Author: shadowspunTitle: Shipping OutRating: GPairing/s: noneCharacter/s: Merlin, Arthur, Percival, Lancelot, AnhoraSummary: Becoming Lord Arthur Pendragon's personal secretary led to the opportunity of a lifetime.Warnings: None.Word Count: 1191Prompt: 324 Entangle, Courage, Attic.Author's Notes:
No clue where this came from.
The advertisement in the newspaper had mentioned nothing about this. Perhaps Merlin should have been wary when Lord Pendragon had asked him if he’d ever done any adventuring outside of his own head, but honestly, Merlin had just been happy to get the job as his personal secretary. Having a scholarly bent and education, but no title, lands, or fortune to go along with them had made life a little difficult for the brunet. He had no interest in working as a clerk. No care for law or religion, either, which were the other options open to him. So, personal secretary to a nobleman had been the answer. Although, maybe he should have interviewed Lord Pendragon a little more carefully during his own interview a year ago.
Merlin dodged a dockhand as he made his way to the ship Lord Pendragon had hired for this expedition. An expedition. To the jungles of Africa. Never in Merlin’s wildest dreams had he thought he’d actually get to visit Africa. He and his childhood friend, Will, had dreamed of exploring the dark continent when they were growing up in their tiny Welsh village, but Merlin had never expected it to actually happen. Will had been the adventurous one, the boy with the dauntless courage. Merlin had been the bookish one, happy to follow his friend where he led, whether it be down to the creek near their houses, or using Old Man Simmons’ orchard as their jungle. The only place Merlin hadn’t followed Will was into battle and that was where Will had died, buried in a communal grave somewhere in Sevastopol.
Merlin shook off the melancholy thoughts as he stepped out of the way of the one of the largest men he’d ever seen before. He looked up into laughing eyes as the man pulled him even further to the side to let another dockhand go by. “You’re going to get run down if you’re not careful, lad.”
“Sorry. I’ve just never been on a sea voyage before. There’s so much to look at.”
“Well, follow me and I’ll make sure you get on your ship without being squashed like a bug. Which is it?”
The man stuck his hand out as he hmmed, then introduced himself, “Percival Blake.”
Merlin quickly tucked his writing case under his other arm. “Ah, you’re one of the guides Lord Pendragon has engaged. Merlin Sheehan, Lord Pendragon’s personal secretary.”
The larger man grinned as he shook Merlin’s hand. “Are you going to be alright in the jungle? You look like a stiff wind could blow you over.”
Merlin grinned back, used to the assessment after having spent a year with Lord Pendragon. “I’m tougher than I look, I promise.”
Percival shrugged, “If you say. Shall we board the ship?” Merlin nodded and followed the guide, still gawking as he walked the length of the dock to the ship, the S.S. Gedref. “Careful of those ropes there, Merlin. Don’t want to get entangled and fall into the water. They’re heavy enough they’d drag you right down.”
Merlin nodded, stepping carefully around the wound pile of rope. The Gedref was before them, a steamship that would ultimately bring them to Libreville so they could try to find the headwaters of the Congo. He made his way onto the gangplank and the ship, following in the larger man's wake. He saw Lord Pendragon at the bow of the ship, speaking to the captain. Merlin broke off from Percival with a wave and approached his employer. "Lord Pendragon, I have the other documents you wanted. Captain Anhora, good to see you again."
"Mr. Sheehan." The captain nodded to the younger man as Lord Pendragon grunted and reached for the valise under Merlin's arm.
"These are the updated maps?" Pendragon opened the case and pulled them out a bit. "Excellent, Merlin. This will, hopefully, make our journey easier." He grinned at his secretary, "Go on down and find your room. Your things have already been brought there. You'll want to unpack before we set off."
Merlin nodded, "Yes, milord."
Merlin descended the steps that led to the quarters, knowing that Lord Pendragon would have the stateroom right off the captain’s quarters. His lordship had mentioned that he was going to make sure Merlin was close by so he could roust him in the middle of the night if he had a brilliant idea. Merlin had snorted at that and remarked that he’d get plenty of good sleep then. Lord Pendragon had simply raised an eyebrow at that and shook his head at his secretary’s cheek.
He passed the rooms closest to the stairs and started looking for his name on the slate attached to the door when he neared the stateroom. He was passing one of the sightly ajar doors when he heard a muffled voice proclaiming, “Your attic’s to let, Perce. I saw him. He’ll be dead within a week.” Merlin paused. Percival was the big man who’d made the path for him to follow along the dock. He listened shamelessly to the response. “Honestly, Lance, I think he’ll be fine. If Arthur thinks he can do it, then he can do it.” There was a gusty sigh. Percival was talking to the man who Merlin only knew by the correspondence he and Lord Pendragon had exchanged. This was the other guide, a man who had spent many years exploring Africa. Merlin knew they were talking about him. He was under no illusion that he didn’t look like the strapping man that Lord Pendragon was. He certainly didn’t have the muscles of Percival, but that didn’t mean he wasn’t capable. He set his shoulders and nodded to himself as he started walking toward his quarters again. He would show all of them. He would be the most indispensable member of the expedition team.
Less than an hour later, Merlin was all unpacked and had decided to watch the ship pull away from the shore. His employer was busy with the captain and didn't need him for anything at the moment. He wanted to remember everything that happened so he could write it all down in the fresh journal he'd purchased yesterday. He was going to Africa!
Lord Pendragon caught him leaning over the rail of the steamer. "Well, Merlin, we're on our way." The blond grinned at him, his hair blowing in the wind coming at them. "Africa." The word was said almost reverentially.
Merlin grinned back. Lord Pendragon wasn't as uptight as he tried to portray himself. He had a sense of humor that Merlin appreciated, even if he was often the target of said humor. In fact, Merlin counted himself lucky that his employer was a young man not content to simply manage his estates and busy himself in the nobility’s social whirl. It meant that Merlin got to enjoy more than writing letters to creditors or other lords complaining about the latest law Parliament decided to pass. The two men looked out at the sea before them, content to leave the steadily disappearing shore of England behind them as they looked toward a new adventure.