Title: The Witching Hour
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Morgana
Summary: Don’t ask questions if you don’t want to know the answer. Or follow manservants at midnight.
Word Count: 1475
Camelot_drabble Prompt: pt 453: midnight
Author's Notes: unbetaed, Morgana is still nice. Witching hour = the time late at night when the powers of a witch, magician, etc., are believed to be strongest; I can’t seem to keep below the 1K mark. I don’t know why, darn it. I try, I really do.
Disclaimer: Merlin characters are the property of Shine and BBC. No profit is being made, and no copyright infringement is intended.
Sometimes Arthur wondered if Merlin truly understood what it meant to be a manservant. He was never around when Arthur needed him. He was in the tavern most of the time or so Gaius said, but Arthur wasn’t sure that was true because Merlin never smelt of alcohol after. He did his job poorly at best—because who puts dirty laundry behind the chest in the far corner, the one with spider webs all over it because he was also crap at dusting. Merlin, that’s who.
It was no different this evening.
Arthur had been up half the night worrying about the kingdom and how they were going to pay for repairs to the castle after the latest attack. He’d called for wine and Merlin to build up the fire, but no one had seen him.
Getting more and more annoyed about it, Arthur set off in search of his wayward idiot—after all, Arthur was the best tracker in the kingdom. What he didn’t expect was Merlin creeping along the outside corridor, trying and failing to look stealthy.
Arthur was just about to call him out in it but then he got curious. What was Merlin doing out near midnight? The witching hour? The hour when he should have been asleep, when he should have been getting enough rest to properly care for his prince?
Obviously, it was Arthur’s job to find out and maybe put Merlin in the stocks for making Arthur waste his time searching for a wayward, scruffy-looking, half-drunken buffoon.
What he didn’t expect was for Merlin to creep off into the Darkling Woods and meet up with a cloaked figure. Who turned out to be Morgana.
Curiouser and curiouser.
Normally, Arthur was a straight-forward thinker, a person who gets things done, who doesn’t go around listening in dingy corridors or overhearing conversations not meant for his ears. But this was suspicious, and he needed to find out just what was going on.
It had better not be a tryst. He’d already told Merlin that Morgana was strictly off-limits. Not that Merlin listened. The man couldn’t find his own backside, never mind pay attention to anything Arthur said.
Luckily, their voices carried easily in the night air.
“Morgana, look, I know you want to practice but can’t you wait until morning? The cabbage-head will want breakfast and I’m dead tired with him ordering me to do things he knows other people should. Stable boys muck out stables, for crying out loud, laundresses do laund….”
Morgana just flicked her hand, brushing off his complaints. “So you’ve told me. Many many times.”
“Well, could you maybe remind the prat that I’m not his slave?” Merlin sounded a bit put-out, but Arthur didn’t know what he was talking about. Arthur was the perfect prince and Merlin should be happy to muck out anything Arthur wanted him to.
In fact, Arthur started to make a list in his head for tomorrow: cleaning out the cesspit, catching all the frogs in the pond behind the castle—because they were really noisy and keeping Arthur up at night, braiding the tails of every horse in the citadel. But then he lost his train of thought when a ball of light appeared in Morgana’s hand.
Magic, hell, she had magic.
“Merlin, focus.” Morgana threw the light into the air, then as it hovered over her, she pulled out something, a scroll by the looks of it. “I can’t decipher this passage. I’ve tried and tried to get it to work but I keep getting interrupted at the castle. I even had to tell Arthur I was having lady problems before he’d leave.”
She laughed at that. “You should have seen his face.”
“You would think someone trained to kill since birth could deal with lady problems.” Merlin snickered, the traitor, as he looked over the scroll. “Ah, it’s a bit blotchy there. If you want to command something to fly, it’s fléog. If you want to fly, it’s Ic I fléoge.”
With that, Merlin flung his hand out, pulling the light into his hand, then whispering something, turning the light into glowing butterflies which began to fly around their heads.
Morgana looked delighted.
