CHAPTER 4

Two days later:

Arthur: *coughing* "Hullo...who's this?"

Merlin: "Sire...Arthur, it's me. What's wrong?"

Arthur: "Wrong? Did I say anything was wrong?"

Merlin: "You sent a messenger, asking me to ring you up."

Arthur: *coughing* "It's not my bloody fault the computers are still down."

Merlin: "No...they're meant to be fixing the cable now, the technicians. They asked if we'd like to change our service to TotalEclipse, Virginal, T-Immobile, Horizon, or Splint."

Arthur: *coughing* "I don't care, as long as it works."

Merlin: "Arthur...you sound horrible."

Arthur: "Excuse me?"

Merlin: "I mean, your voice, you sound..."

Arthur: *coughing* "My throat hurts and my head hurts...I think I may need to see Gaius."

Merlin: "That's what happens when you sleep with no shirt on. Which you've been doing lately."

Arthur: "I haven't heard any complaints from you."

Merlin: "Erm...Gaius can send over some syrup for your throat. And some infusion of willowbark for your head."

Arthur: *sneezing* "I bay deed to stay id bed."

Merlin: "I only hope it isn't the Swine Plague. Hey...Gaius is ringing me. You can ask-"

Gaius: "Merlin? They've repaired the cable!"

Merlin: "Gaius, Arthur is ill...he's coughing and sneezing...you don't suppose it could be the Swine–"

Arthur: *sneezing* "Oh bloody hell, Berlin, id isn'd the Swide Plague!"

Gaius: "We'll see, we'll see. I wouldn't worry, sire, there haven't been any cases reported in Camelot yet."

Arthur: "I didden thig so."

Gaius: "Morgana's ringing me, sire."

Morgana: "Good morning Gaius! That sleeping draught actually worked last night."

Gaius: "Oh dear! That wasn't a sleeping draught, it was a...well, never mind, as long as it worked."

Merlin: "Arthur's ill, Morgana."

Arthur: *coughing and sneezing* "Ugh. Ids gedding worse."

Morgana: "Good lord! You have got it bad. Your voice sounds like a troll's."

Arthur: *coldly* "Thags."

Merlin: "Someone should tell the king."

Gaius: "Well don't tell him Arthur sounds like a troll, for pity's sake! Uther's a bit sensitive on the subject of trolls these days."

Morgana: "Oh, Gwen's ringing me, Gaius. I do hope she's not ill."

Merlin: "Why should Gwen be ill?"

Morgana: *severely* "Well, at the rate that she's been kissing people–"

Merlin: "But it was ages ago that she and Arthur were ki–"

Arthur: *coughing* "Will you shuddup!"

Gaius: *under his breath* "It's becoming entirely too hormonal around here for someone my age."

Gwen: "Good morning, Morgana. Someone just told me, the cable's been fixed."

Morgana: "Thank God!"

Gwen: "They've gone to tell the king."

Morgana: *gleefully* "Now I can go back to sending him embarrassing links, anonymously."

Gaius: *under his breath* "Oh, honestly!"

Morgana: "I think I'll send him a link to HotTrollLove dot com."

Gaius: "Ahem! Before you all run off to do silly things on the internet, I should warn you that they may decide to relocate the cable. In which case everything will be down once more, for a day or two."

Merlin: "Why?"

Gaius: "So it won't get damaged again. I saw it. It really was burnt to a crisp. And Merlin, don't say I told you so."

Merlin: *meaningfully* "I told–erm, sorry."

Gaius: "That's what we get, I suppose, for running our cables through those underground caverns."

Gwen: "Oh? Is there volcanic activity down there?"

Arthur sneezes loudly.

Gaius: "Stay in bed, sire; I'll be over right away to have a look at you."

Gwen: "Poor Arthur...honey and cider vinegar in hot water might help."

Arthur: *sniffling* "Thags."

Morgana: "Uther won't be pleased. He'll have to see to the knights' morning drill himself."

Gaius: "Let's hope no one else comes down with it."

Morgana: "I can't think where Arthur could have caught it."

Gaius: "It's been rather cold at night...I trust you've been wearing your woolen nightshirts, sire."

Conspicuous silence from Arthur.

Gaius: "Well, no matter. I have some willowbark for fever, and some honey syrup to coat your throat."

Merlin: "What about a mustard poultice?"

Gwen: "I'll bring some camomile tea to help him sleep."

Arthur: *clearing his throat* "Oh sod it! I dodd care what so log as it works."

Morgana: "Temper, temper. Oh! I don't believe it! My computer's up and running."

Gwen: "How can you tell?"

Morgana: "All the lights on the router just lit up. Hang on, I'll try–"

Gaius: "Well?"

Morgana: *excitedly* "It's working, it's working! I'll check the castle message boards."

Gaius: "Try sending an email to Uther. Tell him the prince is ill."

Gwen: "Better yet, instant messenger it."

A pause.

Morgana: "He must have been waiting in front of the screen because he shot back an answer almost before I was finished."

Gaius: "And?"

Morgana: "As Arthur's not up to it, he'd like Gwaine or Tristan or Bors to train the new knights."

