Author's note. I don't normally try to write fanfic until I've seen more than four episodes but the new BBC Merlin series caught my attention so I decided to give it a go. Comments are appreciated but please don't be too mean. I hope you enjoy the story. :)
Arthur, crown prince of Camelot was awoken at dawn by a summons from his father, King Uther. The Prince's presence was, his father's manservant informed him, required in the great hall immediately. Cursing the fact that his own manservant, Merlin, would not arrive for several hours, Arthur dug out some clothes that he hoped were clean and presentable and headed downstairs to find out what was required of him.
He arrived in the great hall to find Uther deep in conversation with a tall, dark-haired young knight dressed in colours Arthur didn't recognise. As he approached the pair, his father turned to address him.
'Arthur, this is Richard, prince of the Kingdom of Calderania.' The young man offered his hand, which Arthur shook firmly. 'He comes as an envoy from his father, King Henry to discuss the potential for trade between our lands. He also extends an invitation to a reciprocal envoy of Camelot to visit his land as part of a cultural exchange. You will leave today to represent me in Calderania. I trust you will make the necessary arrangements?'
'Of course, father,' Arthur excused himself. Great, more talks and banquets were just what he needed, Arthur thought sarcastically. Still, Calderania was some distance away. If he chose his envoy carefully and dragged Merlin along for entertainment, this might actually be quite enjoyable. With that in mind, he headed down to the stables to make preparations.
Merlin, Prince Arthur's manservant, was awoken shortly after dawn by an almighty crash. Not even stopping to put on his boots, he rushed from his room down into the main chamber inhabited by Gaius, royal court physician and Merlin's mentor. Barely noticing the broken glass cutting into his feet, Merlin rushed across to where his friend was lying looking somewhat stunned.
'Gaius, are you all right? What happened?'The older man blinked and shook his head to clear it. It was only now that Merlin noticed the blood trickling down Gaius' temple.
'I must have tripped,' the physician replied, still sounding confused.
'Looks like a fairly nasty gash,' Merlin indicated the head wound. 'You must have hit your head hard on the way down. Let me take a look.' He held out his hand to help the older man up, concerned by to slowness of his friend's response.
'I'm fine,' Gaius decided, finally taking the outstretched hand and allowing the younger man to help him to his feet. As soon as their hands made contact, Merlin was aware that something more was wrong. Gaius' palm was unnaturally clammy and its temperature was far higher than it should have been.
'Well, if you call having a nasty head wound and a high fever fine…' Merlin began. He wrapped the physician's arm around his shoulder and helped the older man to take a seat on his bed.
'Look what you did to your feet,' Gaius muttered distractedly, staring downwards. Merlin glanced down, finally noticing the pieces of glass embedded in his soles. He quickly removed them and muttered a few words, watching as the cuts instantly healed themselves. With another wave of his hand he repaired the broken glass then turned his attention back to Gaius.
'I could…' he began. Gaius shook his head, cringing as pain shot through it.
'Your gift is not a toy,' he reprimanded the younger man. 'There is some alcohol and a cloth on the table. Those will be perfectly sufficient.' Merlin huffed in frustration but nonetheless obeyed the instructions. He was in the process of cleaning the wound when Arthur stormed into the chamber.
'Merlin, rise and shine and pack a bag, we're off to Calderania,' the prince hollered, stopping short when he caught sight of the pair. Gaius made to stand but the young prince quickly motioned for him to stay seated. 'Gaius, are you all right?' he asked, peering at the head wound being treated by Merlin.
'Fine, your highness,' Gaius responded at once, 'I tripped over and hit my head,' he admitted.
'Probably something to do with the raging fever he hasn't got,' Merlin muttered sarcastically. 'What was that you said about going to Calderania?' Arthur sighed and shook his head.
'I'm leading a trade envoy to King Henry of Calderania. I was going to take you along but if you're needed here, I'm sure I can arrange a replacement.' Merlin was about to thank Arthur for his consideration when he was interrupted by Gaius.
'No. Merlin, you must go with Prince Arthur.' Merlin turned immediately to argue.
'Gaius, whether you'll admit it or not, you're in no fit state to be left alone. You've already proved that once today.' The older man sighed.
