To Camelot Ye Comen
When you're nine, the worst part of being executed for your magic in Camelot is the fact that you'll never see your mom again. Merlin's dream comes true when he gets to visit Camelot during a tournament. Then he accidentally lets Prince Arthur know he can do magic. Let the adventure begin.
Wait. Wait. I wrote this...I wrote this FOREVER ago. Like, years ago. Like season 1, years ago. Why...hasn't this been posted? How did that happen?...
Merlin's dreams came true with a few simple words. "You can go to Camelot."
Now, the real sentence had been, "Alright, Merlin, you can go to Camelot with the men to see the tournament," followed by a list of precautions he was to take so as not to be found out as a warlock. But at nine years old, all he cared about was Camelot.
Camelot! The city of wonder and, previously, the home of magic in Albion. Kings, knights, horses, fairs, tournaments! The best of the best! The castle! The walls! The towers! The people! Camelot was the place to be!
Merlin had never before been allowed to travel to Camelot. His mother had been too frightened that he would get caught up in something and forget to control his powers, and something would go horribly wrong and then Merlin would be beheaded as a magic user. While the possibility of being beheaded by King Uther Pendragon wasn't a pleasant one, Merlin did not fear it because, at nine, he had wonderful control over his powers and could handle anything.
So, with his mother worrying and warning him of the dangers of big cities, Merlin left town on foot with six adult males and his best friend Will. Will had gone to Camelot twice already, and assured Merlin that it wasn't anything special, but Merlin knew he was just bitter towards the royal families of the world. It took almost three days to get to Camelot, mostly because Will and he had to stop a lot to catch their breaths, but it was everything Merlin had hoped it would be.
They made it over the crest of a hill and the castle of Camelot rose up out of the earth and into the sky with power and prestige, promising equality, protection, and pleasure with all that it had. At the bottom of the hill, several dirt paths became a stone road and suddenly Merlin was caught up in the different people on the road and the carts they were pushing or the baskets they were carrying. When they crossed the drawbridge, Merlin had to be pulled back by the scruff of his neck because he'd leaned over so far to see the water in the moat that he'd nearly fallen in!
It was all so fascinating and Merlin felt his heart in his throat he was so excited. The outer area of town, just inside the castle walls, was a bustling marketplace. People of all different shapes and sizes and colors were showing off their skills and merchandise, hoping to find a buyer. Chainmail, horses, sheep, shoes, jewelry, cups and bowls, gowns, pants, tunics, rugs, tapestries, instruments, books, portraits of famous peoples, mirrors, weapons, and more littered the streets. Merlin got lost in it all and only kept walking because Garth, an older man, was holding him by the wrist. A little further in was the food market, just past the outer bustling market. Merlin had never seen so many kinds of foods and food making animals in one place!
They didn't stay there long enough for Merlin to even register what half the food was. Before he knew it, he was already outside the arena waiting to sit with everyone else. It cost money to go to a show? Or were there just a lot of people and they couldn't find enough seats for everyone? He didn't ask. Garth didn't seem pleased with having to babysit the oddball of Ealdor. None of them knew about his magic, but they knew he was stranger than any of them. That was part of the appeal of Camelot: so many different kinds of people that there was no way he could be considered 'strange.'
Suddenly Merlin was lifted up and sat on a bench in the middle of the stands. Garth sat next to him, and Will was three men down from him. He looked around the arena in apprehension and confusion. "Where are the fighters?" he asked innocently, seeing nothing but dirt down below them.
"The tournament doesn't start for an hour yet," Garth explained in his best child's voice. "The fighters are still getting ready with their armor and weapons and things. We sit early so that we have a seat at all."
"Oh," was all Merlin said to that, feeling like he'd learned a lot somehow, and yet learned nothing at all. What was a tournament like? What sorts of weapons did the fighters use? Did anybody die? Was it scary? Funny? Why was it fun to watch? But Merlin couldn't ask because Garth was talking to John – the oldest of the old in Ealdor – on his other side, away from Merlin.
