Title: Inside Out – part 5
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Uther
Summary: Merlin and Arthur had a mission, kill the three-headed snake. But Uther wasn’t pleased.
Word Count: 1090
Camelot_drabble Prompt: pt 419:bingo-round 2- holiday
Author's Notes: not betaed as always.
Disclaimer: Merlin characters are the property of Shine and BBC. No profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
Merlin had to hand it to Arthur. When Arthur decided something, he went for it, and at least the first time he tried to oppose Uther’s command, he was more subtle than Merlin would have expected.
Arthur didn’t tell Uther no. Instead, he gave reasons, good reasons, why the mission to rid Greenbriar of a giant snake with three heads might include talking with Gaius about possible tactics and weaponry beyond sinew and steel. Arthur offered alternatives to just blundering in there with a bunch of new recruits and gleaming swords. And Arthur didn’t use the word blunder, either, although Merlin was thinking it.
When Uther turned stubborn, insisting that Arthur leave immediately and alone since Arthur was reticent about using the untried knights, Arthur nodded and seemed to capitulate. Merlin was disappointed, but he just sighed and followed Arthur out of the council chamber, thinking that they’d have to saddle the horses right away if they were to leave before mid-day.
But Arthur didn’t head for the stables. Instead he went to Gaius to ask his advice about giant three-headed snakes.
Merlin wanted to crow with joy that finally Arthur was stepping out into his own, not just as some extension of Uther.
Gaius’s advice even worked. Had they not found out ahead of time about cauterizing the snake heads as Arthur cut them off, Camelot might have had a dead prince or Merlin having to use his magic and being found out. Either outcome could have been disastrous.
Instead, the villagers at Greenbriar rejoiced and thanked Arthur profusely for saving them.
Of course, when they returned, dragging one of the snake heads back as a prize for Uther, Uther must have known what Arthur had done.
Sitting on the throne, surrounded by courtiers, staring at the snake head, then scowling at Arthur, Uther said, in a cold and forbidding voice, “I see you have brought back a trophy for Camelot.”
Arthur bowed his head a moment. “The village of Greenbriar is safe. They send their thanks, Sire.”
Uther stared at Arthur, flicking his eyes toward Merlin, then back again to Arthur. “You had help.”
“Merlin was there to take care of the horses and cook the meals, nothing more. I and I alone defeated the beast, as you commanded.”
That wasn’t quite true. Merlin had readied the torches as Arthur fought the monster, then cauterized the necks as each snake head was removed. It was a nasty business, but together, they proved a smooth and formidable team. Arthur even thanked him later and called him brave. The memory was still warming Merlin’s heart.
But Uther wasn’t done. “I forbid you from seeking out Gaius and yet you did so. Defying my command to set out immediately. When lives were at stake, you thought yourself better than your king.”
“Gaius was instrumental in helping us defeat the creature. I thought….” Arthur’s voice had turned flat and tone-less, reminding Merlin of the old Arthur, the one scarred by years of Uther’s spite.
“Enough.” Standing up, signaling for the guards, Uther said, “You will learn obedience. Perhaps a night in the dungeon will remind you of it.”
Merlin expected Arthur to flinch, as he’d done so many times before. But instead, he bowed, then marched head high into the cell, the guards in his wake. Merlin followed, thinking to share Arthur’s sentence, but one of the guards shoved him aside and told him that the king said only Prince Arthur was to be punished.
“Let it go, Merlin. It’s only one night. It’s not like I didn’t expect it.” Arthur settled down, testing the bed for strength, bouncing a little on it, then leaning back against the wall. “He’ll let me out in the morning, then yell some more and we’ll see then.”
Merlin scowled at that. “It’s not right. You saved an entire village. Why can’t he see that?”
Arthur let out a sigh, shaking his head a little as if he couldn’t understand why Merlin was being so thick. Finally, when Merlin just stared at him, confused, Arthur must have realized that Merlin didn’t understand the dynamics of royalty. Why would he after all? Ealdor’s hierarchy was very simple, everyone helped out, everyone reaped the rewards. If one person shirked their duty, it could be devastating for the rest of the village. But it was based on cooperation, not commands.
“Merlin, I’m a threat to him. Yes, I’m his heir, but if people start coming to me instead of him, he’ll lose face. He’ll count that as weakness, and he’ll have to act.” Arthur shrugged as if it were perfectly obvious.
Merlin thought about it a moment, considering all the ramifications, then said, “Was I wrong, then… to push you?”
“No, I needed it. I need to be my own man if I’m ever going to be king. I can’t be a reflection of my father.”
Merlin was thrilled to hear it. Giving Arthur a huge grin, he sat down next to the cell door, and tried to get comfortable. “Then as your own man, I’ll keep you company. So you won’t be alone.”
“You should get some rest. It’s not like I’ve not been here before, you idiot.” But although he gestured Merlin to go, his hands shooing him away, a momentary scowl on his face, when Merlin didn’t leave, Arthur looked pleased.
“All the more reason to stay.” Merlin gave him another grin, then settled back against the stone wall. “Did I ever tell you about the time Will and I accidently let out Old Man Simmon’s prize pig? Watching Hildagard running across the field and Simmon yelling his head off about it was hilarious. Well, until my mum found out. Boy, was she mad. She made me slop his pigs for a week after.”
Arthur rolled his eyes, as if he couldn’t believe he’d be subject to the tales of Merlin’s mischief. “Merlin, how many stories do you have?”
“Loads. Did I tell you about the time we smoked out our hut to kill the spiders in the thatch? It was raining the little buggers for days after.” Merlin gave a little shudder. “I hate spiders. I know they eat bugs and such but really, they’re nasty things. Have you ever looked at one close-up? They’ve got those huge eyes and mandibles and hairy legs and… ugh.”
“Merlin, I’m glad you are here.” Arthur said, his voice fond. It sounded like he really meant it.
It made Merlin feel good inside to hear it. “Me, too.”