Author's Note - Okay, this is just another random oneshot into the lives of Arthur and Merlin. I'm just filling up the gap inbetween as I try and come up with a new brilliant multi-chap story. Cough. Cough.
Trivia: In fact, this was going to be a multichap story but in the end I didn't know where to take it so gave up.
No one tends to realise how many injuries a knight sustains in a day. Especially, one who battles vagabonds, mythical creatures and the un-dead on a regular basis. They just don't really think about it. If they did, then surely they would realise that that blow to the lower abdomen was going to leave a mark and that that knock to the knee would make the receiver hobble for weeks.
To become a knight is no easy feat and to persevere, well, that takes an incredible amount of will power and determination. You have to be tough to survive.
Training sessions are gruelling. It's not just a matter of waving a sword around and hoping it finds its target. You have to master the art of wielding a blade; there must be precision and power in equal measure. Get it wrong and your training partner receives a nasty bruise or bloody gash. The body has to be at peak physical fitness, there is no 'I'm too tired'; you keep going until you drop. Routine after routine after routine.
There is one man who knows this better than anyone. He is a man who bears the scars of previous encounters with all sorts of deadly nemeses: a pale, crescent on his shoulder, faded over the years but still a reminder of a grapple with a wild cat; the burns on his inner thigh that will never disappear, the result of a sorcerer's attack; too numerous broken bones to count from encounters with boars, lions, knights from foreign lands and magicians.
It is not just the battles with these enemies that cause the knight harm however; minor wounds litter his toned body daily. A collage of bruises, some large, some small, some faded and some still livid against pale skin. The crisscross of slashes and slices on his forearms from misaimed blows with the sharp edge of a sword. The blisters swelling his hands; calloused, rough hands. Bloodied knuckles, they were the worst, they would sting for days and the wounds would reopen with every flex or knock. They were the result of unforgiving shields colliding with fists and hard pommels of swords.
Every night he would go to be with some ache or pain. But that was the way of the knight. Arthur knew that.
Take today for example; he had a bruise on his hand from a particularly vicious swipe; his ankle was aching terribly from where he had fallen on it awkwardly after being knocked from his horse and there was a large gash just above his eyebrow. That was an unusual one. Mostly, he didn't receive headshots; it was an unwritten code among the Knights of Camelot to not strike above the neck. Somebody however, had neglected to know or remember that. That somebody was a clumsy, lanky oaf who went by the name of Merlin.
Training had ceased and Arthur had called upon Merlin to carry his sword and shield back to the armoury. As normal, the raven headed boy had been all over the place, dropping the heavy shield on his own foot before tucking the sword carelessly under his arm so the tip protruded dangerously into the air. Tired as he was, Arthur had not had time to react when the manservant spun on the spot and caught the blade on the soft skin of his face.
It had hurt terribly but Arthur was not one to show weakness. He had merely yelled angrily at Merlin for his incompetence before pushing him over and storming up to the castle, his palm pressed against the furiously flowing wound. Sticky blood seeped between his fingers.
He supposed that Merlin had got more comeuppance than the shove in the mud, however, because when Arthur had marched into the courtyard, bleeding profusely, King Uther had been dismounting his horse at that very moment. Seeing his wounded son, he had immediately been concerned and asked for the perpetrator of such an act. Cue Merlin, who chose that moment to rush in through the port cullis - tripping over his own legs as he went – and shout an apology to the prince.
It wasn't hard for Uther to draw conclusions. Arthur didn't even need to blame his manservant, it was obvious, so it was hardly his fault when Merlin arrived back from the stocks covered in a variety of farmyard produce. Unfortunately, the younger man didn't see it that way as he'd not said a word to Arthur since he returned.
And as Arthur didn't see why he should speak first and apologise, they remained together in moody silence.
Hissing with pain, the blond-haired prince removed his tough leather boot and sock to reveal the dark purple swelling that coloured his ankle. He knew he would need to send for Gaius tonight in order to get some healing salve or perhaps a poultice. He winced again as he prodded the tender skin gently.
"You should put a poultice on that," a concerned voice said from behind his shoulder.
Without bothering to look round, Arthur replied, "I know that, I'm not stupid, Merlin." He continued to rub his ankle.
"You could've fooled me," Merlin said, under his breath.
"Sorry? What was that?" Arthur asked, even though they both knew that Merlin's words were audible to everyone in the room.
"Do you want me to fetch, Gaius?"
"That would be nice. However, I wasn't sure whether it was safe to assume that my servant would actually complete such a task, what with his knack of hurting both himself and other people in the process of doing anything."
