Title: It takes a village
Summary: It is said that it takes a village to raise a child.
Word Count: 430
Camelot_drabble Prompt: 360 – Village
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.
Merlin heard it often enough. A thousand little sneers that piled onto his chest, the stones of insult and contempt weighing him down until he felt like he was being crushed into nothingness. Whispers, pointed and cruel, said just loud for him to hear, but never around his mum. Only him. The worthless idiot who had the temerity to be born without a father.
As he got older, the whispers didn’t stop, but he learned to tune them out, to put a smile on his face for his mother’s sake. It seemed to madden those tormenting him, and the words became fists and shoves, laughter when he tripped into the pig slops or tangled himself in nettles or slipped on a sudden pile of dung shoveled under his feet.
He couldn’t retaliate. His mum made sure of that. The one time he tried, magic gathering on his fingertips and in his eyes and him ready to push back at last, the terror on her face was enough to dissuade him from ever trying again.
Hunith did struggle to stop them though, talked to the village elders, shamed the bullies in front of the entire village. Even his only friend, Will, faced them down, insulting them for being cowards and threatened to beat them into pulp if they continued.
Instead of listening, it just made things worse. They became more vicious with every day he stumbled through their lives. Even Hunith’s ire wasn’t enough. And they were hurting Will, too, and Merlin couldn’t stand that.
Merlin was at the end of his rope, enduring the insults, the pain. The hope that they’d eventually get tired of it all and leave him and his alone had died long ago. He was ready to push back, to use magic and the consequences be damned.
And then everything changed.
Somehow they must have found out. Maybe it was Old Man Simmons’s tree crashing down or the way Merlin made Will laugh with floating apples and butterflies or maybe it was just that they’d realized the term bastard was not enough.
But in Ealdor, the very hint of magic was a horror, and deadly.
Somehow, they’d found the right word to call him after all.
The loathing with which they accused him was a hundred times worse than fists, but it was his mother’s face that was the final straw.
He knew he’d have to leave. Merlin knew at last the cost of being himself.
It is said that it takes a village to raise a child.
It only took a village to defeat one.