Disclaimer- The greatness that is BBC Merlin does not belong to me, the only thing I own in this story are the characters: Aldwin, Gerrick, Eadric, and Cadmon. Oh and Lord Redding, the villain of this fic!
For those of you who haven't read the King's Legacy, this story is in that universe. There aren't any spoilers or anything it's just that there are original characters in that story which are in this one.
This takes place early season 3- Enjoy!
Merlin whistled a tuneless jingle as he was sweeping about the prince's room, hoping to get a rise out of his royal highness. Arthur was looking over the inventory from the treasury, clearly not interested in the boring paperwork. Merlin stopped whistling when it was clear the prince was ignoring him.
"So, who is this lord I hear that's coming to visit tonight?" he asked curiously while clearing up the various odds and ends that somehow made it onto the floor. He swore he could hear Arthur's eyes roll. The prince was shuffling the papers on his desk, avoiding actually doing work.
"Lord Redding. He's the lord of Whitebridge. They have a large stock of crops that my father needs for the other outlying villages so he's coming for negotiations."
Merlin gave a wry smile, "and why don't you like him?"
Arthur turned around in his chair and raised a golden eyebrow at him, "I never said I didn't like him."
"You didn't have to. So, what? He beat you in a fight or something?"
"Ha! That lily livered idiot couldn't beat a handmaiden. I think even you could beat him Merlin."
The warlock did a double take and clutched his heart causing Arthur to give a grudging chuckle. "Was that a compliment?"
"More like an insult," Arthur smiled smugly at him causing Merlin to resist the urge to stick out his tongue.
"Why can't your father just order him to give the crops?" He decided to change the topic before Arthur could mock him further.
"Because Merlin, a king has to be diplomatic in all his endeavours. The kingdom will crumble if my father isn't fair to all of his people. Just look at Cenred's kingdom."
The servant bobbed his head in a way that read fair point but refrained from poking some holes in Arthur's statement- he didn't think it would be good for his health if he did. A series of knocks rapped against the door and a knight entered without waiting for Arthur's permission. The prince closed his lips around the reprimand he was about to give when he realized it was just Sir Aldwin.
"Sire. Merlin," he nodded respectfully to both of them and turned back to Arthur, "I have grave news my lord."
"What is it?" Arthur stood up and Merlin ceased his cleaning to stare at the knight who gave a long suffering sigh.
"The carriage belonging to Lord Ass has been seen and will be here within half an hour," he said sternly, or he tried to but Aldwin could never keep a straight face when telling a joke.
Arthur groaned and threw his hands up, "Why can't that man simply do as he's told? He just had to arrive early."
Merlin stood there smiling glancing between the two knights, "Lord Redding? Why are you calling him Lord Ass?"
Aldwin shrugged, "We've always called him that, it started with Leon muttering it to himself I think. And Gerrick heard it, and well -you know what he's like. It just stuck." Aldwin sighed once more, "well I'll see you two in the courtyard. Let's see how he enters this time," he left with his eyes glued to the ceiling.
The warlock turned his head to question Arthur but was cut off by the prince's held up hand. "You'll see soon enough. Just get me ready in clothes fit for a formal dinner." Merlin fetched the proper wear as he was bidden but peppered Arthur with unanswered questions until they arrived at the courtyard.
Arthur had such a fake grin nailed to his face and he looked so silly that Merlin just wanted to laugh at him- no one else seemed to notice though. He looked towards the courtyard entrance as sounds of blaring trumpets could be heard. An overly lavish carriage clattered into view led by four pristine white horses. The carriage was white with gold worked in to make flourishing designs. Merlin felt his face form into a mildly disgusted expression, the prince unknowingly adopting it as well. A man dressed in revolting yellow livery stepped outside the door of the carriage and turned to address their group, "may I present to you, his lordship-the great Lord Redding!"
Merlin wished he could trap King Uther's expression in a box, it was priceless. As unimpressed as one could be, he stood there with his lips downturned and his nose infinitesimally wrinkled- his gleaming crown didn't even do anything to enhance his regal air. Merlin looked back to the carriage and almost failed in keeping in a loud incredulous laugh. He managed to suppress it into a snort causing Arthur to imperceptibly step on his foot. Later he would never know how he managed to keep a straight face upon seeing the lord for the first time.
He was quite a tall man with a luxurious head of ginger hair. It clashed horribly with his stark red suit, for that was the only thing Merlin could call it. It was far brighter than even the rouge Morgana sometimes wore on her lips. And it was far more ornate than what he had ever seen the king wear; in fact Merlin would say the lord had outdone Morgana herself in dressing up. He had to avert his eyes it was so utterly obnoxious.
