I know that these are supposed to be Valentine's Day stories, and they should be cute and fluffy, but I decided to add a sad story to the mix.
There is a scene where Percival does something that may be perceived as cowardly, but it wasn't. He wasn't running away, he was trying to save his wife - two very different things.
So here it is, Valentine's Day Week one-shot 6/7! Only one more to go!
Disclaimer: I do not own Merlin or any characters of the show. All rights to their respective owners.
Sophia laughed her gorgeous laugh, where she threw her head back and laughed much louder than any girl her size should have been able to. As always when she laughed, Percival felt his heart melt.
Their house was small for a family of their size, but Percival never cared. His brothers - all six of them - never seemed to mind either.
That night, the fourteen of them (the seven brothers and their wives) were gathered in the center of the room, playing a game. It was cramped, and they had to sit shoulder to shoulder, but it was entertainment during another thunderstorm that kept them inside.
And anything that made Sophia laugh like that was fine by Percival.
Thunder crashed, and Brenna glanced up at the ceiling, checking for leaks. Percival rolled his eyes - he and Varnin had fixed that problem days ago. Then again, Brenna had many good reasons to doubt their handiwork. After all, they had also fixed that problem two weeks ago, a month ago, and last year.
All in all, it was a joyful evening for their family, but nothing out of the ordinary. Haran and Douglas constantly pushed and shoved each other, Brenna threw whatever she could get her hands on at Garin, Cecilia and Sylvia giggled at everything, and Sophia laughed her heart out. Percival would have been content to stay there forever, but the knock ruined everything.
The knock itself wasn't out of the ordinary. Their house was at the edge of the village, with one wall almost in the river that marked the border. Most wanderers found their house first. Garin, as the oldest brother, answered the door and invited the stranger in.
The stranger, on the other hand, was completely out of the ordinary. His brown hair was stuck up all around his head, his face and chain mail were smeared, a sword bounced against his hip, a paper crunched in his hand, and his sleeve had a small blood stain. Despite of all this, he smiled the way Percival figured nobility did - as if he hadn't a care in the world.
"Hello," the stranger started. "I'm Lancelot." Sophia gave Percival a wide-eyed look, and he struggled not to laugh.
"Lancelot," Brenna replied. "What are you doing in Norfolk?"
"Is that where I am?" Lancelot asked. "I must have gotten turned around in the forest when the bandits attacked. I was on my way to Camelot, actually."
"Camelot?" Garin asked. "That's quite a ways."
"Well, I have a friend there who's in need of some help," Lancelot explained, holding up the paper.
"Well you're in no shape to be helping anyone," Brenna stated. "Come sit down. Percival, can you go grab Old Man Miller?"
On the way to Old Man Miller, Percival noticed smoke coming from the top of the mountain. It was odd. Not only was it pouring buckets down, but no one lived in those woods.
They were said to be cursed - if anyone slept there, destruction would be unavoidable. And didn't Lancelot say he had run into bandits?
Well, it wasn't like Norfolk had never fought off bandits. Besides, it was probably just some reckless boys testing their luck. Or maybe lightning hit a tree again (the village was well placed, so forest fires rarely reached the houses). Percival shook his head and kept going.
Old Man Miller was best described as the village everything. He led all the important decisions, judged crimes, taught children basic life skills like knocking people on the head with pieces of wood and fishing, and dealt with injuries.
When Percival knocked, he was settling a fight between two neighbors - some property dispute between two neighbors. Old Man Miller quickly ended the discussion upon seeing Percival.
"We have another wanderer that needs you," Percival stated.
"Of course," Old Man Miller replied.
Old Man Miller, despite being an old man, hobbled quickly through the village and soon he was tending Lancelot's wounds.
Lancelot claimed he wasn't injured that badly, but didn't fight the help and soon had is arm wrapped up like those headscarves things Cecilia liked to wear. He graciously accepted some food, but argued against spending the night there. He had to keep going, he insisted, Brenna was also insistent that no one should travel at night, in the dark, during a storm like this.
The argument was never resolved, because the night then descended into chaos.
Apparently the smoke was something to worry about, because now Norfolk was overrun. And not by bandits either.
Lancelot was the only person in the entire village was a real weapon, but Percival and his brothers were fine with hitting the invaders with pieces of wood. It was, after all, the Norfolk people's specialty. Brenna found a broom to whack people with, Old Man Miller smacked soldiers with his cane, and Sophia made up for the lack of weapon by screaming like a maniac at the top of her lungs. Soldiers swerved around her like a mad woman (which, as her husband, Percival knew very well she was).
