Disclaimer: I do not own BBC Merlin
Beta-ed by Paralelsky
A/N- Hi! I'll just give you guys a barebones summary of what this story will be: It's AU, where everyone is the same age as they are in the show except Merlin who is a child. Through various circumstances, he ends up taken in by a druid clan where he meets Mordred. I'm re writing the episodes where Merlin is a child and Mordred is good and how that changes all of the character's destinies. More on that at the bottom.
-Please read! I've been working on this story for two years now! Ah it's so nerve wracking :S
The frivolous wind blew through the small druid camp making the heavy fabrics of their caravans sway in the wind. A small boy of nine pulled his grey cloak tighter around himself. He and the remainder of their group were left to wait for the others to come back with the news. They had seen the smoke from afar, billowing black and ugly above the solemn forest and the strongest went to investigate. That was hours ago now- the sun had sunk beneath the trees, and the sky was wearing an evening blue. He had wanted to go but was denied; they denied him everything. He was the youngest of their camp, the rest were all adults and no one was a day younger than twenty five except him. His thoughts were leading him to the day he was taken in by these druids, finding himself alone when his family was murdered. He shook his head causing his dark hair to wave wildly. His large, piercing blue eyes looked around for something to distract himself with and he noticed a strange shift among their camp.
They were lucky enough to have a donkey, which they used to pull a wagon laden with their supplies. It was to the side of their little clearing with other carts lounging around it. One of the old ladies, Ethel, flew to the closest one and began wrenching everything out. The boy furrowed his brow in a way he thought was wise and made toward her but was held back by a hand being placed on his small shoulder.
"No, Mordred," a voice scolded. He turned to pout at Selwyn as the last eight of them swarmed the wagon, trying to help.
"What are they doing?" he asked sulkily.
"The others are coming back with an injured boy. His village was slaughtered. They are making room to help him." The middle aged man's lips frowned beneath his narrow red beard.
Mordred winced at his cold tone, "All of them?" he whispered. Selwyn's only response was to hobble away on his crutch to help the rest. Mordred hoped he fell on his broken foot.
Not long after, sounds of many running feet could be heard rushing through the trees. Isaac came into view first followed by five others and Mordred craned his neck to see; he realized that the tan cloaked man was carrying a small bundle. The boy gasped as he recognized the posture, he was holding something important. Issac hurried over and placed the blanketed child carefully into the pallet that was made in the cart. Mordred felt a heavy feeling warm his stomach and his feet inched forward of their own accord.
"Where is the water?" Isaac cried and was soon supplied with a flask. Mordred moved closer to try and see what the rescued boy looked like but he could not see over the others.
"How long was he there for, Isaac?" the gruff voice of Girvan asked.
"My guess is a day. Maybe more," Issac replied while coaxing the unconscious boy to drink.
"And he's alive?" Girvan asked incredulously.
"It is a miracle."
Mordred saw that he was now cleaning the boy. He caught a glimpse of pale skin and dark hair as a cloak shifted in front of him and the feeling in his gut became heavier. Brown clothes were deposited on the floor and Ethel bent with a cloth, cleaning the boy gently.
"Come, Mordred." A man came up to him and spoke, "help me get a tent ready." Mordred glanced back at the boy but allowed Rolf to lead him to the caravan.
"I thought we were leaving," Mordred spoke.
"We will stay an extra night to help the lad on his feet," the auburn haired man answered.
"Will he stay with us?"
"Yes. And you will have company."
Mordred nodded, wanting to feel happy but was unable due to the circumstances. "His whole village was killed?"
Rolf turned sharply to him, "Who told you that?"
"Blasted idi- he doesn't know how to keep his mouth shut." Which was a lie as the red haired man was customarily silent.
"I am not a child," Mordred pouted.
Rolf raised an eyebrow at him when they got to the cart. "Well it is not something anyone wants to hear, child or not. Grab two pelts," Rolf told him after grabbing the purple canvas from the cart.
