Merlin let out a girly squeal, and the knights roared with laughter as Arthur chucked more sloppy mud at Merlin. You see, Merlin didn't mean to push Arthur over; he just slipped! "Merlin you utterly useless, clueless, waste of space" Arthur shouted whilst throwing the next mud pie. Merlin cleverly dogged it and hit Percival straight in the face. Crap. Everyone stood still waiting for his reaction- Percival simply laughed and gathered a huge mound of dirt and lobbed it straight for Arthur. The next thing he knew, Gwaine was running towards him mud in hand and dirt all over his face and torso. It appears Arthur had shoved Gwaine in front of him to take the hit. Percival couldn't help but giggle at the angry little man…

An hour later laughs still erupted from the men as they washed off in the river, they may not have caught anything whilst hunting, but the mud fight was a laugh; and since Arthur had become king, it had been very serious and tense for him. That's why Merlin had organised this whole thing anyway- he had found Arthur's first grey hair. Leon and Elyan had started comparing scars "This was from a wilderin when I was 18" Leon had boasted about the almost invisible crease down his back, "that's nothing" Arthur had cut in, and as he did so, he washed his torso of mud and showed off a rather nasty looking stab wound. Gwaine noticed Merlin's edginess as he started backing off towards the shore, glancing longingly at his shirt. "Merlin?" Gwaine inquired, all turned to stare at the warlock with worry. "I-I'm c-cold-d" Merlin stuttered, "But its boiling…" Quoted the rather irritated king, but he knew something was wrong- he could tell from that sad and frightened look in Merlin's normally glowing blue eyes. But Merlin carried on stepping towards the shore and his shirt. That's when Merlin slipped on the unusually soft rock beneath his feet. He wasn't gasping for air long when a huge arm pulled him out with ease: it was Percival. After that short episode, Merlin could swear the air tasted sweet. When he finally recovered he peered up to see five pairs of glowering eyes towering above him, "Merlin, MERLIN? Are you alright?" The king did not try to hide his worry. "Healthy as a horse" Merlin croaked, Arthur sighed. Gwaine dove towards Merlin's shirt as Percival helped him up. "What the?" Leon gasped, "What?" Arthur had shouted a little too loudly. Percival forced the young warlock to turn around so they could see his back and what all the fuss was about; Merlin's struggle was useless against Percival's hunk of muscle. That's when they saw it… The streaks of white line, which covered his back. "Bloody hell!" Gwaine cursed along with a chorus of gasps. The story of these whip marks was a painful one for Merlin, and he knew he was going to have to tell it.

Sat around the fire- despite pleas for him to sit down and rest- that Merlin had created. They sat in silence stirring their stew or lifting it then dropping it from a height, staring at the blazing orange, yellow and gold. Gwaine was never one for quiet time. "Merlin, when the hell were you whipped?" all heads snapping up in shock at Gwaine's sudden inquisition. "I-I… It doesn't matter" Merlin stumbled, "Of corse it does Merlin!" Elyan felt the tension sore. "Merlin, I want to know if someone hurt you." Arthur declared, Merlin softened at this- Proud at his friend, acknowledging he was once an arrogant dollop head. But the sadness remained and the hurt and memory made him wince in pain. Gwaine saw this and made his way around the fire to sit on the same log as Merlin, coming down with a small thump. Damn Merlin knew he wasn't getting out of this one, one stubborn and pompous knight? Maybe. Five stubborn and pompous knights? No chance. "I have you now boy. You're not getting out of this one. I promised you would suffer!" Merlin shuddered in remembrance. All the knights tensed and Arthur tried to hold back the tears, whatever had happened to Merlin, it wasn't good. This inhumane beating was still hurting his serv- friend, years after it had happened. Curse whatever vile man has done this to my friend Arthur was fuming. "Merlin, please tell us… You're our friend and we can see this is hurting you. Your safety is in our hands yes, but we do care. You helped me feel excepted in my time of need, a friend at first sight, now please. Please, help us to understand so I can begin to return the favour..." Percival and the caring confession of this seemingly harmless giant, who was spilling his guts, shocked everyone. Arthur was in admiration.

At that precise moment war raged on inside the young warlock, although he couldn't stand the memory, he so wished to grant Percival an answer to his plea. But he was being torn up by pain and confusion, would it feel better if they knew? Would it earn him respect? Would they pity him? Would they think less? Of corse his friends should know, he trusted them with his life. No they shouldn't, this is a burden they need not bear, a thought they didn't have to own. For what seemed like hours the warlock was caught up in this conflict of to tell or not, fighting himself. No, he wasn't fighting himself, he was fighting the pain and grief he had locked away inside of him for so many years. Maybe it was time to let it out? To confront his fears of this memory that would sting until healed completely.

Arthur watched on as he saw the battle behind Merlin's eyes. No one pressured the warlock into making a snappy decision, picking old scabs always hurt. Percival smiled to inwardly, happy he told Merlin how he felt, hoping it would offer courage. Leon simply admired his rough looking but soft friend, and turned to Merlin seeing the same bloodshed Arthur was seeing; but Leon didn't understand the true extent of the pain behind those eyes, not like Arthur did. Elyan's mind had flashed back to the scars he had seen plaster Merlin's back, scar upon scar, he winced at the thought of the pain Merlin must have been through, the agony. Gwaine simply stared at his friend, waiting, hoping. Hoping that he would be able to help Merlin heal. Merlin was Gwaine's first friend, and for a long time, his only friend.

"I was never really accepted in Eldore…" Merlin started. Arthur gulped, how much pain was his oldest friends confession causing him? And was this a tale they all really wanted to hear?