Chapter One:


Arthur's P.O.V


I woke up with a start and rolled out of my bed, grabbing my sword. I pointed its deadly tip at the intruder, who seemed to not be very successful at stealth. I quickly lowered it when I saw the 'intruder's' trademark adorable, goofy, grin.

"I apologise if I startled His Royal Pratness?" Merlin's grin became even wider, if that was possible. I felt my heart jump as I struggled not to smile with him. 'Why does Merlin have this effect on me?'

"Well, you can start apologising by cleaning up this mess." I stated, pointing at my former breakfast lying on the floor. "Then you can fetch my breakfast, again, Merlin."

"Yes, sire."

I cringed and looked away, busying myself with some papers that cluttered my desk. I hate it when Merlin calls me 'sire'. I love it when he says my name. Not that I'm going to tell him that, but maybe next time I'll be just a little kinder to him. I turned back to Merlin and gulped.

As he was bending over to pick up the plates on the floor, Merlin was in a very provocative position. I let my gaze roam over his body for a second, before catching myself. 'No fraternising with the servants.' I told myself. 'Especially Merlin.' Thankfully, or maybe mournfully, Merlin stood back up and left. I sighed in relief. 'No thinking about Merlin's body… or his cute grin… or his arse… NO! Behave.' I ordered myself.

But it was hard. Merlin was just… so cute! It wasn't just that, he was beautiful; his dark hair, his smooth skin, his glowing blue eyes and even his ears. They all seemed to add to his innocence. I try to ignore it because I know that nothing could ever come of it. I don't want to hurt Merlin by leading him on, but still, I just want to hold him. I'd love to touch that smooth skin of his…

I took a deep breath and composed myself before Merlin returned. His face was flushed and his breathing was slightly heavy, which made me feel a little worried. But I quickly forgot when Merlin ran his tongue deliciously pink lips and I couldn't help but watch obsessively. I cleared my throat and quickly scrambled away. I sat at my table and tried to as casually as possible ignore him as he placed my breakfast in front of me, having to lean over me in the process. I swear, Merlin has the most distinctive scent. He smelt of earth and like the morning air after it rained. I pulled back before I could continue with my creepy tendencies. I'd better stop now before I sniffed Merlin's hair and kept a lock of it while I slept. I think that would be just be a little to obsessive. I started shoving food into my mouth before I blurted out something I that I would eventually regret.

After a few moments of tidying up my desk, Merlin turned to me with a faintly disgusted look on his face.

"You know, Arthur, you really eat like a pig." Merlin said frankly.

I spread my hands out. "And?"

"Well," Merlin began thoughtfully, which sometimes was a very dangerous thing, for his safety as well as mine own. "Aren't princes supposed to have, I don't know, certain decorum?"

"I have enough decorum,"

Merlin laughed. "You have as much decorum as a… a pig!"

"A pig?"

Merlin held his ground. "Yes, a pig."

"I'll have you know, Merlin, that just because I relax when I eat my breakfast doesn't mean that I eat like a total… a total pig."

"Fine, fine. You don't eat like a total pig. I think it would be cannibalism if you ate like one, since you eat so many." Merlin snickered before turning back to my desk.

"Hang on Merlin." Merlin, still smirking, sat across from me. Ignoring this breach between master and servant status (Oh how I loved the sound of that, but not exactly the professional way). I continued. "Are you calling me fat?"

"No," Merlin showed his adorable grin again. "I just said that you eat too many pigs. They'll be extinct soon, at this rate."

"I don't eat that many pigs!" I protested.

"Yes, you do. You should eat more vegetables."

I snorted. "Pfft. Save the plants, eat pork." I started to eat again, but this time with less gusto.

"Save the plants? Please, I've seen what your horse does in the forest, it's not pretty. I don't think that's helping the environment."

"Merlin!" I interrupted quickly. "Do you mind? I really don't want to know, I'm eating."

"When aren't you?" Merlin muttered with a cheeky grin. Again, I fought not to be infected by his smile.



"Shut up."

"Of course."

"I mean it." I warned, before our morning banter was rudely interrupted by three load raps on the door of my chamber.

Merlin hopped up from the table, managing to knock over his chair in the process.

I scoffed. "You really are useless, Merlin." I instantly regretted my words when I saw the quick flicker of hurt in Merlin's eyes. 'I feel like I've just kicked a puppy.' I thought.

"Fine, if that's how you feel." Merlin pouted.

I gulped. 'As well as drowning a bag of kittens.'

'Just don't worry about it." Merlin sighed and picked up his chair.

'And laughing as the cats meowed in terror." I miserably concluded.

"Merlin?" He didn't answer me. 'Ugh, why does he have to be so sensitive?' Of course, I didn't realise how sensitive I was also being.

Merlin continued to ignore me. "Ugh, Merlin, you are such a girl. I didn't-" Once again, I was rudely interrupted by another rap and a muffled 'Milord?'

"Oh, right." Merlin realised before quickly opening the door to admit one of our many knights.

"Sir Leon? What is it?" I asked, noticing the stricken look on Leon's face. Leon was rarely fazed by much. It took a lot for Leon to look as upset as he did now, that's what made it so much more worrying.

"There are bandits, sir, camping in the eastern woods."

