Merlin isn't mine, and never shall be.
Adela had always admired the prowess of Camelot from the time she was a little girl. Her family had thought it odd but paid it little attention. After all, as a five year old, how was she to understand the the fear in her parents' eyes at the sight of the great kingdom? How was she to comprehend the simple truth of its views on all magical beings. How was she to know how dangerous it would be for her to even set foot past its looming walls?
It was quite simple, really.
She simply couldn't understand. At least until now, that is.
The seventeen year old mindlessly began working on her daily chores, thinking back to the execution set earlier that morning. Her stomach churned as she thought of the poor man.
Killed for the simple use of magic.
Adela wondered for probably the thousandth time, what her family would think if they knew she were working as a servant in Camelot of all places. No doubt her mother would faint with worry. After all, this mighty kingdom was where people like her were brought to die.
Adela could only thank the stars that her magic was weak enough to not flare up at inopportune moments. King Uther wouldn't hesitate to have her head.
"Adela!" Called an agitated voice to her left, Edith the head cook. "We're running low on parsnips!"
The young woman jumped, looking over at the head cook who tossed her a sack of coins.
"Go fetch a bustle from the market."
"Yes ma'am." She replied fumbling with the flying pouch as it hit her outstretched hands. She grimaced as at the sight of it almost slipping between her fingers and falling into the boiling potatoes.
Edith pinched the bridge of her nose.
"And be careful, will ya?! I won't be giv'n out anymore if you lose it."
Adela sent a cheeky smile to the head cook before darting from the sweltering kitchen.
Being their errand girl did have its perks.
Adela hummed under her breath, carefully holding the bustle of parsnips in her arms. The town was slight with excitement despite the gruesome execution earlier that day. She supposed it all had to do with the upcoming arrival of Lady Helen.
The noble was famous throughout all of the surrounding kingdoms for having the looks and voice of an angel. It was something she couldn't help but feel envy over.
Riches... beauty... A gorgeous talent... It was something a commoner like herself always dreamed of but never dared to hope for.
Honestly, a bumbling servant girl like herself had very little prospects to begin with. She understood that she'd live with little money, her sub-par looks, and if she was lucky, maybe even a man to love. And she was fine with that. Adela knew that her life would be as happy as any noble, just in a different sort of way.
So it was with a grin that she sung out in her head, 'Parsnips, parsnips, lots and lots of parsnips!'
She never expected anyone to answer back.
Adela froze, turning to see if anyone was behind her. The voice sounded out in her mind as if someone were standing right next to her, whispering into her ear.
Yet the area she was walking through was surprisingly sparse.
If there wasn't- Adela's eyes widened as a second idea popped up into her head, something she hadn't done for years.
'Er... Hello?' She hesitantly called into her mind, feeling quite foolish. It's not like any other Druids would be foolish enough to come here. Sure, they were a peaceful people, but that didn't make the lot of them stupid.
But then again, she was staying here, so...
'How are you doing that?' The voice replied. It was male, that much Adela could tell. And it was very very uncertain, almost panicky.
'You're not Druid, are you?' She tried to question lightly, biting her lip as she glanced around her as if Uther would sprout up from the shadows screaming "Sorceress!".
Honestly, it was a valid concern.
'No, I'm not.' The voice answered. 'Are you?'
Adela chose not to answer that, cautiously picking her pace up once more.
'Er- Are you still there?'
'Who are you?' She replied, trying to cut off that line of conversation. The last thing she needed was a rumor to be spread around about a Druid hiding away in the castle. Who knew what this man, boy, maybe even a child (no, not a child, his voice was far too deep) would blurt out to his friends.
The response was hesitant, yet very guarded.
'I don't think I want to tell you. And I'll take that pause as a yes. You are a Druid.'
Adela struggled to keep a straight face as she passed through the castle's main courtyard, making a beeline towards the kitchens.
'What, planning on ratting me out to his highness?' She shot back, stomach churning with nerves. 'Have him and his Knights running around searching for some Druid girl?'
'Are you mad?' He questioned incredulously in her mind. She could sense a sliver of humor weaving through his words. 'Can you imagine how that conversation would go? 'Yes sire, I believe there's a Druid hidden somewhere in the castle. How do I know? Oh, because I have magic and have been talking to her in my head for the past few minutes!'
