Title: The Legend of Ealdor Village, Part 1
Character/s: Merlin, Hunith, characters based on Washington Irving's characters from "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow"
Summary: Merlin goes to investigate a headless knight that has been terrorizing Ealdor.
Word Count: 866
Author's Note: This has completely gotten away from me! I meant for this to be a simple, short little piece inspired by "The Legend of Sleepy Hollow," and instead it's turning into a Merlin-setting retelling. So, this is Part 1; Part 2 will be at my fic journal
The words his mother had written to him ran through Merlin's mind as he rode toward Ealdor.
...riding through the village at night...
...a headless ghost...
...appears to be that of a knight...
So far, it had done nothing more than terrify the villagers and livestock, but after the experiences he had had with spirits, Merlin dared not trust that this one would remain harmless. Arthur had agreed with his assessment, and that he should go; so, armed with a book from Gaius that would hopefully come in handy, Merlin set off with all haste.
He did wish that he had not read the book over whilst stopping to set up camp along the way. He had seen enough frightening sights, lived through enough that he was almost embarrassed at being spooked by the tales related in those pages. All the same, long after he had set the book aside and laid down on his bedroll for the night, sounds which he would never have noticed before brought to mind spectres and other amorphous creatures bent on doing harm.
It did not help that his second day's journey was marked by dark clouds overhead and mists conjured by the cold air above and warm ground below. He was relieved to finally catch sight of his home village.
Whilst he would have been even more relieved to settle in front of the fire in his mother's house, as it happened, there was a gathering at a comparatively large, new house at the far end of Ealdor. With everyone so frightened, the party was meant as a way for the villagers to relax, and Merlin arrived just in time to walk with Hunith to the house.
"The family moved in several months ago. They had a very prosperous farm closer to the seat of the kingdom, but what with everything going on there the past few years, they have been looking for a new place to settle."
Merlin gave her a wry smile. "So, they wind up in the village with a headless knight riding about?"
Despite the fact that she was obviously worried about it all, Hunith laughed a little. "It would appear that way."
The house was warmly lit, with signs of the harvest all around and good food (if far simpler than that found at Camelot) for everyone. Their hostess, Myn, greeted them at the door and introduced Merlin to her husband, Balt. They knew of Merlin and his work with King Arthur from Hunith, and the friendly manner they all had with one another made it clear that they had become good friends in the family's short time in the village.
Merlin had just filled plates for himself and his mother and was turning away from the food table, when he had to stop short to keep from dumping it all over a pretty, young woman. "I'm so sorry!" he exclaimed.
"No harm done," she replied, smiling after recovering from her initial surprise, though there was some confusion in her eyes. "I do not believe we've met. I'm Catrin, Balt's daughter."
Shuffling the plates so as to extend his hand, which she took, Merlin began to say, "I'm Mer--"
"Merlin," Bran cut in, striding over. Instinctively, Merlin closed off the open manner he had been employing moments earlier. Bran had loved to torment him when they were growing up-- and had also been the reason Hunith had finally sent Merlin to Gaius, after Merlin had (magically) sent Bran flying into a pile of dung during a particularly nasty exchange. It had taken some verbal dancing on Hunith's part to divert suspicion from Merlin, and whilst he still regretted that, he would never regret the sight of Bran, covered in horse droppings. He had been very glad to see that Bran was nowhere around the times he had visited Ealdor since... but, it would seem that the ass was back.
And, was standing in a rather proprietory fashion beside Catrin. "Hunith's son?" she asked, glancing between them. Her smile widened as her eyes settled on Merlin again. "She speaks of you often; I'm so glad to finally meet you."
His own eyes were still guarded when they went back to her, although he wanted to be more friendly with her. "I can't imagine I will live up to what she has said," he attempted to joke.
Bran laughed a bit too heartily. "I can't imagine you will, either." Apparently not noticing the disapproval on Catrin's face, he continued, "Though, who knows; perhaps you will surprise us all, and dispatch the headless ghost." He laughed even harder after saying that, though Merlin's chin went up a notch at that.
"Perhaps I will," he replied.
Catrin's eyebrows went up as the men's gazes locked. Likely hoping to prevent any unpleasantless at her family's party, she took Bran's elbow. "You look thirsty. Why do you not come with me and get a drink?" As they turned away, she gave Merlin an apologetic look.
With a sigh, Merlin went to find his mother and eat their dinner with her. He was planning to dispatch the ghost, but as usual, would likely not be able to take credit for it...
(to be continued...)