This story follows the plot of the show... a little. I have taken a lot of creative license. But rest assured that every change I have made was well researched, whether into the show's canon or the legend itself.

This story is in three parts. Thank you for clicking. Please enjoy.

Part 1: Nimueh

From the Encyclopedia of Druid, fourth ed.

After King Apollo fled the mortal kingdom and established the Druid kingdom, his sole heir was the target of many assassination attempts due to the boy being young and incapable of powerful magic. Because of this the king hid his son from the world until he was a fully realized warlock and ready to take the throne. It has become Druid tradition for the prince to stay anonymous, sometimes even being sent away from the kingdom to train in safety until his coronation.

Chapter One


The dogs skittered across the dried leaves of the forest floor, panting from all the running. Their noses were pressed to the ground, sniffing loudly at the trail they seemed to have lost. In the darkness, it was difficult to see, but the hounds could hear and smell well enough.

Abruptly, one of them caught the faint scent of their prey, and with a howl took off sprinting again.

Behind the dogs came flickering beams of light, soon revealed to be flashlights in the hands of pursuing hunters. They caught up with the hounds easily, dodging the trees as they bolted through the woods. Suddenly the dogs came to a stop again, forcing the men to halt.

Panting, one of them swung his flashlight around. The beam illuminated patches of grass and leaves, and occasionally one of the hounds. "Did we lose him?" he asked.

"No," responded another. His voice was majestically deep. "He's still around here." There was a clicking: the unmistakable sound a gun being cocked. The man raised his arm, pointing the barrel into the trees. "There," he stated, and he pulled the trigger.

A man—young, thin, barely out of boyhood—gave a terrific cry, and crashed onto the ground. His eyes snapped open and he grunted with pain. The bullet had ripped through his left shoulder, causing him to drop the long, thinly wrapped package in his hands. Hot blood was running down his chest and pooling on the fallen foliage.

Behind him, he could hear the shouts of his hunters. No, he thought, begged. Not here. The man forced himself to his feet and darted through the trees. No time to collect what he had dropped. The pain in his arm was excruciating, but he ignored it. As he ran, the color gold flashed in his eyes, illuminating them for only an instant.

There was a creaking noise, and as the man charged through the trees, they began to collapse. Every tree he passed snapped at the trunk or came uprooted completely, falling against each other and blocking his pursuers—hopefully crushing a few in the process.

"Stop!" shouted the man with the gun, and his posse screeched to a halt. One of them was ill positioned, and a tree came down on top of him. The others retreated hastily, slipping on the slick leaves on the floor. "Oh, he's powerful," the man said calmly.

Another one of the hunters blinked. "He just killed David!" he cried.

"Be thankful it wasn't you, Arthur," the man replied. He swung his flashlight around to shine on the other hunter, revealing him to be young and quite handsome.

"He was our friend," Arthur hissed. "Or have you forgotten, Father?"

"He was our colleague, there's a difference," his father, the man with the gun, snapped. He glanced down, and shone his light on the leaves under his feet. "Oh," he said gleefully. "Look at this."

Immediately the others crowded around, partly out of curiosity and partly out of obligation. In the leaves before them were a few speckles of blood. And not just any blood.

Arthur's father reached out and dipped his fingers in it. He looked up and saw his son's disgust, which made him scowl. "Arthur, this is not the blood of a man. He is an animal, understand that."

"Yes sir," Arthur replied automatically.

Mildly satisfied, his father returned his gaze to the blood. "Ah, look," he said, much too happily. He turned the flashlight on his hand, putting the blood in the spotlight. "See?" he whispered. "It shimmers."

Arthur was entranced. The blood of a magical creature was a sight rarely seen. It was red, like normal blood, but in the light, it had a sort of glimmer about it, like oil. How strangely beautiful, he thought.

"Sire," one of the men called. Arthur's father turned the flashlight on him, revealing the man to be holding a thin, long package.

"What's that?" Arthur queried.

The man handed it to Uther, who looked at it in earnest. Arthur watched by the light of the torch in his hand as his father's eyes gleaned with excitement. Carefully, he gripped the package in both hands, trying to determine which end was the top.

Arthur's first thought was that it was a broomstick, since it looked like the broom packages in Harry Potter. He assumed it was a Firebolt or something.

However, as Uther tore off the tip of the wrapping, he saw that he was very, very wrong.

