Finally my first uploaded fanfiction! I hope you enjoy it, but as I said, it is my first upload so I'm pretty new to it all!
This story would probably be set some time during series 4: Arthur is King, Gwen is still a commoner and there are knights of the round table.
Unfortunately I don't own Merlin because the BBC stole the idea off of me...
The Boy in Chains
"They're here! They're here!" an excited stable boy yelled as he weaved through Camelot's busy courtyard. King Arthur's ears immediately pricked up, and his eyes sought out the source of the voice, which he discovered was a runty-looking stable boy, his head topped with an overgrown mop of fiery red hair and baggy clothes barely clinging to his lanky physique.
Oh great. Arthur thought, as he surveyed the bustling crowd of people scurrying around like tiny ants, frantically going about their days work.
Another royal guest, Arthur scowled. More pretending to take pleasure in the company of a pompous King, more formal greetings, more signing council papers, more discussing disputed-over land, more listening to speeches, more unorganised banquets, and LESS time to myself!
The King's attention switched back to the commotion going on in the courtyard below. From his position at the top of the stone steps leading into the castle, he could see commoners scuttling away, not wanting to impede on the royal entourage about the make a grand entrance into Camelot. He could hear the clinking of chainmail as his knights, whose cloaks flowed behind them like tongues of red fire, formulated on the steps beside him. He could smell the hint of sweet soap, as a serving girl hauled away a pale of bubbly water, with which she had just finished scrubbing a row of the castle's gleaming windows. And he could taste the sour flavour of dread.
Maybe one day I'll be like them, Arthur mused as he continued to watch his subjects go about their busy lives, I could become a farmer, at least then I wouldn't have to face King Alined and his joyful royal companions.
As if on cue, a glorious burst of energy filled the courtyard; trumpets sounded, horses trotted, and cheers exploded. Arthur descended the steps, to stand at the bottom of them in front of his knights, ready to greet Alined. First through Camelot's towering stone archway, emerged King Alined himself, proudly atop a muscular chestnut horse, followed by an immense cortege of knights dressed head-to-toe in characterless black uniforms.
Arrogant prat, Arthur thought to himself, already judging the way Alined's entourage was clearly based on order of hierarchy. The King was adorned with rich plum-coloured robes, his shoulders enrobed with luxurious furs and his neck decorated with a handful of priceless pendants. His appearance was garnished with a gleaming gold crown perched prominently on his balding head.
Following the near-thirty knights, were a dozen aloof-looking men, who Arthur guessed included courtiers, advisors, a physician and other noblemen. Next into the rapidly filling courtyard, were men and women obviously of a lower-class, as they walked briskly on foot, and most of whom lugged their own leather satchels and belongings.
The painful squeaking of a cart's wheels led Arthur's gaze to the very back of Alined's formation, where three small carts made their way through the stone arch. The first two carts were identical to many Arthur had seen in Camelot before. Both made out of dark, half-rotten wood, they carried bundles of bags, sacks, chests, boxes, and all the luggage Arthur had ever seen under the sun. Bloody hell, anyone would think Alined was moving in!
The last of the three carts, Arthur realised, was less of a cart, and more of a ... cage. The source of the irritatingly squeaky wheel, only slightly shorter than the height of a man, had rusted silver bars as its sides and roof, and the floor (Arthur squinted) was solid metal with dirty wisps of hay strewn across it. What in Albion could Alined want a cage like that for?
Then he saw him. Almost as soon as Arthur had asked himself the question, it was answered. A thick metal chain extended between a bar of the cage, to the shackled wrists of a young boy. His arms were outstretched as he struggled to keep up with the pace at which the chains were pulling him, and his left leg gave a slight limp with each step he took. The boy's posture was slumped, and his head hung low, showing to its greatest extent the shock of ink-black hair on his head. As with all the uniforms of Alined's men, the boy wore a thin black tunic and black breeches, with a pair of filthy brown boots which appeared to be falling apart more and more with every step.
By now, Alined had reached the other side of the courtyard, and the red-haired stable boy was running to the assistance of the King as he attempted to dismount his horse. But Arthur's eyes were fixed with both curiosity and horror on the ink-haired boy in chains, as he wondered what kind of terrible thing he could have done to deserve such treatment. A theif? A traitor? Or worse... a murderer? Whoever the boy was, Arthur felt immediately uneasy at having such a person in his own palace, but much to his own surprise, he felt an equal thirst for knowledge to find out more about the boy.
"King Arthur Pendragon, how relieved I am to have finally reached Camelot!" an unfortunately familiar voice bellowed.
"King Alined!" Arthur replied, "Camelot welcomes you as our royal guest! I hope your journey was not too strenuous."
