A/N: PLEASE READ! So this here's a quick ad for a Merlin role play we're starting up on Twitter. If anyone is interested in being a character from Merlin or you have any questions, send me a quick PM. Some characters (Merlin, Arthur, Gwaine, Kilgharrah, and Morgana at the moment) have already been taken, but be creative! You can be any character that's been mentioned on Merlin! First timers are also welcome! Thanks and let me know!
Anyway, onto the story!
Disclaimer: I don't own Merlin.
Sirs Hector, Gavin, and Darien were gathering their training gear up when loud, joyful laughter suddenly floated its way across the training fields. Looking in the direction of the sound, a scowl etched its way across Sir Hector's pointed face as his cold eyes located the source of the merriment.
"Oh great," Sir Hector drawled sarcastically as he pointed in the direction of the laughter. "look who's back." The other two knights followed Sir Hector's gaze and their faces stretched into similar scowls.
Making their way across the grass were the self proclaimed Knights of the Round Table. There apparently had been a large creature of some sort attacking a small village near the boarder of Camelot, and they were just returning from taking care of it.
'Rather than sending his more experienced, real knights,' Hector thought angrily. 'the king chooses to send those peasants and that miserable excuse for a servant.'
While Sir Hector had some tolerance for the knights (there was no denying their skill on the training fields), the one person he couldn't stand was that galling manservant, Merlin. He was constantly there, like an obnoxious gnat continually buzzing around his head no matter how many times he swatted at it.
For a reason that he couldn't fathom, King Arthur, time and time again, felt the need to bring that damn servant on quests, patrols, and missions rather than bringing a seasoned knight like a king usually would.
And that Merlin was so insubordinate, what with his back talking and acting as if he was on the same social plane as the knights, it set Hector's teeth on edge.
So when the laughing knights and Merlin parted ways, each one patting the servant on the back as Merlin tossed a sarcastic comment and a wave over his shoulder, Sir Hector decided that this couldn't continue.
"Oi, you, servant," called Hector, flashing his friends a malicious smirk as Merlin approached.
"How can I help you, Sir Hector?"
"You know," the knight replied slowly as he and his two friends formed a ring around the now nervous servant. "I'm getting really sick and tired of you."
Merlin shifted uncomfortably. "I'm not sure I-"
"Silence!" Sir Gavin's deep voice cut in. Merlin whipped around to face the man. "Don't act like you don't understand. We saw you arrive just now with the knights."
"This insubordination needs to stop. Now." spat Sir Darien.
"Is-" Merlin began uncertainly. "Is this about my comment on Leon's hair just now? Because he knows I was just joking around with him."
"This is exactly what we mean!" yelled Sir Hector. He advanced on Merlin and jabbed him hard on the chest. "You need to stop hanging around people who are above you. No one wants a lowly servant like you around!" Hector pushed Merlin back and the servant stumbled, running into Sir Darien's large frame. Darien spun Merlin around and twisted his hand securely into the warlock's neckerchief.
"Let go!" Merlin choked out and attempted to pull away, but the burley knight only tugged him roughly back, sending deep pains through Merlin's throat.
"You're lucky I don't wring your neck right here." Darien sneered as he shook Merlin violently by the neckerchief.
Merlin was then released and once again shoved back, this time colliding with Sir Gavin, who also turned the servant around and, like Sir Darien, seized him by the scarf around his neck.
"Y-you can't treat me like this!" Merlin coughed out. His neck was definitely going to have some nice bruises.
"Oh, but we can. And do you know why?"
This time when Merlin was pushed away, there was a horribly painful pressure on his neck, followed by a loud tearing sound, and then a thump as his body hit the dirt.
There was a moment of silence as Merlin reached up to his throbbing neck to find it bare, his old, tattered neckerchief having torn away at the strain.
Suddenly, a shadow fell across the servant and he looked up to see the three knights looming over him. Sir Hector knelt down and said in a sickly sweet voice.
"Because you're not a knight, so stop pretending to be one."
