A/N: This is my first ever Squire's Tales fanfic. I've loved the books for years, but have just gotten around to publishing some fic-ness. If you dare read on, I'll warn you: It's pure fluffy rubbish, an exercise to try out my favorite SQ characters on paper. So don't expect anything profound or amazing from this oneshot. It's meaningless fluff.
Any feedback would be appreciated, though, because I'm trying to keep the characters as close to the books as I can – let me know if I've hit the mark or missed terribly!
Oh, and by the way, this is set sometime after 'The Squire, His Knight and His Lady' and sometime before 'The Savage Damsel and the Dwarf'.
"You realize that you will be polishing my armor tonight."
"Next time you go back to Avalon, please ask your father to teach you how to cross to England without ending up in these types of, er, unfortunate landing spots." Gawain looked around at the massive mud pit they had appeared in.
Terence blushed. "Yes, milord," He said dejectedly. All around, mud was splattered everywhere – on Gawain, on Terence, on Guingalet. At least, Terence thought it was mud. The squire sniffed at a glob that had landed on his jerkin and reeled. He sure hoped that it was mud. Really foul, really smelly mud.
Gawain seemed to be hoping the same thing as he gingerly swept at the brown guck that clung to his armor. Instead of actually helping matters, however, this resulted instead in the changing of the mud from brown blobs to brown smears. Terence grimaced, knowing that he would be spending many hours with a brush, some soap, and steel polish come evening.
"And Terence?" Gawain ventured after a while,
"Speak of this to no one."
The knight and his squire shared a look of equal distaste, but eventually, Terence had to ruin it.
"But… What will we tell them, milord?"
Gawain looked thoughtful for a moment. Then, slowly, impossibly, a smile spread over his face.
Terence looked on in confusion. "Milord?"
Back in Camelot…
Arthur let his eyes drift skeptically over the ambiguous green-brown smears that adorned his nephew's armor and placed his hand strategically over his nose to block out at least some of the foul odor.
"A golem, you say?"
"Yes, sire. It was terrorizing a local village – I had to intervene, of course."
"Of course," Arthur nodded sagely. "I am sure this village will forever be in your debt."
"'Twas nothing," Gawain waved his hand dismissively.
"Perhaps," Arthur said in all seriousness, "But surely they will forever remember how a knight of the Round Table saved them from such a horrible, foul, and – apparently - bloodthirsty mud golem. Speaking of which, I was unaware that we had golems this far west, Gawain."
Having not considered the geological fallacies of his pretend heroics, Gawain could only look at his king wide-eyed and silent. Eventually, he looked over to Terence for assistance.
Blushing for the breach in status, Terence spoke directly to Arthur. "It may have been a rogue, your majesty," He improvised, "A lone wanderer come too far from the Middle East, perhaps." Even to Terence's ears, it sounded ridiculous.
Arthur raised an eyebrow. "Across the entire European continent and the English Channel. An ambitious wandering golem, wouldn't you say?" The two mud-splattered companions could only stand there awkwardly under the scrutiny of their king, so eventually Arthur shook his head and continued. "It is of no matter. What was the name this village, Sir Gawain?"
"Village, milord?" Gawain blinked.
"Yes, the village you saved," Arthur sounded as if he was speaking to an inattentive youth, "The one with the golem."
"Um," Gawain swallowed, "I am afraid I did not learn the name of the village, sire." He shuffled uncomfortably, resulting in several strange squeaking noises from his armor.
"Surely the villagers game to thank you for your aid – did they not bother to mention the name of their home front?"
Gawain hesitated, sensing a trap. "No they did not, milord."
Arthur frowned more deeply. "Did any of the villagers have names?"
Gawain swallowed hard, seeing that he was backed into a corner. "I seem to remember… Robert."
"Robert." The king repeated, a disbelieving expression on his face.
Not a moment too soon, Terence came to his master's rescue. "I think what my lord Gawain is trying to say, your majesty," he interjected, "Is that we were not actually in the village when the golem appeared. We were a ways away, in one of the potato fields when the creature attacked."
Gawain's looked at his squire as if this was the first intelligent thing he'd said all day, and they shared a tiny smile. Then, Arthur spoke again.
"A farmland, you say? I suppose if I go out to… Well, wherever this village happens to be, I will find a field of ruined potatoes, then?"
Gawain blinked confusedly. "And, why would you want to do that, milord?"
