A/N As promised, here is the extended version of the meeting with the Steward. The parts you've already read are shown in italics.

Warning on this chapter: it was cut back to the version I posted originally for a reason, as it has a lot of redundancy and a lot of stuff that's more to do with administration than H/C; also because there's no 'live' Merlin in it and I missed him. Still, you'll get to see the Steward squirm a little more, so I hope you enjoy it.

Thanks to my beta LyricalSinger for going back through this chapter with me yet again.

The morning came all too soon for Leon. He had tossed and turned all night, partly due to his feelings of guilt, and partly due to an equal measure of anticipation. Although he knew it was unlikely that mistreatment of servants by their masters would suddenly stop because of the meeting Uther had called, he still hoped they would at least set in place some solid changes that would better ensure their wellbeing.

As the light started to show in the crack between his heavy curtains and the wall by his windows, Leon finally gave up any hope of being able to fall back asleep. The knight rose and dressed, and deciding not to eat in the dining hall, he called for a breakfast to be brought to him. He ate slowly, knowing that it was still a little bit early for the Steward to be in his office as of yet.

When a chambermaid finally knocked at the door and came in to open the curtains and extinguish the candles, Leon judged that the day-to-day operation of the castle was well underway, which meant that it was time to face the Steward.

Leon arrived at the administrative wing of the castle just as Arthur got there, and on arriving at the Steward's office, they entered the room together.

"Prince Arthur, Sir Leon!" exclaimed the Steward, standing up from where he'd been sitting at his desk. "What may I do for you this morning?" Then frowning as though in distaste he said, "Has your manservant been wreaking his usual havoc already, Sire?"

But before Arthur could answer, the Steward continued, looking over towards the door, "Actually, I was expecting him to be here by now so that I could deal with his negligence of the duties you set him yesterday, but I guess it was too much to expect that he would be on time for once…."

Then, not seeing any sign of Merlin, the Steward turned back to the Prince and said, "I'm sure you will be happy to know that I had already intended to discipline him for that negligence, and now also for being late, so if he has done something else wrong this morning, I can simply punish him for that at the same time if you'd like. Mind you, it seems that I have to discipline the boy so often that I doubt it will act as a much of a deterrent. I think that I will soon need some stronger measures to use with him."

Leon saw that Arthur had become flushed with anger, although likely the Steward thought it was directed at the manservant. It was apparent that the Steward had some sort of personal aversion to Merlin, and Leon had been right that it led to frequent punishment. Having already seen first-hand the beating Merlin had been given two days earlier, Leon hated to imagine what 'stronger measures' the Steward could possibly have in mind.

The knight decided right then that he did not just want some changes in procedures to come out of the day's meeting; he also dearly wanted this buffoon of a Steward put in his place. Seeing Arthur's barely concealed anger, he knew the Prince felt the same.

Glancing at the heavily laden breakfast tray, Leon knew how he could get at least a little bit of immediate satisfaction and said, "Yes, we have come about Merlin, but we do not want to interrupt your breakfast. Although….Master Steward, I was under the impression that mealtime for the Castle Staff was BEFORE that of the nobles in residence here, with no exceptions. How is it that you were able to take a tray this late?"

"Ah yes", said the Steward, then with a wink added, "One of the privileges of rank I suppose. But again, you must realize that I am a busy man and the nature of my duties sometimes makes it impossible for me to take my meal at the allotted time. And I must eat, must I not?"

Leon nodded his agreement and said, "Yes of course, so must we all."

Encouraged, the Steward decided to elaborate on his tale, "Why just this morning, TWO pots in the kitchen were found to have holes, and the keeper of the keys to the storeroom was busy at the other side of the castle, so I had to go and fetch the replacements myself."

"That errand would have left me only a HALF-HOUR of the staff mealtime," he continued, looking between Arthur and Leon to be sure that the listening nobles understood the gravity of the situation. "And as you can surely appreciate, that is NOT conducive to a proper digestion. So naturally I decided that I must take just a small portion during the mealtime, and to set aside my main portion for later, when I have time to eat it."

"I see," said Arthur with a hint of a smirk. Leon smiled to himself as already the Steward was providing his own arguments in favour of one of the rule changes that the knight was hoping to see.

Arthur had obviously noticed it too, and in a seemingly innocent manner asked for a clarification, "So, you seem to be saying that if a person's duties conflict with the set mealtimes, then he should be able to take his meals later."

