Love and Lakes

Shadowing Merlin

As Leon awoke, two blurry faces were sitting beside him. They slowly came into focus, and Leon could see both Arthur and Guinevere beside him. Upon seeing him awake, they stood up and leaned over him. “Leon!” Guinevere said with a smile on her face. “You’re awake! Oh, we were so worried, Elyan had woken up yesterday and we thought you wouldn’t make it...” She rambled on for a second, before stopping. “You get some rest, you’ll need i- what are you doing, you’ve just woken up!” Gwen attempted to push Leon’s shoulders back onto the bed, but she was doing it gently to avoid hurting him and thus did nothing to stop his movements.

Leon started to talk, even though he had little strength. “I - I need to see - Merlin...” Arthur furrowed his brow in confusion and moved a bit closer to Leon.

“Merlin? Why would you want to see Merlin?” His voice was incredulous.

Leon tiredly shook his head and put a hand to his forehead. “There - there’s something I need to talk to him about, sire...” But before he could do anything, black spots erupted into his vision and Gwen was able to carefully push him back down onto the bed.

“You need to rest, Leon. You’ll be alright soon, I believe.” It was the last thing he heard before falling unconscious.

Waking up again was a much better feeling than it had been the first time. He felt strong and awake, and his body didn’t hurt or ache. All he felt was a small headache, and that was it. In the corner, he could see Gaius sorting through potions and salves, completely clueless to the fact that Leon was awake. Before Gaius could turn around, Leon lightly hopped off the bed and sneaked out of the room. Needless to say, Gaius was thoroughly confused when his patient had suddenly disappeared, but he assumed Leon had gone off as the knights usually did. Leon was in good condition, and Gaius decided to just let him be. Besides, he could not bring his old bones to go chasing after the head knight, anyway.

Leon was quickly slipping through the corridors, staying in the shadows. Ahead of him, Merlin was threading his way through the flow of servants, carrying trays of food. It appeared to be lunch time, because at all other times it was not this busy. Leon was lucky; Merlin would not notice somebody shadowing him at such a time.

And yet, every twenty seconds or so, Merlin glanced over his shoulder with a suspicious expression on his face. He should not have known or felt that there was somebody shadowing him: Merlin was just a servant, but he still knew that somebody was keeping track of his movements. Tracking skills like that were only found in the most experienced of knights...

Suddenly, Merlin took a turn off into a corridor that was most definitely not on the route to Arthur’s chambers, where he should have been going. Leon hung back for a while before following. However, Merlin’s actions did not seem to be suspicious in any way. After walking after Merlin quietly for a couple minutes, he ended up at Arthur’s chambers, which Merlin quickly walked into without a knock. Apparently, the route they had taken was really just a shortcut to Arthur’s rooms.

After waiting approximately ten minutes, Merlin came out of Arthur’s rooms in a huff, before storming off in the direction of the armory. Upon arrival, Merlin sat down angrily and started to aggressively polish Arthur’s armor. Leon stood by the doorway, peering into the room. He didn’t quite know why he was shadowing Merlin like this, but he knew that Merlin had something to do with the miraculous escape of the knights from the sorcerer’s custody and Merlin’s sudden recovery from what sounded like a mildly serious head injury. And he wanted to find out what Merlin had done that had to do with this.

Leon was snapped out of his thoughts when loud footsteps were heard from the end of the corridor. He took refuge behind the open door to the armory that Merlin had so carelessly flung open just minutes ago.

When the people came into view, it was obvious that it was what looked like a visiting noble and a few men. Leon wondered why he hadn’t known a noble had come before realizing that he had been unconscious for several days, and shook his head with derision directed at himself. The noble, when you first looked at him, looked like a slimy, slicked back sort of person that would get into a sword fight with someone and then stab them when their back was turned. The people accompanying him looked as if they could be guards, or perhaps mercenaries.

The men stood in the doorway, looking formidable. Leon peeked out if the doorway enough to be able to see what was going on, and it was not looking good.

Merlin stood up, abandoning the armor and his innocent look. “Why are you here, Vormeth? I know it was you who tried to poison Arthur’s lunch today. Luckily, that attempt failed before Arthur could get any of that food into his mouth.” Leon frowned at Merlin’s strong, authoritative tone. It was not like the Merlin he knew.

The noble spoke back. “Do not take that tone with your betters, boy.” He spat. “These are things that are above your little head. The King is going to die, and there is nothing any useless servant can do about it, especially not you. Broden?” A particularly nasty looking man stood forward when he heard his name.

“Take care of the boy. He won’t be messing with my plans anymore.”

