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The Unquiet Castle

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51 Re: The Unquiet Castle on Sun 18 Mar 2012, 1:12 am

“GAIUS!!!!”

But Gaius didn’t answer. Leon caught his breath, his back flat against the door behind him, too wary to move. Well, if Gaius wasn’t in his room, he had to find him elsewhere. They ought to have asked him first, before they did anything with the table. Gwaine, hopefully, would realize the same thing.

Still, the door behind him felt solid enough. He carefully turned around and put his ear to the door. He could still hear that music. “One…love? What?”

“Leon!”

Leon turned to see Lancelot down at the far end of the hall, running towards him. “There’s something wrong with the castle!” he shouted, turning back to the door as Lancelot approached. “I think it might have something to do with whatever is beyond this door!” He put his ear to the door again. “Maybe there’s some kind of spell on the castle. See if you can—“

He glanced back at Lancelot, but he was still far on the other side of the hall. For a moment Leon thought he must have stopped and started again, until he looked closer and saw that Lancelot remained static with every step. Now he was stuck in the never-ending hall.

“It’s no good!” Leon shouted. “It’s magic!”

Lancelot just kept on running. Leon sighed, and considered the door again. It was more imposing than he thought before, like the door to the great hall. He ought to open it—but that was what the castle wanted, wasn’t it? It was leading him on like a donkey with a carrot.

Lancelot was still running down the hall, when Leon’s attention was distracted by a click on the other
side of the door.

BAM! Leon slammed into the door as Lancelot slammed into him, knocking them both to the ground.

“What the--?”

“Sorry!” Lancelot said, just as bewildered. “I thought I was stuck—-at the other end of the hall! And then—-there you were!”

“It’s the castle,” Leon said, brushing himself off. “It’s got a spell on it, or something.”

“A spell? No!” Lancelot drew his sword. “What sort of spell could do this?”

“I don’t know. But I don’t think its very, er—nice.”

The door suddenly burst open, revealing a spiral staircase downward. There was a second of silence, then a shrill scream issued from depths.

“Guinevere!” Leon and Lancelot said at the same time.

“But that’s impossible…” Leon said.

“I know! I’ve heard it before!”

“But what is it, if not her?”

Another scream.

“Come on!” Leon jumped up, pulled Lancelot to his feet, and leapt down the stairs two at a time, which is particularly dangerous in a spiral staircase—especially when the staircase suddenly ends in nothingness. His foot landed on empty space.

“Whoa!”

Lancelot grabbed him just in him before he was about to fall, his legs dangling out in darkness. As he hung there, Lancelot just barely holding onto him, the stairs began to narrow, and morph into a ramp.

“LANCELOT…!”

“Hold on,” Lancelot said, trying to sound reassuring though his voice was tinged with worry, “I’ve got you, no…problem….”

Lancelot stopped. Leon scrabbled at the now smooth stone surface. “Lancelot? What’s happening?”

“Erm.” The grip on his arm tightened as Lancelot looked over his shoulder. “Don’t let go!”

“What? Lancelot, I’m hanging over endless darkness, I’m not going to HOLY SHIT!”

Leon happened to look over his shoulder and see that, below him in the darkness, Guinevere standing there. She looked perfectly alright, except that she was breathing fire.

“PULL ME UP PULL ME UP PULL ME UP!“

“Hold still, I’ll pull you up—“ Lancelot grabbed hold of his hair.

“Ow, OW! NOT LIKE THAT!”

“Sorry!” Lancelot let go, and Leon slipped down a few more inches. There was a wooshing sound and the chamber lit up like a Christmas tree as Guinevere let off a fireball at them. Leon just managed to pull his feet out of the way. “That’s not Guinevere!” Lancelot said.

“No, you think?”

“Well, what will we do?”

“Hold onto me! BY THE SHIRT, THE SHIRT!”

Lancelot grunted with effort as he took hold of Leon’s shirt by the shoulders, leaving Leon’s arms free to draw his sword.

An ominous ripping sound issued from his armpits.

“Hurry up, Leon!” Lancelot said, and Leon flung the sword hilt-over-point toward the monster. The vision of Guinevere crystallized as the sword point hit it, then shattered into a million pieces.

At which point Lancelot’s foothold slipped, and they both fell screaming into---

—the skylight in Gaius’s apothecary, which shattered under them and deposited them unceremoniously onto Gaius’s bookshelf.

“Lancelot…you can let go now…”

Leon groaned as he disentangled himself from Lancelot’s grip, and looked up to see Gwaine, Gaius and Merlin huddled against a wall of the apothecary, hiding behind Gaius’s overturned bed and table.

“Care to join us?” Gwaine said, and pointed behind Leon and Lancelot to a set of encyclopedias floating in the air behind them, snapping and snarling like wolves.

As Leon quickly jumped over the barricade and Lancelot followed suit, Gaius said almost to himself, “And you know, for all their forward behavior, I still can’t find volume twelve…!”


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52 Re: The Unquiet Castle on Tue 20 Mar 2012, 11:14 pm

Maeglin

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Gwaine and Merlin had arrived at Gaius' apothecary without mishap--though that probably had more to do with how fast they were running and less to do with how earnestly the castle was attempting to kill them.

