A Reason to Be.
Wart sighed again. It was the fifth one in the lapse of half an hour. Archimedes rolled his eyes and tried to see if the old bat would notice but Merlin was deeply engrossed into his 'chess' game, never mind the fact that Wart had been playing by luck since the beginning, which was something to say of the wizard's abilities over his futuristic game.
"For Christ's sake, move already and pay attention to the kid!" Archimedes called, finally managing to snap Merlin out of his thoughts. The wizard glared, moved a pawn and finally noticed the other boy.
Wart was quiet these days. That was, when the poor boy had time of being quiet. Since he had been crowned, the boy spent most of his time either trying to be just or taking lessons or bowing and curtsying to the nobles that came to visit. There wasn't much chance of being silent then but, whenever Merlin dragged him towards one of his magic experiments, the boy asked questions but, all in all, seemed down.
Merlin had, at first, blamed it over puberty, but now he obviously wasn't that sure.
"Is something wrong, my dear boy?" Merlin asked gently. Archimedes flew a bit from his perch towards the chair Wart insisted to keep for him over his tiny table. He forced his beak to remain close: let the actual guardian of Wart try to understand what was happening to the soon-to-be-teenager if he could.
Wart quickly shook his head, smiling. He still looked too thin for the regal clothes he wore and, even more, uncomfortable. "Oh no, Merlin, nothing's wrong. I'm sorry, is it my turn?"
"Never mind that, my boy." Merlin said, sending the game to another table and instead conjuring some tea for them. Wart had asked for the biggest room available for Merlin, but the old bat had, in their first two weeks, completely filled it with all his futuristic crap. Thankfully, Wart had been decent enough to ask for a room for him too, Archimedes thought. "Tell me, what is troubling your mind?"
Wart sighed again and, just as he seemed to be just about denying any kind of worries, he looked at Merlin with despair.
"This… treaty they say I've to do, and, then, there's talk about war. War, Merlin. What do I know about any of these things!"
"You've been learning, my boy, for the last months, and you've shown a great deal of ability over –"
"Merlin, I can barely read and write now!" Wart despaired again. Archimedes nodded. God knew that he didn't mind the kid as much as he could have, but he wasn't about to lie over the atrocities he had had to witness.
"He has a point there, you know?"
"Oh, shush, you feather-rag." Merlin snapped at him, before moving next towards the young king, putting a hand over his shoulder. Archimedes huffed but didn't move from his spot, now worried at the look Wart had over his face. It was as if he was withering, right there in front of their eyes. "Now, Wart… England has been in decadence for the last decades, you can't expect to make everything work in a few months. You've been doing a great job so far!"
"But that's because of you! I still know nothing of being a king. I need to be smarter! Stronger! And knights! I need knights! Where does one get knights!" Wart exclaimed, moving a hand through his now longish hair. Several members of his court had thought that long hair would make him look more regal. Archimedes thought – and often said so – that it made him look like a very pretty young queen. "… and I feel…"
"What, dear boy?"
Wart sighed. "Lonely. I mean, I know I've you and Archimedes, but… these days, I only deal with grown ups."
Archimedes was surprised when instead of making surprised noises, Merlin gave a thoughtful noise that meant he knew something.
"Wart, now… you're still a little to young so I can explain you some facts of life… and some fact of your life… that's it, I mean… some facts that are going to be around your life that will most certainly–"
Whatever the old wizard was going to say to his young pupil was interrupted by a courteous knock over the door. Wart sighed.
One of the few knights Arthur had, Sir Pelinore, bowed. "I'm sorry for interrupting, milord, but it's time."
Wart nodded, standing up, almost tripping with his cape. "Thank you, sir Pelinore. Merlin, Archimedes, do you want to come?"
It wasn't a request as much as begging, so Archimedes hooted – how he hated to have to pretend to be an ordinary owl in the presence of ordinary humans! –, and flapped his wings to Merlin's shoulder. The wizard had the look upon his face that said he was making calculations. Archimedes rolled his eyes again and squeezed his claws enough to draw the wizard's attention; it wasn't the time to try and see if one of his predictions were due to happen!
"Oh, you…" Merlin glared again but he stood up, putting a hand over Wart's shoulders. "Shall we go, Majesty?"
Wart sighed, walking out the door and down the hall, following the knight. "I've told you not to call me that, Merlin…"
Archimedes refrained to reminding the boy about proper etiquette in the presence of other people and just hooted again, waiting until they came out to the audience room. One of the few things Wart had insisted – all by himself, and that made him and the old geezer insanely proud – was that he wanted to hear what troubles the people of England had so that he could actually help them. That, they hadn't taught him, and that was the one thing above all that made Archimedes think – in silence, because he didn't want to risk the chance of Wart getting an ego –, that the kid was going to be a good king.
