The first lie: It wasn't every day that something horrifying and possibly life-threatening happened to Prince Arthur.
The second lie: It was never the manservant Merlin who got Arthur out of peril. Arthur got himself out of peril. Every. Single. Time.
The third lie: Arthur never did something obviously stupid and dangerous. No matter how many times Morgana tried to trick him into the bottle so she could cast him into the ocean, Arthur never fell for it.
The forth lie: Arthur never cried.
It was a Tuesday, and Arthur wanted a cookie. Usually, cookies were his Wednesday snack and he had little jam tarts on Tuesday. But, he was the prince and he could do whatever he wanted, so he decided that on this particular Tuesday, he wanted cookies.
Unfortunately, being the prince didn't change the fact that Arthur was barely four inches tall. Getting cookies on his own (because, really, the king wouldn't stand for him changing the snack schedule even though he was the prince, so he had to be stealth about it) turned out to be quite a hassle.
It took him almost half an hour to find and climb a safe route to the kitchen cabinet where the cookies were kept. By the time he reached the cookie box, he was sweating and panting and feeling unnecessarily out of shape for someone who regularly led sword fighting practices for half a dozen knights. To make matters worse, he had tracked mud all across the kitchen counter, and that was the opposite of stealth. How had his boots gotten so muddy? Why hadn't Merlin cleaned them? That was Merlin's only job.
Arthur looked up at the large box of cookies and sighed. It was going to take a lot of maneuvering to knock the box over and crawl inside. He wondered how long it would be before the cooks came back from their afternoon break to start preparing his dinner. Would he have time to take a nap before his cookie heist was discovered? The cookie box was probably just small enough to be perfectly cozy. And what better place for a Tuesday afternoon nap than a cookie box? The smell alone would be dream-worthy.
Once he had caught his breath, Arthur started leaning against the cookie box, kicking it, punching it, taking running leaps at it. Nothing he did made it topple over. It barely even wiggled.
Arthur slumped against the box and let himself slowly slide down it until he was sitting. He should have brought a tool or a weapon of some sort. Maybe his sword would have been able to cut into the box at the bottom, and he could have taken the cookies out that way.
Arthur froze and looked carefully out at the kitchen. There was no one there. No cooks, no king, no Merlin.
"ARTHUR! WHAT ARE YOU DOING?"
Arthur gulped and tried to look back down at the counter, but had to cover his eyes at the last second.
"Is that you, Morgana?" he asked, backing away from the edge of the cabinet. He really hated heights. In his desperation for cookies, he had found the courage to climb up to the cabinet. But now that he was stuck in the cabinet without his cookie reward, the fear and panic were slowly coming back to him.
"WHAT ARE YOU DOING UP THERE?" Morgana shouted.
"I was trying to get some cookies," Arthur explained, feeling somewhat foolish. Leave it to his bossy step-sister to find him breaking all the rules.
"COOKIES AREN'T UNTIL TOMORROW!"
"I know. But I wanted some today." Looking back, it really had been a silly idea. He should have waited until the next day for his cookies. He liked jam tarts just as much as he liked cookies. And the jam tarts were served to him in his own room, no peril involved.
"ARE YOU STUCK?"
"NO!" Arthur shouted back immediately, though he couldn't remember his escape plan for the life of him. He had had one, but his mind was completely blank. All he could do was hope that he would remember it soon, and hope that it had nothing to do with climbing back down the dish towel and paper towel stand he had used to climb up to the cabinet. Descending from heights was far worse than ascending to them, because he had to look down to see where he was going and where to place his feet. And when he looked down, he could see how terribly far away the floor (or, in this case, the kitchen counter) was from him.
"YES, YOU ARE!" Morgana laughed.
"I am not stuck!" Arthur insisted. "I am merely resting!"
"WELL, YOU'D BETTER FINISH RESTING SOON. THE COOKS ARE DUE BACK IN FIFTEEN MINUTES."
Arthur gasped. The cooks would scold him and tell his father what he had tried to do. There was nothing for it. He had to get down from the cabinet.
Taking a deep breath, Arthur leaned over slightly in attempt to look down at Morgana. He kept one hand firmly on the corner of the cookie box to brace himself, but still couldn't manage to lean over far enough to see her. He wasn't even standing up, so there was next to no chance of him falling over the edge, but he still couldn't force himself to lean any further.
