Chapter One: A Challenge

Merlin was tired. His royal pratness – also known as King Arthur – had decided to indulge in a fit of dollop-headedness that morning and assigned Merlin more chores than he thought existed in the history of Camelot. Actually, make that the history of the world.

Apparently Arthur didn't notice the fine line between ordering a servant to do something and ordering them to work themselves to death.

-The things he did for the Once and Future King.-

The jug of wine in his hand tipped as he leaned – almost asleep – against a pillar in the banquet hall, and he shot upright as he felt wine soak through the toe of his boot. Oh great, that was going to stain.

You're a warlock, you clot-pole! The voice in his head that sounded a bit like Arthur reprimanded him. Merlin glanced around, making sure no one was looking, and then his eyes flashed gold. The stain disappeared without a trace.

"Merlin!" Arthur's voice erased the smile from his face and he snapped upright. The King rolled his eyes and gestured to his now-empty wine glass.

The magician sighed. This feast was stretching on forever. Yes, it was Queen Gwen's birthday, but really, even Her Highness looked tired. He shot a closer look at Gwen. Despite her smile, she kept shooting exasperated looks at Arthur, who was engaged in a conversation with Gauis across the table and not paying attention to her.

Merlin leaned over to fill his master's glass, his mouth near Arthur's ear. "Arthur, the Queen is trying to get your attention," he murmured.

The King instantly sat up and glanced across at his wife.

Prat, Merlin thought, moving back to his position on the side-lines, Poor Guinevere.

The Queen shot him a grateful look and began whispering to Arthur. Merlin realized she looked more than tired. She looked a little nauseous.

Arthur shot her a concerned look and took her hand, obviously agreeing to whatever she was saying. He made to stand up, obviously intending to announce that he and the Queen were going to retire and finally end this bloody banquet.

As the King opened his mouth to speak, however, the doors to the hall slammed open, the wooden panels crashing into the stone walls on either side with stunning force. Merlin dropped his pitcher, which shattered with a spray of wine and pottery.

A man stood in the doorway, a black cloak billowing over his shoulders. His face was hidden behind shining armor, but no emblem decorated his breastplate. A sword that was the length of Merlin's leg hung at his side, but those were not his most immediate features, for the man was huge, his bulk taking up most of the entranceway.

Stunned silence filled the hall; Arthur stood gaping with one arm still around Gwen. The man stalked forward. Merlin dubbed him "The Giant" for the moment. He walked across the stone floor, fingers of one hand loosening the other's gauntlet. He didn't, however, stop beside Arthur, which Merlin half-expected.

Instead, The Giant kept walking until he stood before Merlin himself. And then Merlin felt it, the power radiating off the man. Magic.

The gauntlet dropped at Merlin's feet, and simultaneously, a voice echoed through his head.

You have much to answer for, Emrys. The voice twisted over the name. Merlin could imagine a sneer twisting The Giant's face behind his visor.

Arthur had finally unfrozen himself, and was moving across the hall. His manservant felt his intent.

Before the King's ring-decorated fingers could wrap around the gauntlet, Merlin's own pale hand had picked up the piece of armor.

He could feel The Giant's emotions roiling behind his visor. Images flashed through Merlin's mind – memories that didn't belong to him. A child, bearing the mark of druid, screaming as a knight of Camelot advanced upon him. A woman, holding a poultice, pleading with another knight that she had meant no harm in using magic. Arthur, sentencing a sorcerer to death. All reason's that the man had come. Why hadn't Emrys, who was supposedly so powerful, not stopped the King from preforming these ill deeds? Why hadn't the greatest sorcerer of all time stood up to the blatant attack on his own kin? Merlin shivered. Even beneath this layer of reasoning, hatred and murder and vengeance roiled in The Giant's heart. He wanted Emrys dead. He wanted Arthur to kneel before him and beg for his life. He wanted Camelot to burn. He wanted to stand upon the battlements and use every ounce of magic within him to make Camelot pay for the lives it had destroyed.

Merlin felt his teeth grit together as he straightened to his full height. He was by no means as tall as the man before him, but he felt strong, anger pulsing through his veins. No one threatened Camelot. No onedared harm the King. He would die before he allowed Arthur to face this man.

"I, Merlin, accept your challenge," he said, and his glare was so potent that he was entirely surprised the man didn't burst into flames.

Disclaimer: Yes, I totally own Merlin. *grabs warlock and huggles him*. Yeah, I wish.

Hey Fellow Fans! So, this is my first fanfiction! I write a lot, but I usually invent my own worlds. It's kind of nice to take something already made and turn it into something of my own. Please Review! :)