Hey guys, here is the next chapter. Thanks to everyone who reviewed the last one :)
The sky outside their bedroom window was a deep sapphire, slowly dimming towards the black of night. Early stars were dusting the horizon like silver jewels on a midnight dress and Merlin was happy. He yawned for the sixth time since moving the bed against the wall so he could better see out the window. The stairs outside the room creaked with added weight, letting Merlin know that someone was climbing the steps. Giving a last smile to the night time sky, he took his hands away from the wall and flopped down into the bed. Turning, he saw Mordred enter the room and close the door behind him.
"Time for bed, Merlin," he said.
"Already?" Merlin immediately complained.
Mordred smirked at him. "You should have been sleeping hours ago."
Merlin stuck out his tongue but pulled back the covers, a task made difficult since his foot got caught in the folds. "Is Gaius going to sleep too?" Merlin asked while freeing himself, intending to get up and say good night to the physician.
Mordred moved forward and put a hand on his shoulder, stopping him from getting up. "Leave him. He's… busy."
"With what?" Merlin asked suspiciously.
Mordred shrugged. "Brooding." Merlin nodded understandably. He knew what brooding meant because Gaius often said that Mordred did it. The older boy left to put out the candles lit on their dresser, but before he got to them, Merlin blew them out from the bed. Merlin giggled despite the glare sent his way. "Merlin! No magic!" Mordred looked furious in the darkness of the chambers.
Merlin stuck out his tongue. "No one saw."
"It doesn't matter!" Mordred yelled at him.
"Yes it does," Merlin yelled back, growing frustrated.
"Boys!" Gaius shouted from the main chambers.
They fell silent and looked at each other before Merlin took in a breath. "Good night, Gaius!"
Merlin waited for a few moments for Gaius to bark back a goodnight and was satisfied when he did, his anger forgotten. "Edwin did it."
Mordred pressed his lips together, a new sign Merlin knew meant he was giving up on reprimanding Merlin against his better judgement. "Did what?"
"Use magic," Merlin replied while settling under the covers.
"What?" Mordred asked sharply, stomping back to the bed.
Merlin nodded. "I heard him. He used magic to heal Morgana."
The older boy just stared at him. "Why didn't you tell me sooner?" Merlin shrugged. "You didn't tell him about your magic?" Mordred asked, more of a warning than a question.
"No, he didn't see me," Merlin answered.
Mordred stood still for a long moment before sighing and climbing into bed. "Good. Now stop hogging the bed." He made sure the blankets were secured around Merlin once he scooted over. "…don't tell Gaius."
"Okay," Merlin chirped.
Mordred was not sure how he felt about Edwin, but knew that he did not want Merlin around him. The boy had not listened to him though, so Mordred made Merlin promise he wouldn't reveal his magic. "We can't trust him, even though he healed Morgana," Mordred said as they walked to Edwin's guest chambers. Arthur had offered Mordred's services to Edwin so the boy was heading there to help with whatever needed doing. Merlin had just invited himself along.
"Okay," Merlin said agreeably. Mordred smiled, glad that the boy wasn't feeling rebellious today. "Are you going to axe him about it?"
"Ask," Mordred corrected with a chuckle, "and maybe."
Merlin smiled at him and tugged at Mordred's teal cloak in excitement. "Maybe he can tell us how."
"I don't think so, Merlin," Mordred replied.
A frown passed over the young boy's face but did not stay for long. Mordred came to suspect that Merlin was lost since he was trailing behind and looking around, but did not pay it much mind since they seldom ventured to the guest chambers. The cloaked boy thought out loud, wondering what Edwin would need help with and nearly passed the man's chambers. After receiving no call to enter after Mordred knocked, he pushed the wooden door open and strode inside only to find the room empty.
His eyes were drawn to the dining table, laden with instruments Edwin had said were for alchemy yesterday. Merlin instantly gravitated there, peering up and down at the objects. None bared much resemblance to Gaius' tools, except the foggy magnifying glass next to the candle sticks. Mordred glanced at Merlin and uttered a warning not to touch anything.
A small huff escaped Merlin's lips and he leaned forward, tilting his head to study a pewter instrument which looked almost like an hourglass. "I wonder where he is," Mordred said and looked around the chambers, the medical tools not interesting him very much.