Mordred hauled the deer pelts into his thin arms and trailed after Rolf who found a suitable spot to set up the violet tent. Two others followed with blankets and soon they got a comfortable, tiny tent upright. They were waiting outside for only a few minutes before Isaac came with the boy in his arms. Mordred still couldn't see him because now he was swathed in blankets. In his opinion the boy must have been an infant judging from his size. He stood outside impatiently, trying to hear what Rolf and Isaac were saying inside. He only caught Rolf's loudly exclaimed, "Emrys?" before he was shushed by the older man. A minute later they came out and Isaac knelt in front of him.
"Mordred, we have a big job for you," Issac smiled at him. "That boy in there is going to need a friend. He doesn't have a family anymore and we are going to take him in."
"Like you did me?"
"Yes. Now you are to go in there and watch over him. You know how to treat a fever so you will know what to do. This is of the utmost importance, Mordred. I have to go speak with the others, so can I count on you?"
"What is his name?" Mordred asked.
"He hasn't woken up to tell us."
Morded felt his eyes narrow at Issac, knowing that that the man was keeping something from him. But the man just patted his head and gestured to the tent.
Mordred nodded, and feeling very important he lifted the flaps and strode inside. What he saw scared him a little, but because boys like him didn't get scared he made his way to the cushion that was beside the small boy. The child was resting on the blanketed pelts and his back was propped up slightly. He looked incredibly tiny to Mordred; he was very skinny and pale and awfully fragile looking. Mordred took note of the bowl of water with a cloth and expertly laid his small hand on the child's forehead. It wasn't too hot but Mordred dipped the cloth in the water and rung it out, then very gently wiped the boy's face. He was fearful he was going to break the boy if he moved to fast. He frowned at the thin white line stretching across the boy's throat and the faded pink staining his front, he thought about what it might be but couldn't draw up any ideas-maybe a rash. Mordred's pale blue eyes looked over the child's features, his dark lashes were long and rested on his round cheeks, he had a button nose and small pink lips with large ears peeking out of his matted midnight hair. Maybe the old ladies would stop pinching his cheeks now.
Mordred quickly drew the cloth away like he was burnt when the boy scrunched his eyes together.
"Mummy..." He whimpered in a childish timbre. "Mummy?"
Mordred felt a lump grow in his throat and he worked hard to speak around it. "What's your name?" He asked hoarsely hoping to distract the child. He was answered with more fevered calls for a mother, and he repeated the question.
"Mum, s'me, Merlin." The boy turned his head toward Mordred with his eyes still scrunched shut, and he couldn't resist laying his hand over his head. What a strange name, Merlin. He didn't look old enough to talk though.
"Hullo, Merlin. Go to sleep now." Mordred reached out and enfolded the boy's hand within his own. He thought it was pretty good that his order was obeyed before he even said it. Mordred maintained his vigil until a head popped in and he turned to glare at them, he didn't want Merlin to wake up again, he needed to rest after all.
"How is he, Mordred?" Isaac whispered.
"His name is Merlin. And his fever is weakening," Mordred replied quietly. Isaac stepped aside to let Larina pass, and the young woman ducked into the tent and smiled at him.
"You can go now, Mordred. I will stay with the boy," the brunette said while sitting on Merlin's other side.
"Merlin. His name is Merlin. And I want to stay," he whispered stubbornly.
"As you wish. Perhaps you would like to get some sleep though. It is rather late." She shared a dubious glance with Isaac over his head.
He shook his head in response- he was going to stay up all night. But he only managed to keep awake for another hour before he sunk into the blankets and fell into a deep sleep with his hand still entwined with Merlin's.