Adela grudgingly chuckled at the thought.
'Right... So you really like parsnips, yeah?'
Adela felt her face burn as she realized what he was referring to.
'I-they- I was getting parsnips for tonight's feast!'
'Huh, so you work in the king's kitchens?'
Adela stumbled at his words.
'I didn't- I mean- you weren't supposed to' she fumbled to find something to say before sighing. 'Yes.'
She hesitated before adding, 'My name is Adela.'
'How do I know you aren't lying to me.' He shot back lightly.
Adela's lips twitched.
'You don't.' Was all she said as she continued her way through the castle. 'And what shall I call you?'
She could almost hear the boy shrug through their mental link. There were load of names she could choose from. Maybe something daring and adventurous, or cool and regal sounding. But, one name stood out from all the others, a name her mother used to tell stories about before she fell asleep each night.
'How about Emrys?'
The next time Adela heard from Emrys, he was the actual one to contact her. Not through her singing some stupid song about a vegetable.
'Prince Arthur's a big-headed prat. It's a miracle he can even stand upright, with such an inflated ego like that.' He grumbled one day.
Adela couldn't hold back the snort of laughter at the jibe. All the surrounding servants glanced at her apprehensively as she ducked her head, face bright red.
'He's a royal prat, mind you.' She reminded him, trying to focus on her work of slicing up the potatoes. 'He'll lock you up in the dungeons if he catches you saying that.'
'Already did that.'
'Yeah, first day and everything.'
'What did you do?'
'I sincerely doubt that.'
Emrys' laughter echoed in her head for quite some time after that.
'Did you see it?' Adela asked somberly, watching a castle guard dump a bucket of water on the stone platform, as if washing away the blood would wash away the atrocities that occurred there.
'See what?' He replied almost immediately.
It took Emrys a few moments to reply.
'No, I'm cleaning his Royal Prattness' stables. It's nearly as bad as washing his socks.' He joked, trying to lighten the mood.
Had it been any other day, Adela would have been thrilled at the clues to his identity he'd just blatantly thrown out there.
But Adela merely hummed in acknowledgement, steadily gazing at the space the body had occupied minutes before. She wondered what they did with the sorcerers' remains after an execution.
'But you were there, weren't you.'
'I knew her.' Adela said finally looking away. 'Not personally, but I'd seen her in the market a few times. She's the one that sold me the parsnips.'
'Parsnips, parsnips, lots and lots of parsnips.' He mimicked a bit too enthusiastically.
Adela chuckled exasperatedly under her breath.
It was minutes of silence later that the young woman pushed away from the wall, thinking that their conversation was over. She skirted along the edge of the courtyard, wandering down the lower levels of the castle in some sort of daze until she heard Emrys voice in her ears once more.
'What's keeping you here?'
Adela halted in her steps, tilting her head to the side ever so slightly.
'I've always admired Camelot since I was young.' She stated. 'It was big and beautiful and... I think that it has the potential to be something wonderful. Do you understand what I mean?'
'Unfortunately, I do.' His voice dropped to a murmur.'Arthur will make a great King one day. You know, once his head deflates just a little bit.'
'You say that like it's possible.' She joked.
'Don't worry, I'm on it.'
Adela glanced up from the potatoes she was currently mashing, finding a young man staring at her intently.
It took all her willpower not to shy away from him. He was quite attractive, now that she thought of it, nothing like prince Arthur with his regal looks. But there was a gleam in his blue eyes that made her feel... Lighter all of a sudden.
"Yeah?" She asked, hoping that her face wasn't beet red.
"I need extra potatoes for his royal highness and ah-Edith?-said that I should come to you. Well no, she sort of pointed in this general direction."
It was then she noticed the empty bowl in his hands.
"Right," she said, plucking the bowl from his fingers, "one moment."
Adela turned her back to the young man, pondering over his sarcastic use of the words 'his royal highness' as she shoveled some of the mashed mess she'd been making into the bowl. She'd hazard a guess that the prince had somehow managed to annoy the servant in some way. Odd...
"Here you go." She turned around, causing the young man, who'd taken to rocking on his heels while taking in the general area, to jump.
"Ah, right, thank you." He grinned sheepishly. "now I can get that big ol' prat off my back for two seconds."
He spun in his heel, walking leisurely out of the kitchens, looking to be in no hurry at all. Had he looked back, he might have paused at the look of shock that crossed Adela's face.
