Merlin could easily remember the first time he saw the scarves he often wore around the palace. Of course his mother had often told him that they were more than she could afford and the fact that the other children in the village already bullied Merlin about being different. Not that Merlin cared, no. All he wanted was that blue scarf that was always on display in one of the market stalls that appeared in the village every Saturday. Merlin knew his mother would condone him for using magic, but Merlin couldn't see why it was so bad to use his skills to be able to get something he wanted so badly.
It was an early Saturday morning; the air was cold as Merlin's breathe swirled out in front of him as he walked through the market stalls that were being set up. It would be another few hours before the marketplace would become over-crowded with the usual peasant trade and Merlin was using his time wisely, walking up and down the rows of stalls. Of course he knew exactly where the one he wanted was located, making a conscious effort not to wander too close and cause any suspicion. Anyway, Merlin preferred the marketplace as it was now, calm and almost quiet except for the occasional shout from a stall owner, some already trying to sell their wares to both Merlin and the few other early risers. Although many of marketplace regulars still hadn't finished setting up, knowing that the majority of the wares would not start being sold for another couple of hours.
Merlin occasionally muttered something under his breath, a simple incantation which he had been practicing which should allow him to be able to gain the scarf easily. The problem was that he still hadn't managed to perfect it. Sure, it worked for him as long as he was trying to get smaller objects but slightly objects and Merlin couldn't get it to work. The scarf would be light, Merlin reminded himself. Not like the pans and various other objects he'd tried to practice on in his bedroom and kitchen. He hadn't managed to practice too often over the past few days, trying to keep his plan to himself rather than tell his mother what he was planning to do. Merlin knew she would disapprove of him using his magic to steal something. Especially after all she'd taught him about using his magic for good. How often she had told him about sending him to Camelot to live with Gaius, the court physician there, and the stories that went alongside him.
To be honest, Merlin didn't understand why his mother worried so much. He looked after himself, often taking a job here or there to try and earn some extra money so that they could live. He avoided most of the children and teenagers in the village who would bully him about his powers. Merlin even took special measures to avoid those his own age; they often provided the worst beatings. How often had he returned home with fresh bruising forming around his arms and along his cheeks. Not to mention along his body where he'd been kicked and punched until he could barely breathe. And each time his mother would share her concerns as she worked on sorting him out, of course she wouldn't allow him to magically heal the wounds, preferring to use old treatment she'd learnt over time as a healer.
Merlin used the few coins he'd brought with him to buy a warm loaf of bread from the baker, tearing off the crust at the end and eating it quietly as he settled near the stall where the scarf was. He finished eating the slice of bread quickly, putting the rest of the loaf away in the bag he'd brought with him before slowly walking past the stall in question, eyeing up the goods that were for sale. His eyes glistened slightly as they fell on the blue scarf and Merlin couldn't help but allow a smile to flicker across his features. Knowing the scarf was still there and unsold allowed for him to relax slightly. This morning was different than most other market mornings, Merlin allowed himself to study the various other wares which were on offer. Taking in their prices and how much was way more than he or his mother could afford. The stall owner kept a close eye on Merlin, placing the final item out on his stall, a red scarf which was placed right next to the blue one which Merlin so desperately desired as he wondered past. Merlin couldn't help but swallow nervously, speeding up his pace and walking around the corner. He stopped, resting back on the nearest stall, out of sight from the one he regularly visited. Merlin recounted the numerous arguments he'd had with his mother about the scarf, weighing up the good and bad about stealing it. But now there was another scarf, two scarves which he would love more than anything else. Merlin couldn't help but consider asking his mother if he could spare the little money they had to at least buy one of them. he marketplace was beginning to get busier, people pushing Merlin out of the way to get to the stalls. Merlin wandered back in the direction of his home, placing the bread on the table as soon as he got in. Knowing his mother would be able to use the bread in some way or another.
"Merlin?" A familiar voice called from upstairs. Merlin remained quiet for a few moments before answering, assuring his mother that it was only him returning back from the market for a few minutes.
"Well you're not going back today," Merlin's mother appeared at the bottom of the stairs, moving into the kitchen and beginning to prepare the breakfast. "Don't think I don't know what you've been doing, Merlin. Apart from getting a few supplies, you are not to return to the market today."
"And what precisely do you think I've been doing?" Merlin gave his mother an innocent smile, hoping that she hadn't worked out what he was planning to do.
"I'm not stupid Merlin," his mother replied, sighing slightly as she did so. "I heard you practicing last night. I don't know exactly what it was that you were practicing but it sounded like magic. And you know that I disapprove of you using magic to get that scarf from the market."
Merlin sighed, of course his mother would have figured it out. She wasn't an idiot after all, most of the village came to her be healed when needed. "All right," Merlin agreed quietly, looking down at the breakfast that had been placed in front of him. "Apart from doing a few errands, I promise I won't return to the market again today."
His mother watched him for a few seconds, studying him before going back and getting her own breakfast and settling down opposite Merlin. They both ate in silence, Merlin trying to think of other ways of getting the scarves which his mother wouldn't disapprove of. He couldn't think of anything as he finished off his breakfast. "So what do you need from the market this week?" Merlin asked politely, as he did every Saturday. Usually there were one or two items that his mother wanted him to pick up, usually giving him enough coins to be able to buy them and nothing more. Occasionally she would give him a few extra coins which he would spend on some luxury or another which he and his mother could share.