Morning dawned quickly, catching a certain druid boy by surprise. A thread of sunlight spilled across his face causing him to twitch his nose and yawn awake. Mordred blinked the sleep out of his eyes and rubbed them with his free hand, and then looked sulkily at the hole in the canvas that was allowing the light to filter through. The events of the previous night ran through his mind and he banished tiredness from him mind, intent to fill his post as impromptu physician. He sat up, then turned his eyes downward and froze. His stomach jolted in alarm as his eyes met the unwavering gaze of the boy on the pelts. A strange feeling came over Mordred as he looked at Merlin, and it suddenly felt like he had forgotten something. The child was an ashen white and impressions of the boy's ribs could be seen clearly but it was his eyes that Mordred was drawn to; they were a vivid cobalt, looking far too big for his face and they held a weariness that Mordred could not get his young mind to comprehend. Merlin continued to stare at him and Mordred cleared his throat.
"Hello, Merlin, I'm Mordred," he drew his eyebrows together when the boy didn't even blink. "How are you feeling?"
Merlin turned his gaze away after a few seconds and looked slowly around the tent, tightening his weak grip on Mordred's hand.
"This is a tent," Mordred informed him, "we are taking you in."
Merlin looked to him again and Mordred felt like he was kicked in the gut at seeing the sad confusion in them.
"Your mother isn't here," he whispered. He thought it best to make sure Merlin knew; he himself had been waiting for his parents to come for him- he still had nightmares about it. Merlin nodded into his chest and his narrow shoulders started to shake as he began to weep. Mordred's body moved on its own and he drew Merlin carefully into a hug. He felt his heart break at the grief stricken cries the boy was emitting- they sounded inhuman. Mordred abruptly realized what he was missing as he rocked the boy and tears stung his own eyes, he had just left his childhood behind.
"Shh, everything will be alright. You will see," Mordred whispered and held Merlin until he fell to sleep. The nine year old laid the child back on the blankets and checked his temperature. A relieved sigh escaped his lips when he assured himself that Merlin's fever was gone. He stood up stretching, and with numerous backward glances he wandered out the tent. The cool morning air softly greeted him and he noticed that most of their group were still sleeping in the tents strewn about the clearing. His eyes searched out Isaac and found him whispering with Ethel, Tynan, and an irritated looking Selwyn. The ash haired man glanced at the tent and straightened when he seen Mordred; he immediately came striding over.
"Good morning, Isaac," Mordred said politely.
"Mordred. How is the boy?" Isaac asked him.
"His fever has broke...but I think he remembers what happened. He was crying just now."
Isaac frowned. "I had hoped otherwise. But you exceeded my expectations, you found out his name as well." The boy merely nodded solemnly and looked back towards the tent. "Come, we need to speak with you." Isaac placed a pale hand on his shoulder and led him to the others. Ethel smiled at him and Tynan nodded while Selwyn just pierced him with his gaze.
"Mordred," Tynan's eyes disappeared behind his wrinkles as he twisted his lips into a false smile. "Being a part of our family is a privilege, nevertheless it also comes with responsibilities." His beady grey eyes turned hard once more and Mordred gulped in spite of himself.
"Come, Tynan, no need to scare the child," Selwyn broke in, "look, boy, that toddler in there is very important. More important than any of us."
Mordred glanced back to the tent questioningly before turning his eyes back towards the grave long haired man.
"You have heard tell of Emrys," Selwyn continued, starting to absently fiddle with the ivory pendent hanging around his neck. "The figure of prophecy who will be the most powerful warlock to ever walk the earth. But everything starts out small, be it a seed to a great oak or an infant into a man." Selwyn pointedly directed his green eyes to the tent behind Mordred. The boy twisted his neck in comprehension.
"He is Emrys?" Mordred whispered. That tiny boy?
"He will bring magic back to the land when he is older-" Selwyn continued and Mordred noted the two elders narrow their eyes at Selwyn while Isaac frowned. "-But for now he is a child. He will need someone to watch over him, someone to guide and protect him. He will need a guardian."
"You wish for me to protect the Emrys?" Mordred asked, not a little intimidated.
"Yes, Mordred. He is your charge from now on. And you have already started to care for him, have you not?"