Prat. He'd called Prince Arthur a prat.
'Prince Arthur's a big-headed prat.'
'No, I'm cleaning his royal pratness' stables.'
Adela was running to the other side of the kitchen before she knew what she was doing.
"Edith!" She called breathlessly, catching the older woman by surprise.
"My," she started, clutching at her heart. "What are you tryin' to do, missy? Strike me dead?"
Adela ignored the head cook, waving her hands impatiently.
"Who was that young man?" She questioned maybe a bit too forcefully. "The one who asked for potatoes."
Edith grinned slyly at the girl.
"Why, someone caught yer attention?"
If Adela's face wasn't red before. It surely was now.
"Just answered the question." She hissed.
Edith laughed heartily.
"Oh calm yourself. That was Merlin, the prince's manservant." She said with a wicked gleam in her eyes. "He looks mighty agreeable, doesn't he."
Adela couldn't sleep that night as she laid in her cot in the servants living quarters, eyes wide and staring at the dark ceiling.
Could that boy actually be Emrys?
She'd never heard of anyone with the gall to call the crowned Prince of Camelot a prat out loud, no matter their thoughts on the matter. Everyone knew that it was a one way ticket to the dungeons, or even the stocks, if they were lucky. It was only Emrys, and apparently this Merlin as well.
Although, if she were being honest with herself, she really wouldn't mind if the prince's manservant was her elusive Emrys.
Adela groaned, throwing her arms over her head in exasperation.
She only thought that because she somehow found that stick of a boy attractive. Had it been some random normal bloke, she'd have let it go easily, saving herself the trouble of lying to his face for years until he eventually realized her origins. But now that she realized there was a chance he could have magic himself, the idea of being with him was... Appealing.
That's just what it was, an idea, a fantasy. She didn't know this Emrys any more than he knew her. Any so called 'feelings' would be superficial at this point.
Did that make her superficial?
She hoped not.
'Emrys?' Adela called, a bit hesitantly, attempting to clear her mind of any stray thoughts. 'Are you awake?'
The mumbled reply she got back was enough of an answer.
'Sorry, never mind. Er... Goodnight.'
She laid in silence for almost a minute when she heard his reply, so quiet that Adela wondered if she'd imagined it at first.
'Am I allowed to know what your actual name is, or am I going to have to keep calling you Emrys for the rest of my life?' Adela tried asking nonchalantly one day, as if she were merely discussing the weather.
The spluttering she heard in response told her it hadn't worked.
'Why do you want to know?' He replied cautiously. 'Its not like it's important.'
'I dunno. Maybe I'd just like to know who I'm talking to.'
Emrys replied a few moments later, voice far quieter than before.
But the underlying message was clear.
Let me keep this secret.
Adela didn't ask again.
'Why is the King having the castle searched for sorcerers?' Adela asked tensely, as the Knights searched the kitchen. She kept her head bowed, focusing on slicing the pile of apples in front of her.
Emrys reply was quick, almost too quick.
'I dunno. Maybe he's having a bad day?'
Had she not been keenly aware of the Knights behind her, she would have laughed.
'They're searching the kitchens right now. No doubt they'll be heading to our quarters next.'
'You don't have, you know random magical items lying around, right?' He asked, sounding uneasy.
Adela scoffed in her head.
'Of course not.' She retorted lightly. 'I'm not that stu- wait, do you?'
His reply nearly caused her to accidentally slice her finger from surprise as he muttered out something about a book of spells.
'Please tell me that book is hidden somewhere sa-'
Her thoughts were cut off as a strong hand came down on her shoulder.
Adela started, knife falling to the table with a small clatter.
'What wrong?' Emrys asked in her mind.
She didn't bother to respond. Panic twisted in her stomach as she turned to glance over her shoulder.
A tall knight stood behind her, grim faced.
'Adela?' His voice sounded tense now.
"Can I help you?" Adela asked, voice wavering ever so slightly. She prayed he wouldn't notice.
'What's going on?' Emrys persisted, voice pounding in her ears.
The knight seemed to be considering something, glancing towards the others scouring through the cabinets, shifting pots and pans noisily.
Adela blamed the nerves of the situation that caused her to say what she did next.
'Will you shut up for one second, Merlin! I need to concentrate.'
