I do not own either Merlin or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, they both belong to their respective creators and I have no financial or legal interest.
For anyone who does not know, Merlin is a BBC TV show based (somewhat loosely) on Arthurian legend, the 4th season is currently airing and long may it continue. Currently this fic does not have spoilers and I have not nailed down its exact place in the Merlin timeline. It is however set at least two years after the final Buffy the Vampire Slayer series.
Please note, I am Scottish so I will not be using American spellings unless my spell checker has a tantrum.
I hope you enjoy the prologue and first chapter, reviews are always welcome.
The Lady Willow
Prologue - Camelot
Morgana tossed and turned in her sleep, small sounds of distress escaped her lips and her face contorted in fear.
Her dream was vivid, an old woman stood at a fire mumbling under her breath in the centre of a perfectly circular clearing in the forest, the ground around her was brown and dead and the trees around the edge seemed diseased and malformed. Five mounds of earth spread outwards like the points of a star and it did not escape the Lady that they were the size and shape of graves.
Suddenly the woman threw her arms up and the fire flared high into night, ‘Rise my sisters, rise and show this blasphemous Kingdom and its forsaken King the power of the Old Religion!’ Her laughter rose with the flames into the dark and a hand broke through the grave dirt clawing at the air.
Morgana woke with a scream and the morning saw her scared and tired asking Gaius for yet another sleeping potion.
As Willow stood alone in some random forest surrounded by bandits she realised that this was her comeuppance for letting Andrew to plan their Christmas/Hanukkah/Solstice party.
~ 12 Hours Earlier ~
Willow walked into the training hall at Slayer Central and found it had been totally transformed into ye olde feasting hall, complete with huge fire place and banquet table covered in festive decorations and laden with mountains of food. All the Slayers, Witches and various Watchers were dressed in the Medieval outfits which had appeared in their rooms the night before as if by magic, and in fact Willow knew it had been magic because Andrew had recruited three of her young witches to help create his masterpiece.
She had to admit she was impressed, if she was honest Andrew had been appointed to the position of Chief Organiser mostly to get him out of the way for a while. It had worked a treat, he’d spent his first week watching every medieval film and TV series he could find to get everything just right and the following three weeks arranging every last detail. So even though he had now been speaking in period English non stop for a month, that could be overlooked given the phenomenal amount of effort he put into making it a spectacular party.
Wandering around she stopped to chat and dance with various groups in the hall. Her good mood was brought down for a while as she broke up an argument between two of the older Slayers, but she quickly regained her happiness as she spotted Clem chatting to Xander, the slightly tipsy demon giving her a big hug as soon as he saw her and grinning as he tried to convince her to attend his next kitten poker tournament.
She noticed that some of the newer Slayers looked a little wary around the various non-human guests and Willow thought that she would have to remember to commend Andrew on inviting them, it was a great opportunity for the Slayers to learn that non-human didn’t necessarily mean evil.
She finally made her way over to the host of the evening, bracing herself for an onslaught of middle English, but found him to drunk to manage anything but his native American English and his smile was splitting his face under the weight of complements he had been receiving all night.
‘Thank you Andrew,’ she smiled sincerely, ‘this is amazing, which of the girls enchanted the ceiling?’
‘Oh, that was Kelly,' he paused to hiccup, 'I know technically Hogwarts isn’t medieval but it’s just so cool to see the sky on the inside.’ He bounced on the balls of his feet with barely suppressed excitement and half his glass of wine flew onto the floor. ‘And you look so lovely, my lovely, witchy Willow-ness, I knew the green gown would be perfect.’ He looked around wistfully, ‘I only wish you were a real lady of the court, you look so beautiful, I bet you’d love it.’
‘Why what an excellent idea!’ a deep voice came from behind Willow and she turned slowly feeling her stomach drop as she knew who it was without looking.
‘D’Hoffryn,’ she nodded to him in greeting desperately replaying Andrews words and confirming that the ‘W’ word had definitely had a prominent position. ‘Andrew didn’t really mean ‘wish’ he’s just excited, and it’s Christmas, and Hanukkah, and Solstice, I’m sure you can find it in your heart to overlook this just this one time, right?’
The vengeance demon smiled in a way that was not comforting in the slightest, ‘Willow, my favourite eviscerator of men, you wound me,’ Willow felt herself grow a little calmer as in the word of vengeance that was what passed for a complement but it was not to be, ‘how could you think I would not grant the wish of our most gracious host, what kind of thanks would that be for such a wonderful evening.’
Willow looked pleadingly to Andrew who was completely oblivious to the panic he had caused and had moved on to playing with the kitten Clem had smuggled into the hall in his pocket.
‘Don’t look so worried Willow, I’m not going to just drop you into another dimension where you’d be completely helpless.’ D’Hoffryn smiled that unsettling smile again. ‘Here, have a sword,’ he pulled a short sword complete with scabbard and belt from thin air and handed it to Willow who was now struggling to try to fight the magic she felt gathering around her.