But the Steward finally seemed to sense that he was being either set up or reprimanded, so he hurried to defend the set mealtime rule, "Well yes, but of course we must be very careful to justify and control these deviations, else we will have chaos in the kitchens, and that would be to the detriment of your own enjoyment of your meals, Sire."

Leon and Arthur nodded in apparent agreement, but did not have time to push the argument any further, because just then the King arrived, followed by the nervous-looking squires, Ewan and Alfred.

"Sire," said the Steward jumping to his feet in surprise, "What can I do for you? Surely you are not also here about something as insignificant as the Prince's manservant?"

Uther fixed the man with a glare and said, "For one servant, no. But it has come to my attention, in front of the Lord of Cambria no less, that this boy has been mistreated, and that this mistreatment has been justified by the rules set for the Royal Household."

"This is MY household," emphasized the King, "And I do NOT condone the abuse of my people, whether intentional or not, and regardless of their station."

Then Uther dropped his voice and said with a hint of a threat, "And as YOU are the master of the rules that govern this household, I wish simply to review them with you now, so that we may make any adjustments we deem necessary to ensure this does not happen to ANY of my people in future."

"Yes of course, my Lord," answered the Steward nervously, moving out from behind his desk and gesturing at everyone to move toward an ornate table by the window of his large office. "You know that I ALWAYS strive to ensure that your serving staff is treated with a high standard. After all, a happy servant will be anxious to please, much like a fine hunting hound."

Leon and Arthur shared a look of incredulity at this analogy.

Uther sat down in a large upholstered chair at the head of the table and said coldly, "Then since this servant was decidedly NOT happy, I take it that you will be as anxious as I to look at this standard you purport to uphold."

The Steward gulped, and said "Yes, I…..welcome the….opportunity, Sire," as Uther gestured at everyone to take a seat.

Then beginning to prepare his defence, the Steward said, "But you mentioned mistreatment, Sire. And I must insist that the rules I have set ensure that all of the servants are treated EQUALLY and thus fairly. And so if this boy has dared to complain to you or the Prince about some supposed mistreatment, well, Sire, EVERYONE knows this boy is lazy."

Arthur frowned and looked like he wanted to interject, but he did not get the chance.

The Steward continued his argument by stating what, to him, was obvious, "After all, Sire this boy IS just a peasant from some outlying farming village. Who knows what types of falsehoods he may tell, to try to avoid his duties? No doubt he is simply unwilling to do a proper day's work, and thinks he can use his position as the Prince's manservant to lighten his duties compared to my other servants."

Leon shook his head in dismay, and then was troubled to recall that just three days earlier he had said something almost identical to himself as he had watched Merlin being taken away for an unjustified punishment.

The knight had no time to dwell further on it though, because the Steward was concluding his argument. "Sire," he said, in a reasonable tone, "I suggest it might be more fitting to accept that it is not my rules that are the problem, and instead to dismiss the boy for his lies and his laziness, and allow Arthur to take on a more suitable candidate."

But Uther had had enough of the Steward's denials and cried, "Silence!" Then leaning forward, the King said, "As it was I who gave the boy his position, are you also then suggesting that I am a poor judge of suitability?"

The Steward gulped, and answered shakily, "No, Sire. Of course not."

"You also seem to be under the misconception that it was the boy who has made the complaint," continued the King, "But he has complained of nothing and has had no chance to tell any lies. What he DID do was collapse in my Hall last night as a result of injury, hunger and exhaustion. Injury, hunger and exhaustion brought about through compliance with the rules governing his duties. Rules and duties which, by and large, you oversee, Steward."

The Steward, apparently still doubted the King's conclusions though, because he tried once again to deny any mistreatment. "But Sire, these lads from the country can be wily and devious. Is it not possible that he misrepresented the state of his health to you?"

Uther rose to his feet, becoming frustrated with the man, "Steward, I myself have seen the results of this mistreatment, as have most of the members of the court along with our visiting Lord Aelrod, who was MOST displeased. And Sir Leon has observed first-hand the development of this boy's state of hunger and exhaustion, so I would ask him now to explain what he has seen. Unless you think he will also misrepresent his findings?"

The Steward looked uncertainly at the knight, but before Leon could begin to speak, the Steward asked hesitantly, "… Unless... Is this about the punishment I administered in the Great Hall, Sir Leon?"

