I love the name Cuthbert. CuthbertCuthbertCuthbert...it's Mr. Binn's first name too, for any of you Harry Potter fans our there. ;)
A Strange Day Indeed.
For Cuthbert, it was a strange day indeed.
He'd just arrived at Camelot, a city well-known for its just and fair laws, the unprecedented opportunities and the golden haired King of all Albion residing in the castle. He'd admired with an approving gaze the well-kept houses, the grinning faces of the people and the lightness of the place as he walked through the lower town, wondering how he would start again on this new city of hope.
That's when the first odd thing had happened.
A beautiful Lady, whom he knew for certain was Lady Guinevere, the Queen, was walking towards him. She smiled at him, stopped, and said,
"How are you? Is everything alright today?"
Cuthbert didn't know what he was more surprised about. That the Queen was addressing him or that she was on the market buying food like everyone else, carrying in her slender shoulders a bag with all kinds fruits and raw vegetables and dressed with the simplicity of a commonner even if her movements had the grace of a Queen.
"Everything's fine." Cuthbert stuttered, and he was surprised at the strength of his voice since he was expecting not one sound to come out, so shocked was he. "Thank you, My Lady."
Lady Guinevere turned away with a radiant smile, extending her hand so that a little boy with golden hair and brown eyes got out of his hiding place and trotted beside her. 'The little prince Amhar!' Cuthbert realized with a start. He was so wide eyed watching the pair go that he didn't realize people were watching him oddly.
Then, the second strange thing had happened.
As he continued- slightly baffled- his inspection of the market a knight of Camelot with long, dark hair ran past him with a mug full of ale on his hand. A knight drinking? Cuthbert was positively horrified.
"Ah, Sir Gwaine!" a woman cried out, stopping the man dead on his tracks. "what's going on?"
The knight, Sir Gwaine, beamed at her. "I've got to tell the princess that his best friend has arrived!" he said, and if the expression in his face could've been brighter then he would've rivaled the sun.
Cuthbert was taken aback by this. King Arthur had a daughter? He had never heard of such thing! Was she a newborn, then? How could a newborn have best friends?
"Really!" the woman looked as cheerful as the boisterous knight, placing her hand upon her mouth, smiling. "It's being months!"
"I know!" Sir Gwaine said in a tone that suggested he'd start jumping were it not for the heavy chain mail. He kissed the woman loudly on her cheeks in a rough display of his overwhelming joy before he started running again. "This is a good day!. Imagine how grumpy Arthur has been all this time!"
Cuthbert was too stunned to even register the knight's joyful skips as he went on. Arthur? Surely he couldn't be referring to the King in a first name basis now, could he?
He got his answer a few minutes after, when the third odd thing happened.
A white stallion entered the city while trumpets suddenly started sounding. There was a man atop, but his body was covered with a dark, flowing cloak and there was a hood covering his face. However, Cuthbert managed to glimpse two stormy blue eyes below it. Following the sudden gathering of people, Cuthbert found himself staring at the tall, lanky figure as he rushed towards the lower town.
Then the fourth odd thing had happened.
Another horse, this one a maroon pure blood, was sprinting as if hell was at his hooves, a rather impossible speed, with another unlikely rider on it. King Arthur, ( for Cuthbert would recognize that imperious jaw anywhere.) without any crown or specter or nothing, just a giant smile plastered on his face.
Just after entering the market the white stallion stopped dead and Cuthbert noticed that King Arthur had arrived at the same time. Without hesitation, the King hopped off his horse and ran, arms wide, to the tall, lanky figure that had just climber off the white mare.
King Arthur gathered the cloaked man in a bone-crushing hug, laughing as he let out an overjoyed cry of, "Merlin!"
Cuthbert understood, then, that the man he was seeing, Camelot's Court Sorcerer and King Arthur's right hand, was the most powerful man alive. The Emrys.
So he gaped.
Bringing his own arms around to embrace his King, Merlin smiled.
"Arthur." he said in what he, no doubt, thought a cheery and light tone. "I see you're still in once piece."
