Character/s: Hunith, Merlin, Will
Summary: Hunith paused for a moment in the doorway of her tiny cottage, stopping in the act of sweeping out the dust and grime that always seemed to accumulate no matter what she did. The main cause of it was racing through the village towards her, her son Merlin, all spindly limbs and wild hair that wouldn’t be tamed no matter what she did to it. And on his heels, the other cause, Will, Merlin’s best friend.
Word Count: 984
Prompt: 133 - Wicked
Author's Notes: This also fills my hc_bingo square 'witch hunt' - that's 16/25 done. Not betaed, sorry.
Read on A03 here
It was late October when it happened, the mild weather of the summer having well and truly given way to the windy, wet weather that preceded the winter.
Hunith paused for a moment in the doorway of her tiny cottage, stopping in the act of sweeping out the dust and grime that always seemed to accumulate no matter what she did. The main cause of it was racing through the village towards her, her son Merlin, all spindly limbs and wild hair that wouldn’t be tamed no matter what she did to it. And on his heels, the other cause, Will, Merlin’s best friend.
She stood aside to let them pass, and the pair of them scrambled into the cottage and raced over to hide under the table.
“Close the door!” Will cried.
Hunith looked down the street, but there was no sign of pursuit. She finished her sweeping, ignoring the hissed ‘hurry!’ and ‘mother, please!’ from beneath the table, carefully put her broom beside the door and, with another glance around, closed the door.
“Finally!” Will groaned.
“Just what is it that you two have done this time?” Hunith asked. She looked at Merlin, because she knew Will was likely to try a cover up. Her little boy, on the other hand…
Well, he wasn’t so little any more. At seventeen, soon he would be grown and gone away from her forever. Because there was no way he could stay in Ealdor, not with the things he could do. It was just a matter of time before someone noticed.
“We didn’t do anything,” Will claimed. “It was old Mrs Farnsworth, we crossed her field and her cows charged us. We ran.”
Merlin was looking guilty. Hunith knew that look all too well. She was starting to dread it. “Merlin. What did you do?”
“We were scared.”
“I wasn’t scared,” Will asserted. “Stupid old cows.”
He gazed up at her with fear in his eyes, and she knew for certain that he’d used his magic again. And just as he opened his mouth to admit it, there was a fierce rapping at the door, someone shouting outside to open up and let them in.
It was what she’d always feared. She’d always drummed it into him that he had to be careful, couldn’t let people see.
“Hunith! Open the door!” That was a different voice. Matthew, from a few doors down. He was a good man, an honest man.
Whatever Merlin had done, if she was to protest his innocence she needed to open the door.
“Get up, the pair of you,” she whispered. “Look as if you’re helping make dinner.” Then she walked as calmly as she could to the door and opened it.
Outside, there was Matthew, Mrs Farnsworth and two of her cronies all looking furious, and Mr Simmons who was probably just there because he hated her boy.
Behind them was a cow, being held by Mrs Farnsworth’s eldest son. A cow with an unnaturally crumpled horn. Hunith couldn’t recall seeing it before.
“Whatever are you all making such a fuss about?” she asked. But she knew. She tried to clamp down on her fear and remain calm.
“Your boy did this!” Mrs Farnsworth gestured towards the cow. “Him and that William. There was nothing wrong with my animal before they went near her with their unnatural ways. You know, in Camelot, they burn sorcerers? We should do that here!”
“Don’t be so ridiculous!” Hunith scoffed. “How could either of those foolish boys have done… what is it they’re supposed to have done anyway? The cow looks perfectly fine.”
“The horn,” Simmons pointed out. “That’s the sign of evil, twisted like that. Sign of something wicked. Animals know, they can tell when there’s something bad.”
“Well I suppose that’s why you don’t keep any!” Hunith told him. “Honestly, Matthew, this is ridiculous. That cow’s most likely either always had a misshapen horn, or its run into a tree or something. You’ve known Merlin since he was a babe, William too. How could you bring these people here making such…” she looked pointedly at Mrs Farnsworth. “wicked accusations?”
“I’ve never trusted that boy,” Simmons growled. “Nearly killed me felling a tree, he did.”
“My son is very clumsy, it’s true. But he and William are just boys, playful and foolish like all boys. Would you really want to lay such false, horrible accusations at them? Hasn’t William’s poor mother suffered enough, losing her husband? You’d risk her son too? And my boy? He’s all I have! How can you even think such a thing of them?”
Matthew looked guilty, ashamed, even though he was probably only there to try to keep the peace. Mrs Farnsworth started to look a little doubtful. She glanced back at the cow.
“I suppose it could have injured itself when it was chasing the boys…”
“Who shouldn’t have been in your field, and I apologise. Merlin! Will! Come here and tell Mrs Farnsworth you’re sorry for upsetting her animals. I’ve told the pair of you before…”
Simmons wasn’t convinced, Hunith could tell. He was watching her boy suspiciously whilst Will and Merlin sheepishly apologised for running through the field and scaring the cows. She’d got them through this time, but next time they might not be as lucky.
Closing the door, the boys both safely inside, Hunith wondered if perhaps it was already time to start thinking of finding Merlin a mentor, someone who would teach him to hide his magic. Gaius was at Camelot, which was as far from safe as anywhere she could think of, but he was a good man, he knew about magic, and he would help her son.
Merlin gazed at her guiltily. Will pulled a face at the closed door and made a rude gesture.
“Start cooking dinner, you two,” she urged. “I have a letter to write.”