Title: inside Out – part 1
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Gwen, Morgana
Summary: Merlin would have thought Arthur would like the faire when it came to town. After all, there were jugglers and horses and colorful crowds and fun, but there was something else going on under that prattish exterior.
Word Count: 1100
Camelot_drabble Prompt: pt 419:bingo-round 2- amusement park
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 didn’t understand why Arthur didn’t want to enjoy the revels of the traveling faire. The jugglers, the fire-eaters, the dancing girls, even non-magical but definitely interesting exotic peacocks with their huge tails, were a treat.
But Arthur just grumped and moved away, closing the window so Merlin only saw the distortions of it all through the glass.
It was only later that the prat let Merlin go to the faire, mostly because Merlin nattered about it for so long that he wore Arthur down. But Arthur couldn’t help getting in a last shot, saying that Merlin had a mind of a child and rolling his eyes, and then reminding him not to come back in the morning with an aching head because Arthur would make Merlin take Gaius’s hangover potion. That alone made Merlin vow not to drink anything stronger than watered-down wine. Gaius’s potions were the worst.
After sampling fruit pies, trying his hand at throwing daggers – without magic of course, watching a Punch-and-Judy show with puppets in lively costume, and shooing away one persistent peacock who kept wagging his tail at Merlin, he caught up with Morgana and Gwen.
Morgana was smiling indulgently at Gwen who was trying her best to toss a hoop over a bottle and win a prize. Merlin was tempted to give it a little push so that she’d win something. She deserved it. But Morgana just laughed, and the barker gave Gwen an embroidered handkerchief as a reward for nearly winning. People were always trying to butter up the royals with gifts and tokens and by extension those that royals favored, but in this case, it made Gwen smile and that’s all that was needed.
After that, they ate more pies, shared gossip about Mary the cook and one of the stable boys, admired the horses in the ring as they danced around, and generally had a marvelous time. Merlin didn’t even get drunk which he counted as a win.
But as darkness fell and the faire closed for the night, Merlin said, “Arthur wouldn’t come. I tried but….”
Morgana spoke up, “He never goes to these sorts of things. If it’s a formal affair, then he’s obligated but otherwise, he hides in his room until they are gone. Although he won’t admit it. He’ll find some excuse or other.”
“But why? He’s faced down ogres and questing beasts and all manner of bandits and warlords. He’s no coward,” Merlin said.
Morgana shrugged. “As far as I know, he’s always been like that.”
But as Merlin turned away, Gwen looked guilty. So Merlin just stared at her until she started babbling. “I shouldn’t tell you this. It’s not a secret, but he never talks about it and it was pretty scary at the time and people will… I mean… some people might mock him for it, and while he’s a, sorry my Lady, but he’s a not always a nice person, still it’s not right that he’d be tormented for what happened to him as a child, you know?”
Morgana turned toward Gwen, looking as if she had no idea what Gwen was talking about. “Oh, I would love to hear about it.”
Knowing Morgana would tease Arthur for any weakness, Gwen turned stubborn instead. “My Lady, begging your pardon, but if you are going to ridicule him for it, I’d rather not tell you. It wouldn’t be right.”
Then Gwen stood there, looking very upset, wringing her hands, biting at her lip, but she also had a mulish look in her eyes. And she was silent which was unusual for Gwen.
Finally, Morgana relented. “Very well. I promise you, Gwen, that I will not mock Arthur for anything in this story nor will I tell him that I know about it. Is that sufficient?”
Gwen gave her a huge smile, then turned to Merlin.
Merlin threw up his hands. “Of course. Arthur may be a prat, but what happened to him as a kid stays a secret.”
Reaching over, Morgana linked her arm with Gwen’s, Merlin walking next to them, and then the three of them found a quiet place in the far corner of the courtyard and sat down.
“It was awful. I only heard about it because my mum was maid to Sir Leon’s mum, Lady Eleanor, and I wasn’t supposed to hear but you know how kids are. I was always under foot.” Gwen looked around to make sure no one else was listening.
“Arthur was maybe six and he’d been talking about the faire for ages, He’d even bugged Lady Eleanor to intercede because King Uther didn’t want him to go. Somehow Arthur finally wore him down, but unfortunately, he gave the guards the slip once he was there. I don’t know why. Maybe he just wanted to have fun and be wild for once.”
“I can’t picture Arthur having fun. Wild maybe if he’s hunting or playing knight, but having fun, no,” Merlin said.
“He was different after.” Gwen looked down at her hands, winding the handkerchief she’d ‘won’ around her fingers. “They kidnapped him and… King Uther didn’t want to pay the ransom. He’s….” Gwen’s voice softened into a whisper. “A miser with money. I don’t know. Maybe he thought he could threaten them or bluff his way through. But when they finally found Arthur, it was days later, and he was hurt pretty badly. My mum said that he cried when Gaius set his leg, and a couple of fingers, too. And he refused to come out of his rooms.”
Morgana said, “He’s fine now, well except for the emotions. He’s like his father in that.”
“I think he’d have been all right eventually, but the king wouldn’t let Arthur show any fear after. He’d… thrash him sometimes or throw him into the dungeon if he did and he was only a kid.” Gwen looked like she was going to cry. “I think it really affected him.”
“Poor Arthur. That’s awful,” Merlin said. He was thinking of just how hard it must have been, to be injured and hurt and then have his father beat him into submission. No wonder Arthur wouldn’t show emotions. It’s a miracle that he was functional at all.
Putting her arm around Gwen’s shoulder, Morgana said, “Thank you for telling us. It explains a lot. And I promise I won’t hold it over Arthur. Much as he’s an annoyance, he’s still got a good heart under all that bluster.”
Merlin said, “I promise, too. It sounds like he’s still not over it.”
Gwen nodded. “He probably never will be.”