"Arthur?" Merlin called, standing a little way away from his Prince.

"What do you want, Merlin?"

Merlin sighed and walked forward to place his hand on Arthur's shoulder. "You're my brother in all but blood, Arthur. Never forget that. My mother counts you and Gwen as family, and she'll treat you like it."

Arthur let out a deep sigh. "It's just…I never had a mother, and when your mother does things like that, it makes me think of what I could have had." Arthur's voice cracked while he spoke and Merlin frowned slightly.

"Do you want me to leave?" he asked quietly.

Arthur shook his head, so Merlin sat next to him and put his arm round Arthur.

Arthur dropped his head onto Merlin's shoulder and cried.

…...

"So, let me get this straight," said Gwaine, sitting up straight as he finished his food. "Merlin is a sorcerer, Arthur knows that Merlin is a sorcerer, and Uther had better watch his back because Arthur plans on keeping Merlin alive and the person who controls this place doesn't like him. Did I miss anything?"

Gwen shook her head. "I don't think you did."

"Where are Merlin and Arthur?" Hunith asked, coming out of the kitchen with her own food.

"They went into the garden a while ago, Arthur was a little upset." explained Gaius.

The door opened quietly and then closed. Everyone in the room waited with bated breath.

"What is this, a funeral?" grinned Merlin from in front of a decidedly more cheerful Arthur.

"We were worried about where you were." smiled Gwen.

"The girl who brought us here appeared in the garden." said Arthur, grabbing some food for himself and Merlin. "She was telling us a few things. Who not to trust and whatnot."

Merlin nodded in agreement. "I hadn't even thought about that second one."

"Me neither," agreed Arthur. "I don't even think I've met him."

Gwaine was about to ask who, but the black box flared into life again.

The voice of the Great Dragon was heard once more, 'in a land of myth and a time of magic, the destiny of a great kingdom rests on the shoulders of a young boy. His name: Merlin.'

The Knight Valiant enters the shady shop.

Merlin gave a slight sigh and Arthur winced.

"Merlin I-"

"Arthur, it's alright. You had a valid argument for sacking me."

Hunith gaped. "Arthur sacked you?"

"Later, Mother."

'I understand you have a shield for me,' Valiant spoke.

The unknown merchant gestures to Valiant who follows him to behind the counter.

'With your sword craft and this shield, I guarantee you will win,' said the shop owner.

Arthur grinned. "Or not."

'Show me how it works,' demanded Valiant.

Certainly. Tharanai im bis entra ofra honra stolle.' The shop owner who was deemed a sorcerer said.

The snakes slither out of the shield.

'When you're competing in the tournament, you pin your opponent under the shield, a snake strikes. Your opponent will be paralysed,' the sorcerer said.

The shop owner hands him the sword.

'The snakes are now under your command. They will do anything that you tell them to do,' said the sorcerer.

'Anything?' asked Valiant.

"Foolish man should have just left." muttered Merlin, pitying the shopkeeper.

'Just say the word,' replied the shop owner not noticing Valiant's intention.

Both of the conspirators laugh.

'Kill him,' said Valiant.

A snake lashes out at the shop owner killing him instantly. Valiant rides for the city placing his helmet and seal on the table.

'Knight Valiant of the Western Isles. I'm here for the tournament.' Valiant speaks to the Sean the Steward.

Arthur turned to his father. "We really need a way of telling if people are who they say they are. The amount of people who have been impersonating others simple to kill others in a tournament is ridiculous."

'Welcome to Camelot,' smiled Sean.

Outside the castle Arthur and Merlin are training.

'Ready?' Arthur asked swinging his sword.

'Would it make any difference if I said no?' the young warlock asked.

"Not really." said Gwaine, who looked confused when Arthur and Merlin looked at him in shock.

'Not really.' Arthur admitted.

"I've said the same thing as worse people." Gwaine shrugged.

Merlin draws his sword and Arthur attacks.

'Body. Shield. Body. Shield.' Arthur intones.

'Shield.' Merlin responds doing his best to keep up with the warrior.

'Head,' Arthur surprises Merlin.

'Head? Ow.' Merlin protests at the pain.

'Come on, Merlin. You're not even trying,' complained the prince.

Arthur tags the manservant in the back.

'I know. Ah.' Merlin gets hit again.

'Once more,' Arthur continues going.

'Oh, no.' Merlin pleads.

'To the left. To the right. And left. Head.' Arthur continues training.

'Ow!' Arthur gets another hit.

'Come on, Merlin! I've got a tournament to win,' complained the spoilt prince.

"Merlin hasn't." frowned Hunith. "Shouldn't you have asked a knight to help you?"

Arthur shot a look at Merlin, who rolled his eyes but defended the Prince anyway. "He did Mother. They were busy. And it's my job anyway."

'Can we stop now, please? Ow! Shield. Body,' Merlin said.

'Shield,' Arthur helped.

'Shield. Ah.' Merlin was hit again in the head.

'Ow,' Merlin topples over his helmet rolling off.

'You're braver than you look. Most servants collapse after the first blow.' Arthur gave Merlin half a compliment.

Gwen smiled. "I think that's the closest Arthur's come to giving you a real compliment, Merlin." she teased.

