Falling Branches

Summary: Arthur isn't stupid or unobservant. He has noticed how many branches fall down around them, and he must warn his knights before someone gets hurt! (just a little fun)

A/N: I had this in my notebook for a few months. Since it was mostly complete, I decided to flesh it out and post it (instead of working on my 10 page paper on marijuana due in 2 days). Set between Seasons 3 and 4


The Knights of Camelot stared at the Crown Prince, wondering if he was joking. But no, even though Arthur liked a joke as much as the next man, he did appear dead serious. A few looked towards Arthur's manservant, who simply looked resigned. He had known about the Prince's idea then. Well, that certainly ruled out the joke theory. If Arthur was having a go at them, the boy would have looked overly confused or trying not to laugh. He wasn't known to keep a secret.

"Sire," Sir Leon stepped forward, "do you mind repeating that?"

"This new rule is now in effect, from this moment onwards," Arthur reiterated, word perfect. He had apparently thought this out quite thoroughly. "All Knight of Camelot will wear their head gear at all times, when on patrol or scouting through the forest, orchards, or in any terrain that supports flora of any height, size or health."

There was another silence.

"What does that even mean?" questioned a shaggy-haired knight.

"It means, Sir Gwaine," Arthur drawled, "that any time you are in the immediate vicinity of trees, shrubs or bushes, you will put in place your Camelot issued helmet and chain-mail hood."

Gwaine blinked, then looked to the Prince's right.

"If you see anything with leaves on it, cover your head." Merlin clarified. There was a rush of expelled breath as many of the knights nodded in understanding. A few, however, were still concerned.

"Sire," Sir Lancelot, always polite, raised his hand, "may I ask why you feel the need to make this…proclamation?"

"Because the forests of Camelot are dangerous!"

"Well, yeah," Elyan agreed slowly, "The forests have always been full of dangers, it's one of the reasons we patrol."

"The trees in Camelot, mostly in the forest, are dangerous!"

"…"

No-one quite knew how to respond to this dramatic statement.

"Maybe it would be best if you started at the beginning?" Leon tried. Arthur struck a noble pose, unaware that this did nothing for the fears of his sanity. Merlin was content to merely wait and watch the unfolding hilarity.

"It has recently come to my attention that when I stop for any length of time in the woods, I have seen branches fall every time. Fortunately, they have so far only succeeded in felling bandits. But one can never be too careful! So from now on, I want you all to wear your helmets when you go on patrol. You can never be sure when rotted branches may fall!"

Once again, silence resounded, there wasn't anything one could say to that emphatic and heart-felt speech.


It was hot

Really hot

Really, really, really damn hot

It was also Summer, so there was a reason for the intense heat. Gwaine, however, could not find a reason for roasting in a tin suit. At this rate, he'd be cooked before the dinner was! Before they even stopped for dinner! He fingered his helmet, wanting to take it off.

They were currently riding through the forest, but instead of providing welcome shade, the trees only served to add to the oppressive heat. Gwaine eyed them nervously. Arthur's speech a couple of weeks ago had made him slightly paranoid, mostly because the Princess had been right. Branches and tree limbs did seem to fall at an alarming rate around Camelot, and without prior warning.

Still…

Arthur was up ahead, he wouldn't notice. He quickly pulled off his helmet, skillfully balancing it on the saddle with the left hand as the right pushed back his hood. He sighed in relief.

"Should you really be doing that?" asked an amused voice. "You heard Arthur, the trees around here are quite dangerous."

Gwaine looked to his right to find that Merlin had dropped to the back of the patrol and was looking at him with a mischevious twinkle in his eye and a smirk on his lips, the knight frowned; the younger man looked comfortably cool in his regular garb, though there really wasn't a need for the jacket and neckerchief. Maybe because he was so scrawny he was more susceptible to the cold?

"This is all your fault, you know," Gwaine announced. His friend merely raised his eyebrow in a rather good imitation of the Court Physician.

"How is it Merlin's fault?" Elyan asked as he slowed his horse slightly. "It's not like he made the rule."

"Or follows it." muttered a disgruntled Percival, shifting uncomfortably. Lancelot spared a sympathetic smile for his younger friend; the big knight was used to colder weather and this was his first Summer in Camelot.

"Still his fault," Gwaine grumbled rebelliously. "You could have talked him out of it."

"I tried!" Merlin cried in defence. "He was very insistent!"

"Did you point it out to him, Merlin?" Lancelot asked, wondering when (and why) the Prince had caught on. He was slightly nervous on behalf of his friend.

"No, Arthur was the one that noticed the pattern," Merlin answered. Lancelot was only slightly mollified. "When I tried to tell him that there wasn't any pattern, he kept bringing up examples." The knights around him gave soft snorts and Merlin grinned. "and you all thought that I was the paranoid one!"

"I'm not paranoid!" they all snapped their heads around to see an irate Prince and an amused Leon waiting at a fork in the path. "I'm just careful! Gwaine, get that back on right now!"

"But it's too hot!" Gwaine whined. Arthur's glare increased.

"This is not up for debate! On! Now!"

With a sigh, Gwaine handed his helmet to Merlin before adjusting his heavy, chain-mail hood back into its proper place. He reclaimed his helmet (with a glare and a muttered 'you fault!') from the grinning manservant.

It was hot.

Really hot

Really, really, really, damn hot. His hands strayed to his helmet.

"Gwaine!"

Damn.

(It should be noted that on this particular patrol, on this particular day, they all had an uneventful and quite boring patrol. Since no bandits attacked the, there were no falling branches, ergo, they really hadn't needed to wear their helmets. Not that they ever needed them to save them from branches, but Merlin wouldn't tell them that.)


Lancelot looked at Merlin, a twitch in his lips, and his ears still ringing from the clash of swords.

"You know, Gwaine was right, it is your fault."

Merlin tilted his head in a silent question. Lancelot gestured between them, at the ground where a bandit lay face down, a tree limb across his back. Merlin grinned innocently and Lancelot smiled at the young warlock.


I really wanted to add: "I can take the heat if it means you won't have to face the fire" to the end there, but thought it would be too dramatic to what should have been a silly piece of fluff. I don't think I should have added the last two parts. They were afterthoughts, but they wrote themselves.

When I first wrote this up, I had this huge rant about how people couldn't possibly be this blind to all the 'coincidences' and luck they have, but you luckily don't have to read it since I cut it out!

Please tell me what you thought, but be warned, due to some Internet troubles, a heap of schoolwork and 2 jobs, I haven't watched further than ep 4 of Season 5 (shame on me, shame!)