Ch. 1 Incident (First Sight)

The sun shone strong and angry. Merlin's scarce shoulder bag suddenly felt too heavy as he descended the path his map directed. Sunrays penetrated his pale tone, etching with them a temporal brown accent on his exposed skin. It had been a long two days of traveling and he barely had enough food to sustain himself for another day. He glanced at his map again, unsure he was on the right direction but, as it turned out, he was approaching the castle by the minute. This knowledge brought him excitement and fear, both in immeasurable quantities; he was not someone who was really accustomed to new experiences. His mother had sent him to an old friend of hers whom she often spoke fondly to him about.

He continued through the rocky path, miraculously able to keep on walking, his legs should have given up on him a while ago. As a commoner, he didn't own a horse and neither could he borrow one, if he had been able, the journey would have not taken its toll on him physically as it was doing it now. Merlin was really not used on exerting a great deal of physical effort. He knew this too, the sweat on his forehead began to bother him, but little could he do about it as every time he wiped it off new drops of perspiration began to roll down his face. It was utterly annoying.

After another short period of walking he could, distantly, see the menacing castle take form; and even at closer distance the lower town appeared more reachable with every step.

This is it, Merlin thought to himself, the sole purpose of going there made his heart swell. He had heard of Camelot more than enough times to know it by heart without having once stepped a foot there. With every step, a newfound liberty seemed to engulf him. It was the type of liberty one sought after feeling incarcerated for a long time within one's self. It had all to do with one's mind and much more specifically, the discontent Merlin felt at his repetitive and routinely life back in Ealdor. Of course, he would miss his mother terribly and the few people he left behind. And it wasn't exactly that he felt above the people, he rather was if not above, on a different level. Not necessarily a better one, to say the least.

The square was gathered with townspeople, looking attentively, congregating at the event being held, one that appeared to be a procession. Merlin approached the center of the commotion to take a better look. He had barely been aware of the guards that acknowledged his arrival at the entrance gates.

He took a quick glance at his surroundings, marveling at the architecture of the castle, of the fort that it made, arched in a way to protect itself with thick walls and barriers. He marveled at the stony ground, looking for any pattern in particular that the shades of stones appeared assembled in, failing to recognize one and simply acknowledging their random impression. The towers of the castle seemed to reach the sky, and when he looked up, he could barely take in the form of a figure moving in one of them. The short stone bridges that connected each tower intimidated Merlin. It was nearly impossible for him to believe for such construction to be possible...

All too soon, Merlin was brought back from his short reverie by the loud noise of a trumpet. The noise came atop the main tower on a balcony, where a man stood with a hard expression, clearly disgusted. It seemed as if it insulted him a great deal the motives of the event.

The man, who by the crown on his head indicated to be the king, spoke to the people:

"Let this be a remainder to all of you" –he paused- "that the evil upon us known as magic must be banished from the kingdom. It has, and will always be in my ruling, to eradicate magic from Camelot completely and maintain prosperity at all costs." The king offered a glance at the man who was chained at his feet and wrists. He forced himself to speak to him, and indeed, it to great effort.

"You will now pay the consequence of your actions."

All the while, Merlin's heart seemed to frantically beat. He reached a point where it was visible enough for him to see that this was no event and no procession, it was an execution. He felt lightheaded, but couldn't make himself stop from watching, it was important as it was miserable for him to watch.

The man said nothing at first, simply rising his head, proud, looking at the king in a stance that would indicate he was below him. "You might order for my death, but you will never be able to order away the pride of being who I am. I feel pity for you and your bigotry," the man spoke with dignity, his ferocious eyes attempting to pierce through the king, but they failed.

The king's expression remained calmed simply bothered, and soon after the man's remark he signaled the executioner- with the blink of an eye and a silent whoosh, the man was no more. He'd banished and his head now lay on the wooden platform, a pool of blood forming where it had and where it continued to spill. Merlin noticed how fresh blood mixed with the bloodstained wood from previous executions. His stomach turned in revulsion.

