Title: Educating ArthurPairing: Merlin/ArthurFandom: MerlinRating: TDisclaimer: Don't ownSummary: When a family from Camelot move to Ealdor after King Uther is defeated by Sir Agravaine, everyone in Ealdor is suspicious and highly unwelcoming to the newcomers. In contrast, Merlin doesn't mind Gaius' family, but maybe he's just blinded by his enjoyment in teasing the youngest one, a prat named Arthur, who seems quite incompetent at things any normal person should be able to do, a fact which Merlin takes great joy in telling him, repeatedly.
The wedding of Lancelot du Lac to Guinevere was quick but surprising to none who had actually seen them together. With her marriage to Lancelot, and subsequent moving into his house, Guinevere was fully accepted into the village and through her, her family was somewhat more accepted as well. It wasn't to say that Gaius' family were the most popular people, but now at least they were spoken to more than merely watched. Gauis had become the town's physician, and that had helped the villagers accept him and his family a bit more as well, even though some of the more suspicious villagers still refused to go to him to be treated for their various illnesses.
None rejoiced more over Lancelot's marriage than Gwaine, who comforted all of the broken hearted women who had lost Lancelot to Guinevere. He was truly enjoying himself too much, and Merlin felt the need to remind him that one day he'd mess up and leave one of his conquests with child and he'd be forced to take responsibility. That had sobered Gwaine quite a bit, and he'd looked at Merlin accusingly for days because he'd "ruined his fun".
Arthur had started hunting in the forest to their right, and was now catching quite a lot. He beamed with obvious pride every time he came back with something new with which to feed his family, and had forbidden Elyan and Leon from joining him on his hunts, something which Elyan took in stride, but obviously bothered Leon. Then again, Elyan's free time and attention was taken by Will's sister, something Will was not happy about in the least. But Will really couldn't say anything because his sister would probably kill him if he tried to get in the way of her epic romance. Sophia was scary like that. She would spend the time outside the small hut Elyan had transformed into a smithy (apparently his and Guinevere's father had been a blacksmith in Camelot before its fall and had taught his son the trade) and even convinced the villagers to try his ware by convincing them that by doing so they gained even more independence from the rest of Essetir. It helped that Elyan was very good at what he did. The villagers began to accept him more, as they had Guinevere and Gaius.
Will had still very much on the fence concerning Elyan, not at all happy with his courting his sister, and then Elyan found out Will's weakness for topiary and that was that. He designed special tools for Will so that he could shape the bushes around his house into even more ornate designs, and Will was suddenly on Elyan's side, berating Sophia for not being "good enough" for the blacksmith and that she needed to "treat him better".
It was the surprise of none when Elyan soon married Sophia, and the village got together to help build them a cottage of their own. It was a big deal that they did this, it proved to all how accepted Elyan had become by the village. Merlin enjoyed the house-building, helped in it, and found pleasure in informing Arthur of all the things he was doing wrong. Arthur, of course, was not grateful for the multiple corrections and they spent the next couple of days arguing nonstop. It really made the whole experience entertaining for the warlock.
"Merlin, you really need to stop teasing that poor boy," his mother tutted as she served their food that night at their home.
"I am not teasing him." Merlin tried for innocent. "I am merely educating him."
"Merlin, please, you are like a little boy pulling the braids of a girl." Hunith raised an eyebrow. "If you like the boy that much, you should just court him."
Merlin choked on his gulp of water and pounded his hand into his chest. "Court him? Mother, have you had too much sun today?"
Hunith tutted once more. "It is no surprise that you favor your own gender, Merlin. Everyone knows that."
He shook his head. "I do not 'favor' my own gender. I just choose to find people attractive due to their personality and not their gender." He pursed his lips. "I do not find Arthur's personality attractive in the least bit."
"Of course you do not." Hunith smirked.
That look on his mother's face was chilling, and he didn't say anything else the whole night.
Despite the fact that he did not like Arthur, his mother's words haunted him and Merlin could see why she'd come to that conclusion. It was why he decided to stop "educating" Arthur and instead leave the boy to his own devices. It wasn't as if Arthur actually appreciated the help he was getting anyway. Merlin busied himself with tending to things at his own home, and he ignored any of his mother's attempts to bring up how Arthur was or anything else about that family. In fact, he managed to unknowingly avoid Arthur for a good two weeks. He even forgot he was avoiding the boy as he threw himself into working the land, fixing up the house, and then helping with the preparations for the festival.
It was only the second day of helping with the preparations that he came face to face with Arthur.
"I am here to help." Arthur let out a deep breath. "Both of us are."
Leon had already grabbed some wood and listened to Freya as she stuttered out what he needed to do.
Arthur, instead, stood in front of Merlin.
Merlin looked up, his gaze went to Leon, and then returned to Arthur. "Ask Freya, she will let you know what they need help with." With that he looked down and continued with what he was doing.
