Disclaimer: Don't own Merlin.
On the Isle of Apples, the High Priestess sat on the edge of the fountain, watching as the two boys laughed and played in the courtyard. A tender smile tilted her lips as she watched the golden-haired child chasing the giggling raven-haired one, waving his wooden sword around and promising all manner of evil on the poor boy in front, who apparently wasn't taking the threats seriously if his loud giggles had anything to say about it.
Then again, everyone knew that despite being only six, Arthur would do anything for Merlin.
Merlin knew this better than anyone else.
"You're so slow…prat!" Merlin shrieked in laughter and dodged Arthur as the boy threw himself at him, twirling on his feet and running around the fountain.
"Come back here you idiot!" Arthur dusted himself off with a mischievous sneer and grabbed his wooden spoon before rushing off after him. "I'll teach you to talk to the future king like that!"
"Oh, I'm sorry. You're so slow…your royal pratness!" Merlin continued to giggle and ran around the fountain.
"Wait till I get my hands on you!" Arthur promised, blushing slightly, as he continued to chase Merlin around the fountain.
Sitting on the edge of said fountain, Nimueh raised an amused eyebrow.
Where exactly did they find the energy to be so hyper?
She closed the book she'd been trying to read from and just watched them, getting dizzy and wondering why they weren't dizzy.
Honestly, she'd never known that little boys could have such energy.
Merlin's delighted shriek heralded Arthur's finally catching him, the blonde dropping his wooden sword to use his true secret weapon---Merlin's outrageous ticklishness.
Soon Merlin was laughing and shrieking and begging for mercy on the floor while Arthur straddled him, tickling his ribs with no mercy whatsoever.
Nimueh waited, knowing that Merlin was very capable of defending himself.
And with a flash of gold in those blue eyes she was proven right as suddenly Arthur was hanging upside down in the air, glaring down at a smirking Merlin.
"No fair Merlin!" Arthur pouted down at his friend, crossing his arms petulantly over his chest. "I said no magic!"
"And I had said no tickling." Merlin stuck out his tongue at him, standing up and dusting himself, obviously quite amused with Arthur's situation, and proud of himself.
And he should be nothing less than proud.
His power, under her tutelage, was growing exponentially.
When Nimueh had still been a guest of the King and Queen of Camelot, and the Great Dragon had told her of the legend of the child that Gaius' apprentice would one day become pregnant with, she'd been shocked. And yet, when she'd appeared outside of Hunith's hut in Ealdor, and spirited away the newborn child, she could feel the power radiating out of him.
And now…now the magic was strong, deep rooted.
He was an Awaited.
She'd have to seal up most of his powers inside of him soon until he got older and learnt to dominate it…it was so powerful.
"Nimmy, tell Merlin to put me down!" Arthur demanded with childish petulance.
"He started it first, Nimmy." Merlin stated his case. "It was pure self-defense."
"Was not!" Arthur called down from where he was hanging.
"Was too!" Merlin turned towards him with a pout on his own face.
"Merlin. As your future king, I command you to let me down." Arthur suddenly blinked, remembering how similar situations had ended up. "Carefully."
"You're not my future king." Merlin replied crossly, going to Nimueh and crawling up into her lap. "I'm from Avalon."
Arthur narrowed his eyes at Merlin. "I am your future king!"
Wrapping her arms around Merlin, Nimueh chuckled at the entertainment those two constantly provided her with.
She'd never kept any secrets from them.
She'd told them about their true parents, about how Arthur's father had forsaken his mother's life for an heir, and had turned his back on Nimueh and the others who'd been his friends to place the blame on them, killing them, and that Nimueh had spirited the boy child away so that the son of her dearest friend Igraine wouldn't grow up under the harsh cruelty that was his father.
She'd also told them about the prophecy concerning Merlin, that he was to be the most powerful sorcerer ever, who would help Arthur unite Albion as one kingdom, and bring magic back to Camelot---and peace to magic users in the world.
And she'd told them that that was why she'd taken them both and spirited them to the Isle of the Apples, where they could grow up away from the hardships of Camelot and the other kingdoms, away from cruelty and prejudices…and so they could grow up together.
Merlin was Arthur's and Arthur was Merlin's. They were one and the same, two sides of the coin, two bodies sharing one soul and one destiny.
She'd just wanted to cement that love and trust and friendship before the hardships of adult life came, and Arthur returned to Camelot, Merlin by his side, to take his kingdom.
The High Priestess had been quite proud at how adult-like both children had taken the news…and had been quite amused at how literally Arthur had taken the 'Merlin was his' part.
The blonde had always been possessive and jealous with his raven-haired companion, and when Nimueh had told him everything he'd just shrugged and said 'of course Merlin's mine'…as if this should have been obvious all along.
"Nimmy." Merlin curled up in her arms happily, ignoring Arthur. "Tell us a story."
"Yeah!" Arthur exclaimed, face brightening, before frowning at Merlin. "But you put me down first…carefully."
"That only happened once." Merlin pouted as Arthur was slowly lowered to the ground.
Righting himself and dusting his clothes off, Arthur came towards them and climbed up into Nimueh's lap as well, his and Merlin's limbs entangling as they both vied for her warmth and attention.
The High Priestess looked down at both boys and smiled tenderly.
What might have been her life if she hadn't taken them?
Would she have turned embittered and spiteful due to the loss of her friends and family?
Would she have turned into someone cruel like Uther Pendragon?
Maybe it's better never knowing.
Pressing down a kiss on both boys' foreheads, Nimueh got comfortable, holding them close. "What story do you want me to tell you of today?"
"Tell us about how you stopped the afanc." Arthur announced, pulling Merlin closer to him so that the skinnier, smaller boy was resting against him.
Merlin curled up against Arthur and began to suck his thumb.
"You're such a baby, Merlin." And yet Arthur's voice was tender.
"Shut up you prat." Merlin murmured around his thumb, without much ire.
"Hey!" Arthur cried out.
Nimueh laughed. "Am I going to tell you the story or are you two just going to argue?"
At least they were agreeing on some thing.
Shaking her head, Nimueh hugged their small bodies closer once more, and began. "Once upon a time, in the kingdom of Camelot, people began to mysteriously get ill…"
And all was peaceful in the Isle of Apples…at least until the story was over.