"Mordred look," Merlin called and drew the older boy's gaze to him. He was holding a small wooden box and looking inside at its contents.
Mordred snatched it away from him, narrowing his eyes at Merlin. He could not resist a glance and paused at finding a mass of dead black beetles inside. A confused furrow settled between his eyes but he shut the box and in doing so caught the inscription on the lid.
"This is the old tongue," Mordred realized, looking more closely at it.
"Very good," Edwin's deep voice sounded, startling the two boys. Mordred spun around, putting himself in front of Merlin. The boy's ice coloured eyes were widened in surprise and he winced when Merlin accidentally knocked over a bottle on the table.
He watched the blonde man and felt a little better when Edwin smiled but was admittedly nervous when he walked towards them.
"You seem too bright to be just a servant," Edwin noted and held a hand out for the box, the smile slipping off his face. Mordred just looked down and gave it to him. "How did you know to recognize it?"
It was not a question that he felt comfortable answering. "You used magic to heal Morgana," Mordred said instead of answering.
Edwin's pleasant expression concealed a knowing gleam in his eye. "Yes," he admitted and flaunted the wooden box before setting it on the table. Mordred stepped back with Merlin to put more space between them. "These little angels are how I cured her. They repaired the damage to her brain. They saved her life. Magic can be a force for good."
A smile formed on Mordred's face without his consent and Merlin braved edging out from behind the older boy.
"Then why do you fear it?" Edwin asked Mordred
"It's punishable by death," he said vehemently.
"Should I have let Morgana die?" Edwin countered.
Mordred shook his head.
Edwin regarded Mordred seriously. "People like us, we have a gift. Do you not think it should be used to make this a better world?"
Mordred was content to keep his silence, but Merlin answered, "Yes!" The young child drifted to Mordred's side and looked at Edwin curiously.
"Do you both have magic?" Edwin wondered.
"No, just me," Mordred lied quickly. To prove it and to take attention away from Merlin, Mordred turned to the jar that had spilled. He took in a breath to concentrate and then held his hand out, ignoring Merlin's alarmed gaze. "Feormian dærst rénian."
The blue crystals that had spilled onto the table floated upward and whisked into the ceramic bottle. Mordred looked at Edwin to see his reaction while Merlin crept behind him again.
"You have talent," Edwin exclaimed and stepped closer. Mordred smiled at the praise. "Why waste something like that? And I can teach you."
"I don't think Gaius would like that," Mordred muttered.
"A gift like yours should be nurtured, practiced, enjoyed," Edwin said passionately, breaking his calm exterior. "You need someone to help you, to encourage you."
Mordred searched Edwin's eyes. "You'd really do that?"
"People like you and I, we must look after each other."
"I don't know," Mordred said uncertainly. Edwin loomed over him through fact of height and Merlin pulled on Mordred's cloak to back away.
"You could be great," Edwin insisted. When Mordred remained silent, Edwin relaxed. "Think on it. I look forward to hearing your answer." Mordred nodded and began to lead Merlin away. "And Mordred, you must promise to keep our secret safe."
The boy was oriented toward the door but looked back at Edwin. "I know," he said and motioned for Merlin to get going. Mordred and Edwin stared at each other before the boy turned away and left the room. When the door closed behind them, a predatory smirk formed on Edwin's lips.
It was evening when Mordred returned to Edwin's chambers. Now alone, he knocked on the door and was almost instantly called to enter. Somewhat tentatively he opened it and walked inside. Edwin stood up from the table, putting the bowl he had been holding inside. "You have considered my offer?" he asked smoothly.
"Yes," Mordred answered, shutting the door behind him. "I want to learn."
Edwin inclined his head. "The study of magic requires a great deal of discipline."
"Yes," Mordred agreed. He stood still and regarded Edwin seriously, his lips set in a firm line. "Please teach me."
The sorcerer smiled and started to pace around Mordred. "Just tell me one thing, why do you wish to study it?"
Mordred hesitated. While he wanted to learn from Edwin, he by no means trusted him and that meant not revealing the fact he was a warlock. "I… magic is... it's power." Mordred's diamond gaze become hard. "I don't have to be weak. I can protect Merlin."
