Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, kid OCs
Summary: Emrys tells the story of Knight Merlin at storytime. Modern AU.
Word Count: 1575 (sorry it got away from me)
Camelot_drabble Prompt: 349 – Knights
Author's Notes: none
Disclaimer: Merlin characters are the property of Shine and BBC. No profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
“Once upon a time, there was a knight of Camelot named Merlin. He….”
A little boy near the back of the reading circle was obviously not having any of it. Scrunching up his face, and not waiting to raise his hand, he blurted out, “Merlin was a wizard, Mr. Emrys.”
Emrys tried not to smile. “Quite correct, Reggie, quite correct. But there was a secret in Camelot.” Then he lowered his voice almost to a whisper, looking around at the kids staring up at him. “Magic was…” he paused a long moment, “forbidden.”
There was a couple of ‘ohs’, and a few concerned looks shared among the children.
Reggie, however, wasn’t giving up. “But Mr. Emrys, Merlin did magic for King Arthur and helped him defeat the bad men. How could it be forbidden?”
“Well, Reggie, this story is before Arthur became king. He was still a young prince and his father, Bad King Uther, was in charge. And Uther was angry at people who used magic so he was pretty mean to them.”
He didn’t mention the rest. They were children after all and the talk of beheadings and people screaming as they burnt to death wasn’t a good idea. There would be nightmares and parents complaining and he did want them to come back. He liked storytime at the library, it gave him a sense of purpose while he waited for destiny to arrive.
He also knew that Reggie wasn’t done. At least he did raise his hand this time. “But couldn’t King.. I mean Prince Arthur let Merlin be a wizard and not use magic where Bad King Uther could see?”
It was rather sweet, though, how intent Reggie was about the legend. Some of the other children were snickering a bit, but Reggie just firmed his jaw and scowled at them before turning back to Emrys.
“Ah, but Prince Arthur was a bit of a pr… mean person himself. He thought his father was right about magic.” Emrys stopped a moment to let the kids think about that. “I know Arthur becomes a great king, but when he was young, he was a bully and didn’t know any better.”
That seemed to settle the children. There were even a couple of them who nodded and elbowed each other and sent side-eyed glances to one of the boys in the back, Jake. It looked as if Emrys might have to have a word with them and their parents afterwards about bullying and what they could do about it.
But that was for later.
“So Merlin was a knight instead. He could help the prince keep out of trouble, and maybe even save his life. Lots of times because that’s what knights did, stick by their friend’s side and help them out. But Prince Arthur didn’t know that Merlin did it with magic. He just thought that Merlin was very very lucky.” Emrys slowed a moment, then said, “But Merlin wasn’t lucky, he was the best wizard ever even if he was a little clumsy.”
Another of the children, Rose, nodded. “Was he very clumsy, Mr. Emrys?”
“Prince Arthur thought so. He’d go on and on about how his knights should all be perfect in every way, but that Merlin was a good example of what not to do. That he’d trip over his own feet, and he was a bit of a coward for hiding behind trees.”
Rose frowned. “That wasn’t very nice.”
Emrys just smiled. “No, it wasn’t, but Merlin and Arthur had a special relationship. Sometimes they’d bicker and wrestle and snap at each other, but they were still the best of friends. And Arthur really didn’t think Merlin a coward. In fact, once he told him that Merlin was one of the bravest men he’d ever known. And things were good with Merlin saving the day and Arthur being safe and slowly becoming a great man.” Emrys stopped, pausing for a dramatic moment, then said, “Until one night….”
There was a collective breath as the children leaned forward with worried eyes. Except Jake in the back who was smirking.
“Well, unfortunately, Merlin was clumsy and sometimes the magic would get loose and there would be dancing swords and the chainmail would leap into the air and it would be fun. Until it wasn’t.” Emrys said softly, “Merlin was also sometimes not very careful and he was laughing at the two swords twirling around and thinking about training with the prince and then… Arthur walked in.”
“Oh, no,” said Rose.