"Oh," Uther breathed, and there was genuine glee in his eyes. He pulled the stick from the wrapping, revealing the hand-carved and bejeweled staff in its entirety. "Gentlemen, pursue him," he ordered with a strange note of happiness. "The Druid prince is escaping."

Merlin's uncle Gaius ran a small clinic that was within walking distance of the Pendragon Institute. He happened to be the extremely trusted physician to the Pendragon family, and well liked by mostly everyone. But right now, Merlin hated him.

"Gah!" Merlin cried in pain, biting on his fist.

Gaius peeled the sleeve of his nephew's shirt back and frowned. "You tried to heal it with magic, didn't you?" he sighed.

"Was I not supposed to?" snapped Merlin.

The elderly man gave him a look of disbelief. "Of course not!" he exclaimed. "Merlin, these are anti-magic bullets! Any contact with magic and the wound is worsened tenfold."

Merlin rolled his eyes. "Good thing someone told me that, then." He gasped as Gaius dabbed gingerly at the wound, the pain making spots appear before his eyes.

"What were you doing, walking to Camelot, anyways?" Gaius questioned. He grimaced at the sight of the injury, and Merlin looked pointedly away.

"I couldn't drive," he stated. "They have those magic scanners now. And I don't have a car. I hitchhiked to the border and ran across."

"And happened to run into Uther," Gaius added quietly.

Merlin blinked. "So that was Uther," he realized. "He shot me." He sighed. "I must have the worst luck."

"You're a sorcerer in Camelot," stated the doctor. "Not only that, you're the prince of sorcerers. Did you expect good luck?" He set down his cleansing sponge and went to the cabinet. "Speaking of being a prince, where's your staff?"

Merlin bit his lip shamefully. "Yeah… that."

Gaius raised an eyebrow. "What?"

"Well, I was carrying the staff in my… left hand," Merlin began. "And they shot my left shoulder."

"And you dropped it!?" Gaius shouted.

Merlin looked away, his ears growing hot. "Well… maybe."

Gaius's entire form sagged. "Merlin!" he cried in agony.

"Sorry!" Merlin tried.

"Do you even know what that staff is?"

Merlin rolled his eyes. He had heard this spiel a thousand times from his father back home. "Hand-carved by the angels, each heir has one, unique to himself, blah blah blah."

"And you lost yours!"

"I get it!" Merlin shouted. "I told you I had bad luck."

Gaius snorted. "At your rate I expect you'll be at Uther's feet by the end of the week."

"Your confidence is overwhelming," Merlin said sarcastically.

Gaius returned to his nephew, holding a roll of medical gauze. He unfurled it and began wrapping it around Merlin's shoulder. "Hold still!" he ordered as Merlin squirmed.

"It hurts!" the boy complained.

"It's your own fault!" Gaius retorted.

Merlin scowled, not in the mood to argue with his uncle. "So," he said when the bandage had been fully wrapped, "what's this school I'm going to?"

Gaius shrugged as he cleaned up. "Where did Hunith say you were going?"

"The Pendragon Institute."

The old man dropped the roll of gauze. It bounced on the counter and rolled onto the floor, some of it coming undone. "You really do have bad luck," Gaius stated. He knelt down and picked up the bandaging with a grunt. "Or your mother wants you dead."

"Is that the school Uther owns?" Merlin asked. When Gaius nodded, he sighed, "I knew it. I told her the name was familiar, but no, all she cared about was how prestigious it was." He shook his head. "I can't believe this."

"Nothing you can do now," Gaius stated. "Maybe this is where your destiny meant for you to go."

Merlin scowled. "My destiny wants me dead." A laugh escaped him, remembering his encounter with the dragon. "Yeah, that dragon wasn't too fond of me. He didn't even give me the whole story. He just said, 'Your destiny lies in Camelot.' Oooooh," Merlin said creepily. "So mysterious and vague."

"All of them are like that," Gaius replied. He sat down next to his nephew on the patient bed. "My dragon told me that if I walked in circles enough, I would find my destiny."

The two of them laughed. When it died down, Gaius turned to Merlin. "Can you cook?" he queried.

Merlin shrugged. "I suppose."

Gaius clapped him on the shoulder, making Merlin wince painfully. "Then you're making breakfast tomorrow. Good night." He used Merlin's arm to help himself stand, making the young warlock gasp with agony.

"Good night," he managed in response, eyes watering.

