A/N: For once I cannot actually take credit for this idea.Larkaidikalikani messaged me with this idea. And no, I didn't try to spell that name. I just C&P'd it. It's not the kind of humor I usually do – or at least, haven't in a while – so I hope it's funny! If not, L, you can always ask someone else to write it.
A Staunch Ally in the War Against Magic
Arthur knew, the minute the words left his mouth, that he shouldn't have asked. No matter how curious he was. Never mind the odd situation. It didn't matter.
He shouldn't have asked if he liked his sanity. And Arthur did like his sanity, a lot.
So it was a shame he hadn't thought of that two seconds earlier.
"Sir Gwaine, why is my father staring intensely at a spongy white cube?"
"Technically, Arthur," answered Gwaine with a small, almost nervous laugh, "it's not a cube."
Arthur thought back to the Geometry lessons where he'd had ancient mathematicians' teachings pounded into his ear—after which it immediately crept its way out of the other. "Prism, then."
"Now isn't that a weird word to give it?" wondered Gwaine out loud, leaning against the side of the hall outside the throne room, where the open door permitted Arthur to see his father studying the white sponge. "After all, 'prism' also means something that catches the light and makes a rainbow – you wouldn't know; Uther banished them because they resembled magic – and this most definitely not—"
"Gwaine, please…" Arthur rubbed at the bridge of his nose and put his other hand up in a pleading gesture.
Gwaine dutifully tried to put the question from his mind (though it lingered, festered, and stole his sleep that night) to answer his friend. "Yes, alright. It was given to him by a strange girl who couldn't have been more than ten. She wore a black, feature-obscuring cloak… Though, have you noticed that if you tilt your head in those things, your features are revealed? To keep your nose out of sight, for example, you have to hide your eyes, and then you run into things…"
"Wait," interrupted Arthur, momentarily distracted. "When did you ever need a feature-obscuring cloak?"
And if he didn't know better, Arthur could've sworn Gwaine blushed. "Uh… it was nothing." He muttered under his breath, "Stupid girl… doesn't matter if she was pretty… Never kidnapping a puppy again…"
Arthur stared at him blankly for a moment (for his brain had shut down at the mere thought of the scenario that had just popped into his mind), then gave himself a mental kick and barked, "Focus, Gwaine! My father!"
"Don't get your knickers in a twist!"
Arthur sighed and once more rubbed the much-abused bridge of his nose. It was a raw red, and by the end of the day, he had a feeling it would be bleeding. Why couldn't Gwaine cooperate? Could he not see that King Uther, who was already a little mentally unstable, was having a potentially serious problem? Sometimes the prince just wanted to quit – let someone else try being him; it was hard! But the good of Camelot spurred him on, so he asked more about this girl. "Did she give a name?"
"Yes, actually. She called herself 'Plot Device'."
"Yes, I just said that."
Arthur pondered this odd name, trying to make a connection and wondering why it sounded so familiar. His thinking was seriously impaired by the fact that his father now seemed to be talking to the box… thingy. "Now, where have I heard that?" he asked.
"The knights and guards."
"Plot Device? It's the name of half the guards and knights we have."
"What's the name of the other half?
"Oh. Well… okay then. Odd name to have, isn't it? What… what was it she gave my father?" He figured, what the heck, his sanity was already draining away by the moment; he might as well ask…
"A… a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, I think."
The minute Uther received the eraser and the mysteriously anonymous girl disappeared, he decided on a course of action.
"I want it executed! Get its magic germs away from me!" Uther threw the Magic Eraser at the nearest person, hoping it was a knight that would take the… thing… away to the dungeons.
Gaius sighed and put the spongy thing down on the big table in the middle of the room, thinking that he was going to have to explain to Uther – again – that magic did not have cooties. He turned to Uther and opened his mouth, only to find that the king was no longer standing in the middle of the throne room.
After a moment's search, Gaius spotted him cowering behind the throne. "Sire, come out from there!"
"But… it's magic," said Uther in a tone of horror. "I have to stay away! It wants to assassinate me, to rip apart my family!"
"Sire," said the physician firmly, striding over to his frightened monarch, "I assure you that the inanimate object has no desire to rip apart your family. It's just a prism of spongey white material that removes things."
"Yes… but…" – here the king whispered – "with magic. Execute it!" And with that, he once more disappeared behind his throne, the faint pop! of his sudden disappearance almost audible. (Because actual sound effects would be above the budget.)
