Title: Size Matters
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur
Summary: Arthur and Merlin are trudging through dire peril yet again.
Warnings: No kissing. :(
Word Count: 417
Prompt: #36 Mistletoe
Author's Notes: Pudding!
Arthur was thinking about spits.
Of course, he hadn't spitted his own kill since he met Merlin, but every branch that he swiped out of his face reminded him that he could be smelling deliciously roasting meat instead of trudging through a dense wood eerily devoid of fauna. Exhaustion was clouding the edges of his vision with fleeting shadows, and more than once he imagined he saw a rabbit or pigeon speared by the skeletal switches of the barren trees.
Merlin's silence didn't help. It was more unnatural than this godforsaken place. At times, Arthur felt that Merlin's inane chatter was some sort of good luck charm, warding off danger with a ridiculous obduracy that Death itself shunned. Even if dire peril caught up to him, Merlin would no doubt talk his way out of the underworld. Arthur quite literally could not imagine an existence where Merlin was absent from his side.
It was the effort to draw his shivering friend into conversation, more than anything else, which motivated Arthur to lunge for the tangled mess of greenery stuck in the snow-laden branches.
"Ha! I told you we'd not starve to death. Berries!"
"That's mistletoe, Arthur." A weary sigh, but his blue eyes were narrowing with impending mirth. When Arthur favored him with a blank look, he elaborated. "Dungbranch? It's poisonous."
Arthur hastily dropped the offending fruit and wiped a sticky hand on his armor. "Well. I'm sure we'll find something."
Merlin, meanwhile, broke off a sprig of the bright evergreen and inexplicably pocketed it. Arthur gave him an arch look before shaking his head and continuing his plodding march. "I hope you're not planning on serving me dungbranch tea."
"It's a thought."
"You know, there's an old story about mistletoe," Merlin offered after a short silence. Arthur didn't encourage him to continue, but of course he needed no urging. "The goddess Frigg is supposed to have asked every living thing not to harm Baldr, which made him invincible. But she neglected to extract an oath from the mistletoe, because it seemed so young and harmless. Baldr was killed by an arrow fashioned from this unassuming wood."
"And what, wise scholar, shall we learn from this tale?"
"Sometimes it's not the size of your sword that matters," Merlin responded sagely.
"Is that what you tell women?"
"Well, Gwen was quite concerned. I felt it my duty to offer her some consolation, however false."
Looking ahead at their darkening and increasingly hopeless path, Arthur smiled.