Merlin's mother pushed a list in Merlin's direction along with enough coins to buy each of them. "Straight there and straight back again please Merlin," his mother told him. Merlin nodded, he wouldn't betray her trust today. Being able to go to the market so freely wasn't something he wished to give up just yet. Merlin got up from the table, grabbing the list and the coins before disappearing back out and into the crowded marketplace. Merlin made sure that he avoided the stall with the scarves, knowing that it would be all too tempting to try and get them using magic.
It wasn't until a few hours later that actually bothered to go and check, carrying all the supplies that his mother had wanted him to get. Merlin couldn't help but hover nearby, waiting for the crowd around the store to die down slightly. His eyes flicking between the customers, quite a few he recognised from living in the village. People he often avoided, then there were a few he didn't recognise. Travellers who no doubt had come to visit the market to restock supplies, or had heard about it from other travellers, it was not uncommon around these parts. Camelot was only a few days trek away; they would be passing through to get there no doubt. There were a few hooded figures, not that anyone paid attention to them apart from the store owner. Probably nothing more than a few other travellers who wanted to keep their identity hidden from those around them. Merlin remained patient, finally able to glimpse where the scarves had been only that morning. He couldn't help but be a little disappointed, the scarves no longer where they had been on the stall. They had probably be sold to one of the travellers today, winter was approaching and no doubt the travellers would have use for them as it grew colder. Merlin lowered his head, pushing the supplies over his shoulder before making his way slowly back home, keeping his head down as he walked. He couldn't help but put the supplies down on the kitchen table a little harder than he had planned too. Merlin was in no mood for talking, walking past his mother silently as she came into the kitchen to greet him. Merlin made his way upstairs, going to his bedroom and closing the door behind him before flopping down on the bed.
Tears slowly created tracks down Merlin's cheeks as he allowed for his emotions to overwhelm him, he hadn't wanted his mother to see how upset he was. It would only upset her to see Merlin falling to pieces in front of her eyes. Merlin tried to pull himself together, they were only scarves after all. But they were more than that, he couldn't help but love them and he didn't know why. A timid knock at the door caused Merlin to stir slightly but he didn't bother to say anything, not wanting to be disturbed.
"Merlin?" his mother asked from the other side of the door. "May I come in?"
"No, go away," Merlin's voice was thick with the emotion he couldn't control and he hated himself for it. He didn't want his mother to know he was crying. He heard the door creak open and felt the bed sink slightly as his mother sat at the end of it.
"Merlin," his mother said gently, warmly. "I know how much you wanted those scarves. And I've been doing some thinking over the past few weeks. I want you to go and stay with that friend of mine in Camelot. Gaius is his name."
Merlin grunted in reply, barely listening to what his mother was telling him, his face buried in his pillow.
"Anyway, I've written to him and he's agreed to take you in," Merlin's mother continued tentatively. "He's expecting you in a couple of day's time. And I thought I buy you a gift. I don't know when I'm going to see you again and I thought you'd want something to remember me by."
Merlin's mother put two neatly wrapped parcels down next to Merlin and he slowly sat up after a few minutes, pulling the parcels towards him. He slowly unwrapped them, looking down and finding the blue and red scarves neatly folded in his lap. Merlin couldn't help but smile through his tears and looked up at his mother. "You didn't have to," he choked emotionally. "They are much more than we can afford."
"I know, but I got a good deal for them," his mother smiled back at him.
Merlin moved to the end of the bed, wrapping his arms around his mother tightly. "Thank you, so much," he murmured quietly.
"Anything for you, Merlin," his mother whispered back. "Now hurry up and pack, you have a long journey ahead of you."
Merlin couldn't help but give his mother a wide smile, slipping off his bed and beginning to pack. His mother moved towards the door, turning to watch him for a few moments before disappearing out. Merlin packed the essentials he thought he would need, several pieces of clothing as well as a few valued positions. Eventually, the only objects left in his bedroom were the two scarves paying on his bed. He picked one up, wrapping it around his neck as neatly as he could before folding the other one and putting it away in his bag. Merlin shrugged the rucksack onto his back, looking sadly around his bedroom, already beginning to miss his room despite not having left yet. He sighed, aiming out and down the stairs. His mother was nowhere to be seen, though there was a meal left on the table and food packed neatly into a parcel, enough to last him the few days it would take Merlin to get to Camelot from their village. Merlin moved to the table, sitting down to eat the food that his mother had set out for him. Despite only eating a couple of hours before, Merlin knew it would be important for him to eat as much as possible before his journey. Although he would have enough food to last him until he arrived in Camelot, who knew what would happen on the journey there. His mother returned around an hour later, by this time Merlin had packed away the food parcel in the last remaining bit of space in his rucksack. He looked up as his mother came in. She gave him a sad smile, blinking back the tears that were threatening to spill down her cheeks.
"Promise me you'll look after yourself, Merlin," she said quietly. "Gaius will take good care of you, I know. But you need to take care."
"I promise I'll be careful," Merlin replied before stepping forward and wrapping his arms around his mother, holding her tightly for a few minutes before gently kissing her forehead. "I'll come to visit, as soon as I'm settled there."
His mother nodded and gave him another sad smile. "Go on, Gaius will be expecting you."
Merlin smiled back and nodded, picking up his rucksack and aiming towards the door. He turned for a moment, looking at his mother intently for a moment before finally disappearing out of the door.