This is my first fan fiction. Morgana is good, and King Cenred and Morgause are alive. Disclaimer: I do not own Merlin.
"Your highness, may I present Prince Edmund of Devonshire."
King Uther chuckled, but he did not look up from the map he was studying with several of his advisors. Gaius and Merlin stood attendance nearby. "You hardly have to have yourself announced," Uther said. "You've been staying with us for a week now."
Beside the king, Lady Morgana dropped her goblet. It rolled on the floor, spattering her long emerald-green gown with wine. It was the only sound in a room that had gone eerily silent. Uther glanced at her, then across the room at their newly announced guest. He was a tall, slender man in his late twenties with light brown hair and somber gray eyes. There was a look about him of a scholar. Uther had never seen the man before.
"What game is this?" Uther demanded, confused, with the stirrings of anger. "Edmund is hunting in the woods with my son."
"No game, your highness. I carry letters from my father and a trade proposal." The prince, though faintly alarmed, spoke calmly. A courtier appeared at his side at a signal from Uther. One of the young man's servants pulled the papers from a bag. Edmund took them and handed them to the waiting courtier. "Wait." He pulled a gold ring from his finger. "Perhaps you recognize the royal crest of my family."
Uther studied the ring for only a moment before bellowing to a guard, "Get Sir Leon here immediately! Get him now, dammit!"
A few moments later, Sir Leon hurriedly entered the room accompanied by Percival and Elyan. He cast a sideways glance at Merlin and saw the dismayed look on the young man's face.
The king glared furiously at the three men. "Which of the knights of Camelot have accompanied my son today?"
There was an awkward pause. "None of them, your highness," replied Sir Leon, a bit nervously. "Arthur is in the company of Prince Edmund and four of his men. The prince is quite safe."
Uther gave himself a moment. It did not help. Rage set his blood to boiling. "Let me introduce you to someone," he said, through gritted teeth. He gestured toward their visitor. "This is Prince Edmund of Devonshire."
Sir Leon looked confusedly at Edmund then back to Uther. "I'm sorry, sire, I'm not understanding. Who are the men who rode out with the prince?"
Gaius had moved closer to the king. "That would seem to be the question."
The Previous Evening
Merlin pulled back the heavy fur coverlet on Arthur's bed and fluffed the pillows. Arthur strode into the room. "Merlin, I will be spending the day tomorrow hunting with Prince Edmund."
"Great! I'll throw a few things together for our saddlebags."
"You won't be coming, Merlin. This should give you plenty of time to clean my room. Thoroughly. I want the tapestry on the wall and the rugs taken out and beaten."
"That can wait. I'm coming with you."
"No, you're not," Arthur said, impatiently. "You have trouble grasping a simple concept: I give the orders. You take them."
"I have to come," Merlin pleaded. "To keep you safe."
Arthur gave a humorless laugh. "Now I know why I keep you around. For comic relief." Merlin looks a little hurt.
"I have been taught to defend myself," Arthur continued, "since I was old enough to lift a sword. You know that." Arthur softened a bit. "Besides I'll be surrounded by fully armed men. What could go wrong?"
A little silence fell after the prince's last words. Merlin got a creeped-out feeling. He stared reproachfully at the royal heir's profile then noticed Arthur struggling to remove his chain mail. Without a word he moved to help him.
A half hour later, Merlin was back with Gaius. Merlin paced back and forth venting his frustration while the old physician mashed up some herbs and puttered with some bottles.
"He wants his rugs dusted! Like that can't wait!" Merlin continued pacing. He badly wanted to throw something.
"Don't you think you're overreacting a bit, Merlin?" Gaius inquired, calmly.
"No! I have a bad feeling about tomorrow. A premonition."
Gaius turned around and looked at him. "Anything specific?"
"No. Just a feeling that Arthur's in danger. A bad feeling."
The old physician thought for a moment. "There are other ways to protect him."
Merlin stopped pacing restlessly around the room and turned and looked at Gaius through narrowed eyes.
The Following Morning
Merlin entered the prince's chambers with a breakfast tray which he set down before he opened the windows and pulled back the curtains around Arthur's bed.
"It is time to get up, your highness," Merlin said stiffly in a colorless voice.
Arthur turned loose of the pillow he was clutching and sat up and stared at Merlin. "Who are you, and what have you done with Merlin?"
"I just feel I was a bit out of line yesterday." Merlin spoke contritely, but Arthur regarded him suspiciously.
"You're mad, aren't you?"
"No, no, of course not." Merlin carried the tray over to the table and started setting up breakfast.
Twenty minutes later, Arthur had washed up, dressed, and eaten. He sat on the edge of the bed and watched idly as Merlin cleared the dishes from the table.
"I miss your usual mindless prattle, Merlin." The servant turned guileless blue eyes toward him. Arthur threw a small pillow at him which hit his shoulder without any real force.
"That didn't hurt." Merlin smiled, thawing a bit.
"It wasn't supposed to." Arthur hopped off the bed and turned to leave.
"Wait." Merlin reached in the pocket of his jacket. "I have something for you to take with you." He pulled out a small bag on a cord and handed it to the prince.
Arthur took it curiously. "What is it?"
"It's an amulet. It'll keep you safe. You wear it around your neck."
"I'm a warrior, Merlin. I don't need protecting."
"Humor me, sire."
Arthur looked at him. "All right."
"Yes!" Arthur put the cord around his neck, tucked it inside his shirt, and hurried from the room.