Merlin's room was nothing special. A long time ago, he and his mother Hunith had stayed in the same room, before the Second Great Purge had struck full force and before his mother had been exiled completely to the Druid lands. It was a vague memory, mostly one of the ceiling. The bed looked as if it had been there twenty years or longer, though the sheets were fresh. If anything, Gaius was clean.

Boxes, however, littered the floor. Hunith had been slowly sending Merlin's things to her brother, mostly clothes and a few sentimental belongings. Gaius had left them packed, probably to let Merlin do it.

He looked around, hoping to see that familiar curved case, but it was not there. He sighed in disappointment. His mother had sent his guitar ahead of him, but he had apparently beaten it.

Merlin sat down on the bed, intending to think about his new life and what it would hold, but suddenly he realized just how tired he was. Head drooping, he threw off his shoes and removed his jeans without standing up.

It felt so good to lie down after the horrifying run from the witch hunters. Sleep came quickly, and mercifully, he did not dream.


Merlin jumped awake. Gaius was standing over him, a sight Merlin was not used to. Startled, he scrambled amongst his sheets. "What the hell!" he cried, panicking.

"Get up!" Gaius yelled. "I need someone to watch the clinic!"

"What clinic?"

Gaius sighed. "I have to meet with my medical supplier. Get yourself to the front desk in five minutes. Go!" Huffing at the ignorance of boys, Gaius stormed out of the room.

Merlin yawned widely and looked around for a clock. He found one behind his bed, on the little stand that had not been there in his memories. Nine-thirty. Exhausted, he sat up and found his pants.

A few minutes later, still flattening his hair, Merlin emerged from his room and sat down heavily in the spinning chair behind the desk. His eyes immediately shut, hoping to sleep again.

"I'm going!" Gaius announced, causing Merlin to snap awake again.

"Mm," Merlin replied with a wave.

Gaius raised an eyebrow at him, before finally departing through the clinic door.

Hours passed. Merlin was utterly bored. At first, he did what he usually did when bored—magic. But then that became a very bad idea when a client walked in asking to make an appointment. So Merlin sought something else to do.

His fingers itched for his guitar, somewhere en route to the clinic. Instead, Merlin constructed men out of paperclips and arranged them in battle formation. He thumbed through Gaius's collection of herbal remedies books. When he finally realized he was hungry, he went to the kitchen and found a bag of walnuts, which he poured into a bowl along with a pack of M&M's and took back with him to the desk.

Merlin was just starting to give his paperclip army M&M ammo when the bell dinged on the front door, and in strolled one of the prettiest girls he had ever seen.

She was perfect. Her eyes were like chocolate, her skin was dark and warm, and her curly black hair fell about her angelic face. But what made her truly beautiful was her smile. It was nothing short of gorgeous, friendly and bright. She stopped short when she saw Merlin.

"Oh," she said. She giggled uncertainly. "Where's Gaius?"

Merlin cracked a smile. "He had a meeting with a supplier."

"Oh," the girl said again. "And who are you?" she wondered.

"I'm Merlin," he laughed. "I'm, uh, Gaius's nephew. I'll be helping out here for awhile."

The girl nodded agreeably. "Well, um, I'm Gwen," she introduced, with a silly little curtsy to match her purple dress. She giggled again. Merlin had to smile. She was adorably awkward. "I've come to fill, um, the Lady Morgana's prescription."

Merlin hesitated. "Well, I really have no idea what to do about that," he admitted sheepishly. "But, er, you can leave it here, and when Gaius comes back, he can fill it, and then I'll bring it to you later."

Gwen blinked. "You'll bring it?" she said, her voice wrought with disbelief.

"Just because I'm bored doesn't mean I'm lazy," Merlin pointed out teasingly.

Pursing her lips, Gwen laughed. "All right," she agreed. "Gaius will tell you where to bring it." She reached into her purse and pulled out three empty pill bottles, one by one, and set them on the counter. "I'll see you later, then."

Merlin nodded, definitely hoping so, and watched her leave. She cast him an embarrassed glance back and seemed to blush as she walked out the door.

When Gaius finally returned, Merlin was doodling very poor cartoons on the margins of patient questionnaires.

"Stop that!" Gaius ordered, snatching the papers from him.

"Well I'm bored!" Merlin exclaimed. "I can't use magic, all your books are boring, and you don't even have a computer back here! You know how long I've wanted to play with a computer? It's half the reason I'm here!"

