Title: The boy who was late
Summary: Young Percival was always late for his chores... (pre canon)
Warnings: Angst, lots of angst...
Word Count: 811
Prompt: 143 - Late
Author's Notes: Ironically I was nearly late getting this done due to a sudden attack of real life and because this wasn't the drabble I was actually going to write. I was going to write something light and vaguely amusing about Gwaine always being late for practice, but then this happened. Sorry about that. Also posted on AO3.
Disclaimer: Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made. Don't send us to the dungeons.
The Boy Who was Late
It became a family joke. “You’ll be late for your own funeral.” His mother used to say as she ruffled his hair to let him know everything was alright again after he’d been scolded once more for being late for his chores. It wasn’t that young Percival was trying to avoid the tasks his father gave him to help out around their small farm. Percival always did his share of the work. It was just there were so many more exciting things to lure him away. Just another five minutes swimming with the other kids in the water hole on a hot Summer’s day, or just a bit longer chasing frogs to put in his older sister’s bed…
As he grew older he didn’t get any better, but the reasons gradually changed along with Percival’s size. Any time he was out in the village running an errand he’d be interrupted. Would he just help carry this sack of grain for old Gertie? Could he help chop these logs because John’s hurt his back? Could he just hold the end of the cart up while we change the wheel? Everyone loved Percival as he never said no, and his parents’ couldn’t find it in their hearts to scold him anymore since he often came home with some extra eggs or a bag of turnips to go in the pot as thanks for his help. Every little bit helped when times were hard.
The years passed and it never changed, Percival couldn’t resist stopping if his help was needed. So when he’d travelled two days up the road to Inglewood to deliver the young colt his father had bred to his new owner, Percival was happy to stay an extra night to help the colt settle in and get him used to the unfamiliar plough he was harnessed to. The grateful farmer gave him two extra coppers for his help and Percival set off for home pleased with his work.
He left early that morning, speculating idly on whether there would be blackberry pie when he arrived. It was his favourite and his mother sometimes made it to surprise him if he’d been away for a few days. His pie-filled musings were interrupted by the creak of a cart and jingle of harness from around a bend in the road. Cautiously Percival pulled his horse to the side of the road, taking shelter in a stand of trees and small shrubs, but he stepped forward as the cart came into view, bearing a family and what looked like all of their possessions. Not bandits or robbers then.
Percival gave them a smile and a polite hello as he rode past.
”You’re not heading North?” The man at the reins asked in surprise. “You don’t want to be heading that way son.”
“Well, it’s the way I’m going.” Percival smiled again, puzzled this time.
”You haven’t heard?”
”Heard what?” He asked.
”There’s an army, to the North. They’re burning everything in their path. Best come with us.”
But Percival wasn’t listening any longer. He was kicking Ned into the fastest pace the old horse could manage. Ned though was more carthorse than warsteed or palfrey. He did his best, but his crooked canter wasn’t fast enough. He never would have been fast enough, because Percival was a day late and his home was gone. Everything was gone.
He knew he was too late even before he saw the village. He could smell the smoke, the burnt flesh.
A man from a neighbouring village found Percival the next day. He and the others who slowly emerged from the surrounding area helped Percival bury the rest of the dead. Percival couldn’t dig anymore. He was shaking in exhaustion, his hands raw and bleeding from searching the burnt out houses and digging graves; so many graves.
He had no energy left to protest as the men gently lead him away to their village, to the East, that had escaped unscathed. They knew Percival, he’d helped enough of them in the past. They bandaged his hands, fed him food he didn’t taste, put him in a bed when exhaustion finally brought his body to a halt.
When Percival told them what he was going to do, they didn’t try to stop him. The village smith gave him an old chain mail shirt with the sleeves torn off and the front cut open so it would fit over Percival’s large frame. A sword was found from somewhere, more food was pushed upon him and Percival set out to follow Cenred’s army and to make them pay.
He had no future, he no longer had any past. All he had was a job to do and this time, there would be no interruptions, no stopping along the way. Percival wasn’t a boy anymore and he was done with being late.
~ fin ~