Arthur was horrified. Merlin was teaching Morgana magic. It wasn’t possible. The man was totally inept at just about everything. A girl’s petticoat, a clumsy fool, not… not a sorcerer.
Without thinking, he ran toward them both, yelling, “What the hell do you think you are doing?”
Terrified, his face turning white, Merlin stepped back, cowering.
Morgana wasn’t so upset. Lifting her head, staring him straight in the eye, she shouted back, “Don’t be so naïve. We’re saving the kingdom, you vain lame-brained cabbagehead.”
Blinking at her, because honestly he didn’t think she should be screeching anything but excuses, Arthur snarled, “I save the kingdom with sword and sinew, not that… that….”
Morgana laughed. “Oh, really? You think swords work against magic?” Grabbing her knife, swinging it around, she gestured with her other hand for him to come at her. “Come on. I’ve beaten you before with a sword. Want to try it again? Come on, come on.”
Arthur just looked at her as if she had gone insane. Yes, the knife was troublesome, but he knew how to take down enemies and even if it was Morgana, he wasn’t going to let her get away with learning magic—from Merlin, no less. The whole idea was ridiculous.
“Morgana, this isn’t helping,” Merlin sighed. “Arthur, I can explain.”
“You really are an idiot. Practicing magic where anyone discover you? Have you no sense at all in that empty head of yours?” Arthur scowled at Merlin, shaking his head in disbelief.
“Well, I work for you, don’t I?” Merlin snapped back. “Apparently, I do have a mental affliction.”
“Merlin.…” Arthur didn’t know what to do. On the one hand, magic was illegal. On the other hand, Morgana was as much as sister as any of blood and Merlin was just ridiculous. “Look, I can’t just overlook it, you know.”
“Of course, you can. You can even help guard us when we practice,” Morgana said, smirking as she stared at Arthur.
Arthur had to laugh at that. It was insane even to think it.
She stepped closer. “Look, Arthur, I know you’ve been carefully taught but it’s a lie. Merlin has been saving your arse ever since he got here.” Arthur glared at her. That was preposterous, even on the face of it, although there had been times where Arthur was uncommonly lucky. “We’ve been keeping you and the kingdom safe, but we need to practice our magic. There are those out there with more magical experience than us and one of these days, they’ll come for Camelot. We need to be ready.” Her face softened. “We need your help to keep Camelot safe.”
Gazing at them both, Merlin looking at Arthur as if he were the sun and all things good, and Morgana’s eyebrow quirking up to challenge him, for a moment, Arthur didn’t know what to do.
He would have to think about it. But in the meantime, he would watch them carefully and if they did hurt Camelot, he would have no choice but to make them pay.
“I’ll give you both a chance but…,” Merlin’s grin was bright, and Morgana’s stance softened just a little. Arthur said, “And it’s a big but, you can’t perform magic without me knowing about it. One slip and I’ll go straight to my father. Do you understand?”
Merlin was pretty much bouncing with excitement. Morgana, though, narrowed her eyes. “So blackmail, then?”
“I’d call it a reasonable request. Especially with the idiot here….” Arthur began.
“Hey, I’m more intelligent than you, you arse,” Merlin said, looking indignant.
“You are reckless and a total buffoon. Using magic to bring down tree limbs and causing swords to grow hot. In front of everyone. Are you a complete imbecile?” Arthur snapped back.
Morgana gave a little snort. “I’ll make sure Merlin is careful, I promise.” Then she stepped forward, sheathing her knife and gave Arthur a hug. “Thank you for understanding.”
Arthur finally managed to shrug her off. “Well, don’t get used to it. I’ll be watching you both.”
“We’re counting on it,” Morgana said.
“So you want to see some magic?” Before Arthur could shout at Merlin again, there were tiny dragons made of fire flitting around Arthur’s head, then a knight on horseback charged after them.
Arthur didn’t want to admit it, but it was fantastic. Delicate and sure, beautiful and comical, a lot like Merlin himself.
And with that, Arthur settled in to watch the show and know that while tomorrow would bring trials and tribulation, magic might just not be that bad after all.
As long as he had Morgana and Merlin by his side.