A/N – This is a complete rip-off of Disney's Mulan, and proud of it. A lot is different because the characters themselves are quite different from their counterparts and of course the cultures are quite dissimilar, but a lot of the dialogue will be pretty much lifted from the film. Please let me know what you think!
"Arthur – Arthur. Wake up."
Arthur groaned, and refused to open his eyes. "I swear to God Merlin, this had better be a nightmare, because if it isn't I am going to –"
"Something's happened – the King needs to see you right now."
Arthur opened his eyes and peered at his manservant, who stood next to his bed holding a candle. "What's going on?"
Merlin shrugged. "I don't know. But a messenger arrived and the whole Council is being summoned to the hall – you've got to go there now," he said.
Arthur sat up and threw his cover off, while Merlin set about lighting some more candles. Arthur tried not to panic as he threw on a shirt and a robe, but he knew that whatever was happening couldn't be good news – his father wouldn't call Council in the middle of the night unless it was for something terrible.
"What time is it?" Arthur asked as Merlin brought him his boots.
"Just before dawn," Merlin answered.
Arthur nodded and hurried out of his chambers, Merlin on his heels.
The rest of the council was already there by the time Arthur arrived at the hall, all looking a little bedraggled but deadly serious. "What's happened?" Arthur demanded without any preamble.
"Iwan has invaded," Uther said gravely. "The army was spotted crossing our Northern border last night."
Arthur closed his eyes briefly; they'd been expecting the invasion for weeks now. He took a deep breath and nodded. "I will ride out to meet him, and beat him back," he said decisively. "I will-"
"No, Arthur," Uther said sternly.
Arthur's eyes widened. "Father?"
"The army is large, at least eight thousand men," Uther said.
Arthur gaped at him. "Eight thousand?" Their army, when collected together, was no more than five thousand, and it had never been assembled, not in Arthur's lifetime. Camelot had enjoyed a generation of peace, and perhaps had grown too complacent because of it.
"At least." Uther folded his arms. "Our only choice is conscription – I am sending notices to all of the Eastern villages. Their goal is Camelot, and to avoid battle beforehand Olfred will have to pass through the Western mountains to reach Camelot; while he does you will train our reserves in the East."
Arthur's expression hardened. "Olfred is leading them?" He should have known. Olfred was King Iwain's son, as cold and ruthless as his father, with sword skills unmatched by anyone, except perhaps Arthur himself. Well, they would soon find out; Arthur silently vowed that he would personally see Olfred dead or back in Mercia where he belonged.
Suddenly, Arthur realised what else his father had said. "Wait, you want me to train the reserves?" He exclaimed.
Uther nodded. "Yes, I need you to get them battle-ready, as swiftly as possible," he said.
"But father, I should be with the troops – I should –"
"You should be where your King tells you to be," Uther said sternly, glaring at him. Arthur immediately dropped his head submissively, and didn't watch as Uther advanced on him. "No one has more training experience than you do, Arthur, and I need someone I can trust to get the job done," he said.
Arthur nodded. "Yes Sire."
"Sir Leon and the other knights will lead the army; you concentrate on getting the reserves ready before a fortnight is out."
Arthur looked up again. "A fortnight?"
Uther nodded. "With eight thousand troops, Olfred cannot expect to pass through the mountains any faster," he explained.
Arthur nodded slowly. His father was right, but a fortnight was not a lot of time. The conscription notices would be sent out today, and men would begin to arrive at Hinwic the next day, but it would be a couple of days before training could start in earnest. Still, it wasn't impossible.
"They will be ready, father," Arthur promised.
Uther nodded and turned away to talk about conscription notices with Baron Odon. Sir Leon walked over to Prince Arthur. "I will not fail you, Sire," he said quietly.
Arthur nodded at his faithful second. "I know," he said. "The army couldn't be in better hands."
Sir Leon smiled slightly. "That is not quite true," he said ruefully. Arthur shook his head, and Leon smiled again. "But the King is right – you are the only person able to train the reserves quickly enough."
Arthur nodded. "Perhaps." He shook Sir Leon's hand and clapped him on the shoulder. "Good luck, Leon."
"You too, Sire," Leon replied.
Arthur turned to Uther. "Father, by your leave, I will go and prepare," he called across the room.
Uther nodded. "Of course," he said. He held Arthur's gaze for a moment but didn't say anything else, and Arthur bowed and left the room.
Merlin was waiting in the corridor right outside, and hurried along in his wake. "What's happening? Where are you going? Is it something bad? Do you need me to do anything?"
"Shutting up would be a good start," Arthur said, pushing his way into his chambers. "Mercia has invaded – four thousand men."
Merlin gasped. "Four thousand – "
"We are conscripting troops, and I am to train them to be battle-ready in a fortnight," Arthur explained. "We leave for Hinwic in an hour."