Title: The Mountains Are Calling
Pairing: Merlin & Arthur bromance/friendship
Characters: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Arthur needs a little perspective after being king for a few months. Of course, he drags Merlin along with him.
Warnings: some feels
Word Count: 1018 (got just a wee bit away from me)
Prompt: 347, Goals
Author's notes: I probably should have just posted this somewhere else and wrote something else, but I'm lazy.
“Tell me why we’re doing this again?” Merlin clung to the rocks with every bit of his strength, wishing he dared just magic himself and Arthur up the cliff face and onto the promontory that seemed to be Arthur’s goal.
Arthur, the lunatic, just grinned down at him from his place about six feet away. “I told you, Merlin, if we get up there we can see all of the valley and I can get a better picture of it if we ever have to fight a battle here.”
“But, surely there has to be another way up than us pretending we’re goats. I mean, I knew you were an ass, but-”
“Merlin, shut up and climb.”
Half an hour later, Merlin reached up and let Arthur haul him over the edge onto the first solid ground his feet had touched in an hour and a half. He breathed out a sigh of relief and looked up to meet Arthur’s grin with his own.
The two men sat quietly on the edge of the cliff and looked over, taking in the sight of the kingdom. There weren’t many actual mountains in Arthur’s kingdom. Those that did tended to just make the definition of mountain, although Merlin was quite willing to amend that definition to include any sizeable hill that had cliffs his idiot of a king might make him climb just so he could sit at the top.
“Are you even going to use the paper and charcoal you had me bring up here so you could map it?” Merlin asked after the two men had been there for a time.
Arthur grinned and shook his head. “Leon mapped it for me yesterday.”
Merlin sighed. “Then why did we have to climb up here?” he asked, resignation in his voice.
Arthur slung his arm over Merlin’s shoulder and waved out over the landscape with the other. “Just look at it, Merlin.”
Merlin shifted his gaze out to the sight before him. Below them was the patrol and their camp. As he looked down he could see the much smaller forms of the knights moving around, doing chores. As his eyes moved further out he looked at the countryside. There in the distance was a village. Technically, the patrol could have stayed there the last few days, but Arthur hadn’t wanted to strain the village’s resources after the hard winter the kingdom had experienced. Crops were just now ripening and Merlin could see the green in the fields and the fruit trees. Light plumes of smoke rose from the village hearths as the villagers themselves went about their business, tiny ants in the distance.
Over to the side of the village was a small river, or maybe a very large stream. It had been easy to ford earlier yesterday, the path to the shallowest point clearly marked by years of travel. Merlin wondered what kind of fish he might be able to catch in it. It had been a long time since he’d had some good fresh-caught trout. Maybe he’d be able to convince Elyan or Percival into doing a bit of fishing for him once he and Arthur climbed back down the hellish rocks he was ignoring.
In the farther distance he saw an ocean of trees, broken up by a hill here or there. Off in the direction he knew Camelot lay he could almost imagine seeing it. In between he imagined the villages and the small town they’d already passed on this patrol. The people were happy to see their king, especially since Arthur usually found himself limited to the much smaller area just around Camelot now that he’d succeeded Uther. More than one of them had come up to Arthur and told them how sorry they were for him.
One young girl a few villages ago had even tugged on his cloak and handed him a doll lovingly made of worn fabric when he turned to her. “Mum made this for me after Da died. It helped me not cry as much.”
Arthur had smiled as he knelt down in front of her. “Thank you so much, sweetheart. I wish I could keep it, but I think the doll would be sad if she wasn’t with you, don’t you? How about you give me a hug? Then I’ll be able to remember the hug when I get sad and I won’t be sad anymore?”
The little girl had given Arthur a hug, practically strangling him to ensure it was the best hug ever, before she took her doll back and strangled it nearly as much. Her mother stood behind her, unabashedly crying, and mouthed ‘thank you’ to Arthur before leading her little girl away.
Camp that night had been quiet, with none of the hijinks Merlin had gotten used to after patrolling with the group of knights that had come together as an extended family. They had all seen Arthur with the little village girl and it had affected them more than they realized at the time. They’d all lost someone dear to them, some of them more than one person. Merlin imagined each of them spent that night thinking of their missing loved ones.
He sighed. Camelot was a beautiful kingdom. As much as it frustrated him to live here and have to hide his abilities, he couldn’t even imagine his life if he’d stayed in Ealdor. Merlin nodded. “Camelot’s worth it, isn’t it, Arthur?”
Arthur looked at his friend, taking his own eyes off the countryside. “It is, Merlin.”
They sat there for another half hour, lost in their own thoughts, before a call from below them penetrated. Percival was waving at them. “Time to go, Merlin.” Arthur waved back down at Percival, who saluted and turned back to the camp. He stood and started walking toward a stand of trees.
“Arthur, the camp is that way.” Merlin gestured down the cliff they’d climbed.
He grinned cheekily at Merlin as he walked away, “I know, but I only wanted to climb up, not down. I’m going to use the path Leon found instead.”