Assuming so, the Steward then nodded slightly to himself, and without waiting for Leon to confirm or deny it, said, "Yes, I must admit that it was somewhat more … forceful … than it should have been." Then turning back to the King he said, "But Sire, I have dealt the boy worse than that on any number of occasions, and he has never yet seen fit to collapse from it."

Leon saw Arthur's eyes widen at what the Steward had just admitted, and the Steward himself shut his mouth with a pop, as he also realized that he had just incriminated himself.

The man obviously knew that anything else he could add would likely just make things worse, so he finally gulped again, then concluded quickly, "But, regardless. I will of course be happy to listen to what Sir Leon has to say on the matter."

"Yes, you had better be," answered the King, taking his seat again, and gesturing at Leon to begin.

Leon collected his thoughts for a moment. Although he was angered by the Steward's admission of abuse, the knight also knew he needed to be careful not to antagonize the only man who could improve Merlin's situation. He tried to tell himself that the Steward's dislike of the servant was probably not due to the boy himself. Most likely the man was simply frustrated by the disruption that had been caused to his routine when the untrained peasant boy had suddenly been thrust into such a high profile position as the Prince's own manservant.

Keeping that in mind, Leon took a deep breath and began. "Sire, I believe that a large part of the problem is that Merlin's background, and the duties that are asked of him by the Prince, seem to be outside of what is normal for other household servants, and it is my impression that the good Steward may be unaware of the nature of these duties."

The Steward looked doubtful about the idea that he would not be aware of what was being requested of one of his staff, but did not protest, so Leon continued, "And I am also certain that the Steward is correct that his rules are not the problem – in MOST cases."

This partly mollified the Steward, though he still looked somewhat worried about what Leon might say next.

The knight did not leave him waiting though, and said, "However Sire, I am sure that once he hears the details about Merlin's specific case, he will easily be able to judge which rules are causing the problem. Then he will easily be able to make any adjustments necessary not just for Merlin, but also for any other servants who may have similar difficulties."

Uther nodded for Leon to continue, and the knight was pleased to see that the Steward now looked interested rather than worried. The knight suspected that the man was attracted by the idea of creating some new standards and rules, since that was what kept him in control.

"I believe we need to look at four areas, Sire," Leon continued.

"The first area is the matter of compensation. I admit this is the area I am least certain of, since I do not typically inform myself about pay scales for the serving staff."

Then, turning to the Steward he said, "Merlin told me that he earns thirty silver coins in a month. But that seemed very low to me. Tell me, Steward, is that the usual wage for the manservant of a high-ranking noble?"

Leon noticed that Uther looked concerned and Arthur almost outraged once he had named the pay rate, and so was reassured that he was not the only one to find it low.

The Steward cleared his throat, and his look of guilt told Leon that the man was fully aware that the wage was inappropriate. Still the Steward had an explanation ready. "Well, Sir Leon, that wage IS the standard rate for a servant with no previous skills or training, so I judged it a suitable starting point for the boy. He will naturally receive more as he gains experience."

Then, confident that he had made his point, the Steward smiled glibly and sat back in his seat.

But surprisingly, it was Uther who now spoke for the manservant. "Yes, Steward, I can see how you may have thought that appropriate. However, if I am not mistaken, most servants in that category are children of around 5 or 6 years old, as that is when they start their training. Such youngsters are still living at home and have very little need for coin, being fed, clothed and entertained by their parents and having no real responsibilities in their homes. In addition I believe they work no more than two or three hours per day, and no more than two or three days in a week. As such, the wage is more to acknowledge their positions in the Royal Household than to provide any actual benefit."

The Steward looked like he wanted to say something, but Uther held up a hand to silence him. "That is hardly the case with my son's manservant," the King continued, "This boy needs to pay the Court Physician for his room and board, and probably sends money home to his village."

Then looking at Leon, the King said, "Also, he works long hours every day. Too many I believe, but Sir Leon will no doubt explain that presently."

At Leon's nod, the King said, "No, paying him the starting wage seems unsuitable to me. Tell me, what is the usual wage for a personal servant to a ranking member of the court?"

The Steward thought a moment and then answered, "Well, depending on whether the servant is fully, or only partly assigned to the noble, and on whether the assignment is to a lady or a gentleman or a knight, it ranges from two hundred to five hundred silver coins per month, Sire."

Then the Steward conceded, "But I take your point about this boy's wage being inadequate. I will immediately change it to four hundred silver coins a month, which is in the right range and will also give him incentive to improve his skills as he gains experience."