"And the other half?" Gaius demanded. "Your mother's letter was very vague."

"I told you." He grinned. "Dragon call."

Gaius rolled his eyes. "Yes, but what exactly did it say?"

Merlin scrunched up his face, thinking hard. Gaius threw up his hands in exasperation. "Hey, I was half asleep!" Merlin protested. "Um… 'your destiny lies in Camelot, beware the witch Fey,' whatever. Normal stuff."

Gaius squinted. "Fey?" he repeated. "Who is Fey?"

"I don't know," Merlin said with a shrug.

"Don't treat this so lightly, Merlin, your dragon call is very serious business!"

"Oh come on, Gaius!" exclaimed Merlin. "It was run of the mill 'don't eat yellow snow' stuff! Fey is no one, and even if she is someone, I'm Emrys! I moved a mountain!"

"It is exactly that sort of cockiness that will be your downfall, Merlin," Gaius warned.

Merlin made a face. It was time to change the subject. "Oh, a girl named Gwen stopped by to refill a prescription. I told her I'd drop it off for her later."

Gaius froze. "You did?" he repeated.

Merlin did not like the change in Gaius's tone. "Yeah, why?"

Gaius pursed his lips. "Oh. Nothing. Here, we'll bring Gwen the medicine now." He grabbed the empty pill bottles and waddled to the storeroom.

Frowning, Merlin watched him go. "All right," he said uncertainly. He thought Gaius had wanted him here to do the walking around part, but whatever made the old man happy.

After a few minutes, Gaius returned with the pill bottles in a white paper bag. "All right, Merlin, let's go. Come now, hurry up."

Merlin followed the old man out of the clinic, taking a moment to enjoy his denim jeans that weren't in style in the DruidKingdom. He liked how they felt when he walked. "So Gaius," he asked as they strolled along the sidewalk, "how long have you been in Camelot?"

"Long enough," Gaius replied. He adjusted his blazer and tie as they walked.

"But their technology!" Merlin exclaimed, watching cars go by. "It's really incredible! Why don't we have stuff like this?"

"Because it wouldn't work." Gaius smiled and nodded to a woman they passed on the sidewalk. Merlin kept quiet, even though he desperately wanted to ask why.

Instead, Merlin looked around. "Is that the citadel?" he wondered, pointing.

"Indeed." Gaius then turned up a bit of sidewalk that very obviously led to the castle.

Merlin's brow furrowed. "Where are you going?"

"Bringing Gwen the medicine," Gaius called. "Do keep up."

Panicking, Merlin rushed to catch up with Gaius. "What, she's royalty?" he hissed. He paused. "She is the Lady Morgana?" he cried.

Gaius halted in his steps and placed a hand on Merlin's arm. "Don't be stupid," he said with a smile. "Guinevere is the Lady's handmaiden."

"Oh." Merlin sighed in relief. "Okay. That makes me feel a lot better." He swung his head around as a moped growled by. "Wow, Gaius, did you see that one?"

"This is my nephew," Gaius introduced to the guard, a traditionally armored man with a spear. "He's from the country, bless him."

The guard rolled his eyes and allowed them to pass.

Everything was much more familiar inside the citadel, as stone castles were something Merlin was used to. But he could not get over the strange feel the world had to it. In the Druid kingdom, the air was alive with magic. Everything was crisp and cool and clear as a winter's day. But here, the air had something else in it. It still pulsed, still lived, but it was a little foggy, as if Merlin were slightly near-sighted.

"Gaius, what's wrong with the air?" he murmured, focusing hard on a sharply-dressed man with a small black device in his hand.

"It's called wifi," Gaius stated. "Now come on." He trotted up the steps with Merlin close behind.

Gaius pushed through the grand door like it was a regular thing. A guard, this one in a sharp black suit (like the man from earlier) with a device in his ear (Merlin had heard of these substitutes for thought communication). He looked at Gaius and smiled. "Evening, Gaius," he greeted.

"Good evening, Leon," Gaius replied, nodding. "This is my nephew, Merlin." He touched Merlin on the shoulder. "He's just moved in with me, so I thought I'd give him the tour."

Leon grimaced. "You know how Uther doesn't like strangers," he warned.

"Oh come now, he's just a boy," Gaius retorted.