Merlin laughed. "He has actually given me a real compliment. Of course, he'll deny he ever said a word!"

'Is it over?' asked Merlin looking up from the floor.

'That was just the warm up. How's your mace work coming along?' Arthur threatened.

Merlin sighed as they resumed fighting.

Later Merlin walks into Gaius' living quarters dropping his armour as he goes.

Gaius chuckled, 'so, how was your first day as Arthur's servant?' he asked sounding like he knew the answer.

Merlin tapped his head.

'Do you hear clanging?' asked Merlin.

"It can't have been that bad, Merlin."

Merlin shot Arthur a look. "When I find a body-switching spell, I promise you that will be the first thing you find out."

Arthur gulped slightly.

Merlin slumps down at the table wearing his tunic as Gaius begins massaging the warlock's shoulders.

'Ah! It was horrible. Ahh, and I've still got to learn all about tournament etiquette by the morning. Onhríne achtung bregdan.' Merlin suddenly began doing magic.

The book on the tournament moved towards him and flipped open. Gaius was not impressed wearing an expression of extreme annoyance and slight fear he hit Merlin over the head stopping the massage.

"That hurt, you know." Merlin grumbled.

"Do as you're told then." retorted Gaius, noticing how Uther seemed to look confused. Good, Gaius thought, it's time his opinions changed.

'Oi!' he shouts at the same time.

'What've I told you about using magic like this?' Gaius scolded.

"I could probably recite your lectures word for word!" laughed Merlin.

Hunith hit his head. "Merlin Ambrosius, that is not a good thing!"

"Ow! Sorry, Mother."

Uther frowned. Ambrosius…that rung a bell…he just couldn't think where from.

'If I could actually feel my arms, I'd pick up the book myself.' Merlin said.

'Never mind your arms. What do I do if you get caught?' Gaius said.

'What would you do?' asked the still innocent boy.

Gaius sighed. "When you were innocent."

Merlin snickered.

"What?" asked Gaius, but Merlin was too busy looking sheepishly at his annoyed mother to answer.

'Well you just make sure it doesn't happen, for both our sakes.' Gaius said treating his ward.

'Ah! I save Arthur from being killed and I end up as a servant. How is that fair?' Merlin complained.

'I'm not sure fairness comes into it. You never know, it might be fun.' Gaius suggested.

Merlin looked at him. "Did you honestly listen to what you were saying?"

Merlin scoffed, 'you think mucking out Arthur's horses is going to be fun? You should hear my list of duties.'

'We all have our duties. Even Arthur,' reminded Gaius.

'It must be so tough for him with all the girls and the glory.' Merlin moaned enviously.

'He is a future king. People expect so much of him. He's under a lot of pressure.' Gaius explained.

'Ah! That makes two of us.' Merlin referred to both their destiny.

Merlin brings Arthur's armour into Gwen's where she shows him how to put it on.

'So, you've got voiders on the arms,' Gwen began.

'Mm-mmm,' Merlin listened.

"Oh, so you do listen to people!" exclaimed Arthur. "So you won't have any more problems with doing what I tell you, will you?"

"Well you see, Sire," grinned Merlin. "Whenever I'm around you I seem to go temporarily deaf, so I think I will be having problems, Sire."

"I'll give you 'problems'," growled Arthur. "I think dirty stables are a very serious problem, Merlin. I think you should take care of them as soon as we get back."

There was a flash of blue light again, and a note on Arthur's lap.

"Actually, when Merlin gets back he's going to be busy saving your royal backside, so he won't have time to muck out the stables. From Lee Lee x" Arthur read.

Merlin huffed. "Just brilliant. Another angry sorcerer wanting revenge on Uther."

'The hauberk goes over your chest,' Gwen continued.

'The chest. The arms. The chest,' Merlin rambled.

'I guess you know what to do with the helmet,' laughed Gwen.'Erm, yeah. Yeah, that was the only bit I'd figured out,' grinned Merlin.

Gwen giggled as Merlin put the helmet on looking a bit of a fool. He really didn't suit armour.

Gwaine and Arthur snorted. "You look ridiculous."

Merlin mock glared. "Arthur? You know that time you were magically given donkey ears? I'm sure I can replicate the spell."

Arthur gulped and Merlin smirked.

'How come you're so much better at this than me?' questioned Merlin.

'I'm the blacksmith's daughter. I know pretty much everything there is to know about armour, which is actually kind of sad,' Gwen said.

'No, it's brilliant!' grinned Merlin.

The scene cuts to when they are on the training grounds. Merlin is struggling to get the vambrace on Arthur's lower arm; much to the prince's annoyance.

'You do know the tournament starts today?' the arrogant prince asks impatiently.

"It was the first time he'd done it." Gwaine reminded Arthur, who shrugged.

"I thought he'd been a servant before. I didn't know he'd gone to Guinevere for help."

'Yes, Sir,' said Merlin with a goofy look on his elfin face.

Merlin fixes the buckle on Arthur's gorget.

'You nervous?' asked Merlin.

'I don't get nervous,' said Arthur.

'Really? I thought everyone got nervous,' said Merlin in surprise.

'Will you shut up!' Arthur finally snaps.

"Not nervous at all, were you, Sire?" Merlin grinned.