"Thank you, Arthur. But I'm afraid to inform you, three days riding through torrential rain is not exactly what I would call, not too strenuous! But alas, I am here now, no thanks to that imbecile."
With the word 'that', Alined nodded his head towards two men situated about a dozen paces behind the conversing Kings. A stocky male servant strode flat-out towards Alined, one beefy hand clutching the end of a taught chain, and a malicious smirk across his face. At the end of the chain were two hands, skeleton-like in both size and colour, shackled in iron cuffs. Suddenly the curiosity inside of Arthur dispersed, and he didn't want to know anymore. He didn't want to see the person attached to those skeleton hands. He didn't want to know what that person had done. And he didn't want to know what was going to happen. Something about that knowledge filled him with a deep sense of fear. But it appeared, he was going to find out anyway.
As they approached, Arthur noticed how emaciated the creature was. He looked as though he hadn't eaten a proper meal in months, and his clothes (which closely reminded Arthur of rags) were at least three times too big for him. It wasn't until Arthur was no less than two paces short of them, that he realised the boy in chains was not a boy at all. To the King's alarm, he was in fact a fully grown man, whose skinny build made him largely resemble a young boy from a distance.
With one final yank of the chain, the servant delivered the man in chains beside King Alined. The raven-haired man lurched forward clumsily as the chain pulled on his wrists, then managed to steady himself quickly, as to prevent a head-on collision with his King. Arthur noticed his heavily laboured breathing, and how his hands trembled, with what the King didn't doubt was exhaustion. The stocky servant removed the chain from where it had been attached to the pair of shackles, and after a quick bow to both Kings, hurried off in the direction of Alined's other servants, leaving the shackled man standing alone, a couple of paces away from Arthur and Alined.
"YOU! IMBECILE! GET HERE NOW."
The shackled man limped pathetically forward, until he stood face to face with King Alined, though the man's head hung down, so as to not meet the King's eyes.
"YOU USELESS, WORTHLESS, IDIOT!"
Small globules of spit sprayed from Alined's mouth as he hollered down at the unmoved man. Arthur stepped back in surprise of the sudden outburst, his widened eyes trying to calculate what he must have missed in the last few seconds, to cause such uncontrolled anger.
"YOU DELAYED MY ROYAL PARTY BY HALF A DAY! ALL YOU HAD TO DO WAS WALK! JUST WALK!But no. YOU'RE SUCH A FEEBLE WASTE OF SPACE, YOU CAN'T EVEN DO THAT! ARE YOU COMPLETELY USELESS?"
Arthur turned to the raven-haired man, waiting for what he expected to be a meek, terrified reply. But to his surprise, he saw the man's jaw clench and his lips seal tightly.
Before Arthur had time to blink, Alined has raised his arm and struck the man standing in front of him with a powerful back-handed SLAP.
The victim's head whipped to the side and he staggered sideways, this time narrowly missing colliding with King Arthur. For the first time, Arthur could properly see his face. The skin was chalky white, other than the pink mark quickly flourishing into a large red handprint. Angular cheekbones and a slender face contributed to his gaunt cheeks and his lips were plump but flaky with dryness. Arthur made the assumption that when he looked into the raven-haired man's eyes, he would see them full of shock and hurt. But instead the captivating blue spheres were fixed with a look of determination and strength.
"YOU ARE NOTHING BUT A MEASELY SLAVE, HOW DARE YOU NOT REPLY TO YOUR KING WHEN TALKED TO?"
A slave? That man is a... slave? That would explain the shackles and... oh god forbid...
Arthur looked up at the cage now positioned at the very far side of the courtyard. The chain the slave had previously been attached to was now draped over its crooked open door.
"You will be punished for this, slave! You're only lucky I did not already abandon you in that god-forsaken forest when you refused to walk!"
Once more, the slave stayed stubbornly silent, his brow furrowed and lips unmoved.
Alined's expression suddenly warped into one of collected-composure, and he turned to his fellow King, "Come now, Arthur; this useless idiot has wasted enough of my time."
For a reason Arthur didn't quite know, he couldn't find the words to speak, so nodded his blonde-topped head towards the expansive castle doors behind them and gave Alined a forced smile.
Luckily Alined appeared to follow his gesture and ascended the grey stone steps leading into the castle. Before following the plump man, Arthur took a last solemn glance at the slave, who was now limping away in the opposite direction.
There's something about him, Arthur thought to himself, I can't quite put my finger on it.
The King then turned on his heel and hurried in the direction of Alined, mentally preparing himself for the weeks of hosting royal guests ahead.
So, what did you think? Any reviews with suggestions for future chapters (as I haven't written any more of this fic so far) and constructive criticism would be much appreciated!
Thanks for reading, I'll try to update as soon as possible, but I'm very busy so no promises!