The lord began to strut over as if he owned the place and even Merlin was offended. "Ah, your majesty, it has been far too long," his speech was overly honey coated and far too enunciated to be sincere. He knelt and kissed Uther's proffered hand. The warlock could see that the overdressed lord must have been in his mid thirties at least.
"Not long enough," Arthur whispered under his breath so only Merlin could hear. The warlock swore that the prince was trying to make him lose his composure. Now that the lord was up close Merlin received a better view of his outfit-was that gold lining on...every article of clothing?
"Oh yes, far too long. I am pleased you made it Lord Redding," the king's tone making it clear to Merlin that he was anything but pleased. He freed his hand from the lord's and withdrew it quickly- from Merlin's angle he could see King Uther wipe his hand surreptitiously on his robes.
Lord Redding then stood in front of Arthur and gave an exceedingly low brow, "Your highness, it is such a pleasure to see you again." Was it just him or did he see the malignant glint in Redding's eye when he looked at Arthur?
"I'd imagine," Arthur droned causing Merlin to duck his head and bite his lip to keep from chuckling.
"You are just in time for dinner. I would be delighted if you would do me the honour of dining with my son and I," said Uther quickly, "unfortunately the lady Morgana is otherwise occupied this evening.
"I'll regret it I'm sure," she smiled sweetly from Uther's left. Gwen was behind her staring at the floor and pressing her lips together in relief.
The lord turned his gaze back to the king, "Oh, I'd simply be delighted," he clasped his manicured hands and walked ahead with Uther. Arthur pointedly looked to the lord's hands and back to Merlin before following-when he glanced back Merlin gave him a reluctant nod. He conceded Arthur's point about even him beating the lord in a sword fight; after all what kind of man could fight properly with inch long nails?
Merlin stood behind Arthur not even bothering to hide his fidgeting. The king and lord were talking about pointless topics that held no interest for him, or Arthur. He noticed that the prince was tapping his foot relentlessly under the table. He had just filled Arthur's goblet ten seconds ago-he knew because he was counting, and the prince had already drained nearly half of it. It didn't need replenishing but Merlin hurried forward to top it up anyway- Arthur would understand his point and he was rewarded by a flicker of a smile.
It was at the end of the meal when Redding adopted a serious tone, "I was wondering your majesty, if you would allow me the use of your son's servant for the time I am here." He was eyeing Merlin like he would a prize possession.
Silence cheered loudly in the room. King Uther looked at his guest through half lidded eyes, Arthur's brow scrunched together and Merlin felt his own rise. The lord was their guest, and yet he decided to encroach further on their hospitality? All the worse that it was the king's son. Even he knew that you just didn't do that. Merlin chanced a glance at the king.
A vein was working hard on Uther's temple and in a not so rare moment of insight Merlin understood the king's uncharacteristic reticence. He did need those crops after all and Whitebridge had a surplus this year-not that he was listening. If Uther wanted the best of it he would have to play nice.
"It's certainly alright father. He is just a servant after all." Merlin tensed where he was standing forcing his head to remain lowered. Did Arthur honestly just say that?
"Well he is your servant Arthur, you can do with him what you will," the king said taking a deep draught of wine.
"Of course," the prince nodded to Redding.
"Thank you your majesty. Prince Arthur. I enjoyed dinner oh so greatly." Lord Redding stood up and called Merlin to him as he left the room. Merlin set the pitcher he was holding on the table, a little harder than necessary and made sure to avoid looking at Arthur on the way out.
'That no good, ungrateful prat! How could he say that? After everything!' He wished he could just throw in his resignation. 'But no, not Emrys' he thought savagely, 'stupid clot pole.'
"My lord, I am to take you to your room," Merlin looked up at Gerrick's voice. He must have been waiting outside the doors. Merlin tilted his head at the knight's perfectly straight face, he was sure that the he would at least have a flicker of amusement on his face.
"The one I had last time was sufficient. I do not need to be escorted thank you," the lord had dropped his simpering tone and looked down his nose at Gerrick. Merlin looked into his friend's grey eyes and felt a little better upon seeing his slightly glazed expression.
"All the same my lord, the king requires it."
"I am familiar with the route," Redding turned on his heel and led the way. Now that his back was turned Gerrick made an obscene face at him as they trailed behind, causing Merlin to give him a half hearted smile. The knight turned a suspicious eye on him at his reaction and tried to silently inquire as to what was wrong. Merlin merely shook his head which caused Gerrick to make rude gestures and faces at the back of the lord's head in an effort to cheer him up.
By the time they reached the room Merlin was trying desperately to smother his smile and Gerrick had a far too pleased look on his face. The lord turned around and both servant and knight quickly arranged their faces accordingly.
