I am way too obsessed with the Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy, this is another - slightly bizarre - piece of fiction inspired by Douglas Adams (you don't need to know anything about Hitchhiker's to understand this, in fact all that you need to know has been written out below).
"There is an art – or rather a knack – to flying. The knack lies in learning how to throw yourself at the ground and miss. Pick a nice day and try it.
The first part is easy; all it requires is simply the ability to throw yourself forward with all your weight and the willingness not to mind that it's going to hurt. That is, it's going to hurt, if you fail to miss the ground.
Most people fail to miss the ground and if they're really trying properly, the likelihood is that they will fail to miss it fairly hard. Clearly it's the second point – the missing – which presents with the difficulties.
One problem is that you have to miss the ground accidentally; it's no good deliberately intending to miss the ground because you won't. You have to have your attention suddenly distracted by something else when you're half way there, so that you're no longer thinking about falling, or about the ground, or about how much it's going to hurt if you fail to miss it. It is notoriously difficult to prise your attention away from these three things during the split second you have at your disposal – hence most people's failure, and their eventual disillusionment with this exhilarating and spectacular sport.
Do not listen to what anybody says to you at this point, because they're unlikely to say anything helpful. They are most likely to say something along the lines of 'good God you can't possibly be flying'. It is vitally important not to believe them, or they will suddenly be right.
If however you are lucky enough to have your attention momentarily distracted at the crucial moment (by say: a gorgeous pair of legs, tentacles, pseudopodia according to phylum and/or personal inclination) you will miss the ground completely.
Try a few swoops, gentle ones at first, then drift above the tree tops breathing regularly.
Do not wave at anybody.
When you've done this a few times you'll find the moment of distraction rapidly becomes easier and easier to achieve." - Douglas Adams [Hitchhiker's Guide to the Galaxy - Tertiary Phase]
And so we find our young hero in a field (only one of our young heroes as the other is currently on his way to the field and will enter this story in approximately 70 words) – already sporting a substantial collection of bruises from previous failed attempts – with a page of a book that he has – quite irresponsibly – torn out earlier in the day, now lying on the grass in front of him where he has left it so that he can refer back to the rather vague instructions. He is just getting to the point of eventual and perhaps inevitable exasperation with the whole endeavour when he is joined in the field by a close friend of his (not that the friendship is ever acknowledged).
Merlin however fails to notice the arrival as he is currently on his way to fail to miss the ground for what is, perhaps, the fifteenth time (or was it fourteenth – did the time when he tripped really count?), what he does notice, however, is the boots currently occupying the space in which – had he once again failed in his quest for flight – he would now be occupying, as it is the boots have provided a remarkably effective distraction and the young warlock finds himself stationary, slightly above the ground.
It is therefore unfortunate that the elusive moment of distraction has in fact occurred at a time where the act of flight may or may not be incriminating (depending on Merlin's ability to talk himself out of the situation). It is also unfortunate that Merlin has chosen this moment to think, oh Gods I'm flying! And therefore renders this statement untrue.
"Merlin, get off my feet." Arthur demands, giving Merlin the opportunity to get out of this rather awkward situation without actually embarrassing himself further – or he would if he hadn't opened his mouth.
"Err… Sire I can explain this, you see I found this book and it said that-"
"Merlin, I don't care if it said you could bring back the dead, you can't just practice magic in Camelot!" It should be explained at this point that, for the purpose of this fic, we are assuming that Arthur knows about Merlin's magic as this is more conducive to the plot (well, actually there isn't really a plot, it just means that I don't have to write a big reveal scene).
"It's not magic sire, even you could do it." It is after the words have left his mouth that Merlin realised that it was probably not helpful for him to have insulted Arthur, even subtly (subtlety is, relative, if you frequently refer to someone as a 'prat' or 'coltpole', the phrase 'even you could do it' might just pass under the radar) perhaps it is fortunate for Merlin that radar has not yet been invented as the statement goes unremarked upon.
"How is it not magic? You were floating!"
"Yes… well… in fact using magic to fly is actually a lot easier, but you tend to be unable to get back down, I thought that this might be safer."
"And what is 'this' exactly, I want a full explanation, not some lie you think I would prefer to hear."
Instead of giving a verbal explanation of his actions Merlin chose instead to hand Arthur the page of the book. This was, he considered, rather a wise decision, as it gave Merlin the time to place a fair distance between him and his master before the inevitable violent reaction, to what the prince would undoubtedly consider, insane cod's wallop.
It was to the servant's surprise therefore, when he saw Arthur throw himself to the ground with all the grace of a wyvern attempting ballet (which isn't a lot if you were wondering).
"Ouch." Apparently the prince had failed to miss the ground.
"Perhaps if I distract you when you're falling?" Merlin offered, now relieved that the only damaged to his body he would have by the end of the day would have been induced by the ground, and quit keen to be able to teach the slightly condescending prince something (even if it was just how to miss the ground).
"No, that won' t work, if I'm expecting you to distract me I won't be distracted, we have to find a way of unexpectedly distracting eachother."
"I think I'll have to think about this…"
It is a completely unsuspecting Uther that, after hours of searching, finally finds his son and the boy's manservant alternatively hurling themselves at the ground and shouting 'boo'. Sometimes he wonders if he raised the boy quite right.
If it wasn't clear the book page referenced was the page with the flying instructions on it.