"Yeah, well. As if I couldn't survive some time without you." The King answered with a heartfelt laugh. He stepped back, still with one hand on his friend's shoulder and, with a face that spoke of lonesome days in which he'd missed his best friend, he drew back the hood.
Everyone drew a collective gasp.
At first, Cuthbert didn't get what was so impressive. He only saw a chiseled white-bone face, bright dark blue eyes and a mop of raven hair, sticking out in places as if someone had ruffled it (he couldn't have known that Merlin's hair always looked like this). But then he got it.
There was a dark purple-bluish bruise on Merlin's left cheek.
Someone beside Cuthbert cursed and it took no longer than a few seconds for him to discover who. The cheery knight whom he'd seen drinking ale was suddenly making his way through the crowd.
"What the hell, Merlin?" the knight named Gwaine bellowed, striding forward as if to shake the lean man but a look from Lady Guinevere stopped him.
King Arthur's beaming face changed dramatically. Rage, confusion and something akin to feral protectiveness was clear in all of his features. Cuthbert thought he heard a faint "Uncle Merlin!" from the spot on the crowd where Lady Guinevere was standing.
Still with an expression that would probably make all of Camelot's enemies back down, the King placed his calloused hand on his Court Sorcerer's left cheek gently, taking hold of his chin with his right one and titling his dearest friend's pale face, looking for anything else he could be hiding.
"What happened to you?" King Arthur said finally and the contained fury in his voice was enough for Cuthbert to know that, whomever had done this to the Court Sorcerer would pay with their life.
For Cuthbert surprise, Merlin grinned cheekily and got a firm grip on Arthur's wrist, taking the King's hands gently down. "Hah, I wouldn't want to say it in the middle of the market but if you insist, My Lord, I tripped."
Arthur's expression was priceless. He crossed both arms on his chest and one of his blond eyebrows arched in a way that suggested complete disbelief. "You... tripped."
"Yep!" Merlin assured, grinning with child-like enthusiasm. "You know, better than anyone prat, that I am clumsy beyond repair. There was a root, I tripped, and fell down."
"But that's some nasty bruise you got there, mate." the knight named Gwaine said, eyebrows furrowed in concern.
Again, Cuthbert was surprised to see that sunny smile return to Merlin's face "Oh, that's nothing, Gwaine." he replied lightly. "You should see my ribs!"
Silence echoed once again and Merlin's smile fell as if he'd suddenly realized that was the wrong thing to say. He grimaced as he looked at his King and Cuthbert did too.
Arthur's hands did not hesitate as they reached for Merlin's dark tunic with an expression that Cuthbert wished he'd never see again. But Merlin, eyes widening in realization, started to shy away from his friend, only to have Arthur's stone-like hand wrapped around his lean arm to keep him in place.
"Hey!" Merlin said, trying to get out of his friend's strong grasp. "get off, Arthur! I was joking-"
"Yeah, you'd better be, Merlin" Arthur replied in what must've been a growl. Easily getting over his Court Sorcerer's futile attempts at shoving him off, he lifted Merlin's shirt rapidly.
There was another gasp. And this time Cuthbert wasn't surprised when he gasped with them.
The young man's skin, pale as the moon, was marred by dark purple bruises that colored his ribcage like Yuletide lights. Very odd and dark Yuletide lights.
"Merlin…" Arthur whispered, horrified. His hand brushed over the dark spots, as if to survey the damage, but he stopped when Merlin grimaced and let out a soft, 'Ouch.'
Immediately straightening and putting an arm around his friend, King Arthur lowered him to the ground smoothly. "You better tell me what happened to you now, you idiot!" he said in a frightening tone.
Merlin smiled yet again before he let his weary head rest against the King's shoulder. To Cuthbert's surprise, instead of minding, the King shifted so that Merlin was more comfortable in his arms.
"There were at least nine sorcerers…" Merlin began,"They were all rebelling; they were coming here to destroy you, nothing new there. I had just finished the treaty with Mercia when I spotted them. They asked for my help, you know, me being Emrys and all that. I refused and asked them to back down. They didn't. We fought. End of the story."