The last thing she saw of Slayer Central was Buffy running towards D’Hoffryn, Xander yelling at Andrew for inviting a Vengeance Demon to the party and D’Hoffryn waving and advising her in a casual way, ‘I wouldn't let anyone see you do magic, my dear.’ Then nothing.
She sprung back into awareness with no idea of how much time had passed, she was lying in a pile of leaves where she seemed to have ‘landed’ for lack of a better word. She dragged herself upright and found she was in a small clearing surrounded by nothing but trees. She stood and did her best to brush the leaves and dirt off her dress with her hands before giving up and going to sit on a rock to think about her situation.
She tried to work out where she was and how to get back by studying the left over magic from her transportation but it was dispersing too fast and the magic of the Wish was too different from her own elemental powers for her to unravel before it disappeared.
So giving up on finding a fast way home she did a quick inventory.
First she had the sword D’Hoffryn had so graciously given her (even her mental voice oozed with sarcasm). She studied it for a moment, the quality of the craftsmanship was obviously good and there was some kind of crest on the pommel. She gave it a couple of swings to test the balance before putting it back in the scabbard and belting it around her waist, glad to have some form of non-magical defence even though she would die before ever saying that to the aforementioned demon. She knew how to handle the sword as she had been forced into regular practices in martial arts and weapons with the rest of the witches and Watchers, Giles insisted that if they were going to go into the field with the Slayers then they should have some idea of what they were doing.
She also had her dress which was in a decent state of repair even if it was a bit dirty and although it was only green gauze on the outside there was a linen layer beneath and a full length slip which made it a little warmer. She momentarily wished that her sleeves were more substantial than the single layer of gauze and that she was wearing more sensible shoes than her open toed sandals, but she couldn’t have everything and at least they weren't the killer heels Buffy had opted for that night.
She didn’t have any money, but she did have her best gold and emerald jewellery set on, a ring, earrings and a necklace, so in a pinch she could probably sell them even though she really didn’t want to since they were the nicest things she owned. They had been come from the Watchers Council vaults when they finally gained access after a year of legal wrangling and unweaving complex protective enchantments. Giles had felt that they had all given so much to the cause that they deserved something in return and she’d picked the jewels. Normally she would have been too modest to even think of taking such extravagant items but they had called to her, they had a faint aura of white magic that had been completely irresistible to the red haired witch.
She had a small cloth bag were she kept her mobile (no service), a lip gloss, a pack of chewing gum, a bag of toffees, 2 bars of Galaxy chocolate, a brush, 3 pens (because she always lost them), a mirror and some heavy duty painkillers which she had meant to put back in the medicine cupboard about two weeks ago but kept forgetting. All in all nothing terribly helpful to her predicament.
She sighed and contemplated her situation, the wish had been for her to be a real lady of the court, that gave D’Hoffryn a lot of room to work with, which court, what time period, and did he mention another dimension. She paused as she remembered this and realised that there was very little point trying to work this out sitting in a forest in the middle of nowhere. He had told her to be careful with who saw her use magic and she figured that she would follow this advice for the moment as Goddess knew she had no other clues to go on.
She did know one thing, she was never letting Andrew have control of a guest list again, who in their right mind invites a vengeance demon to a Christmas party?
She stood and glanced around to check she was still alone before doing a quick spell to find out what direction would lead her to people, she felt that there was a decent sized town or city to the north (at least she thought it was north), unfortunately she also realised that she was surrounded, she hadn’t heard or seen anyone yet but there were five life signs in a rough circle around her and two more a little further away to her right who may or may not belong to the same group.
The first man broke from the tree line and she since she thought surrounding someone was a threatening move she drew the sword and dropped into a ready position, sparing another moment to curse Andrew. The man saw her drawn sword and paused, clearly waiting for his companions to get into position. Soon all five were visible and pointing bows and swords in her direction. They were clearly hostile, their clothing was dirty and a bit ragged in shades of brown and grey, they practically radiated anger and greed. ‘Bandits’ she labelled them, thinking cheerfully that at least they were human.
One of the men started slowly towards her and stopped about half way across the open space. ‘My Lady,’ he bowed, ‘we do not wish to harm you, put down your weapon and we’ll escort to your destination, a pretty thing like you shouldn’t be out in the woods, it could be dangerous.’ He nodded to himself, pleased at his impersonation of manners and wisdom which were only slightly spoiled by the fact that at least two of his companions were sniggering.
‘Thank you for your courtesy,' she tried to speak like a character from one of those films Andrew had played over and over again, 'but I wouldn’t like to put you out. I think I will keep my sword and escort myself if you would be so kind as to let me pass.’ She did a vague impression of a curtsy and kept herself ready for the attack she knew would come eventually.