Merlin ties Arthur's cape around him and places the helmet on his head completely forgetting Arthur's sword.

"Haven't changed, I see."

Merlin flushed at his mother's words and Arthur grinned.

"Oh, do tell, Hunith." smirked Arthur.

Hunith smiled. "When he was younger, I used to send him to learn how to help with the farmers. He used to completely forget about that, and he'd come home telling me of this day he'd spent in the forest talking to 'people who were special like him'. I didn't have the heart to tell him to stop."

"You meant people with magic, didn't you?"

Merlin nodded at Gwen. "They were passing druids. They couldn't teach me any spells or things that required a proper frame of mind, but they taught me how to exercise some form of control over my powers. I'd have been caught much sooner if they hadn't have done that."

"Do you think they knew who you were, even then?" asked Gaius.

"Probably," Merlin nodded. "They never used to say my name, they always used to call me 'Little Lord'."

'Great, yeah. I think you're all set,' Merlin completely oblivious.

'Aren't you forgetting something?' Merlin didn't seem to think so, so Arthur had to fill the boy in, 'my sword.'

Merlin's reaction was comical like he had been hit on the head with a hammer, 'oh yeah. Yeah, sorry. Guess, uh, you'll be needing that.'

Arthur rolled his eyes. "You think?"

Arthur furiously grabs the sword and marches off to fight.

'That went well,' Merlin said.

Gwen and Morgana are sitting excitedly in the stands as the knights walk into the tournament. Merlin peeks around to watch whilst Uther stands up in front of Morgana and introduces the tournament.

'Knights of the realm, it's a great honour to welcome you to a tournament at Camelot. Over the next three days, you will come to put your bravery to the test, your skills as warriors, and of course, to challenge the reigning champion, my son, Prince Arthur. Only one can have the honour of being crowned champion, and he will receive a prize of 1,000 gold pieces,' announced the tyrant king opening a box revealing the gold up for grabs. 'It is in combat that we learn a knight's true nature, whether he is indeed a warrior or a coward. The tournament begins!'

The crowd begins cheering.

'I trust you will make me proud,' Uther told his son slapping him on the back and moving away.

"Translation: no pressure or anything, but if you lose, you'll be a disgrace to me." snorted Merlin.

The guards take Arthur and the other knights' capes and puts on the knights' helmets. Gwen whoops and Arthur faces his first opponent.

'Yeah! Come on!' Merlin cheers on his prince as he wins.

'Yeah!' cheered Merlin as Arthur won the duel.

"Did you know I could hear you?" Arthur said offhand. "Kind of made me feel better, knowing that you were cheering for me."

Gwen smiled at her 'boys'. She knew that, even when Arthur became King and married, Merlin would still be the closest person to him.

Valiant is now fighting in a very violent style as Arthur and Merlin watch him.

'Knight Valiant looks pretty handy with a sword,' Merlin commented.

Gwaine snickered and Gwen hit him over the head. "Behave." she scolded.

Valiant wins and exits the arena stopping to talk with Arthur.

'May I offer my congratulations on your victories today?' Valiant says to the young prince.

'Likewise.' Arthur is polite to the noble.

'I hope to see you at the reception this evening,' the knight says and leaves with his servant.

'Creep,' Merlin says.

Arthur snorts looking like he agrees with Merlin.

Merlin snorts as well.'Uh, for tomorrow you need to repair my shield, wash my tunic, clean my boots, sharpen my sword, and polish my chain mail.' He orders much to Merlin's disgust.

Merlin is once more in his chambers reading his magic book whilst the chores are being magically done.

Hunith hit Merlin this time, while Uther looked at the boy in shock. "You would use your magic for something as menial as your chores?"

Merlin looked at Uther with wide eyes. "Have you heard the list of chores your son gives me? Besides, it's not like I'm going to use it for anything else. It's illegal, remember?"

Uther looked slightly ashamed and Gaius nodded to himself in satisfaction.

Gaius then enters the room at which the magic is stopped with a furtive looking Merlin.

'Are you using magic again?' scolded the physician.

'No' lied Merlin.

Gwen giggled. "That's exactly the same face Elyan used to pull!"

'What's all this, then?' Gaius gestures to mess on the floor.

Merlin shrugs not looking at his mentor.

'I just came to tell you that supper's ready,' the old man obviously not wanting to get into an argument today.

In King Uther's throne room the knights all queue up to shake hands with the King and Lady.

'Knight Valiant of the Western Isles, My Lord,' Valiant introduces himself to Uther.

'I saw you fighting today. You have a very aggressive style,' commented Uther.

'Well, as My Lord said, "To lose is to be disgraced,"' returned the knight.

'I couldn't agree more. Knight Valiant, may I present the Lady Morgana, my ward,' Uther said looking impressed.

Valiant bows to Morgana and Arthur looks on bemused.

'My Lady,' Valiant takes Morgana's hand and kisses it.

'I saw you competing today,' Morgana flirted.

'I saw you watching. I understand the tournament champion has the honour of escorting My Lady to the feast,' Valiant wooed.

'That's correct,' smiled Morgana.

'Then I will give everything to win the tournament,' Valiant said.

Gwaine raised his eyebrows but said nothing.

On the screen Morgana is smiling and nodding at the traitor.