"You will of course only help us, Mordred, we will all raise the child," Isaac cut in glaring subtly toward the younger man.
"No, I will watch over him," Mordred said, "I am honoured. And he likes me." I think, he amended to himself.
"I am glad, Mordred," Isaac gave him an unsure smile. He reached into his cloak and pulled out some tiny clothes. "Emrys' clothes were cleaned for him, I am sure he will feel better with them on." Mordred nodded and led the way back to the tent and as soon as his back was turned Isaac gave a warning glance to Selwyn whose lips quirked upward in a smirk.
Mordred ducked back into the tent to see Merlin sitting bolt upright and tense, with fear coming off him in waves. When the boy's large blue orbs found him, he deflated with relief. Mordred quickly sat down beside him. "I did not mean to scare you," he said sincerely and held his hand out uncertainly. Merlin hesitatingly put his small hand in his and squeezed his fingers. They tightened when Isaac followed Mordred inside.
"Hello, Emrys," Isaac smiled and knelt slowly. Merlin looked at him through his doleful eyes and latched his other hand on Mordred's arm. The nine year old looked surprised but not unpleased.
"His name is Merlin," Mordred told Isaac firmly.
"Yes of course," he said dismissively, "hello, Merlin, my name is Isaac."
Merlin merely turned his face into Mordred's arm and the boy couldn't help but give the elder an alarmed look. Isaac remained unfazed though and held out the clothes to Mordred.
"Here are the clothes for him. Bring him out so he can have something to eat, I'm sure he is hungry." He gave one last smile and left, the tent flaps swinging behind him.
Mordred grabbed the faded blue shirt which he thought was brown before, and turned to Merlin who turned his head slightly to look at him and then dutifully held his arms up. He had never dressed anyone besides himself before so his work was slow. He had time to think about what Selwyn told him. Mordred analysed the cheerless boy, nothing shouted all powerful warlock to him. He always imagined Emrys to be some scary old man – but the boy in front of him was just a sad little child. He then picked up the grey cloak Isaac had left, and a small stone pendent fell to the floor. A sharp gasp came from Merlin's direction and the pendent flew into his hands. Mordred gave a gasp of his own- Merlin made the stone fly into his hands- he used magic. The boy took no notice of him and he pulled the leather cord down over his head, sniffling while holding the small stone dragon in his hand. Mordred blinked his pale eyes; Merlin had just used magic without an incantation and seemed like he didn't even notice.
"Merlin, how old are you?" he gulped. The boy just glanced between him and the pendent in his tiny hands. Mordred waited for him to speak and when he did not, he bit his lip. He looked to Merlin's dragon pendent and thought of a new approach, "Does that belong to you?" he asked and was rewarded with a shake of his head. "Your mother?" This time a jerky nod. Mordred hesitated before asking another question, "Did you have a father?" Merlin stared up at him and shook his head. "Brothers or sisters?" Merlin shook his head once more and returned his gaze to the stone dragon. Mordred gave him a small smile in the hopes of encouraging him. "How old are you then? One?" The nine year old really did not have a clue. Merlin shook his head swiftly adopting a little pout on his face causing an endearing wrinkle to appear between his brows- the sight inspired a feeling of triumph in Mordred at making the boy look something other than dejected.
"Two?" Mordred asked with his eyes slightly raised. Merlin's pout deepened but his stare turned less baleful. "Three?" Mordred ducked his head sceptically. Merlin stopped pouting and nodded. "Hm, you do not look three. But if you say so." Merlin nodded his head again and Mordred helped him put on the cloak. "I'll take you outside, you can have something to eat." He stood up and offered his hand to the smaller boy who took it and looked at the entrance nervously. Merlin's head only made it to Mordred's navel.
"I'll not let any harm come to you. I promise," Mordred vowed. Merlin looked up at him through trusting eyes and Mordred could not help the smile that graced his lips. He led the way out of the tent with Merlin not letting a step of space between them.
