They Would be Heroes.
Following a bout of illness Merlin has been temporarily left without his magic. Together the arrogant prince and his clumsy manservant must face an unknown danger—leaving one terrified friend willing to do anything to save the other.
Gaius slowly awoke to an unusual sound. As he lay on his back, staring at the low ceiling in the half-light of a Camelot morning, he tried to place the noise. A strange sputtering, fizzling sound. Like a strand of hair singed above a flame. Suddenly a series of angry little pops were added into the mix. Gods, this was going to be another long day Gaius thought. It was quiet for a moment before the pop, pop, fizzle started up again.
"Merlin," Gaius began, hand over his eyes "how many times must I tell you? Your magic will be gone for weeks yet. For the sake of all that is good just start the blasted fire the way the rest of us mere mortals do." He heard his ward huff in annoyance. With that, the old physician rolled towards the wall—he wasn't getting up until the stubborn boy had a nice warm fire going.
When he finally pulled his tired old frame out of bed, Gaius spotted Merlin sitting gloomily at the kitchen table. Not again he thought. "Merlin. Stop that sulking at once." He softened his tone as though speaking to a wayward kitten "My boy, this isn't going to last forever but the fact is you were very sick for the best part of 20 days. Your magic will take at least that long—if not longer to heal."
"I know Gaius." The young wizard looked up at Gaius with sad eyes "But I hate it. I've never lost my ability like this before."
"You've never been that ill before." To say Merlin had been ill was an understatement. For a brief time Gaius had been terrified the boy would die. Meningitis was almost always fatal—wizard or not.
Once again Gaius sent a silent thanks to whatever deity might be listening—then began setting out the bread and cheese.
"Eat up and then off you go. Arthur will have you in the stocks if you're late again."
Gaius knew this wasn't entirely true. Arthur had been uncharacteristically easy on his wayward manservant since Merlin's illness. The prince had been as worried as he himself had been.
I'm not the only one, Gaius mused, that Merlin managed to damn near worry the life out of. With a smile the physician concluded that although Arthur would never admit it, Merlin was having a positive effect on him.
The boy chugged down his cup of milk and grabbed a bit of cheese to take with him. "Alright, I'm off then Gaius!"
Gaius knew his ward well and in one smooth move grabbed up his cup and plate just in time. Merlin looked surprised as his knee smashed the underside of the table, knocking everything else over. Again.
"Sorry!" He quipped, knocking a knife and spoon to the floor even as he tried to capture a rolling mug.
"Leave it Merlin. Go, go, I'll take care if this."
"Thanks Gaius, see you tonight then."
"Yes, yes. Be safe Merlin."
"Always am Gaius!" the boy quipped.
Gaius rolled his eyes…his young ward was the most foolhardy young man he'd met. "Merlin?" the boy obediently turned to Gaius, obviously feigning patience "Remember—without your magic you must be extra cautious."
"Yes, yes…I'll be."
With a grin Gaius adored, Merlin was off.
"Dear, dear, dear boy" Gaius mumbled he set about tidying the table.
Merlin barged into Arthur's chambers, food tray teetering in front of him, knocking the door open with his backside. "Sorry I'm late Arthur…" As he turned Merlin saw the prince was sitting at his desk with a stranger—both looking at the brash servant as though he'd sprouted a second head. Merlin straightened and added calmly "I've brought you your meal, Sire." He even impressed himself, throwing in a small bow of his head.
Arthur sighed and rubbed the side of his face "Yes. Thank you Merlin. As always, your refinement is astounding."
Merlin placed the tray of food between the men and set about tidying Arthur's chambers as they spoke. He couldn't help but listen in.
"As I was saying your majesty…"
Merlin snorted, quietly
"The creature is apparently enormous, tall as two men. It has taken goats and swine. The traveler…you'll remember his horse was mauled…is fairly certain we are dealing with a werewolf. The horse later died."
"Yes, so you've said."
"Please Sire; I need to know what to tell the villagers. They are terrified—struck with worry. What if a child were to be taken next?"
"Of course." Arthur sounded as calm and nonplussed as if he were discussing crops. "Tell the citizens that I will bring some knights and investigate immediately." Merlin inwardly groaned and moved to Arthur's hunting gear. He'd need to pack.
"Thank you!" the little man rose, voice high and cheery. He was obviously pleased and eager to be out of the prince's chambers. "I am so glad the king sent me to see you!"
Merlin could almost hear Arthur's thoughts on being pulled from his bed to talk with this little sparrow of a man. Merlin was proud of Arthur's self control as he rose and saw the other to the door. "Fine, fine, then. They may expect us in a few hours."