The lord opened the door and swaggered in, "Come boy," he ordered, completely ignoring Gerrick. Merlin made to reluctantly follow him but was stopped by the knight's hand on his shoulder.
"Actually my lord, Merlin is needed in the royal stables. There was an incident and as the prince's servant he is required to clean it up." Merlin frowned. His night was just getting better and better.
"I have need of him."
"As I said, he is the prince's servant," the knight looked at the lord as if he were especially dim.
"And the prince has given me permission to use him," Redding's lip curled at having to explain.
Gerrick merely looked at Merlin who nodded, confirming Redding's words.
"Huh. Well all the same he is needed elsewhere." Gerrick led Merlin away without a backward glance, "Come dispensable high ranking servant!"
They didn't see Redding's furious glare behind them. As they turned the corner Gerrick flipped his dark blonde hair and tilted his head all the way back, beginning to march down the hall in an imitation of the lord.
"You're going to get in trouble one of these days," Merlin laughed.
"It's a possibility. Now, Arthur actually said Redding can use you as a servant? That's rotten luck."
"Well of course he did. And now I have to go clean the stables, just great."
"Merlin, Merlin, Merlin," Gerrick's tone was scolding, "you never learn."
"I'll show you." Gerrick took his shoulder once more and led him out of the castle. His brow furrowed when he realized they were indeed going to the royal stables. He was led in and at once his eyes fell upon the group of men at the far end.
"Merlin!" Eadric roared, "Took you long enough Gerrick."
Merlin felt a grin spring on his face at the sight of Eadric, Cadmon, Leon and Aldwin all sitting at a table with what he guessed was three tankards of ale.
"It's not my fault, we had to escort Lord Ass to his room," he said, pushing Merlin down into a chair, "Merlin has to attend him for his stay now too, can you believe Arthur?"
Cadmon made a sympathetic grunt and reached over to pat Merlin's arm.
"What rotten luck," Aldwin said and poured the warlock a large mug of ale. He gladly seized it and took a generous swig.
"That's what I said," Gerrick chimed in taking a mug of his own.
"I know! Hey this is pretty good," the warlock admitted.
"You poor sod! Now I demand a rematch!" Eadric said to Merlin who groaned.
"I don't need a hangover tomorrow," he replied while taking another gulp from his mug.
"Fine, fine- just one then!"
Leon did the honours of refilling their goblets, "my money is on Merlin."
"No , no. We all know Merlin's going to win-" Gerrick started.
"-I bet he'll finish it in five seconds," he ignored Eadric.
"Three," Aldwin said nodding at the still grinning Merlin.
"I say four," Leon narrowed his eyes contemplatively.
"Hm. Six then," Cadmon furrowed his brow, "I'm getting too old for this."
"He's not allowed to choke. I win if he does," Eadric pouted.
"That isn't fair, you can't make up rules," Merlin protested.
Gerrick got ready to start the count and the two brought their goblets to their lips. "Three,two,one, go!"
Eadric and Merlin began chugging their drinks in a hurry alarmed by Gerrick's fast count. Barely four seconds later the warlock slammed his empty mug on the table, "I win!" A spray of ale hit him in the face as Eadric spluttered.
"You cheated!" he shouted, completely unrepentant towards Merlin who was now using his neckerchief as a cloth.
"He did not! That was three seconds, I win," Aldwin said smugly.
"No, it was four clearly," Leon huffed.
"It was five, learn to count!" Gerrick argued. And just as Aldwin was going to open his mouth indignantly, Cadmon interrupted.
"I believe there is only one way to settle this," he stated calmly. Everyone stared at him for a second before bets were shouted over how fast Gerrick could beat Aldwin. Cadmon sat back contentedly, sipping his ale while watching his increasingly rowdy friends.
"Merlin. Merlin! Wake up!" Merlin groaned like a grouchy child at the sound of Gaius' voice. It felt like he had only been sleeping for a few minutes.
"You need to save Camelot." If Merlin was more awake he would have recognized Gaius' dry tone. But unfortunately for him the subtlety of sarcasm escaped him this early in the morning.
"What!" he shouted urgently and shot up faltering at the physician's clearly unworried face. He pouted, rubbing his eyes which caused Gaius to chuckle. "The sun's not even up yet!" he complained upon looking out his window.
"Well that's unfortunate. But Lord Redding has requested your presence. You should hurry before you get into trouble."
Merlin gave another ill tempered groan before trudging out of the room not even bothering to change from his nightshirt. If the puffed up lord wanted to summon him at an ungodly hour of the morning Merlin thought he could deal with what came with it. He thought back to last night and a smile grew on his face. Good thing Arthur wasn't there, he always managed to somehow get drunk out of his mind whenever the prince tagged along- that thought chased away the smile from his face and he started grumbling angrily about Arthur.