"Well," Arthur replied, "the farming villages of England are what support Camelot itself. If this city is to miss an entire shipping of potatoes because of a grossly misplaced mud golem, I should like to know where repairs need to be made. So I am assuming I can still find this potato field, can I not?" The king looked perfectly innocent in his inquiry, though Gawain could just glimpse an underlying sense of sadistic humor in those sage eyes.
"I'm afraid not, milord." Gawain said tightly. "It was completely decimated in the conflict with the golem."
Arthur frowned. "A pity. I'm sure I will be receiving complaints from your friend Robert sooner or later over his annihilated crops." When neither Gawain nor Terence answered, the king continued, "So the crops are gone and the field completely ruined. Am I wrong in supposing that I will find some remains of this unusually west-bound mud golem?"
"No, my liege," Terence said too quickly, "that you will find most readily." Despite himself, Terence just couldn't hold back his smile, and he didn't catch his mistake until the full force of Gawain's glare was bearing down on him and Arthur was rather unsuccessfully hiding a smile.
"Well spoken, Squire Terence," Arthur said around his grin, "Now if you will be so kind, get my nephew cleaned up. It seems as though he's had a nasty run in with a mud puddle – er, golem."
"Yes, your majesty," Terence bowed his head, hoping Gawain didn't see his smile. Unfortunately, he did.
"Excuse me, my lord," Gawain avoided eye contact, "but I must retire, and my squire," Gawain too a moment to glare at Terence, who was grinning madly like the half-faery he was, "has work to do."
"Of course, Sir Gawain," Arthur mustered a formal tone, but his eyes were sparkling mischief. "God give you a good evening. You as well, Squire Terence."
The two bowed and left, leaving muddy squish-squashing noises as they went. Halfway to their quarters, after many stares from passers-by and giggles from noble ladies, Gawain growled,
"You'd better be happy Arthur doesn't know your heritage, lad."
Terence frowned at his master. "Oh? Why's that?" he asked.
"Because if he did, I'd have him know what actually happened. Mud golem – pah! Rubbish. More like a daft faery prince who can't navigate his way properly to Winchester without finding the only mud pit within a hundred leagues."
"It's hardly my fault – I was only following Robin's instructions. If you didn't know, I'm still getting the hang of this whole traveling-between-worlds business." Terence insisted.
"So I gathered. Next time, don't listen to an imp when he gives you instructions." They continued on to Gawain's quarters, where Terence helped Gawain remove his dirtied armor, now caked in dried sticky mud, and the two changed into clean clothes.
Once he saw Terence slaving away with the scrubbing brush and polish, Gawain's mood lightened considerably, and he stopped by to check on his squire after an hour or so.
"Ah, I can nearly see some steel underneath all that grime." Gawain rubbed the breastplate with the edge of his sleeve. "Why, with some more oil and a second scrub, it may just be passable!"
Terence sent his master long-suffering look, but said nothing. When Gawain left, he sighed. "A daft faery prince indeed," He grumbled.
"I wouldn't be so hard on yourself, your grace," a lilting voice floated in the window, "after all, it was your first try at making the crossing to England on your own."
Terence looked up to where he knew Robin's elfish face would be and scowled. The faery giggled and came to sit by the squire. "You must admit," the small green figure said, "it was well worth it to see Sir Gawain done up in such a ridiculously dirty suit."
"Perhaps you can say that," Terence replied, "you're not scrubbing it."
Robin ignored him. "Are you really not going to listen to my instructions from now on, your grace?" He asked.
Terence glared at the faery skeptically. "I don't know. Are you going to constantly lead me into situations such as this?"
Robin let out a sweet laugh and smiled. "You must remember, my lord, if ever I lead you into something, I shall be sure to lead you out again."
Terence wasn't quite sure what this was supposed to mean, so he changed the subject. "Surely you came for something other than to taunt me, Robin."
"Of course, your grace," Robin bowed unnecessarily, and Terence was positive it was meant to annoy him. "Your father has informed me that – mud pit aside - you did well at making the cross to the World of Men. He would like to return to Avalon in one fortnight, at dusk, so that he may teach you more about your homeland and the portals between worlds."
Despite his foul mood, the prospect of seeing his father and his home again lightened Terence's spirit considerably. But then, he had his loyalties and obligations. "What shall I tell Gawain? There's no knowing when I'll turn up again after I leave the World of Men."