Merlin managed to sit in silence, sometimes making funny faces to Will down the bench, for about half an hour. Then a sensation overcame him that made him wiggle in his seat. "Mr. Garth…," he muttered, then tugged on the man's sleeve. "Sir."
"What is it?" he asked patiently. He gave Merlin what was supposed to be a kind smile, but his teeth were all rotted out so it was actually kind of scary. Merlin leaned a bit away from him before he spoke.
"I have to pee," he said in the adorable way only kids could manage. He couldn't stop wiggling.
Garth looked around the stadium, but Merlin had no idea what he was looking for, before pointing to the far side of the stand – across the stadium. "The bathrooms are somewhere over there. Be quick about it."
Merlin jumped up like his butt was on fire and sidled down the stands to the exit and ran out and around the arena as fast as his little legs could carry him without pissing his pants. He found the bathroom through a series of frantic running and looking at everything all at once and was done relieving himself within five minutes. The bathrooms here were weird and it had taken a moment for him to realize what he was supposed to do instead of just going in the grass and covering it up or digging a hole for it.
His problem came when he got outside of the bathrooms. He had no idea how to get back to the arena from here. He'd taken several turns and everything was so tall in Camelot, to a nine year old, that he couldn't see the stadium over them. He scurried around, desperately searching for something to show him the way, or someone he knew come to find him, but saw nothing. There were tons of people everywhere, no matter where he went, going in every direction, and none of them would listen to him!
Merlin was scared now. How long had it been? Was he missing the tournament everyone was so excited about? Would he ever get out of Camelot? Would he ever see his mother again? Why would no one listen? Why did no one care?! Where was Garth? Where was Will? Where was his mommy!?
A horse snorted and Merlin yelped, falling to the ground in an ungraceful heap. And bright and colorful sparkles flaked off his body. The horse in the stall next to Merlin neighed in panic and backed away from him. Merlin calmed down when he was certain the horse wasn't about to attack. Then he felt a rising pit of rage build inside of him at the horse, as if it were the cause of all his problems. After making sure there was no one around – the tournament must have started by now - he jumped up faster than lightening and lifted rocks from the ground with a thought before making them spin around the horses head. It neighed and snorted and pawed the ground nervously, unsure of where to go now that it was at the back of the stall and the flying magical objects were all over the place.
Then the guilt hit. All the rocks stopped and fell to the ground as Merlin sighed and plopped back down on the ground criss-cross-applesauce with his head down and his hands on his legs. It wasn't the horse's fault he was lost and scared. He shouldn't have done that.
"I'm sorry," he murmured, and the horse snorted derisively in response and kicked a stone out of its stall. "I'm sorry, I shouldn't've done that. I'm just scared." He looked up at the horse with a pitiful expression on his face. "I…I'm lost. I'm suppos'd to be at the tournament with some men from my village…but I had to go pee and I got lost trying to get back…I'm sorry," he repeated softly.
The horse looked at him for a long while, and then walked as close to Merlin as it could get and lowered its head as far as it could so Merlin could pet it if he wanted. He reached out to touch the horse's nose with his hand, but an angry yell stopped him.
"Hey!" a young adult male shouted. "Don't touch my horse! Who do you think you are?!"
Merlin yelped, jumped to his feet, and ran away as fast as he could before the angry looking man in armor could catch him. He ran around tents and stands until he was gasping for breath and then-
And then he heard the sounds of the tournament going on: the people cheering, the swords clashing, the people booing, a rush of air and fabric, dirt in the air. He could literally feel the tiny details of the tournament without being anywhere near it, and it made him want to see it more than ever. So his little legs rushed him back to the set of stands where his village was sitting and was startled to find that every seat was taken. He'd been gone too long. The seat by Garth was occupied by an elderly woman; her husband stood on her other side.
