Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Uther, Gaius
Summary: Uther was having none of Merlin calling his son names in public. There were consequences.
Warnings: punishment off-screen
Word Count: 950
Camelot_drabble Prompt: pt 419:bingo-round 2in public
Author's Notes: rough salt in a wound can make the wound worse because of skin tearing. Otherwise, salt can also help the healing process.
Disclaimer: Merlin characters are the property of Shine and BBC. No profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
“Clotpole,” Uther paused, looking up from his list, staring first at Arthur and then at Merlin, before frowning down again at the paper. “Turnip-head, cabbage-head, ass.”
His heart sinking at Uther’s furious face, Arthur shuffled a little. “That’s royal ass, Sire.”
“Royal ass?” Uther scowled at him, his voice dripping with contempt. “So noted. Prat, bone-idle toad… need I go on?”
When Merlin started to open his mouth, Arthur kicked at him, shutting him up. Arthur ignored Merlin’s glare as he said, “I believe that list is… incomplete, Father. He also calls me Sire, My Lord, Your Highness, and defers to me in all things. This is simply a misunderstanding.”
Merlin was being sensible, for once. It must have occurred to him that being brought before the king in chains might be a hint that Uther was upset. Or it could be that Merlin really did have a mental affliction. It was hard to tell.
Uther wasn’t having any of it. “You are Prince of Camelot and my heir. These insults reflect on you and on this kingdom. It is a sign of weakness to allow such familiarity, especially in public. You might overlook such offences, but I do not.”
This was looking worse and worse. Arthur only hoped that Merlin would keep his mouth shut or he might lose his tongue or even his head.
Stepping closer, shielding Merlin’s huddled body from Uther’s view, Arthur said, “Father, I was my mistake, then. Other courts have fools to amuse them. They are often touched in the head as Merlin is, but they are also prized for their insight and their loyalty. And you must admit that Merlin has been very loyal to me, offering his life for mine several times.”
“As he should. As all servants should. A prince’s life is worth a thousand of theirs.” Uther glared at Arthur, looking for something, a flinch perhaps, an admission that Arthur was lying. But it just made Arthur stand straighter, looking at his father with a steady gaze. Finally, Uther said, “Other kingdoms may have fools, but not Camelot. He will curb his tongue, or he will lose it.”
Arthur began to breathe easier. He’d have to talk to Merlin later and explain things. Hopefully, it will penetrate that thick skull of his. If it happened again, it would surely get back to Uther and the results could be dire.
Uther wasn’t finished. “Mistake or not, there needs to be a lesson here. This is as much for you as him. For your servant, ten lashes and salt rubbed in after. You will watch.”
Behind him, the chains were rattling, and Arthur could feel Merlin trying to struggle to his feet. Shoving him back down again, his hand hard against Merlin’s bony shoulder, Arthur said, “Father, you can’t….”
Scowling, Uther said, “Do you want to make it twenty?”
Twenty might kill Merlin. Arthur wasn’t willing to risk it. Quickly, he shook his head. “No, Father.”
“Do it now before I change my mind and take his tongue as well.” Uther turned away, frowning down at the paper. “I’ll want a full report after. And we’ll have no more nonsense of this ever happening again.”
With that, Uther nodded to the guards who began to drag Merlin away. Arthur gave his father one last look, and then followed.
By the time they’d got to the dungeons, Merlin was shaking like a leaf, clearly terrified. Arthur couldn’t really talk to him, not with the guards around, but as soon as they tied Merlin up, Arthur ordered them outside. Turning to him, Arthur said, “Look, we only have a few minutes. I can knock the guards out, and you’ll have to escape through the postern gate, but if you make it to the Darkling Woods, you should be okay. I’d not go to Ealdor just yet, but after a couple of weeks, Father will have forgotten all about it and you can go home then.”
Merlin shook his head. “I’m not leaving you.”
Arthur reached over, cradling Merlin’s face in his hands. “Merlin, this isn’t a little cut. It will leave scars and the salt will burn like fire for hours after. It’s torture, no matter what my father might call it.”
“I’m not leaving you, prat.” Merlin gave him a little smile. “Who else would put up with you?”
“Merlin, don’t be an idiot. I’m not worth this.” Arthur wanted to shake him, make him see reason before it was too late.
“Please, we only have a few moments.”
“I’m not leaving.” But obviously trying to make light of it, he asked, “But after, can I have the day off?”
“Two,” Arthur murmured.
And then there was no more time.
Arthur would never forget Merlin’s tears. Merlin tried to be brave, but the rough salt crystals rubbed in after tore his flesh even more. He could barely walk, whimpering as Arthur guided him back to his room.
Gaius was ready for them. He tried to remove as much of the salt as he could, but Merlin groaned with every touch, and it tore Arthur’s heart as Uther must have known it would.
Reluctant to leave, it wasn’t until the guards appeared and told him the king was waiting, that he gave in and did as he was commanded. But when he reported on Merlin’s condition, Uther just grunted, then ignored Arthur, kept him standing by the throne for hours.
It was indeed a lesson for them both.
But it wasn’t quite the lesson Uther wanted to teach Arthur - because Arthur swore to himself that once he was king, Merlin could call him anything he wanted. He’d even make a list.