I will also note down that in future, a servant's pay must be based not only on his experience, but also on the position and the number of hours he or she is expected to work. Sir Leon, you were correct as this will help me to better classify servants who are brought in by nobles moving their households to Camelot. They often give over their staff to my supervision, and I have found that in some cases I am unable to judge their experience, so this will more easily allow me to set a fairer wage in those cases.

Uther nodded his approval and then turned to Leon and said, "Sir Leon, what is then the second area of concern?"

"This would be punishment, Sire," answered the knight.

Then, feeling that he first needed to explain Merlin's many duties, Leon said, "I believe I mentioned it last night, but in his position as manservant to the Prince, Merlin's tasks go far outside of what the regular household servants would do in their day's work. For example, besides bringing meals, keeping the chambers clean," and Leon was sure he heard Arthur snort at that, "and taking care of laundry and the like, Arthur also brings the boy out on patrols and hunting trips and often has him work as a sparring partner in training sessions."

Leon saw the Steward scowl slightly at this latest piece of news, as it was known to be a taxing activity with potential for injury, so was generally left to the squires who at least had fighting skills and good quality armour.

"In addition, he is very often asked to tend to Arthur's horses and dogs," Leon added.

When Arthur nodded, Leon continued, "Also, Steward, as you have told me, since he is part of the household staff, Merlin also has a share in the common duties."

The Steward nodded his confirmation, but Uther looked somewhat confused and said, "Yes, he does seem to have many duties, Sir Leon, but how is this related to punishment?"

"Well it is not so much related to the duties themselves, Sire, as it is to the wide variety of them all being overseen by different Masters," Leon said, trying to clarify.

But both Uther and Arthur now looked even more confused, so Leon decided that providing specific examples would be helpful.

Turning to Arthur, Leon said, "For example, Sire, when you sent Merlin to bring the horses to the stables after we had arrived from Cambria, what was your expectation of his duties there?"

"Naturally, I intended for him to drop the horses off, and then to return to take care of the bags, as I had instructed him," answered the Prince with a look of confusion at the question.

Leon nodded and said, "That was also my understanding of his orders, but did you know that the Stable Master had required him to groom and feed all six horses and also to clean and put away all of the tack?"

At Arthur's look of shock, Leon said, "I thought not, Sire. And when I entered the stables several HOURS after we returned, Merlin was STILL there and was being beaten for having failed in one of those tasks."

Then, looking at the Steward he asked, "And Master Steward, when you assigned Merlin to the task of washing the floor in the Great Hall, you called him lazy, and then beat him, severely, for being too slow at the task."

The Steward nodded in confirmation, and said, "Yes. As I have said, he is known to be lazy, and I have had to punish him for it on any number of occasions."

"That is where I would disagree, Steward, and is exactly my point," said Leon. And not quite able to keep the anger out of his voice he spat, "You punished him for being lazy, and said something about him gallivanting about the countryside. But were you aware that this 'gallivanting' as you put it, included the boy taking part in a very arduous rescue and a BATTLE, along with his usual duties while out with the Prince; duties which already keep him very busy I might add?"

The Steward shook his head and said, "No, I was not told of this."

Leon continued bitterly, "And I expect that you were also not told that the boy then stayed up for the entire night taking care of squire Alfred. Even Lord Aelrod remarked on his diligence. Merlin said that Gaius would have expected him to do it, since he is apprentice to the physician along with all of his other duties."

Alfred shuffled on his seat, where he'd been silent up to now, and said quietly, "Yes, he woke me every hour, since he thought I may have hurt my head when I fell. And also … I hurt him when he rescued me. I kicked him in the knee with one of my boots," the squire added, pointing at his steel-toed footwear.

Leon then continued his explanation, "And then, Steward, were you also aware that he was made to walk all the way back to Camelot with that injured knee?"

At this point Ewan spoke up and said sheepishly, "Yes, that was because I had lost my horse, and so we were short one mount, and he was the only servant, so….."

The Steward shook his head again, and said, "No, I knew none of this, Sir Leon. Well, it is no wonder the boy was so reluctant to kneel to wash the floor and was so slow in his work. Knowing this, I regret now that I punished him for it."

Leon's softened his tone and added, "But even that is not all. Since he had not completed the task you ordered of him, if you recall, you sent him to the Night Steward."