Merlin arrived at the lord's door and just remembered to knock before walking in. Lord Redding was waiting by the window looking like a bright purple bird to the warlock. Merlin gave a low bow thinking he should try and keep up Redding's opinion of Camelot.
"Ah there you are boy," he said patronizingly. Merlin's fake smile dropped from his face, "I am in need of some answers I do hope you can give me."
"I'm not sure that I'm the best person for that my lord," he replied with a puzzled frown.
"Oh but I'm sure you are," he laughed strutting closer, "Now, you have been the prince's servant for quite a while now yes?" Merlin's eyes narrowed but Redding continued on, "I think I can make it worth your while if you were to...provide me with certain information. All you need to do is answer my questions and you will be rewarded." He smiled smugly, eyeing Merlin like a bird would a worm.
Merlin drew himself up heatedly, "No way! He is your prince. You should remember your place."
The lord's eyes narrowed dangerously, "I think you should watch what you say servant."
"Well I don't really care what you think," Merlin replied haughtily before turning swiftly for the door.
"You don't value your guardian's life?" Came Redding's smug voice from behind him when the door was halfway open.
"What?" Merlin stopped with his hand on the door handle.
"If you walk through that door, you can say goodbye to the old man."
Merlin's sapphire eyes narrowed at the hall in front of him, "and what makes you think I'll let you hurt him?"
"You are but a servant," he said arrogantly, "you cannot do anything to stop me. Besides, your word is useless against mine."
"That's true," Merlin said turning his head to look at the lord, "but the king already has little patience for you, do you really think he will tolerate a threat on his court physician?"
The lord twisted his lips into an ugly frown before slowly adopting a wry smile, "well the physician may hold value, but does your little friend Gwen possess such a safe place?"
"You wouldn't! She has nothing to do with this," Merlin exclaimed angrily.
"You are free to test that theory if you'd like. All you have to do is step through that door."
Merlin glowered but pulled the door shut.
"Good boy. Now tell me every weakness you know about the prince."
"He doesn't have any." Merlin spat with his chin raised. He really hoped Arthur would never hear that, he would never live it down.
"Come now, everyone has weak points. Even the great prince Arthur," Redding took a step threateningly toward him. But Merlin would not be cowed. He took a step of his own toward the lord, right into his personal space and glared into his mud brown eyes, nose to nose. "Well, worthwhile things aren't meant to be easy are they?" he asked reaching his hand up Merlin's shirt, setting it between his shoulder and neck. Merlin couldn't hold back a shiver as the ice cold hand made contact with his skin but was able to suppress a wince as the lord's long nails pierced his flesh and sank in.
"No. They aren't," Merlin agreed. He could not leave out of fear for Gwen and he could not fight back if he didn't want to cause a dispute. Merlin gritted his teeth as the nails bit deeper- blood trickled down his neck.
Redding wrenched his hand down his chest leaving five bloody streaks. Merlin hissed and instinctively drew back but was stopped by the lord's other hand gripping his forearm.
"You should just tell me," said Redding, digging his nails over the warlock's ribs.
"No," he said earning himself a savage swipe across his stomach. This carried on until Merlin's entire front was stinging painfully. The frustration in the lord's eyes made Merlin smile in a grimace- he was winning.
The lord shoved him towards the door, "Get out. You will come back here tonight." Merlin quickly hastened out the door. He realized he was shaking slightly as he hurried back to Gaius' chambers and cursed his reaction. Small spots of blood were blossoming on Merlin's white shirt and he hoped he wouldn't run into anyone. His feet carried him back without being seen and he poked his head in the door praying Gaius had left already. He sighed in relief when he was assured the room was empty. The warlock strode to his room and shut the door and peeled off his shirt stashing it behind the closet. He changed into his blue shirt after checking he wasn't bleeding too much and set out to get the prince's breakfast. He decided that he would try his hardest to ignore Arthur the best he could- it's what he'd get for making Merlin defend him. He was no longer angry at the prince, he did understand court politics, but that didn't mean he couldn't blame him a little. Merlin would have to worry about Redding later.
The rest of the day was uneventful and he did his best to avoid the prince whenever he could, he was always tempted to inform Arthur of Redding, but he knew he could not- the result was him being more clumsy than usual and he was worried the prince would get suspicious. Both of them said nothing to each other and by the end of the day Arthur had dismissed Merlin early. If the warlock wasn't stubbornly ignoring him he might have seen a slightly guilty look in his eyes but as it was, both of them were too mule headed to say anything.