"You tell him the truth, of course, unless you want to tell him you've been scouting out mud pits. As for time, your father has more a handle on that than you know." Robin gave Terence a wink, "I shall see you in one fortnight's time, your grace. Until then, farewell." Robin bowed, and he was gone as quickly as he'd come.
Terence watched him go, and let his eyes linger for a moment before he sighed and turned back to his work. Terence started when he saw the armor before him, because it was sparking clean, with no trace of mud, dirt, grime or grease on it. The squire held a vambrace up to his eyes, and despite his limited experience in magic, something in the faery bit of Terence's mind told him that there had been an enchantment done on Gawain's armor.
"I shall be sure to lead you out again," Robin's voice floated back to him. Terence smiled and shook his head, rising to his feet.
When Terence showed Gawain the magically clean armor, the knight dubiously asked if his squire had picked up a knack in the magically arts. Once Terence had explained that it was Robin, Gawain was careful to hold the armor at arms' length.
"You don't suppose that little imp has enchanted it in other ways, do you?" Gawain eyed the breastplate as though he could see the enchantments around it.
"Well I'm sure I don't know. It's not like he told me."
"But you're half faery – surely you can… See magic or something?"
Terence had never heard of such a ridiculous notion. "What?" he asked incredulously.
"Oh, fine, have it your way," Gawain scowled and took up the shining armor. "But if I put this on and break out into some sort of magically-inflicted rash, I'm blaming you and your little imp."
"Robin's not so bad, milord. He's a good friend."
"Fiend, maybe. Puck the Impetuously Annoying Imp, lover of mischief and pranks galore. He just loves messing with people and their petty lives, you know."
"He's always seemed to be nice to me – childish at times, but nice."
Gawain had finished putting away his armor and had taken out his sword to sharpen it. "Yes, but you're his duke. You could have his head off his shoulders at a word, you know."
Terence frowned deeply. "You don't suppose he's afraid of me, do you?" he seemed hurt by the notion.
Gawain let out a bark of laughter. "Afraid? Of you? He'd be daft if he was. No, if anything that imp is afraid of Ganscotter. But I'd wager it's more respect than fear, anyway."
Terence seemed satisfied with this and said no more. The two sat in silence for several long minutes, and Terence couldn't help but grin when he caught his master glancing over at the clean suit of armor nervously, as if dreading the moment when he would have to don it again. After Gawain was done sharpening his sword, Terence felt it was a good time to speak.
"Father has asked me back to Avalon in a fortnight's time," he said.
"Oh?" Gawain looked over at his squire, "Whatever for?"
"Learning about the World of Faeries, mostly," Terence waved a dismissive hand, "and the portals between it and England."
Gawain seemed to sense that Terence would be making the journey alone, and asked a bit apprehensively, "When do you suppose you'll be back?"
Terence shrugged, his brow in a small furrow. "I'm not sure. Robin says that father will see to it, and I trust him."
Gawain raised an eyebrow. "You trust an elf?"
"No, I trust my father." Terence smiled at him.
Gawain accepted this answer and rose to his feet. "Well, I'm off to go wash this horrid smell off me. You should do the same, you know. It's a lovely color of brown, but I'm afraid it just doesn't suit you." Gawain gestured towards Terence's mop of dark, curly hair, which was blotched with lighter-colored patches of dried mud. The squire glanced upwards at his brow and had to admit that Gawain was right.
Just as the knight was at the doorway, he paused and cast a look back at his squire. "Oh, and Terence?"
"When you next see your father, would you mind giving him a message?"
"Of course not, milord. What is the message?"
Gawain paused for a moment, and when he spoke, Terence could hear the smile in his voice. "Traveling between worlds is well and good, but explaining away giant mud pits and inept half-faeries to the king of England is a bit unsavory."
Inexplicably, Terence could hear Robin's laughter echoing in his mind. He replied innocently, "You mean when it ends up with a golem expat, ruined potato fields and somehow a fellow named Robert?" Gawain said nothing, and it was Terence's turn to grin.
"Yes," Gawain gritted out eventually, "when that happens."
Terence continued to smile. "I'll be sure to tell him."
Gawain said nothing as he left, but for some reason, Terence didn't think that King Arthur would let his nephew live this one down for a long time.
"It was well worth it to see Sir Gawain done up in such a ridiculously dirty suit," Robin had said.
Smiling, Terence went to wash out his hair. Yes, yes it was.