When the Steward confirmed, Leon went on, "Were you aware then, that the Night Steward assigned him to the kitchens for yet another full night of work? Or that in his weariness he broke some plates and was punished for that by having a large portion of his wages taken to pay for the damage?"

"No," said the Steward in resignation.

"Or were any of you aware that on the night before we travelled to greet Lord Aelrod, he had been out at least half of the night searching in the bog for some medicinal herbs for the Court Physician?"

Arthur and the Steward both shook their heads at this news, while Uther looked pensive.

Then turning to Arthur, Leon said, "This was when I first started to observe the boy's comings and goings, so I cannot say what happened before this; but Sire, did he serve you the night before?"

Arthur nodded and said, "Yes he did, Sir Leon. He attended me at dinner with my father, and then I have to admit that I kept him quite late to polish several pairs of boots and then to pour my bath."

Then turning to the King, Leon said, "So Sire, you can see that it was after three virtually full days and nights of work that you caught him asleep in the corridor and punished him for that too."

Uther nodded thoughtfully and said, "Yes Sir Leon, but how could any of us have known?"

"I don't think you could have known, Sire, and that brings me back to my point," Leon said. Then after pausing for a moment to clear his throat, he explained, "Perhaps any one of his failures taken individually would deserve a punishment. The problem is that, as you have seen, this servant has to please TOO MANY masters. Each of them has his own views on what the boy must accomplish and each punishes failures, but none take into account what he is already being asked to do by the others, nor any punishments he may already have received. As a result, the boy simply cannot complete his work to ANYONE's satisfaction, and this has led to a cycle of fatigue, failure and increasingly severe punishment that the boy has been unable to break out of."

The Steward and Uther both nodded in understanding, and then the Steward spoke. "Sir Leon, you are right of course, and I will certainly need to make some adjustments to take into account the servants who have duties outside of just the household. There are not many of them, but there are some assigned particularly to the younger knights, who likely have similar problems from time to time.

Arthur spoke up then, and said, "Steward, since Merlin is MY manservant, I suggest that I must be advised whenever anyone deems that he has failed in his duties and whenever they feel he deserves any sort of punishment. That way we can ensure that this does not become excessive. I had thought this was already the case, and was very surprised to learn that others besides my father or myself could punish him at all."

The Steward thought for a moment and then nodded, "Yes, that would make sense, Sire, although I believe we must also ensure that not only are you made aware of failures and punishments, but also of tasks in general to make sure that these also do not become excessive."

But before the Steward and Arthur could start discussing their ideas in more detail, Leon interjected, "There are some other problems also caused by his having duties outside of the usual, Steward, and you should also take these into consideration."

Arthur and the Steward looked back over at Leon, and Uther asked, "What are these other problems? Are they another of your areas of concern, Sir Leon?"

"Yes, Sire," answered the knight. "I was just about to say that my third area of concern was related to ensuring that these types of servants have their basic needs met."

Uther nodded at him to continue so Leon said, "I think you can already see how Merlin was unable to take proper rest because of all of the demands on him."

The Steward answered, "Yes I do see. We need to find a way to ensure that these demands stay within reason."

Leon nodded and responded, "Yes, we do. But in Merlin's case it was not just rest, but also food and shelter that were denied to him." At the Steward's look of surprise, which was mirrored by both Arthur and Uther, the knight added, "And I believe the root of this problem is not really related to having too many duties. It is simply that the present rules for the household staff do not take into account a servant who needs to spend a large amount of time away from the castle."

"What do you mean, Sir Leon? Which rules do not work?" asked the Steward, curious.

"Well, the obvious one is the rule for the set mealtimes, Steward," answered Leon.

"Ah yes, I should have guessed," said the Steward. "You and the Prince were leading me there earlier, were you not?" he added, but since he had a smile on his face, Leon guessed the man was not angry. In fact the knight suspected that the Steward had come to rather enjoy this discussion about needing to set up new rules.

Leon smiled back and said, "Yes, and not very subtly it would seem."

Then, becoming serious, the knight said, "Do you know that in the three days I observed him, not once, through no real fault of his own, was Merlin free and in the castle at the time of the servants' meal. And worse yet, while we were travelling, he told us that as a servant he was not even permitted to take any rations such as are provided to each noble. He cannot hunt, and he has no coin to purchase food, so I ask you, how would you expect him to eat?"