"Sire," said Leon, who was standing around – as always; when was he not there? – and watching, in his drawling yet respectful voice, "I'm afraid we can't."
The voice that came from around the king's throne was very irate indeed. "I am the king! You must do as I order!"
"Yes, Sire, but we can't execute it… We can't execute a non-living little box… It's not even possible… Sire."
There was a moment of silence from behind the empty throne, and Leon could not shake the feeling that he was talking to a chair and looked quite deranged. A serving girl had just passed by the open door and seen him, and then walked away quickly with an alarmed look on her face. At least he had Gaius to be deranged with him.
"Leon's right," Gaius told the chair – um, that is, he told Uther. "Besides, this little white thing is not magic, Sire. I would have to do research on it to discover what it is, but I am relatively certain that this Mr. Clean Magic Eraser poses no threat of saucery."
Uther's head appeared again, his gray hair slightly mussed and his eyes wild. "It doesn't?"
"Oh." And with that, the king was on his feet again, brushing himself off quite regally before sitting back on his throne, to Leon's relief. "Well, if it isn't magic, why is it called Mr. Clean Magic Eraser?"
"I'm sure I don't know, Sire. As I said, after some more research…"
"Hand it to me; I want to see it…"
He took the Eraser in his hands and stared intensely at it, his steely eyes just inches away from the cube – no, sorry, prism – and his hand clenched around it.
And then, as he sat there, staring deeply into the squishy white prism/Eraser, he appeared… to start thinking.
Yes, thinking. Thinking so deeply, in fact, that he didn't respond when Gaius said he was going to take his leave and begin his research. Thinking so deeply that he didn't hear Leon call him multiple times, or hear him explain what was going on to Gwaine when the knight appeared. He didn't even notice when Arthur showed up and questioned Gwaine.
After he heard the story, Arthur decided to stay until his father had awoken from this trance-like state, wanting to make sure that the king was okay.
They stood around for a long time while Uther thought. It had to be very strenuous thinking, but then when it came to magic, it always was. Uther had a great many mental walls to climb over when sorcery – or in this case, non-sorcery – was involved.
Suddenly Uther's face lit up, and he smiled so largely that the scar on his forehead stood out more. It was really quite creepy, but no one had any time to reflect on that before Uther was speaking.
"I've got it!" he shouted gloriously. Or that, at least, was the word that popped into Arthur's head. He didn't know how someone could shout gloriously, but if anyone could do it, it was Uther.
"This little thing," exclaimed Uther, waving the Mr. Clean Magic Eraser, "is not a magical eraser! It's a Magic-Eraser! It erases magic!"
Leon, who was busy reflecting that shouting so excitedly was extremely out-of-character for Uther, was shocked back into reality by the fact that what Uther had just said made sense. Why hadn't they thought of that?
"That's very possible, Father," Arthur was saying with a nod, but Uther wasn't listening.
"This will erase magic," he explained to Arthur in a low, intense voice. "This is a staunch ally in the war against magic! It will help me eradicate sorcery from the realm!"
And before Arthur could say another word, the king was on his feet, spongy eraser held high, and running out of the throne room.
But he didn't.
Gwen dropped all the laundry that she was carrying when the king slammed into her.
"I'm sorry, Sire!" she stammered, reaching down to grab the clothes on the floor, but to her shock, Uther stopped her. He grabbed onto her arm roughly and yanked it out, and then…
A thoroughly alarmed Gwen watched as her monarch (who she at first, bless her, thought was 'making a move' at her) began to scrub at her dark arm with a damp (not moist, as any housewife in the history of the earth could tell you) white prism-sponge.
"Sire!" she squeaked, worried. "What are you…?"
He stepped back, still staring at her arm, and seemed to wait.
Nothing happened. It was quite anti-climatic.
"No magic," muttered the slightly wild-looking king, and then he scurried – yes, scurried! – away from her.
Gwen just stood there, scandalized.
A moment later, Arthur ran up to her. "Guinevere! Did you see my father?"
Oh, did she see him, alright! She couldn't wait to tell Arthur the whole thing and, if she was lucky, cry into his shirt a little.
The cook, unlike Gwen, was thrilled.
For when the king came in and began to scrub her help, waiting for those with magic to be erased (an idea which, she noticed, actually frightened some of them), the cook managed to get her hands on the eraser by nearly wresting it away from the king.
