Hey guys! Feel free to skip the next couple of paragraphs, it's me rambling on and giving excuses as to why this wasn't out sooner. And a bit of a rant - does anyone actually read these notes?
So, this was supposed to be a one-shot, and single, simple idea that I wrote up one night in bed when suffering from jet-lag. Then, since it has been a while since I posted anything on the site (sorry to you folks who are waiting), I forgot to mark it as complete, and some people put it on alert, which I was very humbled by.
As I was checking the reviews on the 6th Dec, on campus, LadyDunla asked a very good question in her review: "if Arthur has finally noticed the pattern, how come he didn't notice the branches always falling down on bandits and not on him and his knights?" That is an excellent question, and I was immediately hit with a surge of ideas and wrote in down in a notebook I carry, specifically for notes and ideas that hit me out of nowhere.
I don't know why I didn't type it up right there, I had to have been sitting at the computer... I wrote pretty much the whole chapter in one sitting, albeit out-of-order. The problem came when I wanted to type it up; I did not have the time. Classes finished on the 11th and I spent the week working at the lab, and studying. Exams finished on the 17th and I spent the entire break working at the grocery store. Seriously, 40-hr weeks. Then I was back in school with 4 courses, working at both labs which meant more time on the bus, and still working at the store. But I finally typed it up! (When I should have been studying...oh dear, already slipping...)
This is dedicated to LadyDunla, because, without her, this chapter wouldn't even exist, thank you so much for the idea!
Summary: The branches continue to fall, but who do they fall on?
Warning: it was supposed tobe crack-ish, but I apparently can't write that, so it gets a little serious at the end. Only a little though
Disclaimer: I'm stuck on episode 5 of season 5... that right there shows I don't own it [please refrain from mentioning spoilers if you review!]
"Aha! Arthur crowed triumphantly.
The knight turned to stare at him warily, as they had done for the past month, ever since his new… rule had been in effect.
"I told you!" significant Looks were exchanged and Leon cleared his throat.
"Told us… what, my Lord?"
"That the forest is dangerous!"
"look around!" the Prince insisted, "the evidence is right here!"
The knights looked around, and it appeared that he was right. they had been attacked by a rather larger-than-normal group of bandits; of course, bandits were bandits and they were The Knights Of Camelot, the best of the best! And, as previously stated, bandits were bandits. Not too strategic when it came to attacking; incredibly stupid and clumsy: tripping over roots; dropping their swords; losing their belts, pants, etc. honestly, why did they even bother?
Still, it was a large group and they had to fight quite hard ("Not Merlin though, can you do anything except cower against the ground?") and it took them a little while before those that were still alive had fled. Looking around the carnage, it was obvious what Arthur was referring to.
Many men bad been cut down by slashes and stabs, a few had been knocked unconscious by hilts, fists and the ground. But scattered around the clearing were not less than four, count 'em, four men trapped, their backs broken by the heavy branches that had fallen on them. One man looked like he had been killed (flattened) by half a tree.
"Ah!" exclaimed Elyan suddenly, pointing to that particular bandit. "I remember him! He was sneaking up on me! if that branch-"
"Tree" muttered Gwaine
"IF it hadn't fallen, he probably would have gotten me, wounded at the least!"
"Hang on, said Percival. Since the big knight usually remained silent, everyone gave him their full attention. :he same thing happened to me." he pointed on one bandit that had been stabbed though the chest, the branch having manages (somehow to fall vertically (at a perfect angle). Merlin winced at the gruesome sight.
"Are you sure?" Lancelot questioned. "I mean, there were a lot of bandits." Percival nodded.
"I marked him because of the neckerchief, it reminded me of Merlin." At this, the servant looked quite affronted by the comparison.
"Now that you mention it," Leon murmured, "Sire, I think that a branch may have saved you as well."
"What!" Arthur exclaimed, he was more than mildly confused about this turn of events. "Are you seriously saying that these branches… saved us?!"
"Well…" Leon started, but didn't know how to continue, so he stopped.
"Four fallen branches us a lot for mere coincidence," Arthur agreed reluctantly.
"Hold up," interrupted Gwaine. He had been uncharacteristically silent for the past few minutes, a calculating look on his face. "You say this happens every time you go on patrol, right? Or into the forest in general?"
"Not like this," Leon amended, "but… yes…"
"Not every time," Merlin objected, "just… most of the time." Arthur looked at him. "Okay, the vast majority of the time." He conceded.
:Has anyone gotten hurt, any of these times?" Gwaine questioned.
"Look around, Gwaine," Arthur drawled, "You tell me." Gwaine dismissed the remark with a wave of his hand [edit: shake of his head].
"I mean any of the patrol, any knights or townsfolk?" Arthur and Leon frowned as they racked their memories, but Merlin was quick to answer.
"How can you be so sure?" Arthur demanded while Leon continued to think. Merlin rolled his eyes.
"I live with Gaius, remember." Merlin pointed out. "you know, the Court Physician. He would have told me if we had tree-related injuries of deaths. Well, outside of wood-cutting anyway." Before Arthur could protest, Leon nodded, as if coming to a conclusion.
"I believe he's right, Sire. I can't remember any incidents."
"And from my time here, I don't remember any either," Gwaine threw in. "Do you see what this means?"
Gwaine looked around, it appeared everyone was now staring at him as if he'd grown a second head. Huh. They'd looked at Arthur the same way when he declared that the trees were dangerous.