"Hm. You've not had an easy life," Edwin noted, "not many sorcerers have."
Mordred looked at the burnt half of Edwin's face and the man's lips twisted into a grimace. "Yes, a remnant from my past," he said brushed the damaged skin with his fingers. It must have been painful, and reminded Mordred of his parents but he did not want to think of them. He had not met another sorcerer who had suffered for their gifts, only the druids who had preached peace. But this man was not a druid, and using magic in the city filled with the blood of sorcerers.
He did not know why but he grew angry. The dark thoughts he had tried to bury seemed to want to claw to the surface. "Why did you choose to heal?" Mordred asked, "Why help the man who has caused so many of us to suffer? I mean, I'm happy you helped Morgana but she's the king's ward."
Edwin did not reply for a while, but Mordred did not relieve his unwavering stare. "Yet she is not the king. Why should the lady Morgana have to suffer for his mistakes?"
"She doesn't. But the king hasn't answered for his," Mordred seethed. "We live in fear of him, and he'd have us killed if-"
"Stop," Edwin interrupted and held up his hand. "It is not for us to pass judgement. We must simply do the best we can with what we have."
Mordred bit his lip, not agreeing but knowing to concede defeat. "I apologize, I shouldn't have said those things."
"Certainly not in the castle where the beast himself lives," Edwin said with amusement. "But you needn't apologize to me. Now we should begin." The boy straightened and moved backward to give Edwin room. "Belúcan þe hyrd," he said and held his hand to the door to lock it.
"This spell is quite difficult for a beginner but let us see what you are capable of. Forbearnan." A small ball of fire bloomed in Edwin's hand before he let it extinguish.
Mordred almost smirked for he could do this spell in his sleep. "Forbearnan," Mordred repeated, and a flame, bigger than Edwin's had been, hovered inside Mordred's hand.
A gleam entered the sorcerer's eyes. "Very good. Very good."
Quiet laughter filled the chambers, coming from the two ladies sitting at the table. Morgana's attempt to teach Mordred chess was proving to be highly amusing for her and Guinevere. The boy was growing frustrated, his main problem being that he did not have the patience to learn. "But why can't I move backwards?" Mordred asked. His chin was tucked into his hands as he leaned over the board, glaring at the black knight waiting to defeat his white bishop.
"Those are the rules, I'm afraid," Morgana said airily, grabbing her piece with pale fingers and taking Mordred's bishop.
"It's stupid," The boy complained. He glanced at Merlin who was sitting beside him, copying his exact posture and staring at the board. "Right, Merlin?"
The child smiled up at him. "Right," he chirped.
Gwen shared a smile with Morgana. "Once you learn, it will be better," she encouraged. Mordred looked at her, clearly thinking otherwise.
"Do you know how to play, Gwen?" Merlin asked the dark skinned maidservant sitting across from him.
"Sort of, Morgana taught me," Gwen replied.
"I regret it," Morgana sighed, "You never let me win."
"Really? I thought it was the other way around," Gwen said back.
The king's ward smiled vaguely, trying to hide a yawn. Everyone noticed but Merlin was the first to comment. "Are you sleepy, Morgana?" Merlin asked curiously.
"A little, I suppose," she said.
Mordred took that as a cue to stand up. "Then we will let you rest."
"Are you sure you aren't just running away?" Morgana asked him slyly, glancing to the board. She would have won in two more moves.
A laugh escaped Mordred's lips. "We really should get going. Arthur has training."
"Ah, then you shouldn't keep our prince waiting," Morgana bid, rising to her feet. Gwen followed, holding out her arm when Morgana swayed. The king's ward put a tense smile on her lips and smoothed down her claret dress. "Visit again soon, alright," she said to Mordred.
"I will," he replied, taking Morgana's lead in pretending nothing was wrong. Mordred circled around the table and grabbed Morgana's hand. "I hope you feel better."
He was gifted with a genuine smile before Morgana glided toward her bed. Mordred walked to the door and held his hand out to Merlin who looked like he wanted to stay. But the child went to Mordred anyway, sending a last smile to Morgana and Gwen before they departed. "Bye!" Merlin called just before Mordred shut the door.
A long sigh made its way out of Merlin's lips, causing Mordred to look down. "Oh it's alright, Merlin, Morgana will be better in no time," he said cheerfully.