And she noticed that it looked like something she could use to clean a pot, so she tried it.
To her eternal amazement, the minute she began to scrub, the crusty food on the pot disappeared. "This… this is like m- a miracle!" she gasped, careful which 'm-word' she used around the king.
She began to scrub at all her pots in a feverish excitement, nearly crying with joy, not knowing or caring if this is what a Mr. Clean Magic Eraser was actually used for.
It was… it was just so lovely.
"No, that's mine!" insisted the king childishly, yanking it back from her.
And then, needing to get away from the cook who lusted after his Eraser, and deciding that the people in the kitchen were clean (no pun intended), he ran out.
Calling after her new-found love, weeping, the cook called out, "Goodbye, Mr. Clean! I'll never forget you, my dear!"
And she never did.
Sometimes, actually, in the middle of the night years after, the other servants heard her crying out for her Mr. Right. Technically, her Mr. Clean.
"Gaius!" complained Merlin, the physician's ward, as he ran into the room. "Do you know what the king is doing?"
Gaius eyed him drily. "Trying to erase magic, I heard."
"Yes! Aren't you concerned? This is horrible! What do you think will happen to me if I get erased? I need your help to think of something!" cried the panicked warlock, coming forward to the table at which Gaius was sitting.
Gaius shook his head. "There's no need to panic, Merlin. Look, I've been reading up on this 'Mr. Clean Magic Eraser' and I can tell you that it's perfectly harmless against magic. It is only meant to erase messes. It's a cleaning tool." He pointed to the open book he was reading, where the passage title said, in flowery writing, "Mr. Clean Magic Eraser".
"You mean…" Merlin chewed his lip. "There's no need to worry?"
"None at all."
And that, of course, is when the king ran in, something white clutched in his fist, grabbed Merlin's arm, and began to scrub it.
He stared at the arm, waiting for something to happen.
He squawked in disappointment and rushed out again.
Merlin's eyes couldn't tear away from his arm, where still nothing was happening. "No need to worry? At all? Did you see that!"
"Alright, maybe a little."
Of course, soon the inevitable happened.
As all Mr. Clean Magic Erasers tend to do when used a lot, it shrank down until it was nothing more than a small gray-white piece of foamy material the size of Uther's thumbnail.
And Uther cried over it, sitting right down in the middle of the hall, pulling his kingly knees up to his chest.
That's where Arthur found him, finally, after a long day searching and brushing past alarmed or downright weirded out servants with very clean arms.
"Father!" he cried. "What happened?"
"It…" Uther seemed to choke on the words, and had to look away as he held what was left of Mr. Clean out to Arthur. "It died!"
Arthur stared, nonplussed, down at the thing in his father's palm. "Ah, yes. I suppose it did."
Uther's sobbing increased in volume.
Arthur didn't know what to say. "I'm… sorry?"
"We have to have a funeral."
"Yes!" said the king, nodding his head violently, leaning back into the wall. "It was a staunch ally in the war against magic! It must have a funeral, with speeches and everything. Like… Like this…" He took a deep breath, crying under control, and began to make up a speech on the spot:
"This Mr. Clean Magic Eraser gave up everything for his crown, for his king and the war against magic. He fought with all the scrubbing power he had to defeat the magic in evil beings that would destroy Camelot. It was a true… a true… patriot!" he screamed the last word, as the sobs had come back full force.
Arthur patted his father comfortingly on the shoulder even as he jerked back from the uncontrollable howling. "I'll make the arrangements, Father, if you agree to go to your room and rest… This has been quite traumatic for you."
Uther nodded weakly, and Arthur stepped back, pleased with his work, just as Merlin came running up.
"Ah, there you are, Merlin. Help my father to his room, will you? I have to… ah, I have to go prepare a funeral. For an eraser."
Merlin, who was as unflappable as he was clumsy, just said "Yes, Sire," and moved towards the crying king, not thrown by Arthur's odd pronouncement.
"Yes, Sire?" The warlock turned around expectantly, eyebrows raised.
"Why is your arm wrapped up in that cloth?"
"Uh…" Merlin's mind flickered back to the gaping, dark hole that had appeared in his arm, and his vindictive pleasure that Mr. Clean had passed away. "I... cut myself, Sire."
"Oh… well, be more careful."
And the warlock and prince moved away from each other to go about their own separate duties. And still Uther sobbed.
Arthur moved his hand up to his nose to rub, only to find it came away red.