"Merlin!" the old man had exclaimed as they barged in, Gwaine slamming the door shut and leaning against it. "Have you seen my?--"

"No time, Gaius, the castle's gone absolutely mental!" Merlin cried, grabbing him by an elbow and moving him away from the door. "Getting the table out didn't work, it--"

Gwaine yelped as a large chest full of books snapped at him like a rabid dog. "Gaius, how do we stop it?" His hand went, instinctively, to his side as if he would find a sword there--as he had already done twice this evening, and probably would do again--cursing himself for having gone soft and not wearing a sword at all times!--but instead settled for dancing around the room until he located a table to stand on.

The chest stopped snapping, just waiting for him below.

"Hey, how come it's not attacking you?" Gwaine asked.

"I don't know, how come your magic's not working?" Merlin snapped: which could only mean he was as scared and pissed off about this whole thing as Gwaine was.

There was a thought, though--the curse went after different people in different ways? That was stupid, though.

Growing bold, Gwaine reached out a foot and gave the chest a mighty kick, knocking it on its side. "Quick, over here!" Gwaine cried, beckoning Gaius and Merlin over to stand behind him, overturning the table as a barrier.

Just then, Leon had burst in, followed by Lancelot. Well, he said "burst in," but "fell through the ceiling" was probably more accurate.

"The castle's all wrong!" Leon cried, clenching his fists in frustration. "It's all...mixed up!"

"And I kept hearing things!" Lancelot added, looking like he was about to go on before blushing brightly, and three guesses and the first two don't count as to who his naughty little hallucinations were about! "Gaius, what's going on?"

"I can't find my book of curses..." Gaius said despondently. But Gaius could never find anything! He was always losing stuff!

"That's it!" Gwaine said. The curse worked on Gaius by making him lose stuff--more. The curse nullified Merlin's magic. It made Lancelot think he heard Gwen. It kept getting Leon, Mr. On Time, Mr. In Control, lost in his own castle! And it liked trying to lock Gwaine in small dark places where--

"What's it?" Leon asked. Gwaine was yanked out of his deep thought to realize that they were all looking at him expectantly.

Ah. This was one of those times where he thought he had put that all together fairly fast and cleverly, when in fact he'd been sitting there mouth-breathing for a few minutes. This was why Sir Gwaine usually didn't bother thinking, damn it! And it wasn't like it would help them get out of this mess, anyway. Leap before you look, next time, Gwaine, leap before you look!

"I thought I had an idea," he said. "But never mind."

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53 Re: The Unquiet Castle on Wed 21 Mar 2012, 6:54 pm

Of all the times for Gaius to lose something… Merlin shook his head and looked over the table to see if perhaps he could find where the thing had been misplaced. A particularly large encyclopedia dipped out of the flock and slammed into the table, and he yanked his head back a safe distance from the overturned table’s top edge.

“If it’s not the table, then why is the castle doing this?” Leon asked, sounding harassed. Merlin looked past Gwaine and Lancelot at him and shrugged. On his other side, Gaius cleared his throat and they all turned to look at him, hoping for something helpful. He was supposed to be the wisest of them, right?

“Sorry. Something else is clearly causing the curse. Perhaps it wasn’t something that was brought into the castle,” he said, which was really a great deal less helpful than the three knights and Merlin had been hoping for. There had to be something. They all tried to pummel their brains into coming up with something plausible, or at least sat there and pretended to do so, or in Gaius’ case snuck searching looks around the edge of the table, still looking for the curse book.

“Lancelot, I can’t concentrate with you humming,” Gwaine said irritably, and Merlin glanced up from staring at the floor in thought. Lancelot didn’t seem to really hear Gwaine at first, and so, because he’d apparently had all the frustration he could deal with, Gwaine reached over and punched him in the shoulder, shoving him into Leon, who yelped indignantly and glared over at Gwaine. The humming stopped, and Lancelot threw Gwaine a kicked puppy look that strongly implied he’d been taking lessons from Merlin.

Not thirty seconds later, when they’d gone back to thinking or, in Lancelot’s case, sulking, Gwaine sighed sharply.

“Shut up, Merlin!” he growled, and Merlin realized he’d been humming the same exact annoying tune Lancelot had been humming. Leon started to scold Gwaine for being cranky, but then stopped.

“I know that song,” he said with surprise. They all looked at him, and it slowly dawned on Gwaine that… he actually recognized that obnoxious tune as well. Merlin had been humming it earlier!

“Why couldn’t the two of you get a good song stuck in your heads?” he bemoaned, because now on top of the castle trying to kill them, he was probably going to be driven insane by that incessant little ditty.

“You all know the same song? Were you singing it at the tavern?” Gaius asked, and they all shook their heads.

“I heard it from Lancelot,” Merlin said, “And Gwaine probably heard it from me.”

“And I heard it when I got lost in the castle, but it does get stuck in your head, doesn’t it? Could it be that some songs are magical?” Leon added. Gaius drummed his fingers on the floor for a second.