"Birds of a feather." came Lee Le's voice from the ceiling.

Arthur looked up. "Sorry, but what?"

"Birds of a feather flock together." Lee Lee said. "It's a popular saying, meaning that people who are alike will always find each other and stick together."

'My Lady,' Valiant walks over to shake hand with the other knights with Morgana and Gwen watching him.

Arthur bows to his father.

'Arthur,' Uther says.

'Father,' the younger Pendragon replies.

Arthur looks at his opponent as he walks over to Morgana, 'They all seem rather impressed by Knight Valiant,' she commented as the knights continued to congratulate Valiant.

'They're not the only ones,' Arthur teased.

'You're not jealous, are you?' smirked Morgana.

'I don't see there's anything to be jealous of,' responded Arthur.

Morgana doesn't smile back as Arthur walks off.

'Could Arthur be any more annoying? I so hope Knight Valiant wins the tournament,' responded Morgana to Gwen.

'You don't really mean that,' Gwen said.

"She didn't at the time but now I suppose she would." Merlin said sadly.

'Yes, I do.' Morgana assured her.

At this time Merlin is in the armoury and hears a hissing sound.

'Hello? Is there someone there?' shouted the warlock.

Merlin finds Valiant's magic shield where he walks over to it and a snake blinks at him. He's about to investigate further when suddenly he finds a sword at his chest.

'Can I help you with something, boy?' asked Valiant.

'Nope. I'm good. I, I was just...I was, erm, gathering my master's armour,' Merlin stutters.

'Then you'd best be on your way,' suggested the yellow knight.

'Right, yeah. No problem,' Merlin scarpers picking up the armour and stumbling on his way out.

Arthur is in his chambers dressed in his gambeson with his armour laid out for him to see.

'You did all this on your own?' asked Arthur in disbelief.

'Yes, Sire,' Merlin agrees enthusiastically.

'Now let's see if you can get me into it without forgetting anything,' Arthur said looking for fault.

Merlin puts on Arthur's armour flawlessly.

'That was much better. Not that it could have got any worse,' Arthur said insultingly.

Merlin pouted slightly. "That was mean."

Arthur snorted. "What do you want me to say, that I'm sorry? It was true."

Hunith looked at him reproaching, but when Merlin chuckled she just shook her head.

'I'm a fast learner,' smiled Merlin.

'I hope, for you sake, that's true,' Arthur replied.

'Good luck,' Merlin said as Arthur left.

Arthur now marches into the arena as Merlin watches from the side-lines.

'Is it my imagination, or are you beginning to enjoy yourself?' asked a laughing Gaius.

'It...' Merlin paused to sigh, 'it isn't totally horrible all the time,' the warlock reluctantly admitted as the two watched as Arthur fought his opponent. 'Yes!' Merlin suddenly claps as Arthur beats his opponent hands down.

Valiant and Sir Ewan replace him. Valiant manages to knock Ewan down pinning him down.

'Strike him,' Valiant orders and the snakes rise from the shield. 'Strike him,' Valiant repeated. The serpent bites Sir Ewan and Valiant stands up to cheers as Merlin and Arthur watch.

"So you were telling the truth." Uther realised.

"No duh." came Lee Lee's voice again. "Are you really as stupid as you look? 'Cos I didn't think that was possible."

Uther looked outraged, especially when he saw his son trying not to laugh.

'I think he's badly hurt,' said Merlin worriedly to Arthur as Gaius runs onto the court with his physicians' bag.

Sometime later Merlin enters the physicians' quarters as he puts down Arthur's armour.

'How is he?' Merlin asked.

'It's most odd. Look at this. See these two small wounds. Looks like a snake bite,' said Gaius.

'How could he have been bitten by a snake? He was injured in the sword fight,' Merlin asked.

'But the symptoms are consistent with poisoning: slow pulse, fever, paralysis,' said Gaius.

"And death." Gaius added darkly.

'Can you heal him?' asked Merlin naively.

'Well, if it is a snake bite, I'll have to extract venom from the snake that bit him to make an antidote,' explained Gaius.

'What happens if he doesn't get the antidote?' questioned Merlin.

"Did you honestly not use your head, Merlin?"

Merlin looked at Gwen and shrugged. "The only snakes we have in Ealdor are little grass ones, and they couldn't harm a mouse, let alone a person."

'Then I'm afraid there's nothing more I can do for him. He's going to die,' said Gaius softly.

'He was fighting Knight Valiant,' Merlin said.

'What's that?' Gaius asked too busy looking after Sir Ewan to properly listen to Merlin's realisation.

'Nothing,' Merlin said quickly before leaving Gaius to look after the knight.

"Do you regularly have epiphanies like this?" Gwaine wondered.

Merlin nodded. "Uh huh."

Merlin follows Valiant into his chambers where he pulls a mouse out of a cage.

'Dinner time. Come on,' Valiant calls to snakes who appear out of the shield and gobble up greedily.

Merlin after seeing this scurries away but Valiant hears and follows but is unable to follow him as Merlin successfully hides in an alcove.

Merlin has returned to Gaius.

'I've just seen one of the snakes in Valiant's shield come alive. He's using magic,' Merlin hurriedly says.

'Are you sure?' asks Gaius.