Leon drew his sword quietly, preparing to defend Merlin. The boy was quite useless with a sword, and there would be nothing he could do against these traitors. But, to Leon’s surprise, Merlin only smiled.

“Please, it’s almost laughable that you think you could kill Arthur or me. He’s got me protecting him, even if he doesn’t know it. And the trouble Arthur gets into! Oh, both of us are still alive and well, and you think that you could possibly get through me to kill Arthur? You don’t know how many times I’ve saved Arthur’s life from petty assassination plans like this. Poison: at least five times, minimum. People trying to discreetly kill him in some sort of fight: More times than you could count. Regular, pathetic old assassins: most likely seven, maybe more. Not a single one of them could manage to get through me. So if you think you’re any different, you’re in for a big surprise.” The man named Broden simply growled and advanced on Merlin.

Merlin’s eyes flashed gold, and Leon suppressed a gasp. Merlin - a sorcerer? The men in the armory all froze on the spot before falling asleep. Merlin sighed and started to walk out over all the people, but it was then that Leon decided to make his presence known. He blocked the entrance to the armory, brandishing his sword but making no attempt to use it on Merlin. “Merlin,” Leon said cautiously, “What was that?”

Merlin’s eyes were wide and he staggered backwards, attempting to form a believable lie. But before he could say anything, Leon moved forward, lowering his sword slowly. “Merlin,” he said a little more softly, “Please don’t lie to me. What you did and what you have, er, apparently done was brave. I just want to know the truth of the matter.”

Merlin nodded, before gulping. “I - I have magic. And I use it to protect Arthur and Camelot - only that, mind you -” He explained hurriedly. “And I would really appreciate it if you kept my secret. If Arthur found out, he might imprison me or banish me or execute me or hate me, and if he did any of those things, I couldn’t protect him or the kingdom so please-” But Leon cut him off.

“Don’t worry Merlin... I mean, it will take some, er, getting used to, but you can trust me. As long as you protect Arthur and Camelot. But if you do make any move on either of them, I will not side with you.” Merlin nodded understandingly, and then grinned.

Merlin tilted his head to the side and suspiciously asked, “Why are you so quick to trust me? I am a sorcerer, after all, and you are a Knight of Camelot.”

Leon answered quickly. “I was around age five in the days of the Great Purge. I saw innocent people, some of them friends of my family, get burned at the stake or drowned. Young druid children, some even younger than I was, were killed publicly and their deaths were celebrated. It was a horrible thing, and had I been a knight then, I would have stood against the needless slaughter of hundreds of innocents. I still have nightmares...” Leon shook his head, recovering, before he continued. “But what I mean is that I saw that magic was not all evil, and that the killing of these innocents is not right. I have lost sight of that over the years, and I think maybe I should remedy my judgement on the subject of magic. Watching you protect Arthur like that... I guess I just remembered that maybe magic can be a force for good, as well.”

Merlin nodded, and continued to smile for a few seconds until they heard footsteps again and an echoing shout of, “Merlin! Are you done with my armor yet?” Merlin’s eyes widened, and he looked at all of the unconscious men lying around. He couldn’t very well let them go free from this, but he also couldn’t take credit as his harmless manservant. He walked up to Leon quickly.

“Make something up, please, that doesn’t involve me knocking out all of these people. Especially don’t involve magic, either. He’ll believe it more coming from you, anyways.” Merlin hissed.

In a second, Arthur was around the corner and suddenly there was a room full of very asleep people. He looked down on them, and then up confusedly at his manservant and the head knight. “What happened?” Arthur half-shouted.

Leon spoke up. “Sire, both me and Merlin were walking down this hallway when we heard these men plotting to assassinate you. Apparently, they already made an attempt on your life-” Leon made a quick glance at Merlin - “but it failed. Anyways, upon hearing this plan, we knocked the men unconscious. I do have Merlin to thank, though. He did most of the work.” It was technically the truth.

Arthur looked incredulous, but it seemed as if he bought it. “Merlin? Merlin did most of the work knocking out this noble and his knights? It must have been an accident, because Merlin here can’t seem to do anything.” At this Merlin grumbled and then exited.

Leon carefully approached Arthur and whispered to him. “Sire, Merlin is more skilled than you believe. He has saved all of our lives many times, and one day you will recognize that. He truly has done many things for you and for Camelot, and I think you should appreciate him more than you do.” Having said his part, Leon left a thoroughly confused Arthur alone in the armory beside the pile of unconscious men on the floor.

It wasn’t like Leon to reprimand Arthur like that, not like him at all, Arthur thought. Whatever Merlin had done had to have been something. But soon, Arthur dismissed the thought, shrugged, and called in the guards to start lugging the men down to the dungeons. He’d have to ask Merlin later.
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