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A Word for Forgotten Songs (14/?)

Title: A Word for Forgotten Songs
Fandom: Merlin
Characters: Merlin, Arthur, Uther, Gaius, Gwen, Morgana, Leon, OMC
Rated: PG-13
Word Count: 1,927 (this chapter)
Summary: A strange warrior arrives in time to save Arthur and Merlin from bandits. He is wounded and falls ill. As Gaius cares for the wound, he knows the blade was dipped in a potion that only affects those with magic. After he heals, Merlin talks with him of magic and Arthur spars with him. They then learn that the bandit attack was not random.
Author's Note: This has been sitting on my computer for over 3 years! It's still not done but I couldn't put off the posting any longer. The original character is from one of my series and I kinda place him in lots of fandoms. His original series starts here. The story is set in series 2, somewhat early on. It's unbeta'd so all mistakes are my own.

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Alan smiled at the snuffling sounds coming from the other men. It was interesting that Arthur would listen to Merlin – most likely because the servant didn’t mince words, wasn’t a “yes” man. He could see the beginnings of the legend in their banter. When Arthur learned about Merlin’s “magic”, everything would change. If having Arthur distrust him kept Merlin safe a little longer, he could deal. And if with his actions, he helped Arthur realize that not all magic was evil, it would be another plus. But first things first.

He found his pack in the dim light and rummaged through it until he found the parchment, quill and ink he had packed at the last minute. He sat at the small table and began to write out different scenarios to “kill” Arthur. Alan knew they would have to tell Uther what was going on or he would completely lose it.

Going by how low the candle had melted, he knew it was time to wake Arthur for his shift. He walked over and knelt beside the bed. If the prince were to find him looming, things could get unpleasant. “Arthur, time to get up.”

Arthur groaned but didn’t wake. Alan took his life in his hands and prodded him in the shoulder.

“Merlin, it’s still dark,” the prince moaned.

“It’s your watch.”

Alan didn’t know if it was his voice or his words but Arthur was awake immediately. “Alan.” He propped himself up on his elbows. “I thought Merlin had first watch.”

“Yeah, well, he got a bit tired while we were talking so I took it.” Alan stood and backed away as Arthur sat on the edge of the bed. “I jotted down a few ideas about how to kill you if you want to read them.” He yawned.

“Get some sleep,” Arthur told him as he stood.

Alan flopped onto the bed and settled into the indentation left by Arthur. He heard the prince as he walked around the room. There was a pause and Alan cracked open one eye. Arthur had stopped by Merlin’s bed and was pulling the blanket over the servant’s foot that was sticking out. Alan closed his eyes and smiled. He drifted off to the sound of rustling parchment as Arthur read the notes.

Alan woke the next morning to see Merlin setting out clothes for Arthur. He shook his head at the absurdity of it. There was hardly any room in the bags to bother with different clothes, let alone not be able to find them yourself.

Merlin saw the look. “It just saves time. He wears what’s out and I can pack everything else.”

Alan looked over at the lump on the other bed and knew Arthur was pretending to sleep. He looked over at Merlin. [You know he’s faking.]

[He does that some mornings to avoid talking to me.]

[Let’s see if we can get him up and talking.]

“Merlin, tell me,” he said conspiratorially as he changed his short, “is Arthur always so stuck in his ways?”

“Oh, he’s improved a lot,” Merlin stated. “He was a spoiled prat who talked down to everyone.”

“And now?”

“He’s still a spoiled prat. Don’t know why I saved his life.”

“Merlin!” Arthur sat up in bed, indignant.

Alan looked at Merlin and they both burst out laughing.

“Very funny,” Arthur grumbled as he rubbed a hand through his hair. “Are we ready to go?”

“Soon as you get dressed,” Merlin answered. “Alan and I can go get some food to save time.”

Arthur looked at them as if gauging to see if he could trust them. “Fine.” He tossed a coin purse to Merlin. “We’ll meet up at the smithy.”

Grinning at passing Arthur’s test, Alan pulled on his boots and grabbed his bag before following Merlin out of the room.

**********

Merlin enjoyed watching Alan barter. He made it seem like he was doing the traders a favor by buying their products. He got them some good bargains from the baker at the apple seller. Merlin knew with his face it wouldn’t work as no one ever took him seriously. Except maybe Gaius under certain circumstances.

With provisions stocked, they made their way to the blacksmith where Arthur was trying the weapons.

“He doesn’t really grasp that this is supposed to be secret, does he?” asked Alan.

Merlin could see Arthur’s stance was one of a knight, not the commoner he was supposed to be. “He never had to pretend to be poor before. I don’t think he knows how.”

“C’mon, Merlin, compared to him, everyone is poor.”

Merlin grinned. “We’d better get him before he says something we’ll all regret.”

They joined Arthur and Alan clamped a hand on his shoulder. “’Course we’d find you looking at swords while your brother and I did all the shopping. You ready, boy?”

Arthur flinched but Merlin couldn’t tell if it was from the hand on his shoulder or being referred to as “boy”. Most likely the latter.

At the look from Alan, Arthur swallowed his retort. “I’m sorry, Uncle. I was on my way to the horses when I saw the swords.”

“If you’re not a noble, a sword will only attract trouble.”