Merlin's breathing quickened, his mind was wreaking havoc, altering his heart rate, hastening the throbbing in his head. He felt ill, but there was nowhere he could hold for support, he bent his knees, placing each hand on them. The added stress with his fatigue was making him extremely weak. He fought the tears that welled up in his eyes, trying very, very much not to cause any attention.

All of the sudden a loud scream erupted from one of the townspeople. A scream of pain that pierced on Merlin's ears. The sound belonged to that of a woman's. Merlin searched the square to find the woman but he didn't need to, she was standing next to the corpse. Anger and bloodlust were visible in her eyes, but in spite that, Merlin could not bring himself to be afraid of the woman. Instead, he pitied her, as it was clear, clearer than her anger by her previous scream, that she was hurt by the death of the young man.

The woman directed herself to the king who merely bothered to look at her."You will pay for this Uther Pendragon," she almost screamed the words.

But king did not take the woman seriously and quickly attempted to remove her from the square, "take her away," he commanded to the guards.

The woman stood still and watched the men approach her. Merlin noticed her ragged appearance, with gray and long hair covering most of her face, her body was dressed in a long and old brown dirty robe, and her face ancient with the pain she suffered. As the men closed in on her, she directed herself one more time to Uther and warned, "eye for an eye Uther, you killed my son, I shall kill yours. He shall die by the end of your celebrations." The woman smiled maliciously at the guards before pronouncing, "forbæ cumæ turin" and she began to burn. A strong wind formed around her, sheathing her inside the fire. Merlin's eyes widened in disbelief as the woman disappeared into thin air, leaving no sign of previous presence, and no damage was left where the elements had been casted.

Uther looked down to his people, somewhat unsure as how to proceed, more concerned at the woman's caveat than her use of magic. He simply acknowledged the people, raising a hand and turning to leave.

The young boy stood in place while a mostly shocked crowd began to disperse into their daily obligations. Not wanting to appear suspicious, Merlin did the same. He walked around, trying to clear his mind of what he had just witnessed. He knew that magic was banned from Camelot, but he had not an idea of the terrible consequences that it could bring -though he didn't know what the man had been accused of either. He pondered this as he continued to walk without direction, bumping into people here and there, receiving meaningful looks as he apologized. He wished he knew what the man had been accused of, what kind of violation he must have accomplished in order to receive such fate.

The boy suddenly wondered if leaving while he could would be the best idea, that way, no one would be the wiser.

He continued to walk, paying more attention now as he went. It was difficult for him to focus. With great effort, he forced away any more distractive thoughts that could occupy his mind and headed for the castle.

Merlin didn't know his way around entirely as he would have believed. The vague descriptions he used to hear from others in Ealdor didn't turn out to be accurate. He approached an entrance from the west side of the castle assuming only royalty and noblemen were allowed through the main doors.

Two guards at each side of the small entrance held their swords, forming an X to prevent him from entering.

"What's your business here?" one of the guards asked.

"I'm looking for the court physician."

"That way" said the same guard, removing his sword, and signaling the other guard to do the same.

If the castle from an outside view had awed Merlin, from inside it was truly majestic. And it was enormous. The hall in which he stood was stretch and ample, the white walls adorned with what appeared to be antique oil paintings and decorative armory. The arched ceiling with hanging candelabras radiated with presence. Merlin could only marvel at the architecture and darkly smiled at the thought of magic being involved with the construction. Because it was magical. The variety of castles he only heard in stories and fables. He walked in the direction the guards had led him and ran into a flight of stairs, reaching a small door at the top. The door was open and he simply allowed himself in.

An old man stood on the second level of his chamber. He seemed to be sorting through some books, or maybe simply organizing them. Merlin cleared his throat, trying to be subtle, but the old man seemed too focused on his work. "Hello. Gaius?" the boy asked.