After blinking away the remaining exhaustion the Court Sorcerer grinned up at his King, who returned his gaze with a heartfelt glare that didn't do enough to mask his worry.
"End of the story, Merlin? How the hell did you get those injuries, then?" Gwaine said, stepping even closer.
"Ah, I didn't lie, Gwaine. I did trip after the fight.…but I fell down this cliff and there was this bush-" he grinned again and Cuthbert could see in King Arthur's expression that the High King did not like where this was going. "…it took me hours to get all the thorns out of my body and the spell I used was certainly not as fast as I wanted it to be."
He closed his eyes for a moment and blinked wearily before yawning.
Cuthbert was astonished. This sorcerer had fell down a cliff? Embed his body with thorns? And yet here he was, acting as if nothing had happened.
"Oh, Merlin" Lady Guinevere said, stepping out of the crowd and kneeling beside her husband. She placed a hand on Merlin's brow as she let a small smile touch her lips. "Why didn't you say something first?"
"I missed you, Gwen." Merlin smiled at her sweetly. When the little prince stepped over and placed his hands on Merlin's knees, the warlock's face lit up "Hey, little guy!"
"Uncle Merlin!" Amhar said, worry present in his tiny voice "will you be alright?"
Merlin opened his mouth to reply but before his exaggerated nod was underlined by assurances Arthur placed a hand upon his shoulder and looked at his son.
"Of course, Amhar." he said, grinning convincingly "this idiot here is going to be just fine, you'll see. We won't let him go anywhere without help from now on, alright?"
And he slid one of his large hands under the Court Sorcerer's knees and another around his shoulders. Merlin blinked at him before his brow furrowed in understanding.
"Arthur!" he protested, narrowing his eyes as he tried to regain a balance he obviously did not have."Seriously, I can walk!"
"Whatever you say, Merlin."
And then the fifth odd thing happened that day. King Arthur stood up, lifting his wounded friend in his arms, rejecting everyone that offered to take his place.
And he made his way back to the castle.
Cuthbert was still shaking his head in bewilderment later that day. King Arthur's face, the worry, the rage was all he could think about. Who was the sorcerer anyhow? He knew Merlin was a trusted advisor but they behaved more like two long lost brothers!
"Amazing!" was all Cuthbert could say, under his breath.
To his surprise though, someone answered his muttered thought.
"I know" a voice said at his right. Startled, Cuthbert turned and saw a mature man, probably in his fifties, grinning at him "Hello." the man said. " I'm Roger"
"Cuthbert" Cuthbert said, shaking his hand. "So, what just happened here?"
"You are surprised for the King's reaction, are you not?" Roger said in an amused tone "I was too, when I first came. Those two are one special thing."
"I don't understand…the King…he didn't mind going out of the castle without robes or a crown" Cuthbert tried to think of any other ruler who'd abandon his dignity to kneel besides the people in a muddy ground. "…he knelt on the floor…I've never seen anything like that."
Roger shot him a knowing glance" You have to understand that when it comes to Merlin there's little the King won't do."
Cuthbert nodded, deciding that he would let out everything that was on his mind. Roger, he thought, could very well be his first friend on this new city.
"But there's more. That young man, the Court Sorcerer… why would he be so dead set on acting like nothing was wrong?"
" Merlin is a caring person..." Roger said. "He despises seeing people get hurt." a fond smile touched the man's weather beaten face. " Maybe, and I've known him long enough to think this is the reason; he thought that he could heal himself once he got into the castle. He just didn't want King Arthur to worry…that's the type of person he is."
"And Emrys? Is he really…?"
"Yes" Roger said in a serious tone. "He's Emrys. And Arthur is the once and Future King. If you are familiar with the druid's prophecies, as I am, you will understand the unshakable bond that unites them."
"They behave like…like…"
"Children? Yeah, when they are around each other pretty much. But a better word would be brothers."
Cuthbert nodded in appreciation. "Yeah, that's the word. Brothers"
I don't know why but I simply love to read about Merlin & Arthur reuniting after circumstances force them to be apart. :D
Again, happy holidays!