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Witching Hour

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Morgana had a plan, a genius one. All this time she’d been going about her attacks the wrong way. All this time she had sought out Emrys’ identity so she could face him, but what if she didn’t have to?   

What if she could take out Emrys without a direct attack?  

He lived in Camelot, or around it; he had to be close to the city or his easy of aiding her brother would be impeded. Which meant she needed to take out all the potential candidates at once. She needed to remove all witches and warlocks in the vicinity of the city.  

She had the perfect spell.  

A simple curse, but effective, very similar to the curse her sister had used all those years ago.  

A sleeping spell.  

She would send all the born-magic users into a deep sleep; one they would not wake from until they wasted away to their deaths. How would Emrys stop her if he was not awake to do so?  

It was the perfect plan, but far harder than it sounded. The spell took a lot of energy to cast and would need an anchor, and finding that anchor was a mission of its own.  

In the end her searches led her to a large crystal of smoky quartz with a gold bracket as a stand at its base. Inside the bracket were small indents containing haematite and black tourmaline.  

It would hold the spell well, but it needed to be placed within Camelot, at its core, so it would have the maximum reach. She would also be unable to cast the spell herself without being affected by it, so she needed to find someone to do it for her. Once it was cast, she’d be safe from it with the right protection, but she could not do it alone.  

Finding someone willing to cast a spell in the heart of Camelot was harder than she’d thought.  

Eventually though, it all came together.  

She felt the ripple through her magic, and knew her plan was underway.  

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Leon joined Merlin as he headed for the gate. A few months before, while gathering Gaius’ usual herbs, Merlin had been attacked by bandits out in the forests. He'd been missing for three awful days before they’d found him curled in on himself in a cave, blood staining his clothes. The large gash on his leg had stopped him being able to get home and the Knights had restrained themselves from gathering him up and never letting him leave the citadel ever again.  

Merlin had brushed it off as a onetime thing, complaining more about the lost herbs and Arthur’s bad mood than his injuries or the attack itself. He'd protested that he was usually fine and that he was only gathering herbs so it wasn’t really dangerous.  

Their King hadn’t been persuaded , and ever since the attack Merlin was to be joined by one of the Knights.  

It wasn’t a duty any of them minded, in fact they all rather enjoyed it, because Merlin was like their little brother and no-one was going to complain about being able to spend more time with him than they already did.  

Leon was even taking the time to learn the looks and names of the herbs, so he could try to help when they were gathering them. He wasn’t always right, but he was improving, and he actually found himself really enjoying his new way of helping the Kingdom without fighting. For the first time he found himself understanding Merlin and Gauis ’ points of view in the pacifist's way of aiding the Kingdom being equal to the warrior’s way.  

“You know you don’t have to come with me, Leon.”  

“On the contrary, Merlin, I do have to. Not only because our King ordered it, but because you’re my friend. I don’t want to see you harmed.”  

“I was attacked once. Once!”  

“Once was one time to many, Merlin,” he waved to the guards as they passed through the gates, “besides, Arthur is rather unbearable without you there to reign him in.”  

Merlin snorted softly, “I’m sure he’s not that bad.”  

“When you were missing, those three days, he was a nightmare. ‘Where’s Merlin?’ ‘I need Merlin.’ ‘Where is he, Leon?’ He drove me mad.”  

“Oh please, I’m sure our Queen did well enough to keep him tamed.”  

“She was worrying too.”  

“I was fine.”  

Leon personally thought fine was an overstatement, given they’d found him huddled and shivering, with blood leaking slowly from a large gash in his leg, closer to death than any of them ever wanted to see, but he wasn’t willing to try to argue it again. It wasn’t worth it.  

“So, what are we looking for today?”  

“Yarrow, hazel, nettle root and leaves, feverfew, ragweed, rosehip, patchouli. We're running low on quite a few things.”  

“Well we have all day.”  

For hours Leon carried the herb baskets, following Merlin around as he sought out all the plants he needed for Gaius. He had to keep an eye out for bandits, of course he did, but for the most part they chatted idly and enjoyed the day. It was a good day for collecting herbs, the first good day Camelot had seen in a while. For almost a fortnight there had been heavy fog, rain or high winds plaguing the land. It had been almost dark, even in the height of the day.  

But the morning had been bright, with a warm sun and a clear sky. There were a few fluffy white clouds high in the sky, but nothing to impede their journey. Even the winds had calmed.  

The air fell still.  

“Leon...”  

He whipped around to see Merlin swaying slightly, one hand rubbing his eyes.  

A bright flash of light cut through the sky, followed by a loud crack like thunder.  

The sky was clear.  

The air was too still.  

Silent.  

Merlin took a single step towards him, and went tumbling to the mossy earth below him.  

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Arthur was having an ordinary day. He woke to his beautiful wife and queen, laughed with Merlin as he got ready for the day, then made his way down to the council chambers for the day's affairs. Merlin would not be joining him, instead collecting herbs with Sir Leon.   

There had been nothing out of the ordinary at all, until the storm started.  

He'd ignored it, of course, with nothing but a back-of-the-mind thought to Merlin and Leon caught out in it, but Camelot had been suffering a bout of bad weather, and the warm day they’d started with had been too good to be true.  

It had struck him as odd that there was no rain, but storms could carry for miles, so perhaps it was just far away. He turned his attention back to the tax reports.  

Until Sir Tristan had burst in, apologising for the interruption but stating they needed Gaius as a matter of urgency .  

Arthur ended the meeting there and then, the feeling in his gut no longer something he could ignore, and joined them on their way to Gaius’ chambers. A mother stood with her daughter unconscious in her arms.  

He hadn’t understood what was so urgent, until he saw a father with a teenage boy in a similar state, and two guards stretchering an old woman into the corridor. Following them were more people asking for help, brining family members.  

It was an epidemic .  

More and more people were coming forwards with friends or family members who had fallen and not woken up.  

Fallen when the lighting flashed and thunder peeled.  

It was no storm; it was a curse.