Her head went deathly silent.
Adela's stomach dropped as she realized what she just said.
'I didn't- I meant. Emrys, that's your name.' She tried to salvage the situation, before giving up. What's done is done. 'I mean... Are you really Merlin?'
"Can I have an apple?" A gruff voice said, interrupting the newest wave of anxiety that threatened to overtake her.
Adela blinked, staring dumbly at the imposing knight of Camelot.
He wanted an apple?
The knight scratched the back of his head, glancing to the side awkwardly.
"We've been at this all day." He attempted to explain. "The lot of us are a bit famished."
As if to back up his statement, his stomach growled quite noticeably.
Adela shook herself from her slight daze, pasting a smile to her face as she handed the thankful knight an apple.
She brushed off his thanks and turned back to her work, continuing to slice the apples with shaky hands.
She didn't try to talk to him again until later that night, right before she fell asleep.
'I won't tell a soul.' She whispered, blinking sluggishly as she waited for a reply.
It never came.
Over the next few weeks Adela didn't hear from Merlin, or Emrys, or whoever the hell had been gabbing off in her head for the past month. And the absence left her far lonelier than she would have liked.
Adela threw herself into her work, so much so that Edith was glowing with happiness from the increased efficiency in which she was getting food made.
"Out with the old and in with the new, eh?" She'd tease her, while Adela would only smile.
There were a rare few times when she'd see him in the kitchens. He looked tense, on guard. Her heart sank as she realized having a complete and utter stranger know your life secret was probably maddening. Especially if one slip of her tongue could cause his death.
She knew that for her, having her magic kept a secret was strange, seeing as she'd grown up with people who not only encouraged the subject, but shared the talent itself. She doubted that Merlin had that luxury. For him, being non-Druid, he'd have to spend his entire life keeping a secret.
Keep quiet or die.
Adela realized that day that in a way, she held Merlin's fate in the palm of her hands.
So maybe that's why she gave up trying to talk to him. She'd let him go.
That was the right thing to do, right?
Adela really couldn't tell.
A month after Adela made her resolve, she caught sight of him again. He was walking into the kitchen with far more ease. And the lightness in his face nearly tore her heart out.
So when he came over asking for more potatoes, she didn't say a word.
She didn't speak, didn't look him in the eye as she focused on keeping her hands from shaking as his fingers brushed against hers while passing the bowl.
Adela handed the bowl to the manservant and simply turned back to work.
She didn't relax until the sound of his footsteps faded away.
'I'm sorry.' Emrys voice came one day.
Adela didn't know what to do, what to say for fear of messing it up once more.
So she said nothing.
Adela never thought that Edith's request for her to pick herbs would fix everything, in the end.
She strode through the forest, lightly swinging the wicker basket in her hands to and fro with each step. It was incredibly peaceful that day. The air seemed to hum as the chilled autumn breeze caused orange and red leaves to flutter to the ground like rain.
Adela watched with wide eyes, a lazy smile creeping onto her face.
Autumn had always been her favorite season.
The young woman set her half-filled basket to the ground, laughing as a particularly strong gust shook the trees overhead, causing more leaves to rain down.
Adela threw out her arms, spinning and twirling and dancing from spot to spot as if she was a leaf.
She closed her eyes imagining dancing in the air, feeling absolutely weightless. And for a moment, she really did.
But then a snarl ripped through the silence.
Adela froze, stiffly turning towards the source. For a moment, all she could take in were its eyes, those sharp eyes which locked onto her own. Her heart pounded at the wild look in the beast's gaze, one that told her to start running.
Adela spun on her heel, hitching her skirt and sprinting through the trees as fast as her feet could carry her. Her mind muddled with fear as she heard the pounding of paws roared in her ears. She didn't know what to do, how to stop this thing.
But trees whipping past in her peripheries gave her an idea to buy her some time.
Adela launched herself at the nearest tree, clawing at its branches in an effort to pull herself out of the beast's reach. Her hand caught the branch nearest to her and immediately, her feet braced themselves against the trunk as she began to clamber up the tree.
If she'd had another three seconds, she would have made it too.
Adela let out a piercing scream as large claws caught the skirt of her dress, pulling her down effortlessly. She fell to the ground in a heap and tried to scramble backwards. She didn't want to die, not like this.
This wasn't how any of this was supposed to end.