'Merlin, Calderania is a distant and dangerous kingdom. The envoy will undoubtedly be in need of your skills before long. I, on the other hand, was taking care of myself for decades before your arrival. I will be fine here without you.'
'You have skills, Merlin?' Arthur asked, intrigued. Merlin looked startled and turned to Gaius for an explanation.
'I have been training Merlin in medicine since the day he arrived in Camelot,' the physician clarified, 'and the road to Calderania is a dangerous one. His skills will be more vital than either of you yet believes. Merlin must go to Calderania.' Merlin glanced casually at his mentor, looking for a deeper explanation. Gaius nodded subtly.
'All right,' Merlin sighed, giving in, 'but I'm asking Gwen to look in on you.' Gaius' look indicated his surrender and Merlin headed for the door. He was prevented from reaching it by Arthur. 'What?!' he demanded.
'Entertaining though it would be,' Arthur smirked, 'to see you running round the castle in your nightshirt, my father has guests. I don't want the reputation of Camelot irreparably tarnished.' Merlin looked down in embarrassment. 'I will speak to Gwen,' Arthur continued. 'You take care of Gaius and please find some clothes before Gwen and I get back?' There was a huge grin on his face as he turned to leave.
Once the prince had departed, Merlin turned back to his mentor.
'What did you mean, my skills will be vital?' he demanded.
'Calderania is a feudal kingdom that puts high value on the use of magic,' Gaius explained. 'The land is filled with skilled sorcerers, not all of them allied with their king. As Camelot's only warlock you may be Arthur's only hope of returning home alive. Your rudimentary medical training will give you an added advantage.'
'Speaking of my medical training,' Merlin responded, not failing to notice that his friend was now shaking, 'how about giving me a trial run? You need to get some rest.' He gently raised his friend's legs onto the bed and pushed him down onto the pillows. 'Do you have any potions that will help lower your fever?'
'On the left behind that water jug,' Gaius directed, abandoning all pretence of arguing with the young warlock. Quickly dispensing the potion, Merlin placed it by his friend's bedside. After making sure the physician was well-covered with a blanket, he headed towards his room to dress.
'Drink that,' he ordered. 'I'll be right back.'
True to his word, Merlin returned within five minutes, fully-dressed and with a damp cloth, which he laid across Gaius' forehead. As he did so he was reminded of the occasion several weeks earlier when their roles had been reversed. Gaius had not left his side from the time that he had been poisoned until after he had been cured. He perched on the edge of the bed and looked down at the elderly man who had become like a father to him.
'I'm not sure I'm doing the right thing,' he admitted. Gaius smiled and wrapped his hand around Merlin's wrist.
'I will be fine,' he insisted. 'You must go to Calderania. Arthur's life may depend on it.' Merlin was prevented from replying by a bang as the door flew open. Arthur marched in, followed by Gwen.
'Are you ready?' he asked. Merlin nodded then unashamedly pulled Gaius into a hug.
'You take care,' he insisted. Gaius nodded.
'You be careful.' Merlin released the older man and smirked.
'Aren't I always?' He looked across at Gwen. 'Take care of him?' she nodded.
Arthur watched the exchange with a puzzled look on his face. He was, if he was honest, intrigued by and a little envious of the relationship between the two men. Merlin had arrived in Camelot just two months ago, yet the pair had fallen into the kind of easy relationship Arthur had never quite been able to achieve with his father, despite years of effort. He wondered at the bond that seemed to hold the two together and pondered whether there was a key element that he was missing. Finally Merlin stood and took one last look at Gaius.
'I'll see you when I get back.' Arthur realised that this was as much a question as a statement. Gaius evidently understood and acted quickly to reassure his protégé.
'Count on it.' Merlin nodded and followed the prince out of the door. As they approached the stables, he threw a backwards glance in the direction of the physician's chambers. Noticing his servant's distraction, Arthur slung an arm over the younger man's shoulder.
'He'll be fine,' he reassured the young man, 'Gaius is as tough as an old boot – he'll probably outlive both of us.' He grinned. 'Let's go have us an adventure.'