Arthur looked dismayed, obviously remembering how he had denied Merlin any time to attend the servants' meal the previous day, and had held back the food which Leon had wanted to offer the boy the evening before that. The Prince said, "I had no idea it was that bad, Sir Leon. When I saw his ribs... I was shocked."

Uther also nodded and said, "Yes, this should not have been possible in Camelot, at least not in a time of plenty."

Leon nodded and said, "Yes, I agree Sire. But I think the solution could be quite simple."

Then addressing the Steward he said, "Master Steward, as you said, if duties do not permit one's presence at the meal, should one not be permitted to eat later?"

The Steward answered, "Yes, of course Sir Leon. But as I also said, I need to control it, since I do feel that the set mealtime gives incentive to most of the staff to complete their tasks in an efficient and timely manner, and it also makes things much easier for the kitchen staff. But I think a case can easily be made for a few specific servants to be exempt from that rule."

Then the Steward sat back and steepled his fingers under his chin for a few moments as he thought. Finally he said to Uther, "Sire, it is clear to me now that I need to have a new classification for servants with extended duties, and I will draft some specific rules for them to deal with all of these concerns Sir Leon has raised."

Uther nodded and said, "Very well," then the King turned to Leon and said, "But you mentioned four areas of concern, what is the fourth?"

Leon answered, "The fourth one is about training, Sire. And, well, this one may be unique to Merlin and is due to his background and how he was awarded his position."

Again the King gestured for Leon to continue, "Sire, I've heard the boy called incompetent, and to an extent I would agree. But I am sure you recall the circumstances of his hiring, Sire. He was not born and raised as a household servant, and so had never had an opportunity to learn how to do many of his duties. Yet we do not seem to have provided him with any education to set this right."

The King asked the Steward, "Is this true? Has he had no training in his duties yet?"

The Steward reddened and then stammered out, "Well, Sire, we've been so busy that I could not spare anybody to teach him, and it may also take some time for him to learn. Most of these peasants have a tendency to be very dull."

Arthur's eyebrows shot up at that statement, and Leon was happy to contradict it, "Well, I think you will find Merlin is not like 'most of these peasants', Steward. He reads and writes, and from what I saw when I taught him a few things in the stables, he seems the type that only needs to be shown something once to master it. Even Lord Aelrod remarked on how quick-witted he was."

At the Steward's look of doubt, Arthur cut in, "Yes, Sir Leon is right. I know that on his first day Merlin didn't know the back from the front of a hauberk, but by the second he was already able to dress me in my armour almost as well as any squire. And Gaius would certainly never have suffered him as an assistant if he were dull."

Seeing that the Steward still had misgivings, Uther leaned forward and said to him sternly, "Steward, I detect that you have some animosity towards this boy. If so, it is misplaced and you must put it behind you. I remind you that I PERSONALLY appointed this servant to his position as a reward, and I expect you to give him every opportunity to succeed at this task."

"Luckily this matter would seem to be easy to solve," the King continued, leaning back with a shrewd look. "Master Steward, I expect you to see to the full training for my son's manservant as soon as he is fit for service once again. And you will be sure to include not just the household duties, but also these extended duties he has."

The Steward initially looked dismayed at being told he would need to take care of Merlin's training personally, but after a short time he nodded and said, "Well I do admit that I disliked the boy. However, in my defence, I believed myself justified, since he appeared to be just another lazy and stupid peasant."

Turning to Leon, the Steward said, "But from what you have explained to me, I stand corrected in this." Then turning back to the King he said, "Yes, I will ensure that he is given a proper chance, Sire. I will also of course be speaking to the other Masters in order to confirm the nature of the boy's duties with them, and ensure he is educated for those as well."

Uther also seemed satisfied with proposal, and was ready to move on. He sat back and said, "Very well. I am pleased that we have been able to address some of the problems within our system. However, now we need to discuss the specific case of my son's manservant."

Then looking at the Steward, the King said, "Steward, since it has now been proven that in fact the boy was mistreated, compensation must be given."

"Yes, Sire. I understand," said the Steward nervously.

Uther nodded then said, "Therefore, you will need to ensure that any pay taken from the boy in punishment is returned to him, and you PERSONALLY will pay an additional five hundred silver coins for the unwarranted and overly forceful beatings you admit he has been dealt on numerous occasions. In addition, I expect you to see PERSONALLY that he has all training that is needed for him to fulfil his duties."

