Title: In His Shoes
Summary: When Camelot has a run of bad luck, Arthur and Merlin are sent to investigate. But their investigation is crippled when the sorcerer responsible switches their spirits. Arthur attempts to adjust to the life of a servant and deal with an unusual restlessness in Merlin's core, while Merlin tries to be convincing as Arthur, prevent the prince from finding out his secret, and solve their body switching problem. Each get more than they bargained for as secrets are outed and prejudices put aside to save the kingdom in each other's shoes.
Merlin knew it wasn't his day. He'd known it since he'd gotten out of bed and hit his foot on the cupboard. He'd known it since he'd found a hole in his only pair of clean trousers. And then there had been the excessively disgusting gruel, more tasteless and lumpy than usual.
He'd thought it was starting to get better when he actually managed to get to the kitchens and deliver Arthur's breakfast on time, only to find the prince absent. Then he'd remembered it was his day off.
Merlin sighed, and sat down in the chair, glancing at the uneaten ham, sausage and eggs. He eyed the door before deciding there was no sense for the food to go to waste. But he should've been more wary, as he soon found himself retching onto the floor, courtesy of the meat being a tad off. Merlin headed to the well to get water, and on the way back, grabbed a rag. He soon had the room clean again.
Then Arthur had entered his chambers, only to inform Merlin that he was being sent to investigate a druid camp in the woods, and Merlin was to come along.
"But it's my day off." The warlock protested.
"Odd way to spend your day off, Merlin. Or did you miss cleaning my chambers?"
Merlin frowned and began his round of usual grumbling, followed by an order to "Shut up, Merlin," and the two had left.
By now the wizard was quite ready for the day to be over, and muttered this aloud, making Arthur rather irritated.
"You've had a bad day?" Arthur exclaimed, with an incredulous glare. "First, my chambers were freezing because apparently my replacement manservant is more incompetent than you. Then I had to fetch my own breakfast from the kitchens, only to find the ham was off, and I spent the morning retching into..."
Merlin paused with shock. "You too?" He interrupted. "This can't just be bad luck."
"No, it was bad ham."
Merlin folded his arms and stared. "That's not what I meant."
Arthur frowned and paused a minute before conceding Merlin's point. "You could be onto something." He muttered before pausing to think. "This morning, father's old injury was acting up more than usual. Gaius told him to eat something, keep his strength up, but he had the same blasted ham we did and became ill."
Arthur shifted on the horse, becoming more agitated with each sentence. "Gaius sent him potions for both, but his manservant mixed them up with Morgana's sleeping draught, and he's been asleep since late this morning. Then one of our best horses escaped from the stables, so I headed to the training grounds to find a couple of volunteers to round it up. There I learnt that Sir Gareck eloped with one of the kitchen maids, and would not be returning to Camelot." He pinched his brow in frustration.
Eyes widened as Merlin tried to think of an explanation. "Do you think that maybe..." He hesitated.
"What is it Merlin?"
"Well, it could be a sorcerer."
"Not that I haven't considered it, but sieging Camelot with bad luck? Bit of a stretch, don't you think?"
"He or she may not want to siege Camelot, Arthur. What if someone is trying to…keep us busy?"
"Don't be an idiot, Merlin. I hardly think a sorcerer would waste his time sending us bad luck."
Merlin opened his mouth to retort but was cut off as Arthur motioned for him to be quiet. The prince dismounted his horse cautiously and Merlin followed suit.
Soft chatter could be heard in the distance and immediately Merlin felt magic in the air. There was no doubt that druids had set up camp, but why so close to Camelot? Did they have a death wish?
The pair crept closer, kneeling down next to a tree and observing the fire. Two girls sat on large stones. One girl's hair put autumn leaves to shame with its vivid red colour, and the other girl, despite looking very youthful, had white hair the likes of which Arthur had never seen.
"How else were you planning on carrying out your orders?" The blonde asked. "Think about it. Not only is my spell distracting them, but another week of bad luck and the King may simply break down and beg us to reverse the spell."
The other girl sighed. "You're right, as usual."
Arthur turned to Merlin, eyes narrowing. Merlin recognized the warning as a promise he'd be in the stocks if he was ever inclined to gloat. He never had time to think on this, as a crunching noise sounded behind them, causing Arthur to whip around, sword out and ready. The prince nearly dodged druid's blow before blocking his sword fiercely. They shuffled off to the side, their fight turning into an odd dance, with metal gleaming and loud clanging.
"Pridwen!" The druid shouted, while narrowly avoiding Arthur's sword. "I found a couple of spies."
Another man entered the clearing, but Merlin was ready for him. With Arthur engaged in combat across the clearing, he was free to use his magic. Whispered words permeated the air, and with a flash of golden eyes, Merlin's opponent flew backwards, striking his head with such a crack that Merlin had to wince.
"Gedran…" he whispered desperately, before losing consciousness.
The druid sparring with Arthur suddenly stopped, causing Arthur's sword to strike a solid magic shield. Arthur bit back a cry from pain in his wrist and whipped around to a ready stance.