"YOU'RE STUCK!" Morgana teased.
"I'M NOT!" Arthur shouted, sitting back up against the cookie box. Maybe if he hid behind the box until the cooks left again after dinner, he could get Merlin to help him down. Merlin would never laugh at him. Although, the cooks would notice if he wasn't in his room for his favorite meal, and they would alert the king, and then there would be a panic.
"JUST ROLL OFF THE EDGE!" Morgana suggested. "I'LL CATCH YOU."
"Don't be stupid," Arthur retorted. "I know it's hard for you, but at least try."
"DO YOU WANT MY HELP OR NOT?"
"NOT!" Arthur shouted resolutely. He could get himself down. No problem. He just needed a few minutes to talk himself into it. Really, he had gotten himself all the way up here without a problem. Would it really be so difficult to get back down? Arthur leaned over again to look over the edge. Yes, he decided. It really would be so difficult.
There was a lot of scraping and grunting noises coming from the counter, but Arthur couldn't manage to lean far enough over to see what was going on. After a few minutes, the noises stopped.
"ARE YOU CRAZY?" Arthur shouted, giving up all pretense that he wasn't scared.
"YOU WON'T GET HURT!" Morgana reassured him. "I PUSHED OVER THE FLOUR. IT WILL BREAK YOUR FALL. THEN YOU CAN SLIDE BACK DOWN ONTO THE COUNTER. COME ON, IT'S PERFECTLY SAFE."
"IT'S A TRAP!" Arthur called out. The last time Morgana had told him that something was perfectly safe, he'd almost been attacked by a giant stapler monster. He and Merlin had just barely been able to escape, thanks to his quick thinking and excellent sword fighting skills.
"IT'S NOT A TRAP, YOU IDIOT. IT'S A BAG OF FLOUR. DO YOU HAVE ANY BETTER IDEAS?"
"No," Arthur muttered. He took a deep breath and slowly slid down until he was lying across the bottom of the cabinet. He scooted slowly over to the edge, his heart beating faster and faster. He could feel his muscles tensing up, protesting every centimeter, but he forced himself to keep moving. He stuck one foot over the edge and wiggled it around. "Are you sure I'll land on it? Did you position it right?"
"IT'S FINE! UNLESS YOU DO A SOMERSAULT OR SOMETHING, YOU'LL LAND RIGHT ON IT."
"Why would I do a somersault?"
"I DON'T KNOW. WHY WOULD YOU WANT COOKIES ON A TUESDAY?"
Arthur said nothing to this and took a few slow, deep breaths. He could do this. How hard was rolling over? Babies could roll over. It wasn't even a skill. It required no thought or reason. All he had to do... was lift up this side of his body... and transfer his weight... and roll.
There was screeching, but he was pretty sure it came from Morgana.
He did not land on a bag of flour. He landed on a tiny pile of flour, but there was definitely no bag.
"Ow," he said.
Morgana let out a triumphant giggle and Arthur opened his eyes. She was standing on the upright bag of flour next to him, a large cork in her hands.
Arthur scrambled to his feet.
He was inside a bottle. An empty bottle with no label. The exact bottle that Morgana had been trying to trick him into for months. She wanted to send him out to sea. In a bottle. Without a ship or a message or anything. Just him. Arthur in a bottle.
"MORGANA!" he roared. His voice sounded strange and hollow when it echoed off the glass walls.
Morgana merely grinned and shoved the cork into the top of the bottle. Arthur banged on the glass and screamed, but knew that Morgana wouldn't be able to hear him. He watched as she climbed back down the lumpy bag of flour and took a few steps back to admire her work.
She started moving her mouth, obviously saying something rude, but Arthur couldn't hear her. He couldn't hear anything. He was going to be trapped in this bottle for the rest of his life and no one would know because no one would ever hear him scream.
Suddenly, Morgana fell over. She didn't trip and she didn't pass out. She just fell right over. Arthur froze mid-kick and stared at his step-sister. She struggled to sit up, but then just fell right over again.
Arthur looked around and saw Merlin running toward them, his hand outstretched. He was shouting something, his eyes flashing gold, and Morgana was trapped on the counter.
"MERLIN!" Arthur shouted pointlessly. He resumed kicking at the glass bottle.
