A/N: Hey everybody! This is the first Merlin fic I've ever even attempted, and I'm pretty proud of this first chapter. I have a pretty awesome plot planned out and I'm super excited to get further into this story and deeper into the plot! So, I hope you all like it!
Disclaimer: I do not own Merlin or any of its characters.
"Come now, Merlin! You're supposed to be a moving target! Stop cowering like the weakling you are, and give me something to work with!"
After two hours of holding a shield that was half his size and having to run around and have the crown prince of Camelot shoot arrows at him, Merlin had a good excuse to be tired. His legs felt as if they would give out on him at any second, his head was buzzing, his whole body was drenched with sweat; he wished that he and Arthur could switch places for even five minutes. Of course, Arthur, being the king's son, would do much better as a target than Merlin, as he could actually keep the shield off the ground and moving.
Inconspicuously behind the shield, Merlin pulled up his right sleeve and flexed. He wasn't as scrawny as Arthur always made him out to be, but he admitted he had some work to do to get those muscles even close to the no-more-mocking-from-Arthur point… if even such a thing existed.
He frantically pulled his sleeve back down when Arthur pounded on the shield with his crossbow, having crossed the distance between them while Merlin was distracted. The look that was on his face gave no promise of kindness to Merlin, and the young warlock prepared himself for the yelling. Whenever Merlin slacked in training, Arthur always took out his anger with yelling in his manservant's face. Merlin hardly blamed him, as it was usually Merlin's fault anyway, but it didn't mean the young warlock liked it any more than any other person would.
"I understand that you're not the best person to be training with, but you usually give me a little more than what you're giving me today. Did you have trouble sleeping last night or something?" Although he knew that Arthur would deny it if anyone asked, Merlin heard the touch of true concern in the prince's voice while addressing his manservant.
Merlin shook his head. "No. I slept fine."
Arthur's hands found his hips. "You're an awful liar, Merlin, I hope you know." The prince took the shield from Merlin's grasp and heaved it to one of his knights, who caught it effortlessly and carried it over to where the other shields were lying in the grass. "But since you say you slept fine, you should be up to a little swordfight." Merlin sighed, glaring at the prince. "Come on now. Ready yourself."
"You can't be serious," Merlin responded. He motioned towards his body, dressed in thin cloth that wouldn't protect him if there should be some kind of accident.
"More than you know." Arthur sheathed his sword, holding it out towards his manservant. "Get yourself a sword and face me." Merlin opened his mouth to protest, but the look Arthur gave him in the same instant made the warlock lock his lips and take the sword offered to him by another knight. With no armor or shield, Merlin crossed his sword with Arthur's, which was the first fatal mistake of his.
Not even three seconds into the fight and Merlin was already on the ground, Arthur's sword at his chest. The future king shook his head in disapproval while Merlin scowled up at him.
"Never think your opponent will wait for you to deliver the first blow, Merlin," Arthur told him, moving his sword away from his manservant's heart and offering him a hand. Merlin took it and allowed Arthur to pull him back to his feet.
"I thought these training sessions were for you, not me," Merlin uttered, brushing himself off. Arthur tousled Merlin's raven-colored hair, resulting in another scowl from the warlock.
"Someone needs to get some sort of fighting ability into that thick skull of yours. Honestly, Merlin, you've no idea how to use a sword, or even a shield, properly. You'd die on the battlefield before you even knew what you were fighting for."
"You forget, sire; I never step foot on the battlefield. You yourself won't allow it."
"Simply because I know you wouldn't last a second, as you didn't in this training exercise. Now pick up your sword and come at me again. And this time, don't let my usual kind and merciful nature fool you." Merlin didn't allow Arthur to see the roll of his eyes as he bent down to grab the hilt of his sword. He turned around to face Arthur again, only to have to jump back as Arthur swung his sword at him.
"That's hardly fair!" Merlin yelled at him, blocking another blow.
"Nothing's fair in battle!" Arthur retorted, swinging his sword at his manservant once again. Metal clashed on metal, and, surprising both servant and master, Merlin was able to keep on his feet and block all of Arthur's blows. Though they were both out of breath, they continued; Arthur swiped at Merlin's arms, legs, head, chest. If he saw one opening in Merlin's weak defense, he went after it, but was continually astounded with Merlin's quick reflexes. Becoming more and more impatient with his servant's sudden perfect fighting abilities, Arthur began swinging harder and fiercer blows. Merlin continued blocking them, though Arthur was backing him up across the training area. Merlin's arms felt incredibly tired and sore, and it took all his strength to merely hold on to the hilt of the sword.
The sound of the first scream of agony was what finally stopped the fight.