“Some songs are, in fact, spells. Well-written ones can be cast whether one practices magic or not. When did you learn that song, Lancelot?” he asked, and Lancelot blushed as everyone looked at him.

“Oh, er… the other night. And then I started… well, hearing things…” he admitted. Forgetting that Leon, who had gone back to being quiet as usual, was sitting on his other side, he looked at Merlin, and added, “Can’t you fix it?”

Merlin stared, and so did Gaius, and Gwaine turned and gave Lancelot a look of astonishment mixed with confusion. Oh, that was right. Merlin had neglected mentioning that Lancelot also knew about his magical abilities. Lancelot, for his part, looked in confusing from Merlin to Gwaine, but didn’t say anything. It was Gaius, saving the situation, who glanced quickly over Lancelot’s shoulder at Leon before answering as if it’d been him to whom the question was directed. It was fairly common knowledge, at least, that he’d once been a fairly competent wizard in his own right.

“I cannot. I could not have done anything years ago. This spell is far bigger than anything I ever dealt with. We’ll have to find the counter-curse, or a way to uncast this one,” he said, to a chorus of groans and the ominous sounds of the kicked-over chest trying to right itself, growling and snarling the whole while.


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54 Re: The Unquiet Castle on Fri 23 Mar 2012, 12:39 am

Maeglin

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"Do you have the book?" Merlin asked Lancelot.

Lancelot rolled his eyes. "Oh. Yes, Merlin. Because I just loooove carrying books around in my trouser pocket!" he said, exasperated.

"You mean this book?" Gwaine asked, lifting a small tome easily from Lance's back pocket.

Lancelot tried to snatch it back, going bright red. "Hey!" he said. Gwaine easily handed it back to Gaius with a broad grin.

"'A Gode Boke of...' something," Gaius read out loud while Merlin glared at Lancelot, Lancelot glared at Gwaine, and Gwaine laughed at the pair of them. "now, I can't make out the last word," he hummed and hawed and adjusted his glasses. There was some luck: at least he hadn't lost those.

Leon leaned over his shoulder. "Poems?"

"That's what I guessed," Lancelot said, flinching back as a book slammed into the table.

Gaius flicked through a few more pages as Gwaine dared to poke his head over the top of the barricade. "Dammit!" he said. "The chest is back. It wants to eat me alive."

No one seemed to care.

"I think the 'P' is for 'spells'," Gaius said, finally. "It must be very old magic to be driven by music..."

Lancelot paled. "If I had known, I--"

Leon held up his hand. "No one's blaming you, Lance. Just tell us what happened."

"Um, guys?" Gwaine said again, as now a bookshelf had come free of the wall and was also advancing on them. The table was looking a lot less sturdy and safe. "Seriously, I don't think we have space for a chat right here. Does anyone have a sword? Or, you know, an axe?"

"I was just...singing, you know..." Lancelot went on. "I tried out one of the songs..."

God, was he invisible? This had to be a nightmare. The threat of being trapped in small spaces and people ignoring him. Surely this was hell.

"And, what?" Merlin prompted, growing impatient with Lancelot's delicacy. "Flashing lights? A change in temperature?"

"I--I don't know! I didn't even finish the blasted song!"

"Okay, look," Gwaine said. He was sick of all this hiding and sneaking around, and he'd much rather be on the defensive. "I'll lead them away, and you--"

A vicelike grip was on Gwaine's arm. He followed it up to Leon's ginger beard. "Don't even think about it," he said.

"You got a better idea?"

"I think I do..."

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55 Re: The Unquiet Castle on Fri 23 Mar 2012, 1:39 am

“I remember Gaius saying something about very old magic being all about balance, right?” People often forgot that Leon was in the background during almost all of the conversations that Uther and Gaius had about magic. When Gaius nodded he continued, “Well, maybe it needs something to put the castle back into balance. Like, music or something?” Honestly it had sounded more reasonable in his head.

“Oh!” Merlin said, then clapped his hand over his mouth.

Leon raised an eyebrow at him. “What?”

“I’ve just remembered—well, more of an idea, really—what if we recreate the scene? If its all about balance as you say, maybe the song just needs to be completed.”

“What—you mean Lancelot should sing the song that got us into this mess again?”

“Yeah, and finish it.” Merlin stuck his head out in exasperation. “Have you got any better ideas?”

Leon turned to Lancelot. “Right. Exactly how did you do the spell? Any detail could be important.”

Lancelot thought for a moment. “Well—I was sitting at the virginal, and I played the chords that go with it.” He pointed at the book. “They’re in the margins, see?”

“Not much luck of getting to your virginal now,” Gaius said, as a book snapped at them. “Though I do have a dulcimer in the corner over there.”

“I’ll get it,” Gwaine volunteered, and Leon wasn’t able to hold him back a second time. Screaming like a banshee, he ran out into the fray of vicious furniture and bent to grab the dulcimer from the opposite corner of the room from among a pack of rabid books. Suddenly he shouted.

“What’s happened?” Leon shouted, ready to come to his rescue.