With that, Hector stood, smirking down at the fallen servant, before he and the other knights walked off, their own smug cackling a twisted echo of Merlin's earlier joyous laughter that had started this whole mess.
Arthur glanced up from his reports as Merlin quietly opened the door and entered his chambers.
"Ah, Merlin," Arthur greeted as he diverted his attention back to the papers on his desk. "late again, I see."
Had Arthur been looking while he said this, he might have noticed the way Merlin opened his mouth to reply, only to snap it shut with a grimace when no more than a barely audible croak came out.
While Arthur didn't notice the painful expression, he did notice the silence and he sighed heavily as he looked up.
"What's got you upset this t-" Arthur stopped abruptly when Merlin raised his head.
What first caught the king's eye was his servant's blatant lack of neck wear. Arthur couldn't remember a time when that ridiculous scarf wasn't adorning Merlin's neck (and that, although Arthur would never admit it, was something he found… not endearing, but… okay, yes, it was endearing).
Once getting over the slight surprise at the missing neckerchief, Arthur saw Merlin's neck.
Then he saw red.
The king quickly strode forward, reaching the younger man before Merlin had any chance to react, and gently gripped his servant's chin, tipping his head up.
Arthur's anger only grew when he saw Merlin wince at the slight movement, and his fury reached new heights as he examined the large, ugly bruises marring his friend's usually pale neck.
Just when the tense quiet and careful examination was getting to Merlin, Arthur broke the silence with one low word.
It wasn't a question. It was a demand for names, a promise for swift and painful vengeance, and a confirmation that anyone who dared to lay a finger on Merlin would have a murderous Arthur to answer to.
Merlin painfully cleared his throat before answering this time. "It's nothing. I tripped. I'm fine." Arthur released Merlin's chin and gave him an unbelieving glare.
"Oh, and I suppose someone caught you by your neck, then."
"I…" Merlin wasn't sure how to respond. He didn't want Arthur to make a big fuss about it. His bruises would heal and, well, he might not have another neckerchief, but he could save up his salary for a little while and buy some new cloth.
And what if those knights were right? What if his friends really didn't like a servant tagging along with them everywhere they went? A little nagging voice in the back of his head told him that the knights words could be true.
Most important of all though, Merlin wasn't quite sure he could handle it if Arthur thought the knights were right.
"Merlin," Arthur began, grasping the servant gently by the shoulders. "tell me who did this to you. Please."
Merlin looked down, weighing his chances of coming up with a believable lie, but one quick glance up to Arthur's eyes and Merlin knew that the king would buy nothing but the cold, hard truth. He let out a big sigh before answering.
"It was Sirs Hector, Gavin, and Darien." Arthur stared at Merlin in shock for a moment before stepping back, running a hand through his hair and responding angrily.
"Three knights? Three of my own knights attacked you?" Merlin nodded. "Why the hell did they feel compelled to do that?"
Here Merlin paused. He was almost embarrassed to admit to Arthur what the knights had said to him. And again, what if Arthur agreed with them?
Seeing the hesitation in his servant's expression, Arthur stepped forward and once again took Merlin by the shoulders.
"You know you can tell me, Merlin." When the younger man still didn't reply, Arthur continued. "Whatever those men might have said about you, I can assure you it was wrong. Please, Merlin, just tell me."
It was the genuine concern in Arthur's voice that eventually got Merlin to talk.
"They said I was insubordinate." He finally admitted after taking a shaky breath. "That I should stop hanging around people who are above me because they don't want me around. And they said-" This next part hurt Merlin the most. He found that he couldn't quite look the king in the eye as he confessed, "they said that I'm not a knight, so I should stop pretending to be one."
