Title: Moonlight mist
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Arthur refuses to let him or his father be labeled a coward. If it takes a night in the woods and a full moon, then so be it.
Word Count: 735
Camelot_drabble Prompt: pt 423: Merlin by moonlight
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.
A full moon was always a warning sign in Camelot, attacks by magic, attacks by marauders, attacks by mystical beasts.
People tended to huddle inside, their doors and windows bolted, chimneys sealed tight. Even his powerful father, as fearless and strong as any man Arthur knew, did not wander out on those nights, much as Uther might shout about superstitious nonsense.
But when Arthur heard the whispers of dangers and sorcery, heard the guards talking about how the royals were just as much cowards as any who would hide behind wood and stone, he couldn’t let it go. He didn’t punish them, as much as he thought they should be, but he took the mutters of cowardice to heart and planned on meeting it at the next full moon.
It was silent in the woods, the mists rising over the lake. No wind brushed through the trees, no hooting owl off in the distance. Arthur hadn’t started a fire, though, not wanting to attract brigands, and so he sat, back up against a tree, his sword across his lap, ready for anything.
He hadn’t meant to fall asleep, but as he jerked awake, the moon had risen. Looking around and then down at the lake, he could see a bright band of moonlight rippling across the water, and where it touched the shore, someone stood.
He was wrapped in faint mist, the moisture gathering first at his feet, then seeming to float away back toward the moon. Arthur couldn’t see his face, he was turned away, but he could hear the soft laughter and a voice murmuring.
Standing up, clutching his sword in his hand, Arthur looked around. Often where there was one person, there might be a dozen more, and while he was the best swordsman in Camelot, he wasn’t stupid. It could get ugly fast.
But as he moved closer, he could see the other looking back at him. A teenager and nearly Arthur’s age. Young eyes flashed in the moonlight, his face moon-pale in the darkness, his hair black as the night sky, but as he smiled at Arthur, he said, “It’s beautiful here.”
“Who are you? What are you doing out so late?” Arthur said, sharp and annoyed.
“Visiting. Mother Earth is so alive with the songs she sings, the sights and smells of all in her domain, but sometimes she gets lonely.” The youth looked up, staring at the moon a moment, then back at Arthur. The bright mists around him seemed to shift, too, floating up, wrapping his hair in a circlet of moon-lit cloud.
Arthur didn’t like it one bit. It smacked too much of sorcery. “Mother… Earth? Are you addled? The world isn’t alive, it’s just dirt and rocks and, I don’t know why I’m explaining it to you.”
As the teen lifted his hand, the mist flowed away from his face to curl at his wrist before sinking down again to wreath itself around Arthur’s feet. It seemed almost alive, which was ridiculous and more alarming than Arthur wanted to admit.
Smiling, the stranger said, “You are of the earth, too, and you are alive, are you not?”
“I’m not discussing philosophy with an idiot.” Arthur tried to grab his arm, but his hand just slipped through, like there was nothing there. “What the….”
The youth smiled, his teeth flashing white, and his skin seemed to glow a little brighter. “I’m not really here, you know. I’m only visiting.” Then he looked up, nodding toward the moon. “The earth is vibrating with life and energy and warmth. But sometimes, she needs a friend and who better than the bright moon, don’t you think?”
“Earth doesn’t need a friend.” Arthur scowled at the fool.
“We all need friends.”
As Arthur watched, the other began to grow translucent, the moonlight on the lake behind him growing brighter and brighter. Arthur could hear the lapping of the water on the shore and the rustle of leaves above his head, the mists moving like living things a moment before dissipating into the woods beyond. There was bird song, and the squabble of squirrels overhead and a thousand other sounds of early morning.
When he opened his eyes, the sun was sending shafts of light sparkling across the lake.
It had all been a dream.
Except for the echo of a faraway voice. “We all need friends, Arthur. Even you.”