Merlin looked up at him with his large blue eyes. "Promise?"
"Promise," Mordred said and gave Merlin's shoulder a gentle push. "I'll race you to the armoury," he proposed. Merlin immediately laughed and tore off at a run with Mordred quickly giving chase.
By the time they arrived at the training grounds with Arthur's things, they were both out of breath and Merlin was still cranky for having lost. They were early, as per Morded's custom but there were a few servants setting up their respective knight's things. Most of them exchanged greetings with Mordred and Merlin but the rest still felt he was too young for the job. Their dismissive manner did not bother Mordred, but Merlin seemed to feel it more than him.
The boy glared at the ground and only looked up when Mordred stopped by the red and gold tent designated for Arthur's use. "Why are they so mean?" Merlin grumbled.
Mordred sighed and glared at the servants in question who had made him mad. "Don't pay them any attention, Merlin. They're not worth it."
A short laugh signalled Elias' presence behind them. Mordred turned a wary eye toward Sir Lloyd's servant. "Keep talking like that, you'll be sure t' make friends," the blonde boy observed.
"Well good thing I don't want to make friends with them," Mordred said, not making mention of the helmet on Elias' head.
Elias laughed, finding Mordred hilarious as ever, and punched him on the shoulder. He sighed. "You don't have t' want to. But makin' enemies o' servants aren't the best idea out there."
Mordred took his turn to sigh. "Thank you for the advice," he stated and then under his breath, "as always."
"What can I say?" Elias bragged, "I'm full o' wits."
Merlin laughed, at what Mordred did not know. "You're funny, Elias," the boy said to which the blonde dipped into a ridiculous bow which made Merlin laugh more.
"I aim t' please. Hey, Merlin, want t' help me set up some armour?" Elias grinned and pointed to a nearby dummy.
Before answering, Merlin looked to Mordred who nodded. "Yeah!" Merlin said and skipped around Elias who took off the helmet and gave it to Merlin.
"Alright, see if you can put this on that there," the blonde said to him.
Mordred sighed at Elias' game. The dummy was taller than Arthur, and there was no way Merlin could put it on- a problem Merlin seemed to consider seriously.
'No magic, Merlin,' Mordred reminded him while making sure Arthur's sword was polished. He glanced to see Merlin straighten his back but the child did not reply. He circled around the dummy while Elias grinned in amusement. Not having the patience to wait for long, Elias gave Merlin a solution.
"Throw it up," he coached, "come on, right in the air!"
Merlin blinked and then readied himself to do as asked, not hearing Mordred's groan. Merlin wasn't very good at things that involved coordination, a fact that Elias was not aware of. But to Mordred's surprise the helmet sailed upward and not in any other direction.
Ready, Elias caught it and plonked it on the dummy's head. "Heeeey!" he cheered.
Merlin laughed in delight, looking to Mordred to check if he had seen. "Did you see, Mordred? Did you see?" Merlin called, trotting back to the tent. Elias followed after straightening the helmet so it sat perfectly on the dummy's straw head.
"Good job, Merlin!" Mordred praised.
Elias laughed. "What, no good job- who the hell is that?"
"Language!" Mordred hissed.
"Oh… Sorry, Merlin," Elias said with some sincerity.
Merlin wasn't paying attention, he was looking over Mordred's shoulder- the smile on his face gone to be replaced by a wary expression. The eleven year old servant turned around to see Edwin standing on the other side of the fence. Edwin's eyes were fixed on his own. "Stay with Elias, Merlin," Mordred said and started walking over to the sorcerer.
"Oi!" Elias called and grabbed Mordred's shoulder, keeping him from moving. "Who is that?" he asked suspiciously.
"The man who saved Lady Morgana," Mordred said.
Elias' brow furrowed and he let go of Mordred's shoulder but he crossed his arms, standing his ground. Merlin waited beside the blonde boy as Mordred hurried to Edwin. "Did you need anything?" Mordred asked him when he drew close.
The robed man's expression did not alter. "We did not have time to practice this morning before Gaius interrupted us. Tonight we will have the chance."
Mordred shifted. "I can't. I need to tend to Arthur all evening."
"Not all evening, surely," Edwin said dismissively.