With lots of head whacking, Percival made his way over to her.
"Sophia!" he called.
Sophia elbowed a man in the nose and turned around to look at him. She was beautiful, with her blonde hair resembling a rat's nest, a crazy look in her beautiful green eyes, and holds in her dress.
Sophia acted like a true Norfolker, but she had grown up in a much rougher village. That made her, the youngest and prettiest woman, the best fighter (except for Lancelot).
"Percival," she replied before screaming in the face of another shoulder and hitting him hard on both ears. She grabbed his hair and brought his face down to her knee.
"We need to leave," Percival said before turning around and whacking someone in the back of the neck with his plank of wood. In the back of his mind, Percival wondered why none of the men were wearing armor.
Maybe because they out powered their pray so easily. Maybe they hadn't expected a fight at all.
"Leave?" Sophia repeated. "But your brothers-"
"Are fine. But you-"
"I'm the best fighter here." As if to prove her point, Sophia skillfully poked a soldier in the eye. He dropped his sword and backed up.
"I know, but these guys are too good. We can't win." Smack. Percival's soldier also dropped his sword and grabbed his now broken nose.
"Thank you Sir Sunshine."
"Then shouldn't I stay? Make sure your brothers-"
"No. They'll be fine. I can't lose you."
"And you won't." Sophia elbowed an attacker in the lips, turned around, and kissed Percival on the lips.
The kids was quickly interrupted by one of the soldiers asking for a wooden plank in his face.
The wooden, slightly bloody plank finally broke around midnight and Percival found himself unarmed and surrounded.
"Run," he yelled at Sophia. She looked back, and her eyes widened instantly. And, thankfully, she listened this time. She kicked a soldier in the soft spot, grabbed Percival's arm, and started to run.
They ducked past their house - now on fire - and splashed through the river and into the forest. They ran, tripping over roots and rocks, going in the direction of away.
It was almost dawn before they stopped, at the mouth of a cave. Smoke still rose from the direction they came, and Percival hoped they weren't the only ones who made it out alive.
Sophia and Percival crashed the moment they laid down, Percival hugging Sophia close to his body. She smelled of sweat, burnt clothes, and blood. Or maybe that was him.
It wasn't until they woke up, surrounded by a small band of soldiers, that Percival realized that was a bad idea. They should have set up a night watch (or morning watch) in case something like this happened.
"What do you want?" Percival growled as he pushed himself up. His whole body ached. Sophia stood up gracefully and glared at the group of soldiers. The soldier in the front center - most likely the leader - just smiled.
He took a lunge at Percival just as the soldiers in the back fell. Percival froze just as one of the soldiers noticed the bodies falling. Sophia threw herself in front of him just as his warning got cut short.
Percival held Sophia in his arms as the last soldier fell. He didn't even notice who had just rescued him until he kneeled down next to Sophia. Lancelot smelled of ash and smoke and he was covered in mud, but he seemed like the type of person who could treat sword wounds so Percival didn't care.
Lancelot helped Percival peel away the ragged fabric around the wound. Sophia breathed raggedly as the two men cleaned off the mud and blood to investigate the wound.
Lancelot shook his head when he saw it.
"No," Percival muttered.
"I'm sorry," Lancelot replied. And when he looked at Percival, there was real regret in his eyes. "I should have been here sooner." Part of Percival forgave him then, the other part wanted to rip him to shreds for not being there sooner, so Percival decided to ignore him.
"Sophia?" He asked, pushing a clump of muddy hair out of her eyes. Sophia smiled weakly.
"I'm still here," she rasped. Slowly, she reached out for Percival's hand. He grabbed her hand and squeezed it tight. "Stay here with me?"
"I will," Percival replied. "I always will be."
"Promise me something," Sophia said. Lines of clear skin appeared on her cheeks as tears ran through the mud.
"Anything." Percival felt something wet on his cheeks as well, and his voice wasn't working right. It sounded higher than usual.
"You will find whoever did this to our village, to us, and you will make sure that he doesn't do it to anybody again. Promise me that you make sure that I'm his last victim. Promise me that. Please."
"I promise." Percival brushed the side of her face with his free hand. "I love you."
"I love you too."
And with that, Sophia took her last breath.