Title: Two Sides of the Same Meal
Character/s: the three Pendragons, Gwen, Merlin, Hunith
Summary: The most important dinner of the year. Kid fic.
Word Count: 634
Prompt: #41 - ball
Author’s Notes: This is my first contribution -- should I wait for the mod to give me a tag or do I make one myself? Thank you! (Also, I stumbled upon the International Pasta Organization webpage while I was researching for this fic. Yes, such a thing exists.)
The young prince stared at the plate set before him, a doubtful look on his face as he eyed its contents. Today was the merriest day in Camelot – the anniversary of his birth, and this year was the eleventh. The sound of music and laughter echoed in the dining hall and spilled into the corners of the citadel, but for the moment, the prince’s attention was fixed on the second course of the evening.
There was a white mound of stuff that looked like dough, but shaped like string. It was covered with red sauce with chunks of boiled tomatoes. On top of everything were five plump balls swathed in a generous helping of cheese. He poked at one of the balls with his fork. It appeared to be some kind of ground meat. Foreign food was strange, he thought.
He looked up at the foreigner standing across the table, a stout man with sun-kissed skin and a contagious smile on his face. Aside from the usual band of entertainers from all over Albion, a few famed cooks were invited from across the shore for the celebration.
“In Sicilia, my Lord, we like to call this dough ‘macaroni’,” the man said. His accent was heavy and there was a melodious lilt to his voice, which the prince thought to be rather amusing. “The word reminds us of the way we make the dough – forceful. It takes us a whole day to prepare it, you see.” He chuckled when he saw the prince struggling with the macaroni on his fork. “It will be much easier to eat if you use your fork like this, sire.” The man made a twisting motion with his hand and winked at the king’s ward, who had already figured it out herself.
The king looked just as intrigued. “I’ve never seen anything quite like it,” he remarked, taking a bite.
The foreigner waited calmly for their reactions, but not for long. A satisfied sound came from King Uther’s lips. “Delicious, absolutely delicious. What do you think, Arthur?”
“Thith ith good!” the prince mumbled between mouthfuls of meat and macaroni. From the other side of the table, the king’s ward rolled her eyes. “How immature,” she whispered to her maidservant, who suppressed a smile.
A scruffy young boy waited patiently in his seat as his mother brought out their dinner, shivering a little as the evening draft blew through the windows.
“I made you something special today,” his mother said. “It’s not much, but better than what we’ve had for this season.”
The boy peered into the bowl in front of him. There was steaming broth, thicker than usual, with cabbages and potatoes and onions and – to his delight – five little balls of meat! Just like the ones they served during the spring festival.
“Mother! You shouldn’t have!” His deep blue eyes shone in the candlelight. “Thank you.” He got up and wrapped his arms around his mother’s waist, burying his face in the folds of her old dress.
Hunith ruffled the boy’s hair. “Happy birthday, Merlin. I know it’s been difficult for you these past months, and we didn’t get a good harvest, but you’ve been a great boy. I’m sorry this is all we could manage.”
The boy looked up. “No, Mother, don’t be sorry. I’m very happy.” He let go of her and straightened his shoulders. “Someday, I’ll learn to use my magic to make lots and lots of food and we’ll never run out! And I’ll make you the best dinner every year on your birthday, Mother!”
As he exclaimed the last words, the flame on the candle blazed for a moment, then returned to normal. Hunith shot him a look of alarm, but the boy simply laughed and sat down to have his birthday soup.