Arthur: *snorts* "Thad shows how buch he doze."

Gaius: "Morgana, perhaps he's not aware that Gwaine has an appointment with some knight at the Green Chapel, Tristan has gone to visit his Uncle Mark and Uncle Mark's new bride from Hibernia, I mean Ireland, and Bors is patroling the lower town."

Morgana: "What about Percival?"

Gaius: "Oh, he's meant to be resting, I've confined him to the infirmary. He hasn't been quite himself lately. Nattering on about some fancy cup he's been searching for. Calls it a grail, or some such thing."

Morgana: *with mock concern* "Ah well, poor Uther, he'll just have to do it himself."

Gaius: "I'm off to check on Arthur. I'll bring this blasted cordless phone with me, just in case. Merlin, go and switch our computer on, would you please, and see if it's working?"

Gwen: "Um...I'll see if Gaius needs any help."

Gwen rings off.

Morgana: "Poor Gwen!"

Merlin: "Oh?"

Morgana: "She's a bit confused these days, that girl."

Merlin: "I can relate."

Morgana: "It's a bit of a problem when more than one person finds you attractive. Or when you find more than one person attractive."

Merlin: "Erm, yes, well..."

Gaius: "Well, here I am, sire! Merlin, stay on the line, I may need you to bring me some supplies. My goodness, sire, your chamber could use a little tidying."

Arthur: "Thad's Berlin's fault."

Gaius: "Let's straighten out your bedclothes first...what a mess."

Arthur sneezes.

Gaius: "Here, take this infusion of willowbark. It will help with the pain. Where's your handkerchief?"

More sneezing.

Gaius: "Ah! Here it is, under your pillow, sire. That is...oh...ah..."

Merlin: "What's wrong, Gaius?"

Gaius: *embarrassed* "Well...that's to say...it's..." *lowers his voice to a whisper* "It's your neck scarf, Merlin."

Morgana: "I knew it! I've just won ten gold pieces!"

Gaius: "Eh?"

Morgana: "Everyone's been taking bets! Oh...I'm sorry, Merlin. I didn't mean to embarrass you..."

Arthur blows his nose loudly.

Merlin: "I don't think I'll be wanting that back, sire."

Gaius: *dithering in total embarrassment* "Now where did I put that...Um, just take this syrup, sire, and...and you'll feel much better in an hour or so. Did I give you the willowbark? We'll need more pillows to...to prop you up. Perhaps you...ah...wouldn't mind wearing your nightshirt from now on? At least while the weather's bad?"

Morgana: "I'll wager Gwen lost some money on this."

Arthur: *coughing* "Morgana, juzd shuddup!"

Morgana: "Oh...Gaius! I'm checking the news online and some twit from Mercia is reporting that the Swine Plague is heading for Camelot."

Gaius: "It can't be. There hasn't been a case within fifty miles."

Morgana: "Of course they're blaming the Druids."

Gaius: "How silly! Now sire, don't worry, I'm certain you don't have it."

Arthur: "I'b nod worried. I'b go-ig to sleep. Gaius, switch off by bloody phode, will you?"

Arthur rings off.

Morgana: "I need to read through my emails, there are hundreds of them–I'll see you later."

Morgana rings off.

Merlin: *under his breath* "What she means is she wants to check her Facebook."

The Great Dragon: *speaking telepathically to Merlin* "Merlin! The young Pendragon will recover."

Merlin: "Oh, not you again!"

Gaius: "Eh?"

The Great Dragon: *speaking telepathically to Merlin* "Have no fear. The Swine Plague will not strike Camelot until next year. It is not Arthur's destiny to succumb to such a minor event."

Merlin: *sarcastically* "How nice to know about things in advance."

The Great Dragon: *speaking telepathically to Merlin* "As your destiny is joined to Arthur's, it is well to be aware of the forces aligned against you."

Gaius: "Merlin? Who on earth are you talking to?"

Merlin: "Oh, nobody. Just some clairvoyant git."

The Great Dragon: *speaking telepathically to Merlin* "Know, young warlock, that the Plague rumors have been started by enemies of Camelot who seek to raise panic in the realm of Albion. Be not alarmed, there is no truth to them. In other words, they're pure crap."

Merlin: "Well of course he'll recover, it's only a cold."

The Great Dragon: *speaking telepathically to Merlin* "On the other hand you, Merlin, may wish to lay in a stock of willowbark and cough syrup."

Merlin: "Oh? Why?"

The Great Dragon: *speaking telepathically to Merlin* "One need not be clairvoyant to predict that the next person to come down with Arthur's cold will be you." *sniggers mockingly*

Merlin: "But–"

The Great Dragon: *speaking telepathically to Merlin* "You and the young Pendragon may also wish to practice a little discretion, young warlock. If Uther were to discover how often you and Arthur have been joining destinies, Camelot would be in grave danger."

Merlin: *shouting* "That's enough...I'm off!"

Merlin rings off.

Gaius: "Oi! What the devil was he on about? Merlin!" *mutters to self* "I'm sure he forgot to switch on the blasted computer!"

Gaius rings off.