Merlin's sword dropped to the ground as he clutched his upper left arm, his teeth clenched tightly together. Arthur dropped his sword as well, grabbing Merlin's shoulders tenderly.
"You see what I mean? No fighting abilities whatsoever." His joke went unnoticed as he rushed Merlin away from the training area and towards the court physician's chambers.
Gaius jumped when the door to his chambers suddenly slammed open and Arthur hurried a pained Merlin into the room. As soon as the elderly physician saw the look of agony on Merlin's face and saw him clutching his arm, Gaius hurried to hold the door open to Merlin's room in the back of his chambers. Arthur led the injured teen back into his room and helped him slowly lie down on his bed.
"What happened to him?" Gaius asked as he began slowly and carefully slipping Merlin's jacket off. Arthur took the jacket and carelessly threw it on the ground beneath the hooks where Merlin normally hung his jackets while Gaius began taking the young warlock's red neckerchief and long-sleeved blue tunic off.
"I was training him, and accidentally sliced him with my sword," Arthur explained in a short summary. Gaius tossed the neckerchief and tunic over to where Arthur had thrown Merlin's jacket and then exited the room. Arthur took a seat on the single stool in the room and looked at Merlin's rapidly moving chest. He found himself confused; surely it couldn't hurt that bad… it was only a small cut from a sword. Then again, he supposed Merlin probably wasn't used to it, as he hardly ever handled a sword.
Gaius returned a few minutes later with a bucket of fresh water and a white cloth. He knelt down beside Merlin's bed, opposite the side that Arthur was on, and observed the wound on his nephew's arm. He then plunged the cloth into the bucket of water, wrung it out after a short moment, and placed it against the bleeding cut. Merlin jumped a little at the sudden touch of the cold water, sucking a breath in through his teeth, but soon relaxed when the cold began to feel more soothing against the hotness of his injured skin.
After a few minutes of letting the cloth simply rest against the wound, Gaius removed it to observe the damage a bit more. Fresh blood began oozing out of the cut instantly after the physician remove the rag, and so Gaius got it wet again and placed it on Merlin's arm once again.
"The cut is infected," Gaius announced as Merlin gritted his teeth against the cold once again. "Merlin, you clean the swords, don't you?"
"Most of them," the teenager rasped, starting to get used to the cold. "I'm not the only servant around, you know."
"Hold this rag against the cut, Merlin," Gaius instructed. "I'm going to go get a potion that will help with the pain, some cleaning supplies for the wound, and some bandages. My lord, will you please-" Arthur held up his hand to stop Gaius before he finished.
"I'll stay and make sure he doesn't hurt himself further," the prince told him, smirking.
"You're the one who hurt me," Merlin objected, taking a hold of the wet rag with his right hand. Gaius stood, gave Arthur a slight bow of his head, and then brushed out of the room.
Arthur leaned over and flicked Merlin in the side of the head. Merlin's mouth fell open as he looked over at the prince.
"And that was for?" he asked. Arthur merely shrugged his shoulders. Merlin rolled and closed his eyes, resting his head against his pillow. After a moment of silence, Merlin lowered the rag from his arm into the bucket of water to get it wetter and colder before replacing it on the wound. The two of them sat in silence as the faint footsteps from the conjoining room whispered around the air around them. Arthur decided to mimic Merlin's actions and closed his eyes, hanging his head so that his chin rested against his chest. His arms crossed his chest and he relaxed his muscles, just now realizing how tired he really was.
Merlin opened one eye and peeked over at the resting prince, a small smirk forming on his lips. Arthur never admitted when he was too tired to continue training, making it seem like he could go on forever without any breaks. He only ever stopped when he thought the other knights needed to, though Merlin knew the young future king was just as exhausted as his knights were after a couple hours of swinging around swords and shields.
Merlin sighed and closed his tired eye, wishing for sleep to succumb him. He heard Arthur's quiet snores floating around the room, and he mentally made a note to be sure to let the prince know. He grinned to himself, his eyes still closed, and the last thing he heard was Gaius kneel down beside him again.
A large mirror with a stone arch as a border stood among a small stone table. One the table sat a single silver goblet, gleaming in the afternoon sunlight. A young teenage boy whose hands were bound behind his back and his eyes covered by a red piece of cloth was shoved towards the table by a larger, muscular man. The boy was forced down onto his knees in front of the table by his captor, and the cloth was torn from his eyes.
"Don't move," the muscular man ordered, his voice deep and demanding. He then turned to the mirror while the young boy blinked and got accustomed to the sudden brightness. The man placed one large hand on the mirror, and the glass rippled under his touch.