The man, startled, turned ungraciously to look towards the source the sound had come from, losing his balance and falling to the ground. Only he realized he didn't really fall. Somehow he had managed to suspend in mid air, but after another second, he felt gravity finish the trick on him and finally fell. Instead of hitting the rock hard ground as he anticipated, however, he found himself landing on top of an old and rusty divan. The man, confused at the chain of events, stared at the boy standing a few feet away from him. His eyes the color of maple and honey, except there was something else that he noticed, and it terrified him -the eyes of the young boy glowed. The old man saw Merlin's eyes shift color, reducing their intensity, and settling into their normal liquid light blue color.

Merlin, terrified himself of having performed such act, simply smiled shyly at the old man who was having trouble adjusting to what he just observed.

The man sat motionless for a fraction of a second, sure that the divan had not been there just a minute ago."What did you just do?" he asked alarmed.

"No-nothing," Merlin replied.

"Did you just perform.. magic?"

Merlin's eyes widened. There was no way around it. Even though he had always tried to attribute his abilities to a different cause, he knew deep inside that there was not an explanation. And furthermore, he knew that there was no point in denying the fact, because where would he stand? What would the weight of his lie carry against the truth of the man who lived in the castle?

"Yes," he said, only his tone appeared more mischievous than apologetic.

The man nodded seriously, more to himself than Merlin and warned him, "It will be better for you to abandon the use of magic here."

Merlin sighed in relief, surprised at the simple advice from the man. He knew he should've taken the man's words with caution, but instead, he couldn't help with answering, "but, if I hadn't used magic, you would have fallen and hit the ground."

The old man, though surprised with the boy's answer, wasn't quite sure if Merlin was selfless or if his instinct of self-preservation just wasn't there. He assumed that perhaps the boy wasn't all that aware of the consequences for the use of magic.

"If anyone, by the slightest of coincidence had walked in while you" -he looked at Merlin with warm eyes- "helped me, he or she would have ran to Uther and accuse you."

The boy stared at the man.

"But, you will not." It wasn't a question, it was clear that if the man had wanted to expose him, he would have gone straight to the king, instead of lecturing him.

The man didn't respond.

"Who are you?" he asked instead, leaving Merlin without an affirmation to his comment, and making him a little unsure now.

"Um, I'm Merlin, I come from Ealdor. My mother sent me here, I've got a letter for you actually." He reached into his bag and produced a letter from inside. The man took it mechanically without removing his eyes from the boy.

"Sit down," the man offered gently, and Merlin followed. He assumed the boy must be tired from his journey, "are you hungry?" he asked him.

"I've been traveling for two days," he reached into his bag again, " this is all the food I have left."

The man took the contents and placed them on his small table, which appeared to double as laboratory of some nature. He then took a loaf of bread from a cabinet nearby and placed it on the same table, taking a knife and cutting a generous slice. The man followed to bring some cheese and a bottle of something Merlin wasn't sure he could name the contents of. He placed the cheese and bread on the table in front of him and poured some of the contents of the bottle into a small chalice styled cup.

"Eat," the man suggested before asking, "how is your mother?"

Merlin looked at the man a little surprised, "you know my mother?"

"Yes," the man said with what appeared an obvious tone, "surely your mother told you about me," he continued, reaching for the letter and waving it at him.

"I mean, how do you know it was me and not someone else? My mother said she wasn't sure you knew about me."

The man laughed. "You come from Ealdor, I know but a few people there, and well, never mind that. Eat."

"My mother is well, thank you." He took a sip from the cup and finished the contents with a single gulp. He had been so thirsty and tired this morning when he discovered that the relativity of his basic physical needs were minimal when in comparison with the relativity of his endangered existence –even if he had very present that he required both.

"I'm glad to hear, but I am worried she sent you here, this is not a safe place for you."

"She said you were the only one who could help me." Merlin said this, and his eyes filled with such hope, the man felt pity for the young boy.

"You realize that if Uther finds out about your magic he will have you killed?"