Merlin made a funny sound. "Look, I've said I'm sorry…"
"I don't want to hear your apologies. Go get Gaius before I hit you over the head with this boot….oh, too late." Arthur laughed as the said item flew through the air and bonked the young man on his nose. He yelped in surprise; shooting an offended look at his master. "You didn't move fast enough." The prince stated with a shrug.
A wide grin suddenly spread itself across Merlin's face. "I could have said the same thing about you and the sword. Where were your lightning quick reactions then?"
And with that, he ran from the room. Arthur attempted to give chase but gave up as he put weight on his sore ankle and let out a grunt of pain. He'd get Merlin later, he decided, when he was least expecting it.
The leaves swirled in the light breeze of autumn, the sun's rays illuminated the red and gold and brown, making them shine like falling jewels. Merlin watched as they added another layer upon the already deep carpet. As a boy, he had loved walking through those piles, hearing them crunch and rustle as he jumped in them or threw an armful into the air. Sometimes, he and Will would create great leaf forts and hide in them for hours on end so the other children couldn't find them and bully them. Not that Will would ever let anyone hurt Merlin, he was like Arthur in that respect.
Merlin reckoned that the prince's ethics were that he and he alone could cause harm to his manservant. If anyone else tried then they were in deep trouble. Not that Merlin was complaining. It was nice to know someone had his back; however, now he could look after himself more than he used to, having mastered a lot more of his magic. He could pay back Arthur for his constant rescues by secretly protecting him.
He and Arthur were currently on a hunt. If there was nothing to do at the castle then, rather than idle away the time, the prince would assemble a hunt, whether it was with him and the knights or just him and his dogged servant, he would hack out on the horses. Arthur wasn't good at sitting still; that was one of the many things Merlin had learnt about him since arriving in Camelot. He doubted whether the youth had ever read a book in his life. It wasn't unheard of that he would get distracted at dinner and just leave in order to do something more productive.
Merlin wasn't sure he wouldn't be better suited to being a servant, what with all that energy. He'd told Arthur as much and been clouted round the head for his troubles. If Merlin was a prince then he certainly wouldn't spend his days killing poor, unsuspecting animals or whacking men and targets with a sword. Still, he wasn't royalty and never would be. He was destined to a life of servitude, even he understood that. When…if he became Arthur's actual adviser one day then he would still be beneath him. That was a depressing thought.
"Merlin! Stop being a completely useless tool and come and hold this," Arthur snapped at his servant and dropped a brace of rabbits in his arms.
Wrinkling his nose as a stray rabbit paw buffeted him in the face, Merlin hurried reluctantly after his master. He stumbled slightly as his foot caught in a rut in the ground and he bumped into the back of Arthur, sending him sprawling forward. The prince let out a very manly grunt of pain - which the manservant had to admire considering the fact that had it been him it would have been a lot more high-pitched – and bent double, clutching at his leg.
Merlin could tell he was biting back a very vicious swearword as he whirled around to face his blundering manservant. There was a fiery anger in his eyes mixed with agony.
"Are you trying to maim me or are you just a complete tosspot who can't walk three feet without hurting someone? This is the second time in two days!"
"But your ankle was already hurt," Merlin felt the need to point out, "So really it wasn't entirely my fault."
Arthur threw his arms in the air, an expression of exasperation plastered across his face. "Oh and that makes it so much better!"
"I'm sorry," Merlin shrugged, there wasn't really much more he could say.
"Sorry? For crying out loud, Merlin, you don't even know the meaning of sorry. You throw it around like your dirty underwear."
The manservant wasn't quite sure just why his master was so furious but he understood that it would probably be a good time to keep his mouth shut. If Arthur was in one of his moods then it definitely wasn't a bright idea to cross him. He'd learnt that enough times at his expense – still had the bruises on his arms, in fact.
"You wait, Merlin, one day sorry won't be enough; you'll probably run me through with a lance and there won't be any fixing that." Arthur prodded his servant in the chest, right on his sternum, and Merlin lurched back.
"I'll try not to?" the boy answered hopefully.
"Pfft….you wouldn't know pain if it hit you round the head."
Rambling to himself now, Arthur limped away from his companion and sat down on a log. He pulled his boot of his foot and hissed with the effort. This was going to put him out of training for days, he knew it. Very well, if that was how it would be then he planned to make Merlin's life a living hell. He hadn't even had time to seek revenge for the incident yesterday evening but now he had a plan.
Intent on staring at his injury until his manservant came over and helped him; Arthur had time to formulate the idea in his head, it began with cleaning the chamber pots, which hadn't been emptied in several weeks...