Damn it! I started off writing down one tiny piece of dialogue I thought of so I didn't forget it and it turned into this. I'm so behind with my essay, I don't think I'll sleep tonight, but I can't stop myself sometimes. I've discovered that writing Arthur being at the butt of Merlin's magic is so much fun!
AN EARLIER SPOT OF BOTHER
or 'What Exactly DID Happen Last Time?' The not-long awaited prequel to 'A Small Spot of Bother' which you should probably read first.
This can be read on it's own but 'A Small Spot of Bother' will be better if read before this, otherwise some of the humour will be lost. Go and read it now if you haven't already – it won't take long.
Merlin and Arthur burst forth from behind the tree-line and into the long coarse grass immediately in front of them. Merlin glanced back to see if the very peculiar creature was still chasing them, or more specifically Arthur, when he felt the ground fall out beneath him. As he teetered on the cliff edge which fell dramatically down in front of him, complete with the ominous sound of crumbling rock, he choked as Arthur pulled him roughly back by his scarf.
With Merlin's feet firmly planted back on good old terra firma, they turned round to the rustling of trees and bushes from the direction they had just come from. Arthur assessed the situation.
"Alright Merlin, I see two options: stay here and be attacked, or…."
"Or?" Merlin asked.
"Alright Merlin, I see one option. Have you any better ideas?"
"Maybe it'll just give up," said Merlin hopefully.
"Right then. I see you're as helpful as usual."
"Well, we could always jump," he suggested.
"I appreciate the invaluable input, but I was thinking more along the lines of a plan where we don't get ourselves killed."
"Now that's just being picky," Merlin said. Arthur glared at him. "Seriously though, I think I could do something about that."
"About getting us killed? Yes, I'm sure you could."
"This isn't MY fault! You got us into this situation."
"I did NOT!" Arthur objected. "Somebody neglected to tell me we were dealing with a shape-shifting magical beast that could read minds, until the very last minute. What was I supposed to think about?" Merlin didn't know, but anything had to be better than this.
"I thought of kittens," – he said – "Tiny, playful, harmless kittens, but what did His Royal Pratness come up with? The very first thing that popped into his head the last time, that's what. So now thanks to you we've got to deal with a magical creature with the body of a lion, the wings of and eagle and the face of a bear…"
"MEEEEEEOOOOOOOOWWW!" came the blood-curdling yowl from the undergrowth.
"That's enough Merlin!"
"And you didn't have to imagine it invulnerable to magic," said Merlin, frustrated.
"I said that's enough!" Arthur shouted. "Besides, I'm still trying to get used to the idea that you of all people could actually have magic."
"Honestly Arthur, you've known for weeks now and during that time you've seen me use it one-hundred-and-eighty-seven times."
"One-hundred-and-eighty-eight," Arthur corrected. Merlin couldn't believe he'd actually been counting. "And you're still just as irritating about it... Well it looks like it's down to me to save your life as usual," said Arthur, twirling his sword heroically.
"Yes, I think you have that confused again," said Merlin. "Besides, it likes me – it's only you it wants to maul to death."
"Shut up Merlin!"
With another ear-splitting mew the creature came barrelling out of the trees, its paws pelting through the long grass, its wings folded flat on its back and its scraggy brown head blowing in the wind.
"Big isn't it?" Merlin said.
After another sword twirl for good measure, Arthur ran forward to face the beast as it leapt at him, snarling. He dodged it's powerful jaws but a swipe of claws sent his weapon flying from his grasp. A flash of Merlin's eyes however and the sword returned to its owner, who thrust it deep into the creature's side. The creature fell down. Satisfied that the animal was now defeated, he nodded his thanks to Merlin as he walked back over.
"That was easier than I'd expected."
"Arthur look out!" Merlin yelled. Arthur turned round and was speechless. The creature was healing itself and had staggered back to its feet.
Arthur backed away, dangerously close to the cliff edge.
"I don't believe this Arthur!" What was the prat thinking? "You couldn't have given it one weakness?" Merlin said.
"I didn't do this on purpose."
Well that was it then. Thanks to Arthur's desire to prove himself against a difficult opponent the beast was now seemingly unbeatable. It looked like it was down to Merlin as usual to get them out of this mess. His magic was useless on the creature itself in its current form, but somehow he needed to get Arthur to safety and stop it before it was too late. The animal, now recovered, was slowly stalking Arthur again.