"The man today, he wasn't simply sentenced to death for possessing magic, was he?" Merlin's own doubt indicated that if he had to ask, it was very much a possibility.

"No, he caused chaos all over town, tried to have people unite with him and form a rebellion against Uther. Of course, nobody followed him. Uther ordered his capture and sentenced him to death just yesterday."

Merlin sighed in relief once more. Surely if he could keep from being the cause of any disorders there would be no need for such extreme measure of consequences.

"Don't be fooled Merlin. Uther would have ordered the capture of the man regardless of his actions. He does not tolerate magic, and that for him, is final."

"Why?"The boy asked, shifting around his sit, the anxiety had him on edge.

The old man knew the exact reason as well as the king, but he couldn't reveal the real origin that caused the ban of magic. He labored the most accurate reason that neared the truth. "A score ago Uther had all magic banished from Camelot, as he feared the use of such would divide the kingdom and would bring war. He had all those who had magic hunt down and burnt. Simply hosting or helping someone with magic guaranteed the death sentence, and does still guarantee it now."

"But I don't even know if what I have is really magic." The boy retorted.

"It does not matter, if Uther was to find out you have any kind of abnormality, he would have you killed."

"I'm not a bad person," Merlin said quietly.

"I'm sure you're not," the man replied kindly, "but the king will not see or hear reason. It is simply that way, and if you really wish to stay, you better learn to control those impulses in front of people," he complained, referring to Merlin's impromptu use of magic a short while ago.

The next morning, Merlin woke up feeling disoriented. He went through the events of the previous day. They seemed dreamlike. The man, Gaius, as he had confirmed, promised to help him. Something that he should attribute to the content of the letter his mother had written. Merlin wondered briefly if it had been a nightmare, if he had really been present in an execution the first day of his arrival at Camelot. It appeared so vivid. He could clearly remember the loud scream of pain from the woman. He thought of taking that as an omen, but how could he? He decided he was glad (as glad as he could be for the death of a man) that it was a type of warning, a showing of what was to happen to him should anyone else besides Gaius was to find out about him.

Merlin shook away all thoughts and proceeded to dress himself. He wasn't sure what to expect for his day, and despite everything else, it was something that excited him.

"Gaius?" he called as he descended the short steps from his new bedroom to the small main room of the chamber. But there was no one in sight. He looked out the window and noticed that it was mid morning. Gaius must be attending the king, or an ill person, collecting herbs and plants for all he knew. This made him realize that he would need to pay close attention to what Gaius exactly specialized in- as part of the pretense of coming here was to aid the aging man. Which of course he would gladly do, and it was the least of what he could do in return anyway.

The boy suddenly felt his stomach growl in protest. It surprised him how hungry he was. There was a bowl at the center of the small table filled with fruit. Among the fruit lay a single apple, and for some reason, Merlin's mouth began to water. He took the apple from the bowl with certain urgency, almost anxiety and bit it. The juice from it felt good going down his throat. The texture the apple had was exquisite, the skin of it smooth and with a pleasant scent. He shivered lightly with the feeling the experience brought upon him and smiled. He followed to eat some bread before heading out the door, hoping to have a better experience today exploring the town than he did yesterday.

Outside, the day was beautiful. Merlin walked around the town for most of the morning and until the sun was high above, casting its rays directly over the town. It seemed like a cheerful place to live. Men went about their day with their occupations; some farmed, others welded, and some stood around the castle, guarding it from any harm that might come. Women seemed to carry a force of their own, too. Merlin saw a few carrying their scant amount of clothes and their family's out to dry. Some fed the chickens and some came in and out of the castle, running errands for their masters. Of course, what Merlin mostly saw were merely the many jobs of the lower class, the poor people. Strangely enough however, it was few the times he came across petulant faces.

Once, when he was walking around the square, he saw a young woman come out of the castle. Her black hair tied back, and her ragged clothes those of a servant. She seemed content, even though she carried a heavy basket.

Merlin chivalrous as he was, decided to offer a helping hand to the girl.