“They’re biting me! ARGH IT TICKLES!!!” He just managed to grab the dulcimer and run back, with the books hard on his heels. With a running leap he dove behind the table, this time giving a recognizable shout of pain.

“Are you alright?” Merlin asked.

Gwaine nodded, and sat up. “Paper cut.”

Leon rolled his eyes and grabbed the dulcimer. “Alright, what’s this tuned in? Fifths?” he gave the strings a few experimental plucks.

“It’s got hammers—you’re supposed to hit them,” Gaius said. “They must still be in the corner…”

“It’s no problem,” Leon said quickly as Gwaine groaned. “I can play it like this. Get singing, Lancelot.”

“I can’t sing by myself! Gwaine, help me out. It’s been a mystery, still I try to see….”

“I can’t go that high, are you mad?” Gwaine protested.

“Fine, I’ll give it a go,” Leon said, and, looking over Lancelot’s shoulder, tried to coordinate playing an instrument he’d never played before and sing a song that was about half an octave too high for him. Lancelot’s vocal range was unmatched.

“Did you see that?” Merlin said, pointing to a flicker of blue light streaming in through Gaius’s broken skylight. “It’s working!”

“Or getting worse,” Gwaine said. Leon tried to ignore them as he also tried not to sound too much like a dying cat. Thankfully, this next bit was instrumental.

“It’s not like it was before,” Lancelot said. “There should be…more.”

“More what?” Leon said, as he picked out one of the more complicated ornamentations. It was a pretty good song, when you got into it….

“More lights, more everything! It’s not as dramatic.”

“Can you think of anything we’re missing, Lancelot?” Gaius said.

“Maybe we do need the virginal to play it right…”

Leon wracked his brain for something, anything that might be helpful. What had helped him navigate the castle when it was going wrong for him? It seemed like anything he did to outsmart the castle didn’t work at all—

Except—

“Merlin, I think I have the answer to your riddle."

Merlin's eyes went wide. "Is this really the time for riddles??"

"When you see me, you instantly recognize me. I will turn everything around, but remain absolutely still. I tell you truth that can hurt, but if you try to kill me I just multiply. It's a mirror! Lancelot—did you have a mirror the first time you played this song?”

They turned to look at him. “What?”

“Quick, the solo’s ending—someone grab a mirror!”

“He’s right!” Lancelot said, “I did have a mirror!”

“Mirrors *can* amplify certain spells,” Gaius mused. He reached over and grabbed a hand-mirror off a nearby shelf and held it up. Lancelot and Leon began singing again, and in an instant the room was bathed in multicolored light and noise.

“Whoa….” Gwaine said. But Leon’s voice was literally cracking under the strain, and as he struggled to hit the notes Lancelot’s singing went quieter and quieter.

“Merlin!” Gwaine shouted, “Help Lancelot!”

Merlin’s ears turned bright red. “Me? I can’t sing!”

“Merlin, we’ve been in too many fights and battles together—I know you can hit that pitch!”

Merlin glowered at them, both, but as Leon’s voice failed with a spluttering cough, Merlin joined in. To Leon’s surprise he was quite a good singer, and could indeed hit even the highest notes. The colors dancing around the apothecary’s walls intensified, warping the very stone and wood and glass they fell on….

Leon hit the last note, and its ringing echoes carried away the last of the multicolored lights. Everything was silent.

“Did it work?” Lancelot asked cautiously.

Gaius peeked over the edge of the table barricade, and his face lit up with joy. “Volume twelve!” he said, and hugged the beloved lost volume to his chest.

“I’ll take that as a yes,” Gwaine said. He turned and clapped Merlin and Lancelot on the shoulders. “You saved the day! Oh—and Leon, too.”

Leon opened his mouth to speak, but only a raspy squeak came out.

“Oh, look what you’ve done, Lancelot! You’ve broken Leon!”

“Sorry!” Lancelot said. “It—is a bit of a high-pitched song, isn’t it?”
“No, no, don’t apologize!” Gwaine said. “I won’t have to listen to Leon shouting at me for a few days at least!”

Leon would have shouted at Gwaine to stop making fun of him and to start putting the castle back in order if he could, but he could only sit there fuming. He glared at them all, but as Gwaine turned away he moved the nearby trunk a few inches with his foot. Gwaine jumped about a foot in the air.

“Hey, Hey! Not funny!”

Leon just laughed silently.


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56 Re: The Unquiet Castle on Mon 26 Mar 2012, 4:24 am

Since the curse had been broken and they’d decided it hadn’t been the table at all that had been responsible, the table had to be hauled all the way back up through the town and through the castle doors. As a result, Leon, Gwaine, Lancelot, and Merlin had to go fetch the table from the field where it’d come to rest. The morning after they’d all confronted the rogue castle, the four of them could be found first hauling the thing onto its side, then rolling it to the castle gates.

“I don’t think that’s a good idea…” Merlin said as they started up the hill. The table looked like it might roll back downhill at the slightest provocation, steamrolling all of them, though Merlin had given up helping to roll the thing and was helpfully giving directions.