Merlin scoffed. "Gaius, it's me; of course I was sure!"

"Bit cocky, don't you think?" Gwaine asked nonchalantly.

Raising an eyebrow, Merlin turned to his friend. "I'm the most powerful warlock that has ever or will ever live. I think I know magic when I see it."

'The snake ate a mouse - one swallow, straight down.

Sir Ewan was fighting Valiant when he collapsed. It must've been one of the snakes from the shield. I have to tell Arthur,' said Merlin.

Arthur winced.

'Is there any chance you might be mistaken?' Gaius said sharply.

Merlin shook his head.

'I know magic when I see it,' Merlin stated.

'Perhaps,' agreed Gaius, 'but have you any proof?' the man questioned.

'Don't you believe me?' questioned Merlin hurt colouring his face and voice.

'I fear you'll land yourself in trouble. How will you explain why you were in Valiant's chambers?' Gaius pointed out.

"Easy. Arthur told me to help out."

Arthur raised an eyebrow.

"What?" said Merlin. "It's a perfectly reasonable excuse! You've done it before."

'What does that matter? He's using magic to cheat in the tournament!' Merlin exclaimed.

'But you can't go accusing a knight of using magic without proof. The King would never accept the word of servant over the word of a knight,' Gaius patiently explained.

'What? So what I say doesn't count for anything?' Merlin shouted.

'I'm afraid it counts for very little as far as the King is concerned. That's the way it is,' he sighed.

Arthur frowned. That needed to be changed. Fast.

Merlin and Arthur are on the grounds as they watch a small serving boy put a ladder up to his tall knight dressed all in brown.

'You're telling me you've got to fight that?' said Merlin in horror.

'Yes, and he's strong as a bear. But he's slow,' said Arthur.

'Ah, and you're fast,' grinned Merlin.

'Exactly,' Arthur said.

"You do catch on quick, don't you?" smiled Gwaine.

Arthur's armour is ready and the scene cuts to stand where Morgana is stroking Gwen's cloak.

'You're not worried, are you?' she asked.

'No,' Morgana defended herself.

Merlin watches as Valiant puts down his shield and Gaius approaches the boy.

'How're you getting on?' asked Gaius.

'Fine. Just doing my job. Minding my own business,' said Merlin slightly coldly.

Hunith sighed. "Merlin, how many times have I told you?"

Merlin hung his head. "Sorry Mother."

Both Arthur and Valiant win their next matches with Gaius and Merlin watching the bracket.

'Valiant's going to fight Arthur in the final. He'll use the shield to kill him,' said Merlin in alarm.

Merlin sits with Sir Ewain in Gaius' chambers when the physician walks in.

'Merlin, about what I said yesterday...Look, Uther wouldn't really listen to you or me,

but you are right. We can't let Valiant get away with this,' Gaius agreed.

'But we don't have any proof,' said Merlin in anger.

'Well, if we could cure Ewain, he could tell the King that Valiant was using magic. The King would believe another knight. But how we get the antidote...Well, that's another matter,' sighed Gaius.

'Merlin?' Gaius asks as Merlin runs off.

"Does he do that often?"

Gaius nodded at Gwen, throwing the sheepishly grinning Merlin an annoyed look.

The knights are toasting each other's victory.

'Long live Valiant!' cheered the knights.

Arthur smirked. "Or not."

'So Valiant, do you think you stand a chance of defeating my son?' questioned Uther.

'He is a great warrior, My Lord. I do hope to be a worthy opponent,' said Valiant calmly.

Merlin is peeking into the chambers to check that Valiant is where he's supposed to be.

'You should stay in Camelot after the tournament. I could do with more knights like you,' said Uther.

"I think I take back my earlier statement." Uther grimaced.

'I'd be honoured, My Lord,' said the yellow knight.

Merlin runs up to Valiant's guest chambers, 'Allinan,' whispered Merlin as the door unlocks.

Merlin takes a sword from the rack.

Arthur rolled his eyes. "Really, Merlin? You're hopeless with a sword now, and that's after I've tried to train you."

He approaches the magical shield but moves away when he realises that someone is coming in. A snake has slithered out and is about to strike at the servant. Merlin lashes out with the sword without turning to look at it.

Merlin turned to Arthur with a smug look. "You were saying?"

Arthur threw a pillow at him. "Shut up, Merlin!"

The other snakes follow their brother out and Merlin drops the sword, grabbing the snake rushing out of the room.

Back in Gaius' chambers Gaius drains some venom from the snake's teeth.

'I'll get started preparing the antidote,' said Gaius.

'I'm going to tell Arthur,' said Merlin.

Arthur winced again.

'You'll need this,' said Gaius handing the snake head to Merlin.

'And Merlin, what you did was very brave,' added the old man.

"It was." smiled Gwen. Arthur felt a twinge of jealousy.

Arthur is dining in his chambers with Merlin talking to him.

'You? You chopped its head off?' questioned the prince with a look of disbelief on his face.

'Ewain was bitten by a snake from the shield when he was fighting Valiant. You can talk to Gaius, you can see the puncture wounds in Ewan's neck where the snake bit him. Ewan was beating him, he had to cheat,' Merlin protested.

'Valiant wouldn't dare use magic in Camelot,' said Arthur.