Merlin lay in bed that night unable to get comfortable. His torso was now a bruised mess to go along with all the scratches. Lord Ass had taken pleasure in using his pointy boots to try and kick an answer out of him. The warlock gasped as he moved the wrong way and tried to remain still. Nothing was broken but it sure as hell felt like it, every breath and movement made his ribs throb in pain and he could only imagine what tomorrow would feel like. On the way back to his room he had experimentally tried to straighten his back and bend forward over his ribs-the resulting pain led him to abandon those pursuits straight away. He sighed into his pillow, he wondered if he should just tell Arthur... 'No way, I don't need his help,' he decided and tried to fall asleep- he had to go back in the morning too. The worst part was that he couldn't even heal himself, if he just showed up tomorrow with no cuts or bruises, his life would get a whole lot worse. He would just have to bear it until Redding left.
A raven haired servant shuffled down the hall back to his rooms, doing his best to keep his arms immobile. It was early morning again and the only servant up and about was him. Merlin wondered how he was always able to get himself in situations like this. Lord Redding certainly enjoyed drawing things out but at least he had seemed less interested in Arthur this morning. The bad part was he now had new slashes adorning his arms and added to his back and chest. He picked up his pace upon realizing it was later than he had thought, he would need to attend Arthur soon. He winced as every step jarred his ribs and a miserable sigh escaped his pale pink lips- this was going to be a long day. He finally made it back to his room and took his shirt off as quick as he could.
Merlin looked down aghast at the sight of his bare torso. It was multicoloured with bruises and covered in stripes of scratches and cuts. They trailed all along his arms and swathed his back as well. And it hurt. He winced recalling the feeling of nails ripping against his skin. That man was insane, he was like a wild animal. Merlin didn't regret it though- he would never betray Arthur for anything, even if he was an arrogant prat. But he hated being blackmailed, truly he did. Now he would have to continue to hide it from the eagle like eyes of both Gaius and Arthur. And if that hadn't been hard enough there was the rest of their merry brigade- Aldwin was like a hawk, and if he thought the knight was bad he knew Cadmon was ten times worse. He huffed and muttered a spell to stop the bleeding, he would have tried to heal some of the cuts but there wasn't enough time. He had to leave soon if he was going to make it to Arthur and not be late. He found a clean shirt and tied his custom neckerchief a little higher, bruises left by the lord's hands were imprinted on his throat. He would have to take care of it later.
Arthur narrowed his eyes at Merlin as he shuffled around his room silently. The prince knew that the servant was trying hard to act normally but since when was Merlin able to fool him? It would have been a convincing act had Arthur not been a seasoned knight. He knew how people moved when they were injured, and Merlin was ever so slightly favouring his ribs. The servant usually had a spring in his step and his back was straighter than most nobles. But now he was somewhat hunched and walked with smaller steps. Arthur decided he would end Merlin's hissy fit- the boy had overreacted in the prince's well thought out opinion. And a small part of him disliked being at odds with the younger man, not that he would ever tell him that. The prince knew that Merlin could feel his eyes watching him as he straightened up the room, but the boy resolutely ignored him.
"Merlin," Arthur called and the dark haired boy turned to face him with his eyes glued to the floor- he was playing the part of a perfect servant, a jab towards him no doubt.
"Is there anything else you needed Sire?" Merlin interrupted, a little harried if he thought about it, "I live to serve after all."
"Maybe you would like some more food? Or to get ready for a hunt? Oh, I'll go muck out the stables, I should do that!"
Arthur treaded to his servant annoyed, he knew that Merlin was mad at him, but did he need to be such a girl about it? The prince stopped suddenly and Arthur looked at Merlin stunned, 'since when did he get taller than me?' The boy returned to fluffing the pillows furiously and Arthur decided to get it over with.
"I'll go to the stables right now my lord, then er I'll go to the stoc- wait, what?" Merlin spun around to look at him.
"If you would let me speak, I will tell you that you are right Merlin. I didn't think you would take it to heart the other day. I only want this whole business between my father and Redding to go smoothly. But I realize now I shouldn't have used you like that, and- and I regret it. You know you are more than a servant to me Merlin. Even if you are utterly horrible at it."
By the end of the Arthur's apology Merlin was turning his head away, trying to keep the prince from seeing the confused smile that was forming unbidden on his face.
"Well, alright then? Get Lord Ass out as soon as possible and we'll call it even," the warlock grinned. Arthur smiled back, very grateful of Merlin's childish belief that apologies made everything better.
"Why? Do you finally admit that I am better than he is? Arthur joked, relieved to have everything back to normal.
"Hmm. Well considering it isn't very hard to be, yes," Merlin reached across the bed to flatten the covers, too lazy to go around to the other side. His arm stretched out of his sleeve, giving Arthur a view of his wrist.