"The trees aren't out to get us," he explained patiently. "They're helping us!" Everyone blinked and continued to stare at him like he'd grown a third arm.
"They've only fallen on bandits so far, right?"
"Never on us."
"Only on the enemy."
Even more nods.
"Therefore, they're helping us!"
"Gwaine,'" Elyan began slowly, "are you suggesting… magic?"
"What? No!" Gwaine yelped as Arthur's eyes narrowed.
"Then what, Sir Gwaine, are suggesting?" the Prince bit out.
"Uh… umm…" Gwaine cast around helplessly, fortunately, Percival came to his rescue.
"What about dryads? They're tree spirits," he clarified after seeing Lancelot's confused look.
"They're also magical creatures, Arthur pointed out.
"Besides," Leon chimed in, "Uther had them destroyed during the Purge. No dryad would dare show itself near Camelot."
"So we still have no idea as to why the branches are falling," Elayn sighed.
"Maybe it is magic." All heads shot around towards the manservant; Arthur's eyes ablaze with fury and Lancelot's wide with shock.
"What?" Arthur snapped. "Are you suggesting that this is the work of magic?"
"That's what I said," Merlin repeated airily.
"So," Arthur stated, "you think that there is a sorcerer out there that decided to help us, by knocking out our enemies with tree limbs."
"Are you an idiot Merlin!" Arthur exploded. "You know magic is evil! Why would any sorcerer attempt to help us?"
"Well, they can't all be evil," Merlin tried, but Arthur cut him off.
"Seriously!" the Prince exclaimed. "I can't believe you're even thinking about this! What do you know about magic?"
"Nothing, Sire," Merlin replied softly.
"And," Gwaine spoke into the silence, "after all Camelot has done to those with magic, they wouldn't help is, they're more likely to kill us"
"and if they're helping, it's most likely for their own gains." Leon added as the others nodded. Lancelot saw Merlin's fist clench and decided it was time to intervene before the secret warlock did something rash.
"Or," he said quietly as he stepped forward, gaining everyone's attention, "it could simply be the weather."
"Weather?" Elyan and Percival repeated uncertainly.
"What weather?" Gwaine questioned. "It's a perfectly nice day out."
"Yes," Lancelot nodded, "it is now, but a few days ago-"
"the thunderstorm!" Leon blurted out. "You think that the storm weakened the branches until they finally snapped with the strain?"
"All at the right time?" Gwaine was rather dubious about that explanation. "That's one hell of a coincidence."
"Stranger things have happened."
"Alright," Arthur decided, "that explains the branches today, but what about all the other times? I've been on patrol and seen the branches fall when it's been clear for weeks!"
"What, you think thunderstorms are the only reason branches fall?" Merlin snorted. "Take a close look at the mast in any forest – the undergrowth and dead foliage," he elaborated upon seeing some puzzled faces. "They're full of twigs, sticks leaves and branches" Elyan frowned.
"Sorry… I don't follow." Merlin rolled his eyes.
"Branches fall all the time, for many different reasons: storms, insects, weakness, strain; we just don't normally see them"
"But we've seen a lot of them," Gwaine protested.
"And for each one we saw, there was probably another ten we didn't."
"Fair enough," Arthur broke in. "That's a much better theory than magic Merlin." He leveled a look at his manservant. "I'm surprised you managed to think of it."
"Supercilious prat" Merlin muttered under his breath.
"What was that, Merlin?"
"I said 'when do we go back?'" Arthur frowned as Gwaine, who had been nearest Merlin, didn't bother hiding his grin.
"Men, we've wasted enough time here," Arthur declared. "We should be heading back to Camelot. Mount up!"
Merlin sighed internally. Arthur believed him when he said branches fell because of insects, and didn't question the fact that an entire dragon could disappear even when fatally wounded; but refused to listen when he spoke the truth.
Sometimes, he worried about Camelot's future.
"Does that mean we still have to wear our helmets?"
"But they've only killed out enemies so far!"
"You really want to bet your life on that?"
"Didn't think so."
"Merlin," sighed Lancelot, "sometimes I wonder how you're still alive."
"Gaius says that too," Merlin remarked helpfully. Lancelot frowned.
"that's not exactly comforting."
"I've survived this long, haven't I?" the warlock pointed out and his friend sighed again. He's been sighing a lot more since he became friends with Merlin, Lancelot realized.
"Just, try and be more careful in the future." He pleaded. "One of these days, Arthur is bound to catch on." Merlin gave him a Look that would have put Gaius' eyebrows to shame. "Well," Lancelot amended, "someone will."
Merlin merely grinned at him an urged his gorse forward to catch up with Arthur in the vanguard. His grin widened as he caught sight of the Prince's sullen look. And Arthur called him the idiot!
So, I hoped you all enjoyed the second, impromptu chapter of Falling Branches, there will not be a third because I wouldn't know what to write.
Once again, thanks to LadyDunla, a real-life muse, and please, if you are kind enough to leave a review, don't spoil the rest of the season for me.
(I'm behind in watching because I used to watch it on y mP3 on the bus, but last semester the bus(es) I was on weren't long enough, and now, I'm getting really annoyed at the size of my screen 2x1. Seriously, I have heels that are taller. Hard to watch and epic episode when you're squashed against the window, squinting at the screen and straining to hear the dialogue. Takes the magic right out of it. And that was not supposed to be a pun)