Merlin's eyes swiveled around the arena stands swiftly, looking for a seat, any seat, and his eyes landed on the royal family. An older looking man sat in a great seat with a crown adorning his head and all the presence of a mighty dragon. On one side of his chair sat a beautifully adorable little girl, a year or so younger than Merlin, who wore no crown but had on a rich gown. She looked unhappy. The seat to the King's other side was surprisingly bare, empty, vacant. Wait. Wasn't there supposed to be a prince? Where was he? Why wasn't he in his seat? Was he sick? Then why was the King here and not with his son? Maybe-
Then the sound of battle caught him and he simply stood near his original stands, no seat whatsoever, watching the two prime-aged men fight as if to the death. Oh! Was this a 'battle to the death' tournament?! Merlin wasn't sure he could handle that!
His new found fear for the combatants made the battle that much more intense. Every blow promised death, every breath a plea to win, every block with a shield declared life and promised failure to the opponent. He was only nine! He wasn't sure he could handle this…
One of the combatants, a man not of Camelot's knights, cried out as he was slashed across the arm and Merlin's hair stood up as he gasped. The rocks, twigs, and loose dirt of the area started to rise from the ground, but he didn't see it. He was too scared that the man who'd been hurt was going to die! The debris climbed higher and higher, until it was almost at Merlin's knees, and then-
Merlin felt all the air leave his lungs as someone grabbed him by the right shoulder and threw him away from the stands. All the debris faltered and fell back to the ground, and that's when Merlin realized they'd been floating at all. Before he could look back to see who had thrown him, he was seized by the shoulders and made to walk away from the tournament and around the stadium to a deserted area. Fear was beginning to thread through Merlin's veins. Magic was banned in Camelot. What if….what if he was being led to his execution!?
He tried to turn around and see who it was that had a hold of him but only managed to entangle his feet with that of his captor's and send them both flying to the dirt. They'd barely hit when suddenly the other person, a boy Merlin's age he now saw, was up and dusting himself off. He had blond hair and wore fine fabrics and held himself like he was trying to seem greater than he was. A nobleman's son. Merlin couldn't find his breath. How was it that someone his age, noble or not, could look so radiant?
"Who-?" he managed, before the other boy knelt by him and glared.
"Be careful, idiot!" he hissed out, obviously attempting to keep quiet. "Magic is banned here! It doesn't matter how old you are, my father'll kill you if he sees you using it!"
Merlin simply stared. This boy had seen him using his magic. He'd said his father would kill him for using magic…So that meant…
"P-prince Arthur Pendragon?" he stuttered out. Suddenly, the fear he'd forgotten for a moment's time came back a hundred fold. "Please! Don't tell you father." He was looking Arthur right in the eyes, and it never crossed his mind that only nobles were allowed to do that. "I can't help it! I've been like this since I was born! Please! I promised mama I'd be careful. If you tell the king-" He couldn't finish his sentence for the tears running down his face like rivers. He would die if the king knew. He'd never see his mother, or Will, or Ealdor ever again! He wanted to go home!
The prince's face softened. "I'm not going to tell father," he assured Merlin, grabbing him by the wrist and hauling him to his feet. Then he smirked. "If you show me more."
It took a few moments for Merlin to realize what he was being asked. The crowned prince of Camelot, son of Uther Pendragon, wanted Merlin to show him magic tricks. "Um…uh…uh sure," he managed softly.
Arthur's face lit up and he squeezed the hand he was still holding in his own. "Come on. I'll show you around while father's hosting the tournament."
"Wha-?" Merlin managed before he was being dragged across the yard and into the castle through a side door.
Arthur showed him the door to the kitchens, and then snuck inside to grab leftover pastries from breakfast for them both to eat, and they peeked in at the court physician's room. He showed Merlin the armory and the great hall and the throne room and then led him up the staircases and through the halls until they were in his bedroom. Which was fantastic, by the way.
Arthur walked nobly over to his bed and flopped down on it like the child he was before rolling over, sitting up, and patting the bed next to him. Merlin hurried over and jumped up on the bed. It really was too big for a child, even two children, and Merlin couldn't understand how Arthur managed to sleep in here.
"So. I showed you the castle," Arthur began, giving Merlin a curious look. "Show me magic."