"Your arm," Arthur tried to grab it but Merlin drew away.
"I mean- Arthur!" Arthur sprang and caught Merlin by the sleeve. He lifted it up and gasped at the sight of grisly scratches littering his pale arm. It looked like they continued so he pushed Merlin's sleeve up to the elbow. The whole length was covered in what looked like cuts left by fingernails.
"What the hell happened!" He placed his hand on Merlin's shoulder to keep him in place while he checked the other arm. Only Merlin winced and tried to pull away prompting Arthur to pull his wide collar past his shoulder. He accidentally loosened Merlin's neckerchief causing it to slide down his neck. Arthur froze as he saw the hand shape bruises and cuts on Merlin's throat and the beginnings of the cuts on his chest as well.
"Hey!" Merlin protested when Arthur forced his shirt out of his belt and yanked it up. He hissed and spun Merlin bodily around. Among the scratches there was a scar on his lower back, what the hell? He let Merlin go and forced himself to breathe calmly. Arthur now understood the way Merlin was moving from seeing the vivid bruises painted on his torso.
"Who did this to you?" Arthur asked in a menacingly low voice.
Merlin flicked his eyes toward the ground, "...I don't know."
"Honestly! I just woke up like this... yeah, this morning," he was speaking to Arthur's forehead.
"You can't expect me to believe that!" This was ridiculous, there was no way he could be this bad at lying. But now Arthur was glad he was, "tell me!"
"I am not an idiot Merlin!"
"I never said you were. You're just a prat," he laughed, trying to evade the situation. Not this time though.
"I am not letting you leave this room until you tell me," Arthur folded his arms across his broad chest causing Merlin's face to fall. He was desperately trying to think of a good excuse while adjusting his shirt. He was saved however by a guard frantically knocking on the door. The man walked through and addressed the prince, "Sire, there is a disturbance with the knights! You are needed immediately."
Arthur growled and stuck his finger under Merlin's nose. The servant went cross eyed trying to look at it.
"This isn't over," the prince assured and stalked out the door, following the guard.
He followed the guard to the training fields. The crowd of knights parted before him as he strode past and silence followed him like a train in his wake. There were familiar sounding grunts emitting from the front of the knights and Arthur felt his already cross frown deepen as he broke though the line. What greeted him did not impress him in the slightest- he was taken away from interrogating Merlin for this?
"Enough!" he bellowed, anger shadowing his tone.
Eadric and Aldwin froze in their wrestling match to stare wide eyed at the prince. Aldwin was clinging onto the burly knight's bent back, his legs dangling off the floor. Eadric had his arm extended backward clutching the back of Aldwin's collar, clearly about to fling him off. They looked at him surprised, his face was tinged pink and a vein was throbbing in his forehead. If Arthur had been in a better mood he might have contented himself to watch them horse around or have a laugh at their expense, but as it was, he had a very pressing issue to deal with.
"You idiots will cease this at once. You-" he glared furiously at the guard who came to get him, "if you would have just used your thick skull, you would not come get me for something as trivial as this! Back to your duties!" He turned on his heel without a word intending to find his surely long gone servant.
"Sire, is everything alright?"
"No need to get your knickers in a twist... Your highness."
"It wasn't our intention to make you angry Arthur."
Cadmon, Eadric, and Aldwin trailed behind him unsurely.
"Oh everything is fantastic! Why wouldn't it be?" he spat, ignoring his friends. He had more important things to worry about.
Seeing the cuts on Merlin's body had caused him to see red. Someone had deliberately hurt his friend, he felt a cold ball of anger harden in his gut. Every time he thought of it later people would go out of their way to avoid him, apparently his face took on a murderous expression when it happened.
As he entered the courtyard with the three knights still flanking him, his eyes immediately zoned in on a raven haired figure. Merlin immediately froze upon seeing him and gave Arthur a surly look upon noticing Aldwin, Eadric, and Cadmon behind him. The boy must have thought that he had railed the three knights into cornering him. He gritted his teeth as he suddenly spotted an eye sore of obnoxious green walking his way- Lord Ass was coming in his direction. As the man passed Merlin he noticed the servant stiffen and throw a withering glare towards the man. It didn't look right on Merlin's normally upbeat face. The prince's fists curled into fists, could it be? There was only one way to find out. He tore past the bewildered lord who was going to greet him and forced Merlin to face him.
"Was it Lord Redding?" he hissed.
Merlin cleared his throat and said in a higher than normal voice, "What do you mean?" It was as good as an outright confirmation for Arthur and it was all he needed. He charged back to the Lord and punched him straight in the face. He flew backward but Arthur did not let up, once he started he just couldn't seem to help himself- he kept up a volley of hard punches at the lord's face.