“Well, we can’t lift it,” Gwaine panted, resting for a moment with his back braced against his few inches of the side of the table.

“Gwaine, we’ve moved it two feet, you can’t possibly be tired,” Leon said, and he and Lancelot gave the table a shove, pushing it out from behind Gwaine, who nearly went sprawling.

“I think it needs to go left. No, other left.”

“That’s right, Merlin.”

“No it’s not, it’s my left. Now you’re about to run into that cart.”

“To the right, or the left?”

“Left! No- right! Your right!” Merlin said, the volume of his voice increasing as they nearly rolled the table into a cart.

“Merlin?” Gwaine asked.

“What?”

“Stop helping.”

Merlin stepped aside to avoid the table and they rolled it on past him. He followed, kicking a little rock up the hill and hovering anxiously, until Leon very politely suggested he go around front and make sure they didn’t run in to any carts, which only caused Merlin to mutter under his breath about indecisive knights.

He had turned around to look at the table and make sure it was still going straight when he saw the corner of a cloak as it whipped around a building. Not ten minutes later, he saw the same cloak as the woman wearing it crossed the road up ahead of them. Without a word, he went after her, leaving the knights to figure the table out on their own for a minute. Why was someone wearing a cloak like that following them around? He knew someone who made a habit of doing that, and she wasn’t anyone he particularly wanted to see… well, ever, but especially in Camelot.

When she discovered she was being followed, the cloaked woman led him through a maze of little-used sidestreets, and then stopped and turned around, flinging the hood off and raising a finger angrily to scold her tagalong.

“Gw- My lady?!” Merlin yelped, and her scowl turned into a bright grin.

“Merlin! How are you?” she asked, and then wrinkled her nose at him, “And I told you before, you don’t need to call me that,” she laughed.

“I- er- fine, but… what are you doing here? Where’s Arthur?” he asked, and added, “And you’re the queen, you should get used to it.”

“But not from my friends, so please, stop,” she said good-naturedly. Then she waved her hand back the direction they’d come from, which included most of the city. “Oh, I don’t know. He put on that suit of armor ones of the lords or other gave him as a wedding gift and left me at the gate to town. Something about seeing how things were going in Camelot while he was gone,” she said, shaking her head.

“I know we’re a few days early, but, well, we were both tired of being gone. We wanted to surprise you and Leon and Gwaine! Are they getting on alright?” she asked pleasantly, while Merlin did some quick thinking and put two and two together. If Arthur was impersonating a plain knight and not wearing his own armor…

“Oh no.”

“What? Is something wrong?”

“Yes. Uh, no. No, but I have to go. You’re fine making it to the castle?” he asked.

“Merlin, I grew up here. Go on, go deal with whatever you’re so worried about,” she said, pulling the cloak up and squeezing his shoulder with a hand before she turned around and went around a corner. At which point Merlin had to find his way back to the main street. He needed to tell the knights that Arthur was back before he stumbled upon them and found out about the table!


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57 Re: The Unquiet Castle on Tue 27 Mar 2012, 4:39 am

This was ridiculous, trying to push this blasted thing up the blasted hill! *Again*! Leon tried to blow a rogue curl out of his face while Gwaine fussed with his gloves.

“Are you finished?” he panted.

“Perfection takes time,” Gwaine said, adjusting the buckles.

Leon rolled his eyes and glanced back at the sorry distance that they made so far—about ten yards. There was a very suspicious looking dent in the lower town’s wall because of it. Gwaine said it would be covered easily enough with some hay and a few planks of wood. Now it wasn’t so much concealed as framed.

Oh, Arthur would *love* that….

Gwaine decided he needed to tighten his bootstraps as well, and as he was fiddling about with them Percival and Elyan rode up. “We’ll take it for a bit, Leon,” Percival said with a grin, taking half of the table’s weight almost effortlessly. Leon thanked him for a break backed off as Elyan helped him, and tried to rub some life back into his arm. As he did he happened to notice a man in a red tunic and helmet standing at the outdoor bar in front of one of the taverns, enjoying a pint.

“Who do you reckon that is?” Leon asked Gwaine, who had just finished with his boots.

Gwaine shrugged. “One of the day watch guards? I thought they were meant to be scrubbing the great hall down today.”

“They were,” Leon said. Trying to keep the smile off his face, he shouted across at the helmeted guard.

“A bit far from the Great Hall, aren’t you?”

The barkeep scurried off, leaving the hapless guard alone at the bar. The guard looked around frantically, hoping that Leon was talking to someone else.

“Yes, you! Come here!”

The guard shifted from foot to foot, apparently unsure of what to do.

“Now, soldier!”

The guard stumbled forward, while the knights behind him tried to keep from giggling. Gwaine gave a sophomoric whoop that made the guard blush to his cheekbones, which were just visible over the helmet’s visor.

“It’s just as well.” Leon said, looking the guard up and down.” You can help us push this thing back up to the castle. Just count yourself lucky that Arthur didn’t see you taking the day off.”

Gwaine, doing much worse at hiding his grin, clapped in the guard’s face. “Now, soldier, he doesn’t mean when you feel like it!”