Merlin looked around the room, but it was so clean he had nothing to lift into the air. There was a fire in the hearth though and he grabbed Arthur's hand before his eyes flashed gold. The flames suddenly slowed and Merlin could watch each one as it moved, melded with another, or broke away as a new tendril. He heard Arthur gasp beside him and grinned. It broke his concentration though, and the fire was suddenly back to normal. Arthur kept looking from the fireplace to Merlin with a look of pure shock and awe on his face, as if Merlin were the coolest thing he'd ever seen in his life. Which was bullocks, because he was a Prince and surely had seen a great many wondrous things in his life.
"I…," Merlin tried, and found his voice too quiet to be heard. He cleared his throat. "I'm only nine, so I don' know much. I can just move things and slow things down. I haven't studied at all."
"Liar," Arthur accused with a frown. "You made sparkles when the horse startled you!"
Merlin's eyes widened. "You saw me?" he gasped. Arthur nodded with a frown-y pout and folded his arms across his chest. "That was…You see…I don't know how to control it, really. Not yet. I'm nine," he emphasized again. "I sometimes…things just happen…It's why mommy didn't want me to come to the tourn'ment in the first place. She's scared…"
"You're scared too," Arthur pointed out, but his voice was soft.
Merlin smiled. "Not anymore! I've got a friend here now!" He grabbed Arthur's right hand in both his own. Arthur stared at their hands as Merlin spoke. "And I'll be sure to come back to Camelot soon, so I can see you again!"
"You will?" Arthur asked breathily, eyes flickering up to Merlin's.
"Yea!" Merlin nodded. "No one else knows about my magic but momma, not even Will or the other kids in the village." His smile grew. "I'll come back when I've learned new magic, so I can show it to you! It'll be great!"
"Shh!" Arthur scolded, but he couldn't hide his smile. "Don't be so loud about it. I'd hate…," he frowned and averted his eyes. "You're the only friend I've got. I don't want father to find out about you and…and…"
Merlin frowned and hugged him. "Don't worry, Arthur. I'll be real careful. I won't let anybody know. I won't die, k?" It was strange to be promising something so deep, but he didn't understand the weight of his promise at nine years old. He pulled away. "I'll be back soon. I promise."
Arthur's smile was so happy that Merlin felt him matching it without even having to think about it. If Arthur was happy, then Merlin was happy. His smile turned wicked and suddenly the covers of Arthur's bed came flying up and fell over top of them like a tent.
"Hey!" Arthur cried out, just before they lost sight of each other in the layers of quilts and sheets.
It took a few moments for them to manually dig themselves out of the mass, but when they did it was accompanied by childish, happy laughter. Arthur looked like he couldn't breathe, and Merlin felt the same. It was hilariously funny, but they couldn't tell you why.
The fun got cut short abruptly when raucous cheers came from below. The tournament was over, and so was their time. Merlin frowned but Arthur looked absolutely heartbroken. Without a word, he slid from the bed and waited for Merlin to do the same. Then they left Arthur's room and snuck back downstairs and out the side entrance to the castle and over near the tournament stadium. There, Arthur stopped abruptly and pulled Merlin in for a hug.
"I'll never forget you…so…remember to come back and see me, ok?" he whispered in Merlin's ear in such a sad tone that Merlin felt his heart crack. He wrapped his arms around Arthur in return.
"I already promised I would, right?" Merlin did he best to smile for the prince as they pulled back from each other. "Trust me."
With those words said, with such conviction and faith that Merlin's heart mended itself and he felt he could fly, Merlin hurried into the large crowd of peasants to find his fellow village members and head for home. He was already planning how to practice his magic without his mother telling him 'no.' He wanted to show off for Arthur. He wanted to make Arthur proud. He wanted to make Arthur happy.
"Where were you?" Garth asked harshly, but Merlin could see the worry fading from his eyes to be replaced by relief.
"I got lost," Merlin half-lied.
Garth sighed and held out his hand for Merlin to take. The boy was just too cute, looking like a baby mouse, to stay mad at. Merlin smiled and took the man's hand, and they began the trek back home to Ealdor. Still, Merlin couldn't help but continue to look back at Camelot until it was out of sight, dreaming of the day he would meet Arthur again.