"Arthur!"Merlin yelled horrified over the cheers of some of the people in the courtyard.
Arthur added some variety by aiming his fists into his stomach "How-dare-you!" Arthur bellowed between punches. Their audience applauded in enthusiasm.
Merlin stood watching, wondering if he should intervene. He didn't really want to though, and it was taken out of his hands when Eadric and Cadmon came rushing over to pry Arthur off. Aldwin just stood there, not concerned in the least. Cadmon wrapped his arms around Arthur and wrenched him off. The prince's legs kicked off the ground, "Let me go!"
Eadric helped up a cowering Lord Redding. Arthur was still struggling, so much so that Merlin was amazed that Cadmon was able to hold on. "He tortured Merlin!" Arthur yelled, causing Cadmon to abruptly release him like he would a hound. Arthur was beaten to the punch however by Eadric. Merlin couldn't help a wince as Eadric's fist sailed into Redding's face. The lord soared through the air and landed in a heap, ass up. He didn't move. His back end was swaying in the wind- well it wasn't moving really, but Merlin wanted to run and kick it anyway.
"Now I think torture is a strong word," Merlin said dryly.
"What happened!" Aldwin yelled and made his way toward him with Cadmon and Eadric hot on his heels.
"Arthur's over reacting," Merlin told them, backing up several steps.
"Go on then Merlin, show them. And then ask if I'm over reacting."
"We're in the middle of the courtyard!" Merlin protested. So he ended up being dragged (gently) to an empty physician's quarters and cornered by four angry knights.
"This isn't a show," he said crossing his arms.
"It is now! Strip boy," Eadric growled and stepped forward causing Merlin gave a scandalized bark.
"Alright, alright!" he grumbled and turned his back. He took off his neckerchief and eased himself out of his shirt trying not to wince and sighed when three outraged gasps came from behind him. Merlin turned around crossing his arms over his chest but it did little to hide the damage.
"I'll kill him!" Eadric roared.
"Me first!" Aldwin growled.
"We should all do the honours," Cadmon suggested grimly.
The door swung open with a bang as King Uther came stomping into the room with several guards at his back. Gaius, Leon and Gerrick trailed behind them and the lean knight had a sly grin on his face which disappeared upon seeing Merlin; his eyes bugged out of his head as he scrutinized the warlock. Leon's eyes darkened and he gripped the hilt of his sword looking needlessly around the room for a threat. Merlin quickly held his shirt in front of him and his eyes widened to the size of saucers. He looked to Arthur rather like a startled deer.
"What happened Merlin!" Gaius rushed over to him and tried to find a clear spot to grab him and keep him still.
"Arthur!" the king growled, overriding the physician. "Am I to believe that you and your knights attacked Lord Redding?"
"Yes," Arthur replied shortly with a smug smile on his face.
The king sighed tiredly at his son, "Arthur, as insufferable as the man may be, you cannot just attack him in the middle of the courtyard. We need those crops for the outlying villages, what were you thinking!" He was gaining speed again and the prince looked like he was ready to start another fight.
Merlin sensed that Arthur was going to give a reply that would land him in deeper trouble than he was already in and quickly decided to intervene. "Your majesty? Er, Prince Arthur believed he was justified in...challenging Lord Redding," he gave a strained smile.
The king gave him a glare that would have turned him to stone had his name not been Merlin. The warlock continued on before anyone could interrupt. "You see, the reason Lord Redding requested me the other day was so he could get information about Arth- Prince Arthur." He certainly had everyone's attention now; he errantly thought that it was strange telling the truth. Merlin grudgingly drew away his shirt from his chest, "as you can see he tried to persuade me to betray the prince. But I said nothing and, well he wasn't happy," he cleared his throat and continued on, "I was unable to hide it from Prince Arthur and he was enraged at Redding's treachery." He felt a flush creep up his neck at all the eyes on him and hid behind his shirt once more.
"Is this true Arthur?" King Uther turned back to his son and nodded after seeing his furious expression, "I will have him arrested immediately. Boy, you should have informed us sooner."
Merlin almost grinned at the chance to implicate the lord further, "he threatened Gaius my lord, I was fearful to put his safety in danger," he ducked his head to act properly chastised.
"How dare he!" the king hissed, "Come Arthur." The king looked thunderous as he swept from the room, his coat billowing imposingly behind him. An irate frown marred Arthur's handsome face at his father's call. He strode to the door but turned back at reaching it.
"Don't even think about going anywhere Merlin," Arthur's tone was dangerous enough for the warlock to snap his head up and down. Merlin breathed a sigh of relief as Arthur left after his father. His reprieve was short lived though because Gaius rapped him over the head.