Merlin knew the truth in Alan’s words. Most of the commoners who had swords were thieves, smugglers – or worse. He hoped Arthur realized it as well.

Thankfully, the disguised prince saw the wisdom in what Alan had said. “Fine,” he said sullenly. He put the sword back on the rack.

“Good. Let’s get going. We’ve already spent too long here.”

They reached the stables to get the horses provided by their “employer”. Merlin expected to see nags barely able to stand, let alone carry a person, so he was shocked when the stable hands brought around three rather large horses in peak condition. The saddles and tack were included. As he was loading the saddle bags, Merlin’s gelding kept nudging him in the back. He must smell the apples. He made sure the bags were secured before patting the horse on its side. “I’ll save you one.”

“Mercius!” called Arthur. “Get a move on!”

Merlin rolled his eyes as he mounted the horse. Of course, even acting as brothers, Arthur was still ordering him around.

They made their way from the city and kept up the pretense until they were a few hours out. They stopped to rest and water the horses by a small stream. Merlin doled out the bread and cheese as they sat in the shade, As they were still in Cenred’s kingdom, they kept the conversation in character. There was no talk of magic or assassination.

Alan refilled the water skins while Merlin and Arthur checked the bags and tack to make sure nothing had come loose while the horses were free.

Merlin took an apple from his bag and his horse nickered when he saw the treat. The horse took it straight from Merlin’s palm and he stroked the animal’s nose as it munched away.

“Oh, for the love of--” came Arthur’s moan.

Merlin looked up, a retort on his lips, but grinned widely when he saw what had started Arthur complaining. Alan was feeding his roan an apple as well.

“I’d rather him like me for feeding him as opposed to him trying to throw me off. I’ve seen it happen. Not pleasant.”

“Fine. You can tell me about it while we’re moving.” Arthur was in a hurry to leave.

“Whatever you say, your highness,” Alan said in a voice laden with sarcasm as he pulled himself into the saddle. “I can’t believe you’re in such a hurry to get back there since you couldn’t wait to leave.” He motioned for them to go along with it.

“I think it was that girl at the tavern,” commented Merlin.

“Oh, right. Daisy?”

“Rose.”

“Lilly!” they agreed.

“Just because she ignored the two of you…” Arthur stopped when the sound of hoofbeats became louder.

A pair of Cenred’s knights soon entered the clearing and Arthur turned his head away. Merlin kept his head down as well. If he were recognized, Arthur was discovered as well. The knights only took it as deference; peasants who knew their place. Just when they were about to demand the three of them get out of the way, Alan shifted position in the saddle, exposing the seal they had been given last night. The knights, upon spotting the seal, swallowed any comments and ignored them as they left.

They trotted the horses back to the road and then galloped towards the border. They slowed to a more sedate pace for any border guards who might be watching. Once they crossed, Merlin heaved a sigh of relief. He always found it agonizing whenever they were in unfriendly territory.

“We should try to keep that seal if we can,” remarked Arthur. “It would certainly come in handy.”

“Those knights’ faces when they saw it…” Merlin grinned. “And you were so calm about it,” he told Alan.

“Yeah, well, it’s something I picked up on my travels. Never let them see fear.” Alan smiled.

“We have a long journey until we reach Camelot, so why don’t you tell us a few.”

Alan hesitated, so Merlin decided to help him. [Tell us about Rimílid.]

“OK. There’s one that’s rather interesting. One time I stayed with a community that most likely hasn’t changed in close to 100 years, I lived with them for a few months and it was so calm, so relaxing after most of my adventures. I’d go hunting with them and they even gave me a name: Rimílid. It means ‘kingly warrior’ in their language.”

“Aptly named,” stated Arthur. “You fight well and you show concern for everyone, no matter their status. That is truly noble.”

Merlin’s jaw nearly dropped. Arthur had complimented someone he knew had magic. That was unheard of. Granted, there were very few instances where Arthur had knowingly come face-to-face with a magic user.

“Thank you, Arthur.”

“If either of you repeat this to anyone, I will deny it.”

Of course he will, Merlin thought.

Alan chuckled. [I wonder if there’s any way to get him to repeat it?]

[Only if he has to defend you somehow.]

[Let’s hope it doesn’t come to that.]

“If I could, I would knight you,” Arthur continued, oblivious to their exchange. “But as you weren’t born a noble, that’s impossible.” Arthur looked in Merlin’s direction.

“I learned my lesson with Lancelot. No more false lineages.” Merlin held up his hand like he was making a pledge.

“Good.” Arthur looked at Alan. “What other adventures can you tell us about?”

Alan grinned and launched into a tale about saving two princesses and restoring them to the throne. Merlin could tell Alan was editing the story as he told it, putting it in terms he and Arthur could understand.

When they came within sight of Camelot’s towers, Merlin fell back so that he was riding behind Arthur as a servant should, not beside him as an equal. Alan copied him.

They walked the horses into the castle courtyard and two stable-hands came to lead the horses away as they dismounted.

“I just need to let my father know I’ve returned and then we can all clean up and eat.”

Merlin started for the kitchen.

“Where are you going?” Arthur asked him.

“To get your bath water.”

“Just tell one of the other servants to prepare it. You’re probably just as exhausted as I am.”

Merlin smiled. “Thank you, Arthur.”


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