After a flurry of nods, bows, and thank-yous, Arthur closed the door and made his way to the breakfast tray.
From deep in the weapons cabinet Merlin quipped, "Pack your gear, yes, I know."
"Either you are a mind reader or you were eavesdropping Merlin."
The boy turned from the cabinet, clumsily lugging assorted weapons and bits of body armor to the bed. "I don't believe, Sire, I'd want to know what is going on in your mind most of the time."
"Indeed. You would not." Merlin could hear the grin behind the prince's sarcasm.
Servant and master spent the next moments in a comfortable silence. Merlin packing and Arthur eating.
Finally, Arthur rose "I am going to speak to the knights." He pointed at the half-full tray "Finish off that bit of breakfast there Merlin and have everything ready within the hour."
"Of course Arthur. Once I'm done here, I'll run home to pack a satchel for myself as well."
Merlin waited—breath held. He hadn't been out with Arthur and the knights since his illness and hoped Arthur didn't plan to leave him behind.
The prince stopped, one hand on the door handle, and looked back. Merlin was awkwardly trying to shove something into a too-small sack. As he looked up questioningly, Merlin noted bits and bobs of gear were strewn all over the room, the bed had yet to be made. Clothes, books, and training weapons from yesterday were everywhere. Gads! Was that a dead pheasant under the nightstand?
"And Merlin, do clean up this mess."
"Right, of course Sire." Merlin thought he'd really better put a bit more effort into his role. For a few days at least.
Without his magic, Merlin was hard-pressed to gather both his and Arthur's gear and tidy his master's chambers in the hour Arthur was gone. He'd just stuffed a huge pile of mess under the prince's bed—it would have to do for now—and had poked the feathered mess out from under the nightstand with his foot. Gads…it was a dead pheasant! Merlin had no idea how long it had been there for but he was certainly glad Arthur hadn't seen it. Screwing up his features in disgust, Merlin held the offending corpse as far from himself as he could—a scruffy wingtip gingerly held between his thumb and forefinger. The creak of the chamber door signaled Arthur's return and without a thought Merlin turned quickly and flung the feathery mess out the nearest window.
"Sire! You're back."
"Yes Merlin, I'm back." Arthur looked at his fidgeting manservant suspiciously "You were expecting someone else perhaps?"
"Of course not. You just surprised me is all." Merlin tried to speak over the sound of surprised voices wafting through the open window. "Everything is ready to go."
Arthur stood as Merlin helped the prince into his mail, gloves, and gauntlets. As Merlin buckled Arthur's scabbard on he asked what he'd been wondering all morning. "Do you really think it's a werewolf?"
"Don't be such a girl Merlin."
"I'm not being a girl." His voice came out far whinier than he'd intended. "I was just curious. Curious."
"No Merlin I don't think there's a werewolf terrorizing Elswick." Arthur wandered over to his cupboard to gather a few extra items, speaking over his shoulder. "First off, I don't think there's any such thing as werewolves. Second, if there was I'd think it would have better things to be doing than eating goats and spooking horses."
As the prince turned back to his task Merlin was sure he heard "Girl" again.
As Merlin worked on a snappy retort, the king himself stepped regally into the room. Glancing at his son's manservant with his usual level of distain Uther barked "You. Merbert. Is Arthur taking the knights to Elswick?"
"Merlin." Arthur drawled as he sauntered into the main room. "It's Merlin father. And yes, we will be leaving right away."
"Good." With a curt nod the king was gone.
As the two boys left for the stables, Merlin started in again. "Really Arthur, are you sure it is a wise practice to stir up a werewolf? Or whatever it is?"
For his part, the prince didn't even slow down as he spoke. "Aren't you the one always on about how I should be listening to the people?" His voice seemed dipped in mockery "How I should strive to show them I care?"
"Well Sire…" if Arthur could be sarcastic, so could Merlin "I hardly meant you should feed us to a werewolf to mollify them!"
"Merlin. There is no such creature. I imagine that there is a lone wolf in the area. Or a sick one. They can be quite dangerous, especially to children. We will set off, dispatch it, and be back in time for you to serve me dinner." Arthur's offhand tone suggested that he'd dealt with this type of situation dozens of times.
Merlin would have bet a sack of gold (never mind that he had never even seen a sack of gold) that dinner would have to wait. He hated the idea of Arthur matched up against some horrible beast. Merlin knew he'd be next-to-useless with his own abilities on the mend.
Please please please take a second and let me know what you think. I adore reviews . I'm crazy busy at then moment but promise I will try and update as soon as I can.
Fyi, the bout of illness Gaius refers to at the beginning can be found in an earlier fanfic How I Remember It.