"How could you keep something like this from me Merlin?"
"Ow!" Merlin cried, "I'm infirmed here!" He wrapped his arms around his stomach and scowled at the old man.
"Here Gaius," Cadmon held out a jar of honey towards the physician who thanked him and steered Merlin into a chair. The warlock was left to avoid staring at the angry glares sent his way while Gaius dabbed the honey over his wounds. He twiddled his thumbs and felt sweat break out on his skin as he worked to ignore Cadmon's particularly burning stare.
"Everyone out please, I'd like to talk to my ward alone," Gaius said. Uh oh. Merlin found no sympathetic glances as the knights trailed out- indeed Leon, Cadmon, Aldwin, Eadric and Gerrick all left with a final word.
"I'm going to have remind you of what it is to be part of the knights if you insist on acting like one Merlin," Leon left shaking his head.
"I haven't given a lecture in a while, but I will have to make an exception for you," Cadmon said sardonically.
"We'll have to have another one of our chats Merlin," the dark eyed knight didn't even look at him.
"Your ears will be bleeding when I'm done with you!" Eadric's curly black hair shook with the amount of force he was using to try and stab Merlin with his finger from afar.
"Now look what you did Merlin. I'm actually going to have to get serious and knock some sense into your amazingly hard head," Gerrick shook his head and disappeared out the door, he was making his voice louder the further he went, "You think I'm a nice guy now? Well, you won't like me when I'm angry...and I'm angry!... At you! And Lord Ass! ...And because I can't take it out on him... you are my target!... Yes Merlin, you!..." the rest of his words were muffled by distance but Merlin was sure Gerrick was still at it, if just for principle's sake alone.
"Do you want to drive me to an early grave Merlin?" Gaius voice wiped the smile from Merlin's face.
"Then why did you not come to me? You didn't have to go through that," his guardian cut him off, bandaging his torso to block infection.
"I didn't want to take the chance. It's just...I didn't want anyone's help, I wanted to take care of it myself. He would have left in a few days anyway," the young warlock mumbled.
"Oh Merlin. You are always the one helping other people, I think it is time you learn to accept help from others as well."
"I'm sorry Gaius."
"Don't let it happen again. I will make you regret it if you do," he said gruffly, tying the final knot, "he really did a number on you didn't he?"
"Have you seen that man's nails? They're huge." Merlin said in disgust. Gaius patted his head sympathetically before ambling over to a bookcase filled with potions. He turned around with a small jar in his hands which caused Merlin to look at Gaius suspiciously. "Uh Gaius, isn't that the ground daffodil stems?"
The physician merely raised an eyebrow at him, "You're learning. I think Redding has earned a small dose don't you?"
"You're kind of scary, did you know that?" they stared at each other for a few seconds before Gaius hurried out the door. Boy, did he not want to be Lord Ass right now. Merlin looked at the door half expecting one of his friends to come charging through; when they didn't he climbed the stairs to his room to catch up on his lost sleep. Arthur had told him not to go anywhere after all.
It seemed like everyone in the castle had heard what happened and Merlin knew he had Gerrick to thank for that. It was rather strange though to be commended by every person he ran into, from servants, guards, and even some of the nobles who were up this early. Giselle the cook had absolutely fawned over him- well more than she usually did, and made him sit and eat a lovely honey roll. He was glad he left his room early because with all the distractions he would have never made it to Arthur's chambers as early as he wanted.
Arthur was too busy with dealing with Redding so he couldn't come by and see Merlin yesterday. Gaius had told him that Redding's title as lord would be stripped, Camelot would receive a fair amount of crops, and he was to be punished for conspiring against the crown. The warlock was hopeful that he could postpone the inevitable lecture for at least half the day. It was far too early still for the prince to be up so he could get away with simply leaving Arthur's breakfast and clothes out for him. Then he could make himself scarce, his face still felt hot from the reprimands he received last night or threats in Eadric's case.
Merlin nudged open Arthur's door quietly and was pleased to see that the prince was unmoving in his bed. He stealthily put the tray of food down and went to pick clothes out from the closet. He hung them on the dressing screen and began to tip toe out, however he stopped dead at seeing the sight that greeted him. Arthur Pendragon was sitting on his bed with his arms crossed over his chest. His lived and very awake blue eyes pinned Merlin to the spot.
I really am mean to Merlin aren't I? I feel bad but his mettle really comes through wouldn't you say?
To the King's Legacy Readers- next chapter should be up Thursday
I'd really like to know what you guys thought of this one- did you like it? Did I keep everyone in character? Tell me what you thought.
And thank you for reading my story!