The guard, still obviously embarrassed, gave the table a tentative push.

“That’s no way to do it!” Merlin added, shoving him to the back where the table was heaviest. “We don’t want to take all day!”

A laugh escaped Leon’s lips at Merlin’s eagerness to join in with tormenting the guard who had picked the wrong day to skip out on his duties, but he tried to cover it with a cough. The table was still heavy, and as they pushed it back to the castle the knights’ joviality waned. The guard, with a stroke of foresight, had left his helmet on so that Leon would not have to tell Arthur who it was, but it was giving him a bit of trouble, and the edge of the table kept knocking it sideways every time it jostled. Merlin seemed to be the only one having a great time as they toiled on, perhaps because he was too busy leaping about harassing the poor guard. Leon, knowing that the guard deserved every bit of it, tolerated Merlin’s playful abuse, having his hands full with the table anyway. Still, he really had to protest when Merlin found a broom and smacked the guard on the backside with it, shouting, “Step up!” and clicking his tongue as if to a horse. Leon pulled Merlin aside.

“You can let him alone, Merlin, he was only having a drink,” Leon whispered.

“Oh, no!” Merlin replied, his brow knotted with earnestness. “It’s like you said. These soldiers never had a proper day’s work in their lives!” And with that Merlin grinned and gave the guard another smack on the rear end. Leon sighed and rejoined them, putting his shoulder a bit lower than the guard’s so that it took a bit more of the weight off.

“Won’t go wandering off again any time soon, will you?” Leon said under his breath as Merlin bounded off to open a gate in front of them.

“No, sir!” the guard said.

“See that you don’t—or you might have to rub elbows with Merlin there.”

“I do enough of that already!”

Leon knotted his brow at that, but he shrugged it off and kept pushing.


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58 Re: The Unquiet Castle on Wed 28 Mar 2012, 6:13 am

Maeglin

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"Christ, that was a journey!" Gwaine said, once they'd gotten the table settled in its former location--though hardly to its former glory. He plopped himself down in a seat and propped his feet on the table. "I could use a drink!"

"Yeah, you may have been sober for nearly two hours, there, Gwaine, you'd better get on that," Merlin joked.

Gwaine looked shocked. "Dear God, two hours? I better start drinking now if the Princess and his Queen are due back tomorrow!" he winked, but didn't move, more interested in rest than making good on that drink.

Gwaine observed the table. Aside from being an annoyingly heavy lump of rock, it meant a lot to him, as far as things ever could to a transient like him. More than his knighthood, it had marked the first time any nobleman had ever trusted Gwaine as much as he had trusted a nobleman--which hadn't necessarily been much, then, but it was an improvement on nothing.

Merlin had explained the words on the table to him: reading was hard enough (though he got on well enough, and never admitted this), so the archaic tongue--the language of the old religion--was quite beyond him. The seat Arthur took was bretwalda, "the chief king." He had taken that seat at random the first time, though something told Gwaine (besides Merlin, who had an unhealthy obsession with destiny) it was not coincidence. At his left sat eádlufe, "eternal love" or something sappy, for Gwen to sit at; and at his right, drýlác, "magic," for Merlin, which was all kinds of ironic that Gwaine found hilarious.

There was no head at the round table, which Gwaine liked. It made everyone equal, whether they liked it or not. He glanced at where he was sitting, finding himself, quite by accident, or happy design, at mægen, "strength." Really he felt awkward sitting here--this should surely be Percy's seat, strong as that boy was--but then that weird dwarf at the bridge had named him "Strength" as if that meant something--and anyway Percival wasn't exactly out of place standing at the seat for "modesty," sceamu. Next to his seat was rǽsbora, which was maybe "wise counsellor" or something, where Gaius had stood that fateful day, though he presumably had better things to do today. The next seat over was ellenweorc, "courage-work," where Elyan was standing, although Gwaine wasn't sure why; the next seat over was sóþfæst, "fidelity," which Lancelot sat at in all his obnoxious perfection. Finally, Sir Leon, on Merlin's other side, was now bent over the seat with aeþeling, "prince" written on it, trying not to look like he was catching his breath.

Gwaine wasn't normally the sentimental type, but this was beautiful.

That was, until the random day watch removed his helmet.

Leon was the first to notice. “Sire!” and he dropped to a knee.

Gwaine looked up, and fell out of his chair.

“Arthur?” he squeaked, scrambling to his feet before he got indignant. “You were spying on us?” Gwaine noticed that he and Merlin were the only ones who hadn’t taken a knee. But he bloody well wanted an explanation first! “You said you weren’t back til tomorrow! The feast isn’t ready! The table was supposed to be a surprise! I’m still sober!” he cried, as if this last was the greatest of the problems with the King’s early arrival.

“Are you quite through, Gwaine?” Arthur was grinding his teeth slightly. Now Gwaine thought he understood why Merlin had been harassing the “random” guard, and he flashed Merlin an if-we-survive-this-and-there’s-anything-left-after-Arthur’s-through-with-you-I-owe-you glare.