The smell of porridge greeted them-all the druids looked up from their bowls to stare at them and whispers broke out among the camp. Merlin quickly inched behind him and Mordred cleared his throat.
"Over here, boy," Selwyn called and gestured to a fallen log that was on the edge of their clearing, near the donkey who was tied to a laden cart. The bright sun shone off Selwyn's dark red hair and long side burns, bathing it in fire. Mordred walked toward the clearing, unconsciously glaring at all who stared. When they got close Selwyn spoke again, "I hear you are called Merlin," he said to the child who hid behind Mordred and kept his head firmly tucked into his chest. "Here. Take a seat and eat as much as you like. I will get some water for him." He handed the bowl to Mordred and hobbled off. Merlin stared curiously after him now that Selwyn's back was turned and Mordred led him to sit on the log. He gave the steaming bowl to the boy and nodded. Merlin merely took the spoon and pushed the watery porridge around. Though his head was still bowed, his eyes wandered to the donkey who stared back.
"That's Archibald. Everyone calls him Archie though, just not in front of Selwyn- he gets cross when we do." Mordred looked at the boy from the corner of his eye, watching him return his sad gaze back to the bowl. "Selwyn was the one to give the porridge to you. He's not very nice but he isn't mean either-well most of the time. There's Isaac," he pointed, "and beside him is Ethel and Tynan. Isaac is alright but those two are grouchy, but then they're old." Merlin nodded but did not bother to lift the spoon to his lips. "You have to eat. Even if it is only a little." Blue eyes met his own. "Please." Merlin hesitated but took a small bite.
Selwyn came limping back with Rolf beside him and handed Mordred a bowl. He thanked him and watched Rolf place two cups of water for himself and Merlin on the stump beside him. The man grinned, "Hello Emr-ow! Merlin." Selwyn had prodded him with his crutch. Mordred smirked, he thought the reason Selwyn refused healing was because he liked to hit people with his stick, and not because they practiced frugal use of magic.
Merlin looked uncomfortably between the two men and Rolf carried on, "I'm Rolf, and this here is Selwyn if Mordred hasn't told you."
"I told him," Mordred spoke up, "I do not think he will speak, he hasn't said a word yet." He glanced apologetically at Merlin who leaned against him.
"Well what do you expect? He will speak in his own time. Now, Merlin," Selwyn spoke and waited for the boy's blue eyes to find him. He gave a small but uncharacteristic smile, "You need to eat, if only half of that. And I expect you to drink all of that water, do you understand?" Merlin nodded slowly and took another small bite of the porridge.
"Alright, Mordred, I assume the boy does not desire company so we will leave you. Come to us when you both are done." He turned and walked away; Rolf smiled at them and followed him at a safe distance.
Mordred looked down again at Merlin who was taking a sip of water. The boy set it back on the stump but it wavered and started to fall. Mordred automatically started to reach for it but with a golden flash of Merlin's eyes the wooden cup froze in the air and the water was suspended in an unmoving cascade. It then moved back into place as if nothing had happened. The whispers in the camp stuttered to a halt and Mordred turned his head to find all fifteen pairs of eyes fixed on Merlin. He angled himself to block the child from view and he looked back at Merlin who had his shoulders hunched and was looking apprehensively up at him with small hands wrapped protectively around his throat. Mordred frantically thought about what he should say- it looked like the boy was expecting a scolding. He said the first thing that came to his mind, "That was amazing!" He couldn't help his smile. Merlin blinked at him and tilted his head in confusion. Mordred licked his lips and thought for a moment, "Look," he whispered, "everyone can use magic here, Merlin. That is what you can do. I mean, it is a rather lot harder for us than it seems to be for you but you do not have to hide from me. From us. Although, we tend to avoid using magic when we can. It's dangerous, see?"