Still, Leon was hesitant. "Let me at least give him a once over, all right? Just to be safe."

Gaius agreed, and before Merlin knew what was happening he was being handled. He yelped as Leon patted him down, all over. It was very uncomfortable. Merlin had never been touched by anyone, really. And when he had imagined being touched like this, he had always pictured a woman.

Abruptly Leon stood up and produced a large metal stick from his inner jacket. He clicked a button, and the edges of it glowed blue. "Magic detector," Leon informed him. He winked. "Just to be safe."

Merlin swallowed. Now he was screwed.

The wand scanned him without the slightest abnormality. Leon smiled. "Right, you're clean."

Merlin blinked in disbelief. "All right," he replied shakily.

Gaius touched his nose. "Left pocket," he murmured, and then set off after Leon.

Wary, Merlin slid his hand into his pocket, and his fingers touched what he recognized as a charm. A smile relaxed his features. Good old Gaius. He rushed to catch up.

"Oh, Gaius," called a deep voice. Merlin recognized it, and his blood went cold.

King Uther Pendragon strode up behind them, dressed in an immaculate suit with the Pendragon dragon branded on his hand. "Gaius," the mortal king stated, "I'm glad you are here. I need your assistance."

Gaius blinked. "All right, sire," he conceded. "Allow me to bring the lady her medicine first."

Uther suddenly saw Merlin, and he stopped dead in his tracks. "Who is this?" he inquired, remotely interested.

"My nephew, Merlin," Gaius answered.

"He can bring Morgana her prescription." Uther decided. "Gaius, with me. Leon, show Marvin to Morgana." He spun on his heel and marched off, with Gaius toddling behind.

Merlin pursed his lips. "It's Merlin," he mumbled.

Leon nodded to his king, and Merlin trailed after him. "So, where are you from?" Leon inquired. He was very friendly, for a bloke dressed up in Camelot uniform.

"Um… Ealdor," Merlin said, remembering where his mother was from.

"Ealdor?" Leon repeated. He frowned. "That's in… Lot, right?"

"Yeah," Merlin confirmed. He hoped it was, anyway.

Leon smiled. "Never been. What made you move to Camelot?"

"Oh, school," Merlin replied.

"Yeah, you would be a scholar," said Leon with a grin. He took Merlin up a flight of stairs to a second landing, where he then showed the Druid prince to an authentically carved wooden door. He rapped three times. "My lady, you have a visitor."

"Tell my brother I have no interest in seeing him," snapped the voice inside.

Leon bit his lip. "Oh, they're fighting again," he mumbled. "No, my lady, it's not your brother," he said louder.

The door swung open. "Gwen?" she questioned.

Merlin's heart stopped.

It was like that pathetic television show Merlin had watched the day before, something Gaius sneeringly called "daytime television." The man had been completely enamored with the woman from just the sight of her. That was Merlin.

She was easily the most beautiful woman he had ever seen. Her hair consisted of dark, ebony curls, and her large eyes were piercing and green. She appeared graceful, like a ballerina.

"I've brought you your medicine," Merlin stated easily. He was proud to realize he had no problem talking to girls. He hadn't really talked to anyone before this little trip of his. "Your maiden came by earlier, and I told her I would take care of it." He held up the bag.

The Lady Morgana blinked a few times, taking in his unfamiliarity. Then her rouge lips formed a perfect smile. "Thank you," she said. "Yes, Gwen told me about you. You're working for Gaius?"

"Yes, my lady, he is my uncle," Merlin informed her with a nod. He stood up straighter, noticing he was slouching in a very unconventional way. "I'm Merlin, by the way." He extended his hand.

Beside him, Leon tensed. Merlin flinched. Was he not supposed to do that?

Morgana laughed and shook his hand. "Well, very nice to meet you Merlin." She looked him up and down. "Maybe I'll come myself next time."

Merlin beamed. "I'll be there," he answered. Inwardly, he was applauding himself. He was one cool cat, it seemed.

Abruptly, there was the sound of footsteps. Morgana poked her head out and gasped. "Uh oh." She grimaced and closed the door.

"Morgana!" A man about Merlin's age came rushing up, arm outstretched. He was dressed in athletic shorts and a white long sleeve shirt, holding in his hand a black and white ball. He barely missed Morgana's door closing. "Ah, bollocks," he swore quietly. He noticed Merlin staring and glared. "Who are you?" he demanded.