Merlin ignored Arthur and went to stand over Morgana. He held out both hands and then Morgana was lifted up by the air. She hovered for a few seconds above the counter, looking more angry than Arthur had ever seen her, and then Merlin lowered her all the way to the floor. Arthur tried to look over the edge of the counter, but he couldn't even get close enough to be scared. After a few seconds, he saw Morgana running out of the kitchen as fast as she could.
Merlin turned back to Arthur and ran over to the glass bottle, a look of panic on his face. It wasn't very often that Merlin looked so scared, and seeing his manservant so upset, Arthur couldn't help but panic a little more, too.
Merlin's lips were moving frantically, but Arthur couldn't hear him.
"I can't hear you," he said, hoping Merlin could lip-read.
Merlin froze and stared at Arthur through the glass, looking horrified.
"I can't hear you," Arthur said again.
Merlin pressed his hands gently to the glass and stared talking again, less frantically this time. Arthur pressed his hands against Merlin's and tried not to cry. Someone would get him out of here. Merlin had magic, after all. Surely Merlin would be able to think of something.
But then Merlin started to cry and Arthur started panicking again. If Merlin couldn't get him out, maybe no one could. Arthur brushed the tears out of his eyes impatiently. Now was not the time for crying. Now was the time for blind panic and lots of shouting, even if no one could hear it.
"YOU HAVE TO GET ME OUT OF HERE!" he screamed. Merlin only cried harder. "I'M GOING TO RUN OUT OF AIR! I'M GOING TO DIE! I CAN'T DIE IN A BOTTLE, MERLIN! YOU HAVE TO DO SOMETHING! SOMETHING! ANYTHING! PLEASE!"
Merlin fell to his knees, sobbing, and pressed his forehead to the glass. Arthur followed suit and kissed the glass gently.
This was it. This was going to be his death. Merlin was going to watch him suffocate in Morgana's stupid bottle and there was nothing either of them could do about it.
"I love you," Arthur whispered, watching as Merlin continued falling apart on the other side of the glass. When the sight became too much, he closed his eyes and tried to breath as little as possible.
After a few minutes, Merlin tapped on the glass. Arthur shook his head. He didn't want to watch Merlin crying anymore. It was too painful.
Merlin kept tapping, but Arthur ignored it until the bottle shook with a deafening POP.
Arthur opened his eyes and looked up to see one of the cooks holding the cork in her massive hand. She tilted the bottle over slowly until Arthur could climb out of it and back onto the counter.
"Thank you," he said to the cook, who seemed to be laughing at him. "Thank you very much."
"What were you doing in there?" she asked, looking down at him with a wide grin.
Arthur opened his mouth to explain, but then Merlin tackled him to the ground.
"DON'T EVER DO THAT TO ME AGAIN!" Merlin shouted, punching Arthur hard on the shoulder.
"I didn't do anything," Arthur protested, pushing Merlin off him. "It was Morgana!"
"I love you too much to watch you die like that," Merlin said, pouting adorably. "Stop falling for her dirty tricks!"
"I don't - I never fall for her dirty tricks!"
"Yes, you do! You just did! You literally fell into one of her dirty tricks."
Arthur got to his feet and glared down at Merlin. "Well, that was different."
Merlin pushed himself up off the counter. "How was that different?"
"Well, I... I... I wanted cookies," Arthur explained lamely.
Merlin blinked, then turned to look up at the cook, who was still laughing. "Could the prince have a cookie, please?" he asked sweetly.
The cook grinned again, easily pulled the box of cookies out of the cabinet, and handed one cookie to Arthur and one to Merlin.
"Would you like me to take you back to your room?" she asked.
Arthur nodded, already eating his cookie. The cook picked them up gently and carried them safely back to Arthur's room, where she deposited them on his pillow.
"Thank you," Merlin called out to her as she left. "See?" he asked, turning to Arthur. "All you had to do was ask. You didn't have to go falling into bottles and nearly getting yourself killed."
"Merlin?" Arthur asked, barely managing speak through his mouthful of delicious cookie.
"What, Arthur?" Merlin asked, looking exhausted and exasperated.
Merlin smiled and kissed Arthur on the cheek before digging into his own cookie.
The fifth lie: Arthur really hated Merlin and his stupid precious face