Gwaine at least had the self-preservation to shut up and look penitent, though he remained standing, beginning to feel he stuck out like a sore thumb but in no way was planning on feeding the Princess’ ego more than it already was.

When Gwen entered the room, however, gliding to Arthur’s side (and standing before her destined seat at the round table), then Gwaine felt stupid being the last one standing, and he knelt with the rest of the knights.

Merlin still stood, grinning like an oaf.

“I arrived early by design,” Arthur began, “in order to discover how my stewards and my knights were guarding the kingdom in my absence.” For a fleeting moment of panic Gwaine wondered exactly when Arthur and Gwen had arrived, because if it had been before last night and they experienced any of the shenanigans as a result of the cursed castle he knew for a fact that they would be blamed, and that would piss him right the hell off.

“And I can hardly say I’m surprised to find Camelot in her current state…”

Somewhere around this point Gwaine tuned him out. He’d gladly kill for Arthur, and he maybe even wouldn’t mind dying for him, but the man was a complete prat. So Gwaine missed whatever it was Arthur scolded them about until Gwen put her hand softly on his arm, and Arthur physically relaxed, sighed, and started again:

“…Which is to say, while your immediate attention to the aesthetic might leave something to be desired, I suppose I can put that down to whatever you have planned for tomorrow. Camelot’s knights, soldiers, staff, and people, however, have never looked more content. Sir Gwaine, Sir Leon.”

Leon stood, and Gwaine followed suit.

“I asked around concerning your leadership, and have heard nothing but praise for your handling of the kingdom in my absence. You have deflected threats from all directions, and kept the castle well. No man nor woman within the walls could speak ill of you.” Although the words were sincere, Gwaine couldn’t help but detect a slight air of ‘At least you didn’t burn the house down,’ though he was probably imagining it. “For your good stewardship, Sir Leon and Sir Gwaine, you shall be handsomely rewarded.” Then, almost as an afterthought, “Arise, knights of Camelot.”

A servant entered with wine. “A toast,” Gwen suggested—the Queen suggested!—taking a goblet in her hand.

“If I may, milady,” Leon asked, and, when she nodded, in his loud speech-voice, said, “Long live King Arthur and Queen Guinevere!”

“Long live King Arthur and Queen Guinevere!” the knights chorused back.

There was a solemn, heavy moment in which Arthur, his knights, his wife and his servant, stood at the round table at their ordained places. Gwaine felt it his duty to cheapen the moment.

“So does this mean I'm off the hook? That’s something I can drink to!” he said, and quaffed the last of his wine.



Last edited by Maeglin on Tue 14 Aug 2012, 3:30 am; edited 3 times in total

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59 Re: The Unquiet Castle on Thu 29 Mar 2012, 5:25 am

A couple of days passed, and Leon took a break from getting the castle ready for the welcome-home festivities by leaning against the north wall of Camelot. It felt good to lean against the familiar stone happy that the castle was back to normal.

“Hallo!”

Leon looked up to see Merlin leaning out of a window above him. Leon waved. “Have you seen Gwaine?” he asked.

“Umm no, why?”

“He told me to meet him here.”

“When I finish here I’ll have a look for him.”

“Thanks.”

Merlin ducked out of sight, and Leon went back to watching the birds, listening to the breeze and the faint sound of market day in the lower town. He took a deep breath and gave a sigh generally feeling very good about everything. They saved Camelot, put everything back in order, and best of all, Arthur had returned and everything had gone back to normal.

At least, as normal as things got around Camelot.

Leon was in such a good mood that he didn’t feel half as awkward as he should have when he saw Lady Elaine approaching from around the corner, carrying a basket and looking picturesque against the trees behind her. They hadn’t spoken or even met since the disastrous dinner. He bowed his head and she smiled at him.

“I understand the Round Table has found its way back home again at last!” she said as she approached.

“Hmm? Oh—yes!” Leon said, and found himself almost smiling.

She raised an eyebrow. “I hope it doesn’t give you any more trouble by escaping again.”

“Don’t worry, I think we’ve got it pretty well-guarded now.”

She laughed. “Its seems like you knights have all had a bit of an adventure!”

“Indeed,” Leon found himself laughing along, because when you thought about it, the whole thing really was pretty spectacular. “Mystery and mayhem, the lot of it.”

“I’d like to hear about it sometime.”

He just giggled. Strange how this feeling of triumph made it very easy to talk to her. He happened to glance down and notice her basket was filled with flowers. “Can I help you with anything, my lady?”

She shrugged and looked around. “I’m looking for honeysuckle. Merlin told me there were some growing out here.” She shrugged. “What are you up to?”

“Oh, I was just going to meet Gwaine…for…” he stopped, realizing that neither he nor Elaine were here by accident, and that Merlin was probably still within earshot, and that Gwaine wasn’t planning on meeting him at all. This appeared to be the last desperate and shallow attempt to get him and Elain together. They were probably hiding at the window above them right now, listening to everything they were saying and laughing their heads off. But—well, they were well-meaning at least. And getting a chance (albeit a calculated chance) to talk to her alone wasn’t really so terrible.