"Yes, Sire," said the Steward, looking somewhat relieved that the penalty was not worse.

"And make no mistake, Steward," added the King warningly. "I consider that you are being dealt with very lightly in this. I realize that you were recently recruited from King Odin's court, and so perhaps that is why you were not aware that Camelot does not sanction this type of abuse of its citizens. However, you ARE aware of this now, and should I EVER hear of such a deviation from the acceptable disciplinary penalties again, you would be considered guilty of assaulting a commoner and would receive the decreed punishment according to the law."

The King then held the Steward's eye for a few moments until the man gulped and stammered out once again, "Yes, Sire. I understand."

Then the King turned to Ewan and Alfred, and said "As for you two, you already know how displeased I am about your abuse of your authority and for lying to your King."

"Yes, Sire," they answered apprehensively.

Then Uther turned to look at his son and said, "Arthur, you also are not blameless in this. YOU are this boy's master, and as such he may not refuse you. Therefore it is your responsibility to ensure that you know what it is he is being required to do for you, and to ensure that it is within reason. Your neglect of this has harmed the boy, and therefore you will join in the punishment with these two squires."

Arthur nodded his understanding. Then, fixing his gaze on all three young men, the King said, "Now, no doubt you are all anxiously awaiting my judgement in this matter, so here it is."

"Firstly, for the unjustified punishments you have caused the boy, after your morning training, you will each spend one of the next three afternoons in the stocks."

Then Uther allowed himself a small smile and said, "Sir Leon will ensure a plentiful supply of the usual projectiles for the amusement of the commoners."

The three young nobles looked at each other in horror, but did not dare to object.

Then the King turned serious again and said, "Secondly, your actions have resulted in injury and loss of property for this boy. Therefore each of you will pay him a compensation of 10 gold coins for his suffering at your hands."

"Thirdly, and I will need your assistance for this Steward, I wish these young men to understand at a fundamental level, what their servants must do to carry out the duties they are given. Therefore, each will spend one afternoon under your watch, fulfilling these typical duties. They are to be given no special consideration due to their rank."

The Steward's eyes narrowed in anticipation, and he tried to suppress a smile of what Leon thought could only be glee. Leon did not even bother to hide his smile, as he knew the Steward was already working out the worst chores possible to assign to the errant young men. The Steward's own humiliation in front of the King that morning would only make the man's task sweeter.

Arthur, Ewan and Alfred must also have had some inkling of what they would be in for at the hands of the Steward, since the three swallowed in dread almost simultaneously.

But Uther had not finished with them yet. "And since, as Sir Leon has explained, this serving boy often has extended duties with the physician and in the stables, each of you will also spend another afternoon at each of those tasks, replacing the boy while he is recuperating.

"Father!" objected Arthur, having reached the limit of his tolerance, "The stables? But surely you cannot want us to toil there! Your knights and nobles will recognize us and think it beneath us, and that would surely reflect badly on Camelot. The other tasks I can understand, but..."

Uther cut him off though, "But nothing, Arthur. You will do as you are told, and be grateful that I do not add a day in the kennels to your list."

"Yes Sire", answered Arthur in resignation, knowing that his father had seen right through his argument.

Satisfied, the King said, "Very well. Ewan and Alfred, you are now dismissed to your assigned duties until the afternoon when the first part of your punishment will take place. Arthur, for you that is the stocks, Ewan, you shall work with the Steward today, and Alfred, you will aid the physician."

The two squires rose and said, "Yes, Sire," and then hurriedly took their leave.

Once they had gone, the King said, "Sir Leon, I thank you for your help in this investigation, and before you go to prepare for the farewell ceremony for Lord Aelrod, I would ask both you and Arthur to accompany me to the physician's chambers. Gaius has long been a trusted advisor to me and, even though his ward is a servant, I still feel that Gaius deserves a first-hand account on our findings about the mistreatment of the boy."

"Yes, Sire, it will be my pleasure," said Leon who then stood and gathered his cloak, while Arthur did the same beside him.

As they moved towards the door, Uther added, "I will stay a few moments with the Steward to review the new rules once more, and will join you there presently."

Leon nodded and said, "Yes Sire," once more, then he and Arthur left the office, and headed back towards the physician's quarters.

A/N It's REALLY the end of the story this time. I'm still considering the idea of a follow-up on the punishments for Alfred, Ewan and Arthur, though if I do it, I don't think it will be very soon, and would be posted as a new story.