Merlin placed his hand on the prince's shoulder
"Gehíwe þes mann tó wearþenne ác herefugol." Merlin's eyes glowed and Arthur was bathed in a golden light which then faded.
"What did you just do to me?"
"Try not to worry about it," said Merlin.
"You just put a spell on me didn't you?" cried Arthur, gobsmacked.
"Er, no," said Merlin innocently.
"Alright yes," he conceded.
"What did you do?"
"That's not important."
"I'll change you back," Merlin promised.
"Change m– Arggh!" Arthur bent forward clutching his stomach, then his head, then his shoulders.
"I'm so sorry. Now listen, this is important," Merlin explained. "Whatever happens, you have to go with your instincts, don't fight it."
"That's the spirit."
"Don't look down," Merlin said. Arthur immediately looked down at the sheer drop immediately behind his feet. His face fell in shock.
"Merlin, don't you d–" Arthur's words were cut off as Merlin pushed him over the edge.
Merlin wondered for one heart-stopping moment if he'd just made a big mistake. I've just killed Arthur! But his panic was alleviated as the transformation began to take place. As Arthur fell his body became smaller and more slight, his feet became talons and his arms morphed into wings. If it was possible for a bird-of-prey to look totally baffled, Arthur pulled it off spectacularly, before his mind was overcome by the duller mind of a bird, which fortunately (unlike Arthur) realised it knew how to fly.
Having reached the cliff edge the bear/lion/eagle/kitten also looked thoroughly confused by this turn of events and looked at Merlin who shrugged innocently. The creature eyed its former prey intently. Belatedly, it occurred to it that it too had wings, and it could pursue its former quarry even though it would now make smaller pickings.
It was just about to spread its eagle's wings when it started to change. The simple mind of bird-Arthur was insufficient to maintain its shape and so it reverted back to the image of the only mind it had left to feed on. Merlin picked the small white kitten up off the ground and it purred.
The young warlock then searched the skies for the prince. Great, he'd only gone and flown off. Merlin muttered a quick spell over the kitten to prevent it taking another form. Now that Arthur was gone, the creature was susceptible to his magic again and it could stay that way. Cat in hand, he set off into the valley to find Arthur. Hopefully he wouldn't need to climb any trees.
After a long search, Merlin finally spotted him. Cringing slightly at the sight of Arthur, given what he was doing, he quickly reversed the spell – "Weorþ Arthur eft." – and Arthur changed back – in a manner of speaking."
Very disorientated, Arthur spat the small rodent into his hand and looked up at Merlin, obviously struggling to piece things together. As he began to come to his senses again it became all too clear to Merlin that he hadn't forgotten everything.
"You pushed me off a cliff! A cliff ! You. Pushed me. Off a cliff!" Arthur shouted. Merlin cowered slightly, very guiltily.
"Oh yeah, I'm sorry about that. I could have knocked you out instead but I wasn't sure how long the creature would take to change. I wanted to be sure you were safe."
"And that's your idea of safe? With all these times you've saved my life it's a wonder I'm not lying in tiny smouldering pieces somewhere. You might have given me some kind of warning, at least."
"I'll remember to do that in future."
"Why am I still in one piece anyway? Where am I? What did you do?... And what exactly is this?" Arthur finally noticed the small furry object in his palm and held it up by its tail. Upon realising it was indeed a dead mouse, he dropped it suddenly. The kitten leapt from Merlin's arm and started playing with it.
"That was...in my.... Eurgh!" cried Arthur "What the hell did you do to me?" Arthur spat repeatedly and felt inside his mouth.
"And what happened to my teebf? I had more teebf!" Arthur yelled, fingering his mouth.
"Birds don't have teeth," Merlin explained simply.
"Bird?" Arthur frowned then fell silent, his face paling in realisation and Merlin could tell he was beginning to remember what had been done to him.
"I'm sure the rest will grow back soon," he reassured him.
"They'd better!" It seemed Arthur still wasn't aware that a few absent incisors were the least of his current problems. How to break it to him gently?
"Yes well, if I were you, it's the feathers I'd be more worried about."
Arthur looked himself over. He was horrified and speechless. How on earth was he going to explain this? And there was something else wrong too.
"Mer-lin, when you changed me back, did you forget something?"
"I don't thi–?"
"There wasn't one minor detail you may have overlooked?"
"I don't know... Like, I was wearing clothes!"
"Ah!" Merlin said.