Gwaine burst into laughter, Merlin chuckling along with him.

"Oh, shut up. I didn't know about Merlin then." Arthur flushed with embarrassment.

'Ewan was pinned under Valiant's shield. No one could see the snake bite him,' retorted Merlin.

'I don't like the guy, but that doesn't mean he's cheating,' said Arthur.

'Gaius is preparing an antidote to the snake venom. When Ewain's conscious, he'll tell you what happened. If you fight Valiant in the final, he'll use the shield. It's the only way he can beat you. Look at it!' Merlin said in an urgent voice picking up the snake head. 'Have you ever seen any snakes like this in Camelot?' asked Merlin. Arthur picked up the snake head and looked at it as Merlin continued talking, 'I know I'm just a servant and my word doesn't count for anything. I wouldn't lie to you.' Merlin's voice went soft.

Arthur turned to Merlin, but before he could say anything Merlin held up his hand. "That was completely different and you know it!"

'I want you to swear to me what you're telling me is true,' the prince said.

'I swear it's true,' the honesty shining in Merlin's face.

'Then I believe you.' Arthur said.

Valiant is being escorted the king's throne room. Gaius is treating Sir Ewain who wakes up.

'Welcome back,' Gaius greets the man.

'There was a snake on his shield. It came alive,' the knight told the physician.

'You're weak. The snake's venom is still in your system,' Gaius told the man.

'I must warn Arthur,' Sir Ewain tries to get out of bed.

'Arthur already knows. He's requested an audience with the King.

"Not that it does much good. "Gaius sighed.

Now, they'll want to talk to you. Rest. You'll need your strength. I need to fetch more herbs. I'll be right back,' Gaius left his patient. As soon as the physician's' back was turned one of the snakes of Valiant's shield slithered over to him and once more bit him.

Elsewhere Uther has entered the council chamber where Arthur, Valiant and Merlin are waiting for him.

'Let me see this shield,' commanded the king.

'Don't let him get too close,' Merlin whispers to Arthur.

Uther looked at Merlin in shock again. "Thank you."

"I wouldn't." Merlin said coldly. "The only reason you're still alive is because Arthur's not ready to be King yet, and because, for some reason I cannot fathom, he cares for you."

Uther blinked, and Gwen shivered at the harshness of Merlin's voice. "Merlin don't you think that's a little-"

"No, Gwen, I don't think it's a little harsh. Considering all he's done to my kind, I really think that's the least hurtful thing I could do or say."

'Be careful, My Lord,' Arthur draws his sword warily.

Uther is inspecting the shield as Gaius enters the room.

'Merlin,' Gaius whispers hoping to attracts his ward's attention.

We need Ewain. Find out what's happening,' Arthur instructs his servant in a whisper.

Merlin just nods and goes to Gaius.

'As you can see, My Lord, it's just an ordinary shield,' Valiant claims.

'He's not going to let everyone see the snakes come alive,' Arthur points out.

'Then how am I to know that what you say is true?' questions Uther.

'I have a witness. Knight Ewain was bitten by one of the snakes from the shield. Its venom made him grievously ill, however, he has received an antidote. He will confirm that Knight Valiant is using magic,' explained Arthur.

"Or not." Gwaine snorted, hoping to relieve the tension. He failed.

'Where is this witness?' questions the king.

'He should be here...' Arthur trails off. Arthur turns to Gaius and Merlin who exchange a significant look. 'Where's Ewain?' asked Arthur.

'He's dead,' said Merlin softly.

'I'm waiting!' Uther was impatient.

'I'm afraid the witness is dead,' said Arthur sadly.

'So you have no proof to support these allegations. Have you seen Valiant using magic?' asked Uther angrily.

'No. But my servant fought one of the snakes from...' Arthur began.

'Your servant? You made these outrageous accusations against a knight the word of your servant?' said Uther in outrage.

Hunith narrowed her eyes at Uther. If that man said one more thing about her son or upset him any more than he already had, whether on the box or not, Hunith would show him exactly why she commanded the respect of the King of her Kingdom.

'I believe he's telling the truth!' Arthur said,

'My Lord, am I really to be judged on some hearsay from a boy?' questioned Valiant.

'I've seen those snakes come alive!' Merlin glowered.

'How dare you interrupt? Guards!' Uther ordered.

The guards begin to drag Merlin away.

'My Lord,' Valiant interrupted.

'Wait!' Uther stopped the guards.

'I'm sure he was merely mistaken. I wouldn't want him punished on my account,' Valiant said.

"No, 'course not. They never do." scoffed Merlin.

'You see? This is how a true knight behaves - with gallantry and honour,' said Uther in approval.

"He wouldn't know gallantry or honour if it jumped up and bit him in the balls. And neither would you, Uther." Lee Lee's voice echoed from the ceiling again and Merlin and Arthur looked up in amusement.

"Why don't you just come down here?" asked the Prince.

"Because I'm 'revising' for a test. Now shut up and watch the telly."

'My Lord, if your son made these accusations because he's afraid to fight me, then I will graciously accept his withdrawal,' said Valiant.

'Is this true? Do you wish to withdraw from the tournament?' Uther demanded.

'No!' Arthur said in outrage.

'Then what am I to make of these allegations?' questioned Uther.