Arthur made a little annoyed sound and stormed over to where the girl was. He returned a little later with some things and set them down near Merlin. He then began to stumble through what he was doing. Every couple of minutes he'd send Merlin a little look before he continued on trying to figure out what he was doing.
Curious, Merlin sent Arthur little looks when the boy wasn't looking in his direction. He realized that Arthur had been given one of the smaller wicker effigies to construct. Arthur obviously had no idea what he was doing and was messing up. Merlin opened his mouth to correct him and then closed it and continued with what he was doing.
Arthur finally growled and turned to look at him. "This is idiotic."
Merlin looked at him and then down at the mess at his feet. "You are doing it wrong." At Arthur's scathing look, he couldn't stop his chuckle as he put down what he was doing and moved to show him how exactly one was supposed to construct the small wicker effigy. "It is a little tricky, but once you do it a couple of times it becomes second nature."
Arthur merely watched him in silence.
"Did they not have celebrations such as this in Camelot?"
Arthur shook his head. "The Old Religion is banned. Any such custom we might have had was long lost."
"I'm sorry to hear that." The Old Religion was such an integral part of Ealdor custom that Merlin couldn't imagine a lifestyle in which it didn't exist.
"I am not." Arthur frowned. "Magic is evil."
Ah, he really was a Camelot boy, wasn't he? Merlin smirked and shook his head as he levitated the effigy and finished it via magic. He could hear the silence from Arthur, the boy obviously shocked. "You're wrong." And with that he walked away.
Now it was Arthur who avoided him, and it admittedly stung a little, but Merlin tried not to take it to heart. He merely continued helping with the preparations of the festival, and took care of everything else as well. There were rumors of unrest happening around the kingdom, and villages surrounding Ealdor had been hosts to some very unscrupulous characters. It was why Merlin kept an eye on the horizon as much as he could, and while once a couple of days ago, he'd seen a rider on the hill overlooking the village, no one had actually ventured into the village. He hoped it continued this way.
"I think it is unrest from Camelot spewing into our territory," Gwaine announced with a frown, his distaste for the country obvious in his tone as he helped Merlin and some of the other men raise the large wicker man which would be burnt as an offering to the gods. Within it, fruits and grains, as well as assorted tokens, have been placed as personal offerings.
"It could be likely," Lancelot agreed with a grunt from the other side. "They may have overthrown their tyrannical, and mad king, and King Agravaine now sits upon the throne, but there are those who say that Uther's heir escaped with his life. These people we have heard about might be King Agravaine's men searching for the young heir as he could one day try to recuperate his father's throne."
"Well, I hope that never happens." Will's face was red from his effort. "Uther Pendragon was the worst thing that could've happened to Camelot, and his son would be just as bad in my opinion."
"Hear, hear!" Gwaine turned to Lancelot. "You are married to a woman who used to work in the Camelot court, did she not tell you anything about the situation there?"
Lancelot shook his head. "Dear Guinevere does not like to speak of her time there, neither of their escape. All I know is that all those who worked in the castle were in danger, as they were seen as faithful conspirator's of the hated King Uther. It is why her uncle had to escape with them, as Guinevere and Miss Morgana were both servant girls to the king's ward, and Arthur, Elyan and Leon were once knights. Gaius himself of the Court Physician."
Merlin's gaze went to where Arthur and Leon worked nearby, quite possibly in hearing distance of this conversation. He supposed he could see the boy as a knight. He had that air about him.
"Merlin, you have magic." Gwaine sounded like he had just thought of this. "Why exactly are we doing physical labor when you could have all of this done with a snap of your fingers?"
"Half of the fun of the festival is the preparations-the bonding experience." Merlin sidled his friend with a look. "I would not deprive you of that."
Gwaine gave him a look that said he wanted to punch him.
Merlin grinned largely.
"Besides, Gwaine," Lancelot spoke up. "You know that Merlin usually does not use his magic unless it is truly needed."
"My back needs it," Will's voice was strained.
Merlin rolled his eyes at his friends as they finally got the wicker man in place. He stepped back and his eyes flashed gold as he held his hands upwards, and the wicker man was secured firmly into the earth. The rest of the men stood back and watched as his magic worked, and when it was done the wicker man was ready, standing proud.
"Good man, Merlin." Gwaine clapped his shoulder as he stared up at the looming effigy that was vastly larger than the other effigies being secured around it in a large circle.
"I have my moments," Merlin agreed.
The men shared chuckles and went to get water to quench their thirst. Merlin remained where he was, staring up at the wicker man with some pride. They'd outdone themselves this year, and he was sure that all the surrounding villages would be able to see the flames once this was lit.
"I was told that the followers of the Old Religion sacrificed criminals in their wicker men," a voice declared in his ear. "All I see so far are grains, fruit, and trinkets."