"And?" Bandits were a problem, yes. Ever since my father's death there had been many more of them. Many of them hoped in vain that I would be less efficient than my father, or at least willing to turn a blind eye to them. They were wrong. Bandits could be trouble, but surely they weren't enough to make Sir Leon, one of his bravest knights, look so worried, right?

"These bandits," Leon spat, "have raided one of Camelot's outer villages. They have beaten, and even raped the members of the town." Leon looked absolutely livid; he was barely able to keep his voice steady. "The bandits did all this before," his voice quavered "butchering almost everyone."

I gulped, I hated to hear anyone do things so horrible. But, sadly, a king had to deal with such things. "Almost?" I asked hopefully.

"Yes, a young man and his younger sister escaped. They are waiting with Guias."

"Why didn't Guias come get me?" Merlin interrupted.

"They only just arrived. They were in quite a state, but there were no wounds or injuries that we could see. After I was told what had happened, I came to see you at once, sire."

"I'll see them at once." Leon nodded and Merlin and I followed him to Guias' chambers.

"After we saw… we saw them kill people, Colette and I ran. There was nothing we could do. All our friends, a family… they're all gone." The poor man seated in front of me held his head in his hands. I could hear him try in vain to muffle his sobs, but his shaking shoulders gave it away at once.

His name was Harry Ashdown. He was twenty one years old. He had just finished explaining what exactly had happened. The bandits had attacked almost two weeks ago and had virtually taken over the small village. They had raided it and kept the people who had survived the initial take over as slaves.

Leon knelt down beside Harry. "Do you know a woman named Alissa? Is she okay?" he asked, concern smothering his tone.

Harry looked up and frowned for a moment, before realisation dawned on his face. We all pretended we didn't notice the tear tracks. "Alissa? Yeah, I know her. The last time we saw her she was okay, but…"

Intensity burned in Leon's eyes. "But what? Tell me!" He grabbed the man's shoulder. Harry flinched and tried to pull away from him, but Leon refused to let go.

"Leon, let him go." I told him, gently removing his grip. Leon huffed and sat on the edge of the bed. This was so unlike him; I didn't understand. Leon seemed so standoffish with the way he crossed his arms, glaring at Harry. "Please, continue." I said.

Harry shuffled nervously. "Well, when they first came, she tried to fight back and…"

Leon seemed to ease a little. He gazed into empty space with a fond expression. He smiled softly. "She always fought with me; I know she would never back down from a fight. What happened?"

Harry sighed. "Her left arm, it's gone. It was cut off during the takeover."

Leon gulped and turned away. He covered his mouth with his hand, breathing deeply. "She…. She would not of taken that well." He eventually choked out. I placed a hand comfortingly on his shoulder.

"Leon, do you want to wait outside? You've heard all of this before, I'm sure you're needed elsewhere." I said in a low voice. Leon nodded slowly before walking out.

Merlin brushed past me with a bowl of water in his hands, and I couldn't prevent the warm tingle I felt as because of it. Merlin sat beside the other bed and rinsed a cloth in the bowl before gently padding the girl's head. Colette was a nine year old with straw coloured hair. She should be very cute for a child, but I couldn't ignore how pale she looked or the sheen of sweat across her brow. There was an ugly bruise down her neck, but it was cut off by the collar of her dress. She seemed so small and frail in compared to large bed. I felt a surge of anger towards the people who killed- no, murdered children, just like her.

And, I dreaded to admit, people just like Merlin. Merlin himself seemed small and frail most of the time! At the moment, he still looked shaken up, but now he looked determined to help in any way he could.

"How many bandits were there?" I asked Harry as gently as I could.

"About thirty, give or take a few." Harry replied, having finally recovered his composure.

"Alright, Leon!" I called, and the man came back hurriedly. I couldn't see many traces of the previous emotions he had shown earlier. However, I anyone could still see the worry evident in his face. "Gather the knights, we ride out immediately." Leon nodded and left swiftly. Before I could leave, though, Harry spoke up.

"I'm coming with you."

I stared at him incredulously. What was he thinking!? There was no way he could stand against them. "No, it's way too dangerous."

He glared at me, seemingly regardless of the fact that I was the King. Despite his foolishness, I had to respect him, if only for his bravery. "I watched them kill my friends! They hurt me and my sister! She had to watch our parents die. She's only a little girl!"

"I'm sorry, I promise you, we will bring them to justice. But you can't come with us."

"Why not? I have to!" He was getting defensive now. I sighed; I had to play this from another angle.

"Well, what about your sister? She can't possibly come with us; she's too weak and I'll be damned if I take a little girl with me on a dangerous mission. Who would stay with her?"

"I know she will be safe here, we're in Camelot's castle!" I couldn't helped but be touched by his faith in me. "I'll explain it to Colette when she wakes up. I'm coming with you."

Before I could argue (with a very good point, by the way) Merlin placed a hand on my shoulder, causing more of those blasted tingles. He looked at me wearing a very serious expression. It looked so out of place on Merlin's face. "It's his home. Let him come."

I nodded. I knew I would do the same in his position. "Okay," Harry sagged in relief. 'But you, Merlin, can ready his horse, mine and your own. Oh, as well as several other knights. Immediately."

Merlin just grinned.