Wow, he was *really* in a good mood…

“…For what?” Elaine asked.

“…Something. Later. Not important.” He cast his eyes around, and to his happy surprise he found one honeysuckle blooming in between two stones of the castle wall. He plucked it out and held it out to her, their fingers brushing for a moment. A robin twittered somewhere nearby, making fine accompaniment to the pounding of his heart. The silence between them didn’t sound as embarrassing as it did peaceful. It felt like nothing would go wrong.

“You hardly spoke at all at dinner.”

Ah. Of course, something always could go wrong.

He cleared his throat. “Listen, about that…”

“Was there something wrong?”

“No, my lady,” Leon stammered, his mind racing for an excuse. “I just trying to“—his throat was suddenly dry—“be polite, you know.”

She smiled. “It’s alright to be shy.”

“I’m not shy,” Leon protested, though it was perfectly true. “I don’t ramble on like other people. I would rather speak carefully than say something I regretted.”

“Oh.” She stopped. “Do I talk too much?”

Leon shook his head quickly. “No, of course not!” he said. “That’s not what I meant at all. What I mean –is—“

“You’re shy.”

He stared at her for a moment, then blinked and looked down. Merlin and Gwaine were probably having a field day right now. He could swear he heard snickering from above.

“Sir Leon, you do yourself a disservice,” she said. She took his hand, coming quite close to him as she added almost conspiratorially, “But if we talked a bit more often, we might become friends.” And with that she lifted his hand to her perfect lips, and kissed his knuckles.

Leon felt himself go wobbly, and he had to step back to keep from falling over. She just smiled and turned away, walking on across the field.

Leon rubbed his beard with the backs of his knuckles where she kissed him, standing silent and still for a moment. He could still smell the honeysuckle on his fingers.

Well, they would never say of Leon that he was a coward.

He jogged a few steps to catch up with her. “The Round Table wasn’t exactly the problem. It all started when we moved the Round Table inside…”

As they walked along he glanced back at the window, and sure enough, Merlin was standing there watching. He could see that Merlin was grinning broadly.

Leon tried not to lose his train of thought.


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60 Re: The Unquiet Castle on Fri 30 Mar 2012, 2:22 am

“What’s happening?”

Merlin set down the spell book, open at “Spell 3257: How to Make Flowers Grow Right When You Need Them”. He peeked out the window. “Well, he’s seen it, and given it to her. Now they’re just talking again. I hope she didn’t forget to—oh, there she goes!”

“What? What’d she do?”

Merlin put his head to one side. “Aww, she kissed him on the hand. That is a true lady.”

“Let me see!”

Merlin pushed Gwaine back from the window. “No, if Leon sees you he’ll have an excuse to leave!” Gwaine looked at him as if he might just move him out of the way and look out the window anyway, and then he thought better of it.

“I guess you’re right. What a pussy cat he is…” he said, and went back to sitting on a chest that’d been hastily shoved against a wall as one of the rooms was cleaned. For just a split second, Merlin considered a spell that would move the chest a couple of inches all on its own. Then he reconsidered, because either Gwaine would squeal like a girl and everyone would hear them, or he’d chase him down and shove him into a bush or a small puddle. So he turned back to the window instead.

“Now she’s walking away. Come on, Leon, come on! Ah, yes!! He’s following her!” Merlin turned to Gwaine. “See? Didn’t I tell you he just needs some time alone with her to get some confidence?”

“No, this just shows that Leon needs help from us both if he’s going to make any headway with her.”

“And what makes you the expert?” Merlin asked, thinking Gwaine was maybe being a bit unfair. Gwaine said nothing, but gave him a “did-you-really-just-ask-that-question” look. Merlin just rolled his eyes and turned back to the window, and heard Gwaine gasp.

“What?” he asked, turning halfway around. His friend’s face was mixed astonishment and horror, and he froze, wondering what was wrong.

“Merlin, don’t move. There’s a huge scorpion on the back of your shirt,” Gwaine said. As Merlin turned his head gingerly to see if he could see anything over his shoulder, Gwaine motioned frantically at him to stop. Merlin didn’t like scorpions. It might have had to do with the giant ones that’d tried to kill him, but really that’d just been the icing on the “I hate scorpions” cake. He froze absolutely still.

“Well, get it off!” he squeaked. Gwaine stepped slowly across the hall and looked at Merlin’s back.

“There is no way I can touch that. Just stay here, I’ll go get something to hit it off. Don’t move!” he reminded Merlin, and then went running down off the hall for help.

An hour later, Merlin finally worked up the courage to walk very slowly to a mirror in the hall and turn so he could see the monster scorpion that was apparently attached to his shirt. There was, of course, nothing. Probably irritated by being kept away from the window, Gwaine had clearly made it up, and was doubtless hanging around somewhere nearby just waiting to see how long it took Merlin to figure it out. Merlin shook his head. Yes, everything was back to just as normal as it ever was.


Follow the further adventures of Merlin and the Friday Knights in Episode 3: "A Dish Best Served Cold"


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Supernatural: Alexander (Alex) Colt
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