"Need help?" He asked, smiling as he approached the girl.

"Thank you" said the girl.

Merlin reached his hand out to grab one side of the basket, dividing the weight of it between the two when the girl took her side of the handle.

They both walked in silence for a while. The girl, Merlin thought, was shy. He noticed she was beautiful, her darker skin made contrast with his pale tone, and somehow he felt nervous.

"This is really heavy" Merlin commented.

"Yes, it is. It's for my mistress. She needs me to wash her clothes, but I didn't want to travel twice to fetch all of them." The girl smiled at him.

"Oh," He replied.

"Did you just arrive here?" The girl asked, and when Merlin gave her a look, questioning her knowing, she simply said, "I've never seen you around before, I just thought that might be the reason."

"I got here yesterday, I come from a small town by the name of Ealdor."

"I've never heard of it, I've lived all of my life here, and I don't very often leave Camelot." She looked up at him, a little embarrassed.

"I'm Merlin, what's your name?"

"Guinevere, but most people call me Gwen."

"Which do you prefer?" he asked, smiling.

The girl seemed to lose her train of thought for a moment. "Gw- Gwen is fine."

They walked again in silence for another while, until the girl's home appeared in sight.

"I live in that house, on the corner," she said. It was strange for the girl, she never felt at a loss of words, usually she was chatty and high spirited. The boy, she thought, seemed to be nice enough. It made her worry that she was unable to have a simple conversation with the boy named Merlin when he was being such a gentleman.

She looked up at him again and asked, "What brings you to Camelot?"

"I came here to help my mother's friend, Gaius, which I believe you know him."

The girl's face lit up with a smile. "You'll be working in the castle?"

"Yes, I believe so," he said, replying with a smile of his own.

They reached the house of the girl after another short walk. Merlin, for some reason unknown to him, felt protective of the girl, noticing the old house to appear unsuitable for her.

"Do you live here by yourself?"

She eyed him with certain suspicion, but she could hear that his question revealed no intention, "No, I live here with my father, he's the king's welder."

He relaxed and simply smiled."I should get back, in case Gaius needs me for something."

"Right, of course. Thank you for helping me carry the basket. I would have taken twice as much otherwise."

"No problem," he said, and gave her a smile to which she replied with her own.

"See you around," Gwen said as the boy walked away.

Walking back to the castle, because he felt that Gaius really might need him for any reason, Merlin noticed a group of young men training on their horses. This was a part of the town he hadn't seen, because he did not like the stables a single bit. He wasn't very fond of the smell. Still, his curiosity made him stroll to where the men trained.

It was interesting for Merlin to watch them practice jousting. He had been told all his life it was an honorable contest. Yet, he couldn't find himself being interested because, well because he deemed it pointless. Men charged at each other, trying to throw one another off form their horses. It was not as intense as if it were a real match instead of practice and most of them wore complete armory, only a few sans a helmet. He wasn't sure what to make of that fact, perhaps bravery? Or complete idiocy? Maybe cowardice? Two things happened as he considered this. First, he saw a figure with a complete armor kick his horse to make him advance faster, but instead, the horse raised his upper body in anger, throwing the armored figure off the animal's back. Second, he saw the startled horse going for a kick at the armored man's head, something at which Merlin reacted. Inconspicuously as he could, he made the earth under the horse move around, forcing him on his four legs for support, and preventing for what would have been a fatal kick.

Nobody said anything, everyone concentrated on what would have been an awful accident, and appeared grateful it hadn't turned as such.

Merlin filled with relief, was unable to contain himself and began to laugh -something that he thought would be quite quiet if he could say so himself. So of course he wondered why the reason for the people surrounding him in silence. He then realized that it would appear as if he found entertaining the fact that someone almost died.

Oh the irony!

The armored man, now safe and sound, approached him. Merlin felt a twinge of guilt for the wrong interpretation the man would collect. But mostly he felt and knew that it was unjust. Everyone who surrounded and watched the practice before began to either pay close attention or remove themselves -something Merlin wished he could do- before getting involved in any way. He could try and leave, but it wouldn't help to act cowardly.

