His fall was almost graceful; an arching curve that led him from the back of his horse. The dull thud as he hit the floor, however, was not. The crack of his head hitting the hard earth was disturbing to say the least. He lay completely still.
Another figure lurched forward, his face full of horror, as he skidded to his knees beside the fallen man. He could hear his heart beat reverberating round his skull, blocking any other sound out and deafening him. It was like being underwater; completely and utterly silent, suffocating.
Bending over the other man's chest he groaned as he saw how deep the arrow was embedded in his chest, only half the shaft was visible. Blood oozed steadily out of the wound, creating a sticky pool of liquid on the ground. This was bad; really bad.
Merlin woke with a jerk, his eyes snapping open as he heard his alarm clock go off, well to be more accurate, he heard Arthur go off. His thundering footfalls were oddly unique to him; Merlin felt he could tell just by the pitch that it was his master.
The boy sighed and rolled out of bed. He intended it to a rather smooth move but unfortunately his leg got caught in the sheets and he dropped inelegantly onto the flagged stone floor. Talk about getting out of the wrong side of the bed; he couldn't even get out of bed.
Suddenly the door to his bedroom was flung open, the flimsy wooden door smacking into the wall and cracking with the force. With an extremely irritated look in his blue eyes, Prince Arthur stood, surveying the room, hands on hips. When he did not see Merlin immediately he frowned until he looked down and caught sight of the other boy.
"What on earth are you doing down there?" Arthur's face was comically confused.
"I fell," Merlin muttered, clambering speedily to his feet.
"Well…." The young man frowned, shook his head, and seemed to regain his train of thought, "I thought the point of servant was that they get out of bed before their master so they can get everything ready for the day. I come in here and you are still lazing around doing sod all."
It was just then that Merlin noticed Arthur's attire. He seemed to have dressed in the most clashing items possible and the young servant was sure his shirt was on back to front. He spluttered, struggling to hold back hoots of laughter.
"Can you not actually dress yourself without my help?"
Arthur looked mortally offended, his lips hardening in an angry line.
"I can but you were supposed to get my clothes washed and brought back this morning, so I had nothing left except these," the young Prince plucked at his maroon trousers and green tunic.
"But your shirt is on backwards," Merlin sniggered, wandering over to his own closet in search of clothes. He then realised that none of his garments were actually in the closet but strewn all over the room so he set about the task of uncovering something vaguely clean. He found his shirt under the huge, leather-bound spell book which he'd discarded last night. A neat slip of the foot allowed it to vanish under the bed.
"It's not!" Arthur protested, "It's…." he looked down at his top, "….meant to be like this." With that statement he shot a glare at his manservant and spun on his heel, stomping out of the room. "I expect you in the Great Hall after breakfast or there will be hell to pay, Merlin! Do you understand?"
"Yes, sir," Merlin nodded, pulling the shirt over his head, "See you there."
Once the Prince had left the young sorcerer made his way into the main living quarters, scuffing his bare feet on the wooden floorboards. He yawned widely and slumped onto a stool. Gaius wasn't up yet so he had breakfast on his own, finishing the bread off from the previous dinner.
Arthur may be next in line to be King but Merlin couldn't help but feel he was still like a big kid; petulant and stubborn. Or maybe a mule, that was an appropriate description too, though he doubted the other adolescent would appreciate either title. Merlin wondered fleetingly what Arthur would say if he greeted him as Mule but then decided he would rather not find out in case it involved a pointy sword and his neck.
On his way to the hall, the youth bumped into, literally, Gwen. She was carrying a bundle of clothes that looked not dissimilar to those that belonged to Arthur. As they collided she dropped the pile and fell on Merlin. He laughed and apologised profusely, picking up the clothes.
"I was just coming to find you," Gwen informed him, her entire posture emanating embarrassment at her current position in Merlin's arms after he caught her. He however, always oblivious, didn't notice.
"Oh, why?" A smile curled his lips. "Couldn't keep away?" The teasing look in his periwinkle blue eyes frustrated the girl no end. Did he just not understand?
"I came to give you Arthur's wardrobe. You left the whole lot with the washerwomen. I didn't want you to get into trouble."
"Ha, a bit late for that, Gwen, he's already thrown his temper tantrum and stormed off," Merlin grinned, "Thanks anyway." He gathered the clothes off the floor and offered her a quick nod before charging off towards Arthur's bedchamber, almost tripping over a stray sleeve on his way.
The Great Hall was disturbingly empty today. There were no meetings to be held and no visitors so it was of no use. The King was away on business and so no one dared to set foot in the big echoing room without his expressed permission. Everyone except Arthur. He didn't see the point of avoiding the place like the plague. It wasn't as if his father had ever made any rules about who could enter the hall and who couldn't and when. Then again, even if he had Arthur wouldn't have heeded to them.
At that very moment in time, the young Prince stood, alone, at the edge of the hall, looking out of the large windows at the kingdom. It sprawled out in front of him like a never-ending blanket of houses: cream and grey contrasting to the forests and grassland behind it. And beyond the green pastures were towering mountains, purple in the early morning sun. This would be his one day.
There was a light tap on his shoulder and Arthur jumped, startled, twisting on the spot so he was ready to face his assailant. It was Merlin, a smug smile on his face.
"H-how did you do that?" the man demanded. No one could ever creep up on him; his ears were too attuned to the slightest of noise after years of hunting. Hearing a twig crack or a leaf rustle was the difference between catching your prey and not. Yet, somehow, he had not heard Merlin as he walked in boots across a hard floor.
"Magic," the younger boy smirked, his eyes sparkling with undisguised mirth. Arthur scowled, this was the second time today his servant had caught him out and it wasn't even lunchtime. When did he get to be so sharp?
"Yeah, right," Arthur said sarcastically.
"So, what are we doing today?"
"Ah, that is for me to know and you to find out when I can be bothered to tell you." Arthur tapped his nose, knowingly.
"You know, riddles really aren't your forte. We are going horse-back fighting aren't we?"
Well, what do you think?