'Obviously there has been a misunderstanding. I withdraw the allegation against Knight Valiant. Please accept my apology,' said Arthur.

'Accepted,' Valiant smiled.

Arthur is in his chambers moping.

'I believed you, I trusted you, and you made me look a complete fool,' Arthur raged at Merlin.

"You do that without my help!" quipped Merlin, who yelped as Arthur hit him with a pillow again.

'I know it didn't go exactly to plan,' began Merlin.

'"Didn't go to plan"? My father and the entire royal court think I'm a coward! YOU HUMILIATED ME!' shouted the prince.

'We can still expose Valiant,' Merlin began.

'I no longer require your services,' said the prince coldly.

'You're sacking me?' said a hurt Merlin.

'I need a servant I can trust,' said Arthur.

"You." said Arthur.

'You can trust me!' says Merlin.

'And look where it got me this time. Get out of my sight!' ordered the prince.

Merlin is seen rushing to where the Great Dragon resides.

'Where are you? I just came to tell you: whatever you think my destiny, whatever it is you think I'm supposed to do, you've got the wrong person! That's it. Goodbye,' Merlin shouts.

"If only talking to him were that easy." Merlin sighed.

'If only it were so easy to escape one's destiny,' chuckled Kilgharrah.

'How can it be my destiny to protect someone who hates me?' questioned Merlin.

'A half cannot truly hate that which makes it whole. Very soon you shall learn that,' explained the great dragon in his usual mysterious way.

'Oh, great. Just what I needed, another riddle,' snapped Merlin.

'That your and Arthur's path lies together is but the truth,' said the wise dragon.

"In hindsight, everything that he said was true, I just didn't understand what he meant at the time." Merlin said thoughtfully.

'What is that supposed to mean?' questioned Merlin.

'You know, young warlock, this is not the end. It is the beginning,' the Great Dragon flapped away.

'Just give me a straight answer!' shouted Merlin.

Merlin is now sitting on the steps outside the castle when Gwen approaches him.

'Hello, Merlin,' she comes and sits beside him.

'All right?' asks Merlin.

'Is it true what you said about Valiant using magic?' Gwen asks worriedly.

Merlin nods.

'What are you going to do?' asks Gwen in distress.

'Why does everyone seem to think it's down to me to do something about it?' Merlin snaps at Gwen.

"Don't snap at her, Merlin!" scolded Hunith. "She hasn't done anything to you!"

"Sorry Mother, sorry Gwen. I was just venting." Merlin gave a small smile, which Gwen returned.

"I know." she said.

'Because it is! Isn't it?' Gwen asks desperately, 'you have to show everyone that you were right and they were wrong,' said Gwen with certainty.

'And how do I do that?' Merlin sighs.

'I don't know,' admitted Gwen.

Merlin looks towards a picture of a dog statue a look on his face that tells everyone an idea has occurred to him. 'That's it.'

'Where are you going?' Gwen asked in confusion as Merlin leapt up a spark of hope in his eyes.

'Do you have a wheelbarrow?' asked Merlin randomly.

Merlin wheels the dog in the wheelbarrow into the physician's chambers.#

'What are you doing with that?' Gaius asked in shock.

'I'm going to let everyone see the snakes for themselves,' Merlin responded.

"So that's how they appeared."

Merlin looked at Arthur strangely. "You already knew that."

Arthur shrugged. "Just trying to get into the story, Merlin."

Merlin sighed and shook his head in exasperation.

Merlin placed the dog on his floor and pulled out the magic book from under the floor board.

'Bebay odothay. Bebay odothay arisan quickum,' Merlin incants.

'Bebay odothay arisan quickum. Bebay odothay arisan quickum,' Merlin repeats the spell.

In Morgana's chambers the future enemy of Camelot is dreaming of Arthur and Valiant fighting. She sees the snakes. Waking up with a start she whispers, 'Arthur.' Getting up she watches as the prince trains in the courtyard on his own.

Merlin tries to spell over and over again.

Merlin gives up and ends up in Arthur's chambers.

'I thought I told you to get out of my sight,' snapped Arthur.

'Don't fight Valiant in the tournament tomorrow,' begged Merlin. 'He'll use the shield against you.'

'I know,' Arthur agreed.

'Then withdraw. You have to withdraw,' Merlin begged.

'Don't you understand? I can't withdraw. The people expect their prince to fight. How can I lead men into battle if they think I'm a coward?' asked Arthur shortly.

Hunith and Gwen hit the back of Arthur's head. "Ow!" he yelped.

"I dealt with Merlin thinking that he was better off dead than alive, and I will not have the same thing from you!" Hunith said fiercely.

"Your life is worth more than your pride, Arthur." Gwen added.

'Valiant will kill you. If you fight, you die,' Merlin stated.

'Then I die,' was all Arthur said.

'How can you go out there and fight like that?' asked Merlin.

'Because I have to. It's my duty,' replied Arthur.

The next morning Merlin awakes and begins reciting once more.

Valiant is sharpening his sword in the training grounds whilst Arthur is looking around.

Arthur is being helped with his armour by Morris when Morgana enters. Morris bows and exits whilst Morgana begins to help her brother.

'Let me,' said Morgana and begins to help him.