The claws that pushed her flat on her back, digging into her shoulders, said otherwise.
Adela's body fell limp from fear, blinking sluggishly at the monster above her. It was an enormous wolf, nearly the size of a horse. She watched as it eyed her, the bloodlust making her shiver.
'I don't want to die.' She called out in her mind shakily. 'Not like this.'
The beast roared, rearing back its head as it prepared to go for the kill.
And Adela exploded.
A wave of magic, so raw, so uncontained, bursted from her body, sending the beast crashing back into a cluster of trees with a deafening crack.
Adela scrambled to her feet, knees shaking so badly that she could barely stand. Her vision wavered, black spots invading her sight.
She didn't hear the insistent yelling inside her head.
Blood roared in her ears as she watched the beast pick itself up, shaking its head as if its ears were filled with water.
But then its mind seemed to clear and the beast's gaze turned to her once more.
'I'm so tired.' She whispered in her mind, not feeling the strength to move.
She could barely even stand.
Was this how she was going to go, not by old age or even one of Uther's sorcerer hunts, but out in the woods where no one would find her body? Maybe Edith would grow worried… no, it was more likely that she'd be upset, thinking that she was slacking off again.
A choked sob slipped through Adela's lips.
If only she knew.
So it was with tense shoulders and a quivering lip that Adela waited for the beast to spring once more, bracing herself for the impending pain.
'I'm sorry.' She called out to Emrys.
The answer she'd expected was not a sharp crack and a strangled yelp.
Adela opened her eyes as a puff of wind blew her hair back, mind trying to comprehend the scene in front of her. The beast was trapped under a newly fallen tree, limp and unmoving.
It felt like days before she could move again.
She placed one foot behind her, intently keeping her eyes on the monstrous wolf.
It was dead.
Adela let out a breath as any strength she had left in her body fled. Her vision titled and for a moment, she grimaced at the impending collision with the forest floor.
But a pair of arms caught her, guiding her numb body to the floor with care.
Adela barely had a moment to realize that the tree hadn't naturally just fallen over, eyes snapping upward as her vision began to dim.
Her eyes met a familiar blue pair that made her feel lighter in a moment. So much lighter than she'd felt in weeks. She slumped against the young man tiredly.
It took a total of two seconds after she woke for Adela to realize she'd been taken to the court physician.
She'd ended up there quite a few times over the past few years she'd stayed in Camelot, maybe once every few months. The last time she'd been there was... Well a few weeks before the whole 'mind buddy' thing began with Merlin.
Adela sighed from her position on the cot she'd been set out on, pushing herself into a sitting position. She almost immediately regretted it.
Her limbs were sore, her shoulders burning, and her head... Bloody hell, it felt like someone had taken a mace to it.
Adela glanced down at her arms, peppered with small scratches here and there, but nothing life threatening. It wasn't until her eyes moved upward that she cringed.
It seemed that wolf had done more damage to her than she thought.
She could see the bandages plastered to the tops of her shoulders, red marring the fabric of her sleeves. The young woman shivered as the memory of what had happened flashed in her mind.
Claws tearing her down from the tree, digging into her shoulders as it held her down, gaze so feral, so hungry-
"Are you alright?"
Adela flinched, twisting to see Merlin sitting on the steps of the stairs, watching her with a concerned gaze.
It took a few moments for Adela to answer his question, mind racing in an attempt to put everything together.
It was Merlin who'd saved her. Merlin who'd knocked the tree down onto the beast.
"Yeah." She murmured, turning to face forward. "Thank you for helping me. That was you, wasn't it?"
Merlin's gaze was unwavering, she could feel his stare boring into the side of her head.
"What would you say if I told you that Prince Arthur was a prat?"
Adela smiled, gaze flickering to her hands folded in her lap. Hope welled up within her.
"He's a royal prat, mind you." She echoed from all that time ago.
Her eyes flickered to Merlin once more, catching that familiar glint in his eyes.
"I don't think we've been properly introduced." He said, grinning cheekily. "I'm Merlin."
The young woman held his gaze, inwardly wonder struck at the sudden weight that seemed to lift off her lungs.
"And I'm Adela."
It's not going to be a super long fic. Maybe 3 or 4 chapters at most. I just didn't see many OC/Merlin fics and thought I'd attempt to remedy that. :)