Arthur was practically trembling with rage at this point. How dare those men say those things about his manservant? Yes, Merlin was insubordinate, but Arthur admittedly needed a dose of Merlin's special brand of defiance every once in a while to be sure he was doing what was best for his people. Oh, when Arthur got his hands on those men…
"Merlin, look at me." It took a moment, but the younger man finally dragged his gaze up to meet his king's. The look of shame and rejection in Merlin's eyes only added to the conviction in Arthur's voice. "Merlin, I cannot even begin to express to you how wrong those men are. Of course you're insubordinate; it's part of who you are." Arthur gave Merlin's shoulders a squeeze. "I don't want you to ever change who you are." the slight upward turn of Merlin's lips gave Arthur the encouragement to continue. "And nobody want you around? Merlin, there's a reason why you accompany the knights and I on every quest, patrol, and hunt. They've all grown quite attached to you. And in all honesty," Arthur swallowed. He didn't typically do these heart to heart talks, but as the king usually did, he made a special exception for Merlin. "in all honesty, I've become quite attached to you as well."
Merlin smiled in earnest this time. It was moments like this when the warlock couldn't be happier that his destiny had brought him to Arthur.
"As for not being a knight…" Arthur turned around, his eyes roving over his chambers before landing on his Camelot red cape and he smiled. The king schooled his features into an expression of the utmost seriousness before spinning back around to face his manservant. "I know I can't make you an official knight of Camelot; you're too much of a girl's petticoat and I'm nearly positive all the armor and chain mail would weigh as much as you do." Arthur almost broke his serious demeanor with a smile at Merlin's affronted expression. "But this is what I can do."
Merlin eyed the older man in confusion as Arthur walked over to his red cape, picked it up, and gripped the corner.
Before Merlin had time to question what he was doing, Arthur began making a series of careful tugs and a loud ripping sound filled his chambers.
"The seamstress won't be pleased to hear that you've ruined yet another cape, Arthur." Merlin sighed. The blonde just rolled his eyes as he approached his manservant with the newly torn triangle of red fabric in hand. Arthur paused in front of Merlin for a moment before proclaiming,
Merlin stared at Arthur, waiting for some sort of explanation, but seeing that he was getting none, he decided to placate his king, not having the energy to argue with the older man at the moment. Without taking his wary gaze off of Arthur, Merlin kneeled down.
"For outstanding bravery and unmated loyalty that goes above and beyond the call of duty, I, King Arthur Pendragon, declare you an unofficial knight of Camelot." Arthur leaned down and, using the utmost care, being very aware of the painful bruises covering his throat, tied the piece of his cloak around Merlin's neck. He straightened it out before stepping back to admire his work. "Arise, Sir Merlin of Camelot."
Merlin rose and looked down. He now wore the deep, passionate red of Camelot around his neck in the form of Arthur's handmade neckerchief.
"Arthur, I," Merlin felt the soft, fine fabric around his neck. "I'm not sure I understand."
"As I said before, I can't make you an official knight. I may have changed the law about having to be of a noble line, but there is still a series of tests and training exercises one must go through to be knighted, and Merlin, I mean no offence, but you probably wouldn't pass a majority of them." Arthur held up a hand to silence the argument that his manservant was inevitably about to make. "But," Arthur lowered his hand to let it rest on Merlin's shoulder. "Merlin, those men had no right to accuse you of not being a knight when they themselves are just thugs masquerading as knights because they had nothing more than the brute strength to pass the training. You, my friend, are more loyal and braver than any knight I have ever met. Therefore, I have made you Camelot's first and only unofficial knight."
Merlin was practically glowing from the king's praise. Although he would never tell Arthur (no need to make the prat's head grow any bigger than it already was), Merlin valued Arthur's opinion above all other's. Compliments from the king were few and far between, so on the rare occasions when Merlin received one, he wore a stupid grin for the rest of the day.
Merlin glanced down at his new neckerchief, gripping it tightly, before smiling back up at the blonde.
"Thank you, Arthur. This… this means a lot." Arthur only reached out and ruffled his manservant's hair.
"Alright Merlin, don't make this all girly." he teased in an affectionate tone as the younger man tried to duck away from his hand. "Now, why don't you go make sure the horses have been put away properly, help me into my night clothes, and then we'll call it a night."
Merlin nodded, giving a mock solute and an over zealous "Yes, sire!" before bustling out of the room. Arthur only chuckled and shook his head.