"Well it will be late by the time I am done…"
Edwin merely looked at him. "Then you will come to my chambers when you are done."
Mordred frowned, not appreciating Edwin telling him what to do. He only ever had to listen to Arthur and Gaius now. "I'm sorry, but Gaius wants me to collect herbs for him in the morning."
"Oh does he?" Edwin asked with a curled lip. Mordred nodded. "Are you aware that our discipline requires study?"
"Of course I-"
"And that there is nothing more important than our understanding of it? You can afford a few less hours of sleep," Edwin said sharply.
Mordred paused and could not find fault with Edwin's reasoning. He wanted to protect Merlin after all and a few short nights were a low price to pay. Edwin's gaze was drawn away and he looked past Mordred. The boy heard Arthur's footsteps before he looked.
"Is there a problem here?" the prince demanded, walking up until he stopped beside Mordred.
"No, sire," Mordred answered.
Arthur did not look at Mordred right away, but eyed Edwin who inclined his head in a respectful bow. "Good, because we are starting," Arthur said and motioned to the training field which was filling up with knights.
"Yes, Sire," Mordred said and spared a parting glance for Edwin. As he started walking back toward the field, Arthur placed a hand on his shoulder to direct him. He missed the short glance the prince sent to the sorcerer.
Mordred had heard from Morgana. The news was delivered gently but still a shock to hear. Not even saying a farewell, Mordred ran to the physician's chambers, leaving Merlin behind with Morgana. The marble corridors blurred by him and the unfamiliar emotion of panic pumped through his veins. He nearly ran into several people and may have caused another manservant to trip when running around a corner, but he made it to the physician's chambers within an impressive time frame.
Ignoring the sign to knock, Mordred slammed the door open and blundered into the room. "Gaius!" The physician turned around and regarded Mordred silently "What- what's going on?" Out of breath, Mordred stood there breathing heavily waiting for Gaius to answer.
The physician sighed and walked to his charge. "You haven't heard?" Gaius asked dryly.
"Morgana said that you're being relieved of your duties," Mordred replied hesitantly.
Gaius breathed another long sigh and patted Mordred's shoulder. The boy searched his eyes for any indication that it wasn't true. But the physician appeared. "Yes, Edwin is replacing me, I'm afraid."
"What?" Mordred asked in a raised voice, "Why?"
"He's the better physician," Gaius replied, raising his eyebrow at Mordred's surprise.
The boy shook his head heatedly. "No one is better than you!"
His response earned a chuckle from Gaius. "Your faith in me is flattering," Gaius said and turned back to what he was doing.
Seeing the packed box on the work table, Mordred stilled instead of following. "What are you doing?" he asked in a small voice.
Gaius offered him a sympathetic glance while packing away a sealed jar. "Edwin will be using these chambers."
Mordred could not stop the crushed expression from flashing across his face. "But… this is our home!" He looked around at everything before his gaze landed on the door to his and Merlin's room. "It's not fair!"
The bookshelves around the chambers began to vibrate, rattling the bottles packed in them. Mordred's hands were clamped tightly in fists, his anger climbing. Gaius swiftly stepped forward before anything could break. "It's alright. We will find somewhere else."
Mordred's magic settled down and he stared at Gaius a good long while before speaking. "So… you're not going to leave us?"
Gaius was taken aback that Mordred would think such a thing but the vulnerability on the boy's face was plain as day. "Of course not," he breathed. "You boys are the sons I never had. As long as you need me, I shall always be here for you."
Mordred felt tears well in his eyes and his lips tremble, but he felt too moved and relieved to be mortified. He wanted to say Gaius was like a father even though he still remembered his own. But his throat was tight and he knew he would not be able to speak. So to express his gratitude he surged forward and hugged Gaius with all his strength.
"You silly boy," Gaius sighed, ruffling Mordred's hair.
Before he was quite composed Mordred drew away, his blue eyes over bright. He sniffed and attempted a watery smile which faded after he drew in a deep breath. "It will be alright," the boy said to Gaius' surprise. Mordred frowned, visibly thinking and just as Gaius was going to question him, he pulled away from the physician and sprinted out the chambers. Knowing better than to call him back, Gaius just turned back to his packing, deep in thought.
Hope you liked it, please review if you did :)