Merlin looked wonderingly at him and leaned over to look at the others who were now looking everywhere but them. Mordred picked out Isaac and Selwyn who were glaring at everyone in warning. "I know it will take a while to get used to, but you are going to be living with us now. I will take care of you though." The boy said assuredly. Merlin sniffled sadly and took another gulp of water. Mordred ate a spoonful of porridge and urged Merlin to do the same. It was slow going but Merlin ate just a bit more than half and finished the cup of water. Mordred gave him his own and urged him to drink it which he did.
Mordred then stood up and was going to lead Merlin over to Selwyn, Isaac, Ethel, and Tynan but the boy was staring at Archibald. Mordred obliged him and led him over. "Be careful, he bites. He can be grumpy like Selwyn," he warned. But Merlin reached his free hand up and Mordred was surprised to see Archibald lean his head into the boy's hand. He let Merlin pet the donkey for a while before gently urging him away. Merlin fastened himself to his side as they moved through the camp and the boy kept his eyes glued to the forest floor.
"Hello, Emrys," Ethel smiled warmly at Merlin who flicked his head up to glance at her. "My name is Ethel."
"His name is Merlin," Mordred said for what seemed the millionth time.
"Hold your tongue, child," Tynan snapped at him. Mordred narrowed his eyes at him and Merlin cringed while reaching up to cup his throat in his hands.
"Please try to be civil, Tynan," Isaac said politely. He walked forward and crouched before Merlin. The boy twitched but did not move or lower his arms.
"I hope you are feeling better today, Merlin. You certainly a strong little boy." He smiled but the sad expression on Merlin's face did not waver. It would not for a long time. "We are going to be finding somewhere to live for the next little while. So you and Mordred can sit on a cart while we walk and we will worry about introductions later. Does that sound alright to you?" Merlin looked to Mordred who gave him a small smile and he nodded infinitesimally.
"Alright then, Mordred you two can go sit on Archibald's cart. We will be leaving shortly," Selwyn dismissed him. Mordred nodded and led Merlin away. They got to the cart and Mordred helped the boy up and clambered onto the blankets behind him. He seemed a lot smaller when Mordred didn't have to lift him. They were perched high above and Mordred looked about at the trees from the new vantage point but Merlin remained uninterested in front of him. Soon they were on the move and they proceeded in a stream of people and carts past the overhanging trees. Selwyn's pendent bounced on his chest as he swung himself alongside Archibald and made no move to sit in one of the carts. Anyone would have willingly pulled him along but the man was far too proud for that. The only words he said was to inform Mordred that they were going to Mercia and he lapsed into his usual silence. Mordred felt Merlin quivering in front of him and he tightened his hold, the three year old child burrowed into his small arms and cried silently- rain fell in a soft drizzle throughout the day.
I seriously feel like I need to go hide behind the couch, I'm so nervous about what people think! I've been hiding this darn story away for ages now. AGES I tell you!
Alright, here's some more info for you all. So obviously the timeline has been severely messed with. Basically this first book (season 1) their ages will be Arthur- 20/21, Mordred- 11/12, and Merlin- 5/6. This story is going to go through the episodes but believe me when I say things will be different. Merlin is a kid after all, and Mordred isn't as powerful as Merlin was in the show. They also have a different effect on the characters but I'm not going to give all that away ;) I liked how Alaia Skyhawk set up her chapters in her Question of series so I'm basing it off that. Each episode will have 3 parts and I'm doing sub episodes that will also have three parts. This chapter is the first part of a sub-ep.
Oh yes, and instead of Uther being able to round up the dragons and dragonlords within a year, it took him 17. Suitably epic for such a task and fitted to my preference. So Arthur would have been 15 when Kilgharrah was captured and the dragon has only been locked up for around seven years.
And updates for this story will be slow, sorry but I'm still in school and I absolutely don't want to run out of chapters, though I do have a rather lot of them. But I'm paranoid so….
Right, I think that's everything. Ok I did it, I published. Please, please, please review! I really want to know what everyone thinks of this :D
And thank you so much for reading! I'm off to hide now.