"Nuisances." the man sighed. He eyed his fallen comrade before narrowing his eyes at Merlin. The feeling of strong magic emanated from the boy. He paid no mind to Prince Arthur, but the servant worried him. The lad appeared to be conjuring up magic wordlessly, though reluctant to release it. He wondered why.
A glance toward the prince revealed all he needed to know. So the prince had no idea that his manservant was a sorcerer. The druid smirked. He blocked a well aimed blow from the prince, and turned side on, never letting Merlin out of Arthur's view. Swords clanged and Gedran swiftly maneuvered to the right. Arthur's brow furrowed as he send blow after blow toward the druid, just to have them blocked.
Merlin frowned with frustration at Gedran's manipulations. He glanced to the side, seeing the cover of some trees not too far away, and began to head for it.
"Not so fast!" a voice exclaimed, and the druid with bright red hair stood in his way, a wry smile on her face. "You will not reach the woods, sorcerer, so unless you'd like to reveal yourself, I would suggest restraining your magic."
His breath caught, as he considered the druid's words. They know. The druids know, and what…Gods, what did that mean for him? Had Arthur heard?
The warlock turned, fearful, and found the prince out for the count, a sword about to piece his heart. He yelled angrily, and gold pooled in Merlin's irises as his magic reacted to the assault on his friend. Gedran was knocked from his feet, but in Merlin's distraction he'd forgotten about the witch behind him. He winced as pain suddenly exploded through his head and fought to stay awake. Then he could feel the darkness gripping him, and considered bitterly that nothing else could possibly go wrong, before the world went black.
Gedran held the sword up, about to thrust it through the prince's unconscious body, but Lynne called out.
"Gedran!" she said, "Wait!"
He raised an eyebrow. "This is the son of Uther Pendragon, who has tormented us for years with his ignorance and hatred. Why should I let him live?"
"You tamper with things beyond you, Gedran." Medea answered.
"I still see no reason for him to live."
"We have orders, or have you forgotten?" Lynne asked.
Medea's head shot up. This wasn't the first time they'd mentioned orders. She wondered whose orders they were.
"From what you have told me, you are meant to distract Camelot, correct?"
"Yes, what is your point?"
Medea frowned. "I have a better idea."
Gedran sighed. "I'm listening."
Medea glanced at the unconscious figure of Merlin.
"How amusing." she said with a grin. "That he has magic."
"And your idea?" Gedran asked impatiently.
"How better to keep them busy than to switch their spirits?"
Gedran and Lynne looked skeptical.
"That's insane." Lynne protested. "Only the most skilled of druids can even consider something so dangerous."
"Are you saying you don't trust my skill?" Medea asked.
Lynne looked skeptical.
"Very well, let me assuage your doubt."
"No." Gedran said. "What guarantee do we have that this will work?"
Medea frowned. "It will."
She sighed at the looks the two druids gave her.
"Don't you see? Not only will this plan fulfill your orders, it will prevent the prince and his manservant from interfering. They will be too busy trying to figure out how to switch back."
"And what if they tell the king?"
Medea laughed. "Are you an idiot?"
Gedran restrained himself from slapping her. "Get to the point."
"Arthur is bound to discover the warlock's magic. How do you think he will react? Furthermore, how do you think the king will react? He cannot burn the warlock because it will be his son. The warlock's essence will be in the prince's body, making him useless to lead the knights."
Lynne and Gedran looked to each other, considering the possibilities.
Medea sighed and folded her arms. "Think about it. Imagine what the king would sacrifice for his only son to be returned to normal."
Gedran sighed. "You may be correct. Very well, do your work, trickster, but be wary. Things may not go as you predict, and I will hold you responsible for cleaning up the mess you make."
Medea tilted her head with annoyance, before kneeling next to Arthur. She began chanting the spell, the wind waving her white hair about and her eyes shining a deep gold.
The chanting continued for a few minutes until Medea reached out to touch Arthur's arm. The gold ran through him and he shimmered for a moment, his essence turning to mist in the air. With purpose, Medea reached out to Merlin, touching his arm.
It felt like a thousand fiery needles prickling her skin as she attempted to draw out Merlin's essence. The magic began to come with it.
No. This was not the plan.
She glanced at the magic, horrified, and attempted to push it back. Merlin's essence moved back with it. She pushed her own magic harder - still nothing.
Medea breathed heavily with exertion and pushed every ounce of magic she owned to its brink.
There was a tear in the connection. The magic began to separate.
Her body trembled but she could feel her spell working. Merlin's expression contorted with pain, and a yell escaped him.
The tear continued and Merlin's essence turned to mist. A barrage of images suddenly went through Medea's head along with a surge of power as Merlin's magic returned to his body. A golden sheen appeared on the air and the two mists shifted, directed into the opposite vessels of the prince and warlock.
Medea fell forward onto Merlin's torso with exhaustion, her eyes still wide at the power she'd felt. She shook her head and pushed herself to a sitting position, pretending to be fine.
"Medea?" Gedran asked, sincerely worried.
She dusted herself off and stood before meeting Gedran's eyes.
"It is done."