Of course, several hours later after hearing more than sixty requests for lands, need for food, and some other townsfolk tribulations, he also thought that it would be good if these people requested a brain.
"Merlin… what do I do?" Wart questioned softly so he wouldn't be heard.
"Bang him over the head with your staff, might rattle his brain and perhaps make him think." Archemides muttered, just loud enough to make the teen give a smile that he quickly hid behind his hand.
"Mmm… well, religion diversity will always be a controversial topic in the world, boy, and it's not as if Christianity is going to be the only religion over England, let alone the world…"
"English, old geezer." Archimedes muttered again, flapping Merlin with his left wing. Merlin huffed but smiled towards the king.
"Say that you'll think about it."
"I… uh, I mean, we'll consider your proposal, sir." Wart smiled towards the man, bowing his head as the other man bent down over the waist in his try to show his utmost respect to his king and came out looking foolish. Archimedes rolled his eyes and he was just about to beg Arthur to put an end to his misery and call it a day, two soldiers came in dragging a boy and, behind them, – if he wasn't mistaken – the woman in charge of cooking over the castle.
"Milord! I demand justice! This thief got inside the kitchen and stole half of one rabbit!"
Damn, and the rabbit she made was actually quite good. Archimedes tried to turn and see Merlin, and it was only then when he noticed something that usually meant trouble: Merlin was smiling. Archimedes hooted twice to try and alert Wart about the fact, but the boy was completely focused over the two soldiers holding the other kid.
The boy was probably around Wart's age, perhaps a year or two older, and he was as thin and dirty as Wart had been a few months ago. His clothes were starting to be too short for him, but, underneath dark bangs, Archimedes thought he noticed sharp eyes and he moved a bit closer.
"I understand," Wart said softly before standing up. He left his cape upon his throne, and his staff and sword, and he would've probably left his crown, too, if not for the fact that Archimedes hooted at him before he tried to take it off. The soldiers that had to protect the king looked at each other and got ready, just in case. "But, please, don't treat him like that, he's nothing but a kid."
"He stole your Majesty's food!" The cook complained, sniffing. Wart smiled at her.
"I thank you for your concern but… it's okay, see? I don't really need that much food anyway." And then he turned towards the other teenager. "I promise you it'll be okay," Wart said kindly to the other teen, giving him a smile. "Can you tell me your name?"
The dark haired boy looked torn between obeying; and keeping fighting the hands of the men that were still holding him.
In the end, the boy king's smile won. "Lancelot, your majesty." he muttered, not exactly bowing his head, more like looking towards Wart's shoes out of embarrassment, but then he looked up, eyes alight now, acting frantic. "But I'm not a thief, milord! I was going to pay for the food, but my sister, Guin, she's hungry and she has been sick and very weak and I've not been able to find a job and I thought that–!"
"It's okay, Lancelot!" Wart said again, putting his hands over the teen's shoulders. He looked up towards the soldiers and smiled. "Please, let him go, it's okay, he's not going to hurt me. Madam, please, could you prepare some food enough for two, please? If there's not enough, give mine. I've more than enough with some bread and cheese."
The woman, of course, was horrified. "Oh, no, Majesty! I couldn't do that! We've enough, don't worry!"
The other boy, Lancelot, looked dumbfounded as he rubbed his arms, but Wart turned towards Merlin with that eager expression of his. One of the things that had him so down, too, was the fact that he couldn't go out as much as before.
"Merlin, could we… I mean, can you check up on Lancelot's sister, to make sure she's okay?"
"Huh? Oh, yes, yes, yes, we'll go and check upon… what did you say was her name, boy?" Merlin asked in that tone of voice that said that he already knew it and was particularly smug about that knowledge, even if he wasn't going to share anything with anyone.
Lancelot, of course, knew nothing of said tone so he just blinked and bowed his head. Wart might have acknowledged it but he was busy trying to untie the knots of belts around his waist.
"Guiniveve, Highness." And then he turned towards Wart, keeping his eyes over the teen's shoulders. "Your Majesty, you don't have to bother… with the food it… I mean…"
"Please, just call me Wart. Or Arthur, since it's kind of my name anyway… and it's my pleasure."
The king said again, smiling towards the other kid as if they were completely equals. Yes, he was going to be a great king. And, if he translated Merlin's smugness correctly, and he looked towards the way Wart and Lancelot were talking, he wasn't going to be alone either.