he’s too stupid to leave town.”
Percival wrapped the woman’s body and head in his cloak to take the corpse back as proof for the king. As they approached the castle gate they found Leon with two guards who were carrying two similarly wrapped bodies.
“Got’em both, I see,” Dean greeted with a smile. “Did better than us, then, we only got the one.” Dean jerked his head to indicate the body in Percival’s arms.
“Er, yes,” Leon nodded hesitantly. “Gwaine, you’re to report to the King. Percival,” Leon indicated the other guards with a wave of his hand, and Percival followed them to dispose of the bodies. “Dean, you’ll find your brother with Gaius.”
Dean felt the smile slip of his face. “Why will I find my brother with Gaius?”
Leon seemed to tense. “I assure you, his injuries do not appear to be life threatening.”
Dean growled and charged away, leaving Elyan, Gwaine, and Leon still standing by the castle gate..
“Should I follow him?” he could hear Elyan ask.
“I think perhaps it’s wiser to accompany me to see the King,” Gwaine replied. “What happened, Leon?”
“I’ve never seen anything like it...” Leon started but then Dean was far enough away that he couldn’t make out their words anymore.
He jogged the rest of the way to the physician’s room, luckily remembering the way from the day before. By the time he arrived, his imagination had run through every worse-case scenario that he could think of. He opened the door with a little more force than necessary, causing all the occupants of the room to flinch. Sam was sitting on a bench as Gaius smothered his arm in green goo. Bloody rags were strewn on the floor, and Merlin was laying white bandages out on the table. Sam’s arms were covered in claw marks, some still bleeding underneath the thick salve that Gaius was spreading over them.
“What the hell happened?!”
Merlin revised his earlier assessment and decided that contrary to the stories, Dean was definitely the scarier brother.
“I’m going to rip his lungs out!” Dean yelled, once Sam had recounted the fight.
“Please don’t,” Merlin said. “If you try to kill Arthur, then I’m going to have to kill you – and I really, really don’t want to do that.” And if his voice rose in a childish whine, that was neither here nor there – it had been a long night.
Dean paused and gave Merlin an odd look.
“He doesn’t mean it, Merlin,” Sam murmured softly. Gaius gave Merlin a concerned glance and continued to wrap Sam’s injured arms in bandages.
“Fine, yeah, no killing,” Dean nodded, showing his empty palms to Merlin, before pointing decisively. “But I will have words with the royal idiot. Strong words!”
Merlin deflated. Sam sighed.
“Dean, I already did and he already apologized,” Sam said.
“Please, can you just leave it,” Merlin begged. “It’ll hurt his pride, and he always assigns me more chores when his pride’s been hurt.”
“Dude, why do you even put up with him?” Dean asked, throwing his arms in the air.
“It’s my destiny,” Merlin shrugged.
“Yeah, well screw destiny!” Dean replied. “You don’t have to put up with this shit.”
Merlin stared at him. “You can’t screw destiny!”
“Why not?” Dean asked. “Me and Sammy do it all the time.”
“You- what- but- that’s-... that’s different,” Merlin stuttered.
“How?” Dean asked.
“It’s just a story,” Merlin answered.
“Funny, I look pretty real to me,” Dean rolled his eyes, but then he sighed. “Listen, it’s late, we’re tired. I don’t want to fight with you, Merlin. I won’t yell at your precious idiot of a king, okay? Unless he does something else monumentally stupid.”
“Thanks,” Merlin answered, a little stunned.
“How’d it go with the vamps?” Sam asked, as though Dean had just returned from meeting the monsters for tea.
“Got one of ‘em,” Dean said. “Gwaine and I will ride out tomorrow at noon to get the other. I think I know where it’s holed up.”
Merlin listened to Dean and Sam talk about the night’s events for a few more minutes before taking his leave. He still needed to do Arthur’s washing before the morning, and as he ran through the list of chores in his head, he also realized that he hadn’t seen to Arthur’s horse today either. Hopefully the stable hands had picked up the slack, but there was a good chance that Arthur would want to ride out with Gwaine and Dean the next day as well.