'I used to help my father with his armour,' Morgana says, handing Arthur his helmet with a sad look.

'Thanks,' Arthur says and turns to leave his sister.

'Arthur, be careful,' warns Morgana.

Arthur and Merlin sighed. "Back when she cared."

Arthur nodded, 'See you at the feast.'

Arthur and Valiant enter the arena put their helmets on and begin to fight with one another.

Merlin is in his chambers with his eyes closed mumbling the incantation.

'Bebay odothay arisan quickum,' Merlin murmured there is a growl but he doesn't notice.

'Bebay odothay arisan quickum,' Merlin repeats but this time the dog barks. Merlin grins, 'I did it,' he yelled.

The dog leaps at Merlin as Merlin leaves for Gaius's quarters and Gaius himself rushes into the room.

'Arthur's fighting Valiant!' Gaius informs Merlin.

'I know. I'm on my way. Oh, whatever you do, don't go into my room. We'll deal with it later,' Merlin instructs.

Gaius looks at Merlin in shock then peering into Merlin's room sees the dog.

"I still think we should have kept it." Merlin grinned.

"What did you do with it?" asked Gwen.

"Di you not notice how there was an extra dog in the royal kennels?" said Gaius.

"Gwen shook her head and Gaius and Merlin smiled. "That's what we did with it."

Arthur fights Valiant managing to knock the helmet off the knight's head. Arthur pulls off his own helmet pulling off his head protection. Valiant is able to knock Arthur to the ground stepping on the Prince's shield. Valiant disarms Arthur who catches him before the man can strike. Valiant pins Arthur to the wall but Arthur shoves him away. Merlin takes the opportunity to work his magic.

'Bebay odothay arisan quickum,' the snakes come out of the shield causing the crowd to stand up in their surprise.

'What are you doing? I didn't summon you!' snarled the knight.

"Just shout out that you're using magic for all to hear." Merlin rolled his eyes. "Especially when you denied it earlier. Great plan."

'He is using magic,' Uther stood up.

'And now they see you for what you really are,' Arthur taunts.

Valiant chuckled sending the snakes to the ground, 'kill him,' was all the corrupt knight said.

Arthur backs up to the stands where Morgana grabs a sword from the side and flings it at with a shout of 'Arthur!' Arthur catches it.

Arthur sighed again.

Arthur then kills the snakes and runs Valiant through with the sword.

'It's looks like I'll be going to the feast after all,' whispered Arthur into Valiant's ear as he drops to the ground and the crowd cheers for there prince.

Arthur enters the banquet hall where the courtiers are dining. Uther immediately spotted him.

'My honourable guests, I give you Prince Arthur, your champion,' Uther presented his son as the court applauds and Arthur takes Morgana by the arm.

'My Lady,' Arthur steers Morgana around the hall.

'My champion,' smiles Morgana.

'See, I told you he gets all the girls and the glory,' Merlin comments to Gaius.

'And he owes it all to you,' smiled Gaius proud.

'Has your father apologised yet for not believing you?' questioned Morgana.

'He'll never apologise.

"For anything." Arthur added to his statement. Merlin looked at him in surprise. "I guessed that you were going to say it, so…" explained the Prince.

I hope, uh, you're not disappointed Valiant's not escorting you,' laughed Arthur.

'Turns out he wasn't really champion material,' Morgana suggested.

'That was some tournament final,' Arthur said.

'Tell me about it. It's not every day a girl gets to save her prince,' Morgana commented.

'Uh, I wouldn't say I needed exactly saving. I'm sure I would've thought of something' Arthur defends.

'So you're too proud to admit you were saved by a girl,' Morgana said.

Gwen huffed.

'Because I wasn't,' Arthur states.

'You know what? I wish Valiant was escorting me,' said an angry Morgana.

'Me too. Then I wouldn't have to listen to you,' retorted Arthur.

'Fine!' Morgana snapped.

'Fine,' Arthur repeated.

Morgana storms off to talk to Gwen. Arthur turns to Merlin.

'Can you believe Morgana? She says she saved me. Like I needed any help.

Arthur chuckled. "Maybe I did need some help."

"Some?" questioned Gwaine.

I wanted to say I made a mistake. It was unfair to sack you,' Arthur half apologized.

"So he does apologize to people! And all this time I thought you were joking, Merlin!" laughed Gwaine.

'No, don't worry about it. Buy me a drink and call it even,' Merlin suggested.

'Uh, I can't be seen to be buying drinks for my servant,' Arthur reminded him.

'Your servant? You sacked me,' snorted Merlin.

'Now I'm rehiring you,' replied snorted.

'My chambers are a complete mess. My clothes need washing. My, uh, armour needs repairing. My boots need cleaning. My dogs need exercising. My fireplace needs sweeping. My bed needs changing. And someone needs to muck out my stables,' Arthur finished.

Merlin sighed. "And life goes on as normal."

"If it's that bad, why do you stick at it?" replied Arthur, rolling his eyes.

"Well, how else am I going to practice my magic? I really don't think anyone else's life gets threatened every other day." Merlin retorted.

"Oh, behave. Both of you." sighed Lee Lee, appearing in the room. "The next one's starting."

A.N. - Wow, I actually published something when I said I would! I feel faint…

Ha, review please! So far people like it!