"My lady," he murmured, bowing his head in respect. A young woman with long, deep brown hair and a violet dress appeared in the mirror. The bound boy instantly recognized her, and she smiled wickedly at the look of horror and shock on his face.
"Hello Merlin," she greeted him casually.
Merlin jolted upright in his bed, a loud gasp breaking through his lips. His gasp was loud and sudden enough that it woke Arthur, who gasped in turn, flailed his arms, and screamed as he fell backwards off his toppling stool. He grunted when he hit the floor, but quickly composed himself and got back to his feet. He glared daggers down at his manservant, ignoring the distressed look on his face.
"Really Merlin!" Arthur all but shrieked. Gaius came rushing into the room in his white nightwear, worry written all over his old face.
"What happened?" he demanded. His eyes traveled over the toppled stool, past Arthur's weary-but-frustrated face, and fixated on Merlin's distant expression. The physician hurried over to his nephew's side and observed the bandaged wound on his arm.
"He woke with no warning whatsoever, causing me to fall over in surprise," Arthur explained, acid still dripping with every word. Gaius placed a hand on Merlin's shoulder.
"Merlin…?" he said quietly. The young warlock suddenly snapped out of his trance and looked over at Gaius. "What happened?" the elderly man asked, urgency in his tired voice.
"It was just a dream," replied Merlin. No need in worrying him over something that more likely than not meant nothing. "One of those jump dreams."
Gaius raised an eyebrow. "A… jump dream?" Merlin nodded.
"Arthur and I were training again, and right before he slammed his shield into my face" – Arthur snickered – "I woke up. I get them all the time."
"I guess training had a big impact on you, eh, Merlin?" Arthur teased. He ruffled his manservant's hair before going to the door. "Be to my chambers normal time."
"Uh, sire," Gaius began. "I'd actually recommend letting Merlin rest his arm tomorrow. He'll be back to work a day later, I assure you."
"Fine," Arthur agreed. He jabbed his finger in Merlin's direction. "That cut had better hurt something fierce." Merlin smirked as best he could in his current state of mind. "I'll save mucking out my horses for you, as a little welcome back to work gift." Merlin's smirk turned into a scowl.
"How considerate of you," he hissed. Arthur grinned widely, then swept from the room.
Gaius turned back to Merlin. "And all it was-"
"-was a jump dream," Merlin finished for him, assurance in his blue eyes. Gaius nodded and pushed himself back to his feet.
"Is your wound giving you any pain? Do you want anything for it?"
"It's fine, Gaius, thanks." Merlin gave the physician the best reassuring smile he could manage, and Gaius nodded again. He moved towards the door, turning back around to face his nephew on his way through the doorway.
"Right then," he said, yawning. "Good night."
"Good night, Gaius," Merlin responded. Gaius nodded once more before leaving, closing the door behind him.
Merlin turned onto the side with his uninjured arm and stared at the wall. His dream had been nothing like a simple jump dream; it had been a full-on nightmare, simply because of her face making an appearance. He knew it couldn't – didn't – mean anything, as she couldn't pose any sort of threat to him now.
He closed his eyes, hoping for a more peaceful sleep, but found his eyes snapping open again when the image of her face from his nightmare appeared behind his lids. He felt his heart rate quicken, and he took a few deep breaths. He sat up and crossed his legs under the thin blanket he had, bending over to pick up the bucket of water still by the side of his bed. He set the bucket in his lap, cupped his hands together, and pooled some of the water in them. He then proceeded to splash his face, welcoming the coldness of the water against his suddenly sweaty skin.
A couple of splashes later, he found himself on his back again, staring up at the ceiling. His hands were laced together on top of his bare chest as he dove back into thought.
Gaius was the one who told him that dreams always came to you for a reason, even the ridiculous ones that don't seem to make any sense. But, no matter how hard he tried, Merlin couldn't see how his dream – nightmare – meant anything. Nimueh was dead; there was no way she could come back. Was there?
Merlin shook his head at himself and closed his eyes, grateful when all he saw was darkness. He sighed quietly to himself, repeating "she's dead, she's dead, she's dead" in his head over and over. He wasn't about to believe that she would coming back any time soon – any time at all.
He tried to relax as best he could, and before he knew it, he sunk back into unconsciousness.
A/N: Okay, so I'm not entirely sure of any of the character's actual ages, but while watching this show, I always figured Merlin to be eighteen and Arthur to be around nineteen or twenty, so in this story, they're both just going to be referred to as teenagers, but not young teenagers, of course. I just always considered them to still be in their older teens.
I hope you liked it! And a cookie goes out to anyone who guessed the woman in the mirror was Nimueh before it was revealed at the end. ;) Chapter two to be up as soon as I can manage! Please review!
(( Claire ))