‘Well you see my Lady, we can’t just allow you to go wandering off, my conscience would never recover,’ another snigger from her left, ‘and there is the matter of the toll that needs to be paid for crossing our land.’
‘Ah I see, my apologies, how could I not have recognised that you are clearly a powerful land owner,’ sarcasm dripped from her, ‘how much would this toll be exactly?’ She was nervous and trying to keep them talking, she didn’t want to take them all on at once and she was concerned about having to dodge arrows, her best hope was to make them angry and hope that they would get reckless.
‘Enough of this,’ one of the men at the trees yelled and began to aim his bow.
‘No!’ the man who’d been doing the talking called back, ‘we want her alive, we can get a pretty penny for her if we take her to Cenred’s kingdom. Let’s just grab her.’
Suddenly they were all running towards her, she reacted quickly closing the gap with the leader to try to reduce their numbers. She drew on every bit of sword training she’d ever received and found that apparently her education had been at least half decent as she felt her blade bite into his side as she dodged his swing.
Merlin was contemplating why he was once again creeping around the forest on a hunt, it wasn't as if Arthur didn't know that he wasn't cut out for this sort of thing. His mind was so busy pondering this that he forgot to look where he was going and he tripped over a branch hidden by some ferns. Prince Arthur looked at him exasperated and opened his mouth to comment but paused and held up his hand for silence, his expression turning to one of intense concentration.
He motioned to Merlin giving his servant a complex set of hand signals that went straight over his head. Merlin honestly wondered if his Lord would one day get the hint and either teach him the stupid signals or stop expecting him to mystically develop spontaneous understanding, finally he just shrugged, randomly wiggled his fingers back and began to head in the direction Arthur was facing.
The Prince rolled his eyes but quickly focussed on moving towards the disturbance and after a minute of creeping through the forest Merlin heard the voices that had obviously caught the Princes attention.
At first he could just hear men were yelling and was vaguely surprised when he realised a female voice was calling back, he couldn't make out the words but the tone was clearly derisory.
The men's voices sounded again and he heard something about 'Cendred' and then trees began to thin out around Merlin and Arthur and they could see men running from all around a clearing towards a single woman. Merlin glanced at Arthur to see if he could get away with doing a spell without getting caught but then saw that the woman had stepped forward to meet the first man and neatly dodged his swinging sword and buried her own blade into his side in one smooth move. Clearly she had some training with a sword.
It had taken barely seconds for this to occur and then Arthur was running with Merlin close on his heels, yelling for them to stop in the name of Camelot, the bandits, as they obviously were bandits, had circled the Lady and in a moment one was attacking from behind only to be met and quickly disposed of in a flash of steel. The others, distracted by the newcomers and discouraged by the deaths of their comrades broke and fled.
Arthur slowed and approached the woman cautiously, Merlin on the other hand, slid on a patch of mud and fell flat on his face, still sliding until coming to a gentle rest at the feet of the mysterious Lady.
A pale, slender hand appeared in his field of vision and she helped him to his feet, her mouth twitching slightly with a clear effort not to laugh at his predicament.
'I thank you for your aid, kind sirs' she spoke with a strange accent and as if she was phrasing her words very carefully. 'My name is Willow.'
Arthur bowed gallantly as she was clearly a noblewoman, 'I am glad we were able to be of service to you Lady Willow, I am Prince Arthur Pendragon of Camelot, and this clumsy idiot is my servant Merlin.'
Merlin thought he saw a hint of surprise and recognition as Arthur introduced them but that thought fled as her expression turned to one of shock and suddenly there was an arrow head protruding from her shoulder, a bloom of red instantly forming around it. Merlin looked behind her and caught a glimpse of one of the bandits shouldering a bow and disappearing into the forest as the Lady crumpled gracelessly to the ground,. Neither the Prince or his servant were fast enough to catch her and there was a sickening 'crack' as her head hit an unfortunately placed rock.
They were both at her side in a second, she was unconscious which was probably just as well. The arrow had missed her heart and an arrow in the shoulder was never fun but Merlin had spent enough time as assistant to the court physician, Gaius to know that the head wound might be the worse of the two injuries and he gently lifted her head to inspect the damage and frowned as he saw blood slowly pooling on the forest floor and darkening her hair.
'Arthur, go and get the horses. Hurry!' The Prince looked at Merlin for a moment but clearly decided that now was not the time to bring him to task for ordering him around.
The horses had been left with a guard back on the road a short distance away and Arthur was soon back helping Merlin lift the unconscious noble onto a horse and since they couldn't risk her being jolted more than necessary, they began the walk back to Camelot after sending the guard ahead to warn Gaius to expect them.
The physician met them at the gate of the castle and hurried them up to a hastily prepared guest bedroom, Arthur carrying the redhead carefully the whole way as Gaius sent Merlin for supplies.
~End Chapter 1~