"So, you believe it to be quite funny, my near death?" the man spoke with a husky and authoritarian voice.

"No," Merlin responded firmly, because in reality, he really didn't.

"Then, tell me what made you burst out laughing," the man challenged, not believing him.

He knew that he might regret it, and he couldn't tell the truth –unless he wished to die- but he had saved the man's life. "Mostly the bit before, where the horse simply threw you off his back," he stated matter-of-factly.

Merlin heard a few gasps.

The man, shaken by anger and amusement, proceeded to take off his helmet, which covered his entire face, almost his eyes. Perhaps not being able to see correctly being the reason for falling off the horse.

He stared at Merlin, getting caught in his eyes momentarily, unable to word a single letter. And Merlin stared back too, the ocean colored eyes of the man penetrating his gaze. It was awkward. Neither of them was able to act upon their irritation.

"Do you have any idea of who I am?" the young man asked, his voice not as firm as he would have intended.

"No," he replied in a soft, lost tone.

Neither of them took their gazes off each other. It seemed eerie, as if a type of magnetic force kept their stares held, frozen in place.

"Well, for your information, I'm prince Arthur." The prince sounded arrogant at the revelation.

Merlin's eyes widened and dropped his stare. He didn't want to be banned from Camelot for simply laughing at the relief of saving the prince's life.

"That's what I thought," Arthur said in the same tone.

Before, and especially thankfully before Merlin could reply, two guards seized him from his arms and began to take him away.

"Stop," Arthur ordered, "I'm feeling generous, besides, the idiot didn't know who I am."

A too shocked Merlin stood, unable and unwilling to move. Had he just called him an idiot?

"You must be wary of your actions," Arthur spoke at him harshly, "especially if you have not an idea of the consequences they might bring. You are lucky I believe you didn't know who I am. Otherwise I would have thrown you in the stocks, or the dungeons."

Merlin felt his blood boiling inside of him. Even if the prince ignored that if it weren't for him he would have been surely killed, Merlin's instinct decided to take the better of him and respond, "with all your respect, sire, it wasn't I who fell off the horse." He wasn't completely sure if what he said made sense, but he hoped that reminding the prince of the embarrassing accident would insult him somewhat.

It seemed as if it had worked. The prince stood, nostrils flared and though angry, felt a little confused with the insult.

"What are you implying with that," he spat, unaware if what he said was a question or not.

The boy was really not going to let anything slip. He would try to get his way out while not retreating like a coward, though he much would've liked that possibility.

"I'm implying, sir, that if instead of trying to boast your abilities you would have paid more attention, the kick you gave your horse wouldn't have sent you to the ground." Merlin felt as if his legs would collapse underneath him. And for a reason unknown, he sensed as though every word was exactly true. Taking the presence of the prince made his character quite obvious. More importantly, he wished the prince would take his words and considered them, he truly didn't wish him any harm –and the reason not being itself because of the young man's title.

A bemused and very angry Arthur smiled in spite of himself. It wasn't a smile that showed sympathy, thought he felt for some reason it did. What the young boy had said to him was true. It somehow amazed him that the boy had stood up to him, had the guts to speak to him that way, as inappropriate as it had been.

"You are nothing but a peasant, it is unheard of that someone like you show up and give me any advice about how to ride a horse, let alone how to handle my pride." He said those words angrier than he felt, as he must show that he held the highest form of authority over everyone who was present.

Merlin felt he was finished with his part of the argument as nothing he could say anymore would be of benefit. Of course unless he apologized, but he was not about to do that, not when he felt he had done no wrong. His only mistake had been to save the man's life, and every pore in his skin wished he could simply reveal he had. Let him make what he would of that little fact.

The prince, seeing as the boy wouldn't continue with his insolent remarks, ordered the boy away.

"Take him."