Three days passed. Merlin walked around the castle, proudly wearing his new neckerchief, the fact that only he and Arthur knew the real meaning behind it not dampening his spirits in the least. Even in the short amount of time that he had it, Merlin had developed a habit of playing with the red piece if cloth when he was feeling nervous or unsure because it reassured him. It reminded him that Arthur believed in him, and that was enough for Merlin.
It had also been three days since Merlin had last seen the three knights who had attacked him. The warlock simply figured that they had gotten their anger out of their system and moved on.
Sadly, Merlin was wrong.
Merlin made his way quickly across the sodden courtyard on his way to Arthur's chambers with the king's supper in hand. He was doing his best to shield the meal from the rain, which had been falling in sheets all day. Suddenly, a voice, a terribly familiar voice, rang across the grounds and Merlin's stomach dropped.
"Well, look who it is, boys!"
Merlin tried to ignore the call and continue on his way, but he was grabbed behind by his new neckerchief, his still sore neck protesting at the rough action and the tray of food clattering to the ground. The servant soon found himself surrounded once again by Sirs Hector, Gavin, and Darien.
Hector, still holding the neckerchief, seemed to notice the red fabric for the first time and he ran his thumb over it, his face twisting into a cloying smile. "Arthur got a new collar for his dog, I see. How cute."
Merlin managed to pry the knight's fingers off of the scarf and push him away.
"Don't touch it!" the servant exclaimed. They knights only laughed and further enclosed their circle.
"Attached to that, are we?" questioned Sir Hector before he cast Sir Gavin, who was standing directly behind Merlin, a quick, meaningful look. Gavin nodded in understanding with a smirk.
Before Merlin knew what was happening, he heard a knife being unsheathed from behind him and felt a slight tug on his neckerchief, quickly followed by a ripping sound and a chill on his neck as the fabric was pulled away.
"No!" Merlin yelled as he spun around and reached for the precious item Sir Gavin was currently holding high above his head.
"You want it back?" mocked Gavin, holding out the scarf as if to give it back to Merlin, but then tossed it to Sir Darien, who easily caught it.
"This doesn't make you angry, does it?" drawled the knight. Merlin lunged for it, but the neckerchief was once again passed off, this time back to Sir Hector.
"Oh, I think he's going to cry!" Hector teased and the part that Merlin hated the most was that he wasn't far from the truth. Merlin was cold, soaked to the bone, and humiliated by the fact that the knights were able to get to him so easily.
"Give it back!" the servant cried. Sir Hector, rather than passing off the bit of cloth again, stepped forward, took Merlin roughly by the front of his shirt and pulled the raven haired man forward until they were nearly nose to nose.
"Don't forget what we said before, servant. You're still no knight and we can do whatever we like. Remember that."
Hector shoved Merlin back and the servant stumbled, his feet slipping out from under him and he landed heavily in a freezing puddle of rainwater. If he wasn't soaked before, he definitely was now.
The knights laughed and the severed neckerchief was tossed over Sir Hector's shoulder, landing in the puddle beside Merlin as the three men sauntered away.
Merlin simply sat there, unwilling to get up quite yet. The rain poured down his face in little streams, mixing with hot, salty tears that had escaped from his eyes. Merlin reached forward with a shaking hand and picked up the sodden and broken neckerchief.
It was one of the only things Arthur had ever given him. He had even refused to take it off when he had gone to bed the night he received it. That little piece of red fabric had been a reminder that Arthur has as much faith in Merlin as Merlin has in him.
And now that physical reminder had been taken away from him in a cruel and humiliating manner.
'You shouldn't be crying over this' Merlin thought harshly to himself. 'Arthur said you were brave and brave men don't cry.' But, even as Merlin thought this, more rogue tears carved their way down his face. 'I guess I'm not that brave after all.'
A/N: Don't worry, Merlin fans! I have this whole this written out so chapter 2 (the final part) will be posted tomorrow! Thanks for reading and don't forget to let me know if you're interested in the role play or to drop me a quick review!