Leon looked like he wanted to answer, but Merlin beat him to it. "I'm Merlin," he declared. Merlin was feeling immensely confident at the moment. "Who are you?" he asked evenly.

The man stared at him, grinning with disbelief. "Oh," he said, "you're funny." He turned around and dropped the ball. As he exited, he proceeded to kick the ball down the corridor, as if he owned the place.

Merlin snickered. What a cocky little prick.

Leon gaped at him. "Right," he managed, his tone disbelieving. "We'll get you back to Gaius now."

They found Uther and Gaius in a study, huddled beside a large mahogany desk. Merlin's shoulder gave a twinge of pain at the sight of the mortal king. They were speaking in hushed voices, heads bent together.

Leon cleared his throat.

The two of them looked up. "Ah, Merlin," Gaius greeted, and his smile was strained.

"Are we interrupting?" Leon inquired with a slight bow.

"No, no," Uther assured him, waving him off. He leaned down and moved something on the other side of the desk. "We were just finishing." He nodded at Gaius. "Tomorrow, then," he said.

"Just give us a ring when you're ready," Gaius replied. He looked to Merlin. "Ready, boy?"

Merlin pursed his lips. "Yes," he said. He was not sure he approved of the term "boy."

Gaius nodded. "Right. Sire," he bowed, "if you will excuse us."

Merlin imitated him, figuring it was best to play it safe.

King Uther nodded. "Leon, escort them out, please."

Leon nodded once and began to lead them out.

"Oh, and bring me my son, afterwards, would you?"

"Of course, sire," Leon responded. He touched the small device in his ear and continued walking down the corridor. Merlin and Gaius followed briskly. "Valiant, do you have eyes on Arthur, over." There was a pause. "Bring him to the king. Study four. First floor." Then the knight glanced back at his charges. "Thank you for bringing the lady's prescription," he said, opening a much smaller door than the one they had entered.

Gaius smiled. "Our pleasure, Sir Leon."

The walk out of the palace grounds was disturbingly silent. Merlin kept wanting to break it, but the words continued to die in his throat.

The moment they were safely inside the clinic, Gaius locked the door and turned the sign to closed. Then he smacked Merlin about the head.

Merlin flinched impressively. He had never been hit before. "Ow!" he shouted.

"You stupid boy!" Gaius scolded. "Do you have any idea what Uther is planning? He thinks Balinor sent you to spy! He's going to declare war, you fool!"

Merlin blinked. "What?"

Gaius shook his head. "You know, I questioned the notion when Balinor decided to send you here alone, but now I know we're in a mess. Go pack, Merlin, you're leaving as—."

"Wait!" Merlin cried. Gaius broke off and looked at him. The boy was afraid, his face a picture of raw emotion. "You… you can't tell Father. He doesn't—I mean, he's with the Anglicans, right now."

Gaius leered at him. "Doesn't what?" he demanded.

Merlin bit at his lip and shamefully averted his eyes.

Understanding flashed across Gaius like lightning. "He doesn't know?" he gasped.

"Please, Gaius, I just got here!" pleaded Merlin. "I didn't even get to go to school yet! Can't I… can't I just have a week—no, a month! One month. That's all I want."

Gaius scrutinized his charge, and finally he sighed. "Merlin, they know you're here," he murmured. "Uther is itching for war. Do you realize what a perfect mistake you've made?"

"I swear I'll fix it," Merlin promised.

Slowly, Gaius shook his head. His resolve was crumbling, however. He had never been good at being strict. "How do you expect me to stall Uther?" he said eventually.

Merlin nearly squealed. "So I can stay!?"

"Not if we can't stall Uther," Gaius snapped.

Merlin licked his lips, jumping as an idea came to him. "Ooh! Uther trusts you, yeah? You can convince him that the staff isn't mine, maybe! Or, or maybe, I can steal my staff back. He can't claim it was me without proof!"

Gaius looked at him. "Uther is not an idiot, Merlin. Though I'm starting to fear for the Druid nation."

Merlin rolled his eyes, but not even Gaius's sharp insult could bring him down. "Well, whatever, I'm trying, aren't I?" He clapped his hands. "Maybe you can distract him with other things! Like, y'know, Prince Arthur's schooling or something."

The old physician took a moment to scowl before shooing his ward away. "Go to bed," he ordered with a sigh. "I'll come up with something."