Merlin didn't look away from the wicker man as Arthur came to stand by his side. "Camelot is daft."
Arthur sent him a glare, he could feel it.
"We do not offer human sacrifices. The gods wouldn't be too pleased with that. True, there are some cults who do practice human sacrifice, but they are not true followers of the Old Religion." Merlin pursed his lips in thought. "I will not deny that there are some offerings in which the spilling of blood is required, but it is our blood that is to be spilt as we are offeringourselves to the gods."
Arthur was quiet.
Merlin didn't know whether that was a good thing or not. "Were you truly a knight?"
He flinched and turned his gaze on the wicker man as well. "I do not like to talk about that."
Merlin pressed on anyway. "Camelot would not have fallen had their king not forgotten that it was the Priestess of the Old Religion at his side who helped him win his wars and make him the king of kings that he was once considered."
"You know nothing about the king." Arthur's voice was harsh. "He might have had his faults, and he might have dealt a heavy hand, but he was a good man who did not deserve the end he received!"
Merlin turned his gaze on the boy, on the stark pain there, and realization hit him that this had been no mere knight. No. This was the impassioned defense of a son blinded by his love for his tyrant father. Many things made sense to Merlin there, especially Leon's subservient attitude towards this boy, as well as his incompetence when it came to certain things that any person should know... unless they were a prince who was used to being waited upon and having everything done to him.
Arthur gulped as he stared at Merlin. "What?"
Merlin took in a deep breath. "I did not agree with anything that King Uther stood for, but I am sorry for your loss."
The boy looked a mixture of confused and a little scared. "I did not lose anything but a king. That is all."
Realizing that this boy was in hiding, and his only safety was in the lie that he'd been a mere knight, Merlin allowed him this falsehood to hide behind and feel some modicum of safety.
He glanced over at the effigy Arthur had secured. "You did that wrong."
Arthur pursed his lips. "I did not-."
The effigy collapsed to the ground on its side.
Merlin's lips curled.
Arthur's lips parted. "You did that with your magic!"
"I did not, when I use magic my eyes turn gold." To prove his point, his eyes flashed gold as his magic went to work, lifting Arthur's fallen effigy so that it was standing straight, and then correctly fastening it into the ground.
Arthur's mouth opened and closed, apparently his default reaction to Merlin, before he closed his mouth and narrowed his eyes at him.
Merlin smirked and left the boy there, feeling quite proud of himself.
Morgana was magic.
The realization fascinated Merlin, especially since he'd realized that she was the king's ward that Guinevere had tended to. Once he'd learnt about Arthur, he'd observed the others, and while Guinevere was sweet and kind, she did not have that regal, effortless elegance that Morgana did. Merlin felt admiration for Gaius at the realization that he had saved both royal children from most certain death and, at his own personal risk, continued to care for them. They had brought unnecessary danger to Ealdor, and Merlin doubted that the villagers would be happy if they found out the truth, but he kept it to himself.
"He's coming!" Morgana whispered, eyes clouded over as she walked in a trance of sorts through the night, clearly in vision. "He'll find us and kill us! He'll raze this village to the ground!"
Merlin emerged from the shadows and placed his hand carefully on her shoulder, magic activating as he peered into her vision. He could see King Agravaine's men (disguised as bandits) descending on Ealdor, which was a mess of flames and chaos. Morgana and Arthur were killed, executed, while people died all around them.
He narrowed his eyes and took the vision into himself, causing Morgana to collapse into his arms. He wasn't physically strong, but his magic helped as he arranged the sleeping woman into a more comfortable position his arms and started towards Gaius' house. Considering his hands were busy, once he reached the door his magic rapped at it loudly.
There was the sound of complaints and someone coming to the door before it was opened to reveal Leon, whose sleepy eyes grew alert and wide when he noticed Merlin and Morgana there. "What happened?"
"I found her sleepwalking out by the effigies." He didn't know if they knew she had magic, so he kept her vision to himself.
"Who is it?" Gaius could be heard calling.
"It is Merlin." Leon called behind him as he made a way in the door for Merlin to enter. "He has brought Morgana."
"Oh dear." Gaius could be heard coming close.
Merlin entered the dwelling, Morgana in his arms, and noticed Arthur as the boy appeared behind Gaius.
"What happened?" Arthur came towards the girl and then looked up at Merlin.
"I was overseeing the effigies, the last minute preparations, when I noticed her walking within the wicker circle. I went to tell her that while Ealdor is relatively safe she should not be wandering on her own in the dead of night, when I realized that she was asleep." He passed her to Arthur and then turned to leave.
"Thank you," Arthur called from behind him.
Merlin's eyes widened and he turn the book at the boy, knowing it was hard for him to say that. Just because of that fact he took the thanking gracefully and didn't tease him any further. "You are welcome." With that he walked into the night.