“Did Arthur do something bad to Merlin?” said Reggie, looking upset. “He wouldn’t, would he?”
“Arthur threw him into the dungeon. He was pretty mad that Merlin had been lying to him.” Emrys let out a soft unhappy sigh.
Rose said, “Lying is bad.”
“Yes, Rose, lying is bad. And you should never lie to your parents or your best friends or even your teacher, but when there is a bad king who hates wizards, I think we can forgive Merlin for lying this time.”
“But why did Arthur put Merlin in the dungeon? Lying is bad but he should have understood,” said the little girl sitting next to Rose. Bergitta, her best friend. They had been holding hands and leaning into each other the whole time. Rose nodded and gave Bergitta a little hug.
“Ah, I think so, too. But there had been guards looking into Merlin’s room and had seen the dancing swords. And Bad King Uther declared that Merlin would die for being a sorcerer. And there was nothing Arthur could do.”
Scowling, Reggie said, a little too loud, “Arthur could have saved his friend. Even if he lied to him, it wasn’t right.”
“No, it wasn’t. And it was a long long night that Merlin had to stay in the dungeon. With the smelly old hay and water dripping down the walls and no food. Merlin was worried that his friend would never forgive him and it made him so sad.”
The children all nodded in understanding, even Jake.
“But they say that it is darkest before the dawn. Prince Arthur might have been a bully and a prince, but he was also going to be a great king. And while Merlin worried and cried a little – because even brave knights can cry – Arthur came up with a plan.”
Bergitta clapped her hands. “I knew it.”
“I knew it, too.” Reggie didn’t raise his hand, just said in a loud voice, “King Arthur wouldn’t let his friend die.”
“Quite right. Arthur sent down a jug of wine with a bit of sleeping powder in it, and the guards all fell asleep. And the prince rescued his best friend.” Emrys paused, looked around at all the children, and nodded. “It was hard for them both. Merlin had to leave, Arthur had to stay, and they didn’t see each other but twice a year at hidden places where they could just be best friends and be with each other as only friends can be.”
Rose smiled. “Did King Arthur bring Merlin back?”
Emrys nodded. “Indeed he did. They had many adventures together, lots of rescues and daring deeds and quiet nights by the fireside. And they were best friends for the rest of their lives. The end.”
With that, the children all clapped, and as the parents came forward to gather their kids, by the side of the room, one man in particular was smiling. Blonde and fit and a blue-eyed wonder that Emrys loved with all his heart. His destiny had arrived.
When the noise settled and they were alone, Arthur walked up to him, and ruffled Merlin’s hair, then punched his shoulder. “A knight, Merlin? A knight? What idiocy is that? You were never a knight.”
Merlin just snickered. “I was when I got chased across half of Camelot by those ruffians of Odin’s.”
“Okay, I’ll give you that.” Smiling, Arthur pulled him close, gave Merlin a sharp hug, and let him go. “At least you got one thing right. You were the bravest man I’d ever known even if you are still clumsy.”
“Well, how about I take you home and show you just how clumsy I can be?” Merlin said, sending Arthur a very come-hither smile, lowering his lashes a moment, and licking his lip.
“As long as you don’t make the swords dance.” Arthur said, his voice thick with want. “Just my sword, my knight.”
Merlin couldn’t keep it in. Laughing, he hugged Arthur close, “I can’t believe you said that.” Then sobering, he said, “I’ll always be your knight and your wizard and anything else you want me to be. Now, let’s go home.”
And as they left the room, with a wave of his hand, Merlin turned off the lights.
In the bushes, looking for the pen that he’d dropped, knowing his parents were annoyed with him but he loved that pen so he was determined to find it before they left, Reggie glanced up at the window of the storytime room. Mr. Emrys and the other man were talking and laughing and hugging. Like best friends.
And then Mr. Emrys waved the lights off. Without touching them.
Reggie stood there a moment, startled and confused and then thinking it through, he said to himself, “Mr. Emrys is a wizard, too. I wonder if he knows Merlin. I can’t wait to ask him next week at storytime.”