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A Dish Best Served Cold

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51 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 28th June 2012, 04:37

Maeglin

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After cleansing his palette with a stoup of wine and a bit of cheese, Gwaine felt ready to take on the world again after the onion masquerading as an apple. He found another apple as well, just to make sure he wasn't ruined for life, and, though his first bite was tentative, Merlin hadn't enchanted all the apples in Camelot it seemed, so he munched happily away.

Merlin and Leon weren't in Gaius' apothecary when he returned. He'd spent a good long while first composing himself and then flirting with the kitchen staff (a little one-sidedly, admittedly, as they resented his onion breath--another reason for Merlin to pay dearly) and then eating, so he rather expected them to be done with dropping off the gnomes in Arthur's room. It might be a good idea for him to scout out what he'd be dealing with, anyway, if the Queen still wanted him to hide or destroy or conveniently misplace all the creepy little buggers.

Gwaine felt something tighten in his stomach, for no reason whatsoever.

But he thought he better go see if he could find Merlin and Leon, anyway.

He took the steps two at a time up to the King's chambers. The walls and doors were thick, and the guard patrol stopped at the end of the corridor. He nodded at the last one as he passed him, "Eadwig, right?"

"Yes, Sir!"

"All's quiet?"

"Aye, Sir Gwaine. As the grave."

"Oh. Good."

When Gwaine opened the door to the anteroom of the king's chambers, he almost laughed out loud.

"Gwaine!" Merlin cried, sounding relieved.

"Gwaine!" Leon shouted, sounding desperate.

They were surrounded on all sides by broken gnomes. And Gwaine did laugh, though this only made the other two look more distressed. "So Gwen's got you in on this, too? I thought I was the only one she trusted crossing the King's pleasure! Hee!"

"This isn't funny, Gwaine!" Merlin shrieked. "They're alive! They're--you've got to keep looking at them! Don't blink!"

"So we're just smashing them, are we?" he grinned still, grabbing one off the table and dropping it to the floor where it shattered.

"GWAINE!"

Gwaine sighed, loath to make himself be serious. Now that it was staring him straight in the face, Gwaine felt more than a little silly and therefore hesitant about believing his own fairy story. Gwaine was exceptionally good at ignoring problems, and it would be nice if this could be one such time. It wouldn't be the first time his talk had preyed on active imaginations, after all--

But Leon looked scared, too.

And now--

"What is that...?"

--he smelled burnt flesh.

Gwaine's eyes widened. He looked at the ground, trying to get all the gnomes in his line of sight. He realized now, suddenly, horribly, that they had drawn a circle around Leon, and were now frozen, but obviously menacing. "Leon, give me your hand!" he demanded, grabbing and yanking Leon clear as he kept his eyes open and down.

"Get behind me, they won't--um," Gwaine said: that awkward moment where he had to admit he was technically nobility, no matter how hard he tried to deny it. And if the legends about the gnomes were true, well, he'd be just as tasty to them as Leon. So, "Merlin, you keep your eyes on 'em. Leon, we'll smash 'em," he said quickly, to distract from the awkward.

With many a crash! clang! smash! things were almost going swimmingly. They had enough eyes to keep the little buggers pinned down, and they worked out a keen system where Merlin, standing on the perimeter, would shout "Blink!" when he needed to blink so Gwaine and Leon could stop the smashing to stare at the gnomes while Merlin blinked his eyes. Gwaine actually began to backpedal, highly doubting that this was what Gwen had had in mind when she asked him to get rid of the creepy statues, but a broom would sort it all out. As the immediate panic and adrenaline faded, his hand even began to hurt. He vaguely wondered how they would explain to Arthur where all the gnomes had gone, and was just formulating what might have been a convincing lie that really would only have gotten Sir Elyan in a very little bit of trouble, when the King himself walked in.

Gwaine tried to look easy about this, since there was no way to make it look good. "Ahh. Just the man we wanted to see," he grinned, leaning on his sword.

Arthur spluttered a bit, and as Leon and Merlin looked up guiltily, Gwaine stepped back to keep the gnomes in his view while he pretended to look chastised by Arthur.

"What the hell are you all doing?" Arthur finally managed. "Gwaine, this must be your fault!"

Oh, of course...

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52 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 28th June 2012, 05:04

Arthur rolled his eyes and moved on, knowing he would get nothing useful out of his most surly knight. "Merlin! Leon!" Arthur barked, assuming his kingly voice that usually worked on them. They both dropped the gnomes they were holding and stood up straight. This helped his mood, but not much. "What the bloody hell are you doing?!"

But Merlin and Leon started talking at once, and again Arthur felt compelled to use his kingly voice to get them to shut them up:

"I thought I sent you to buy gnomes, not smash them up! Gwaine, is this your idea?--"

"Will you stop it with that?" Gwaine complained.

"Sire, there’s a dead man here," Leon added quickly, averting a confrontation.

That at least made Arthur forget the gnomes for a few minutes as he examined the body to the background noise of Gwaine, Leon and Merlin talking over each other and generally making no sense whatsoever. Finally, when he ascertained that this man had been found where he lay without a guard or anyone in sight, he decided he had better put an end to the hysteria.

"...Let me see if I've got this right. You’re all saying that my gnomes killed this man?"

"Come on, Arthur," Gwaine said, "You’ve heard the--"

But Arthur wasn't in the mood. "Yes, Gwaine, I was a child once and I am aware of the legend. Now, I don’t know how you could have possibly got it into your head that little ceramic men can actually come to life and kill people, but this is ending now. This is Camelot. We are educated individuals that do not get taken in by rural superstition. Did any of you see them come to life and kill this man?"

Merlin cleared his throat. "Well, no, sire, but that's--"

"Then it’s ridiculous to just assume that, isn’t it? You might as well think that the table did it! If you didn’t see them do it, you don’t know they did it, and you have no basis for making any kind of claim as to who murdered this man."

"But sire--"

"Quiet." Arthur glared at Leon until he was sure that he wasn’t going to speak out of turn again, then turned to look at the body. "However, I’m not going to pretend that this doesn’t look a lot like sorcery of some kind. And you do unfortunately have the queen on your side." Also, he couldn’t ignore their terrified expressions. Even if their fears were completely ungrounded, it wasn’t his choice to decide his subjects’ needs. He picked up the four gnomes that were remaining and walked off toward a storage closet. "There," he said, putting them in a chest inside the closet and locking it. "I’ll keep them locked in here until this business is sorted. Now, I don’t want to hear any more about it." He gave them each a very firm look. Leon still appeared concerned. Merlin glowered. Gwaine rolled his eyes. "It’s Friday Knights tonight, isn’t it?" he said, trying to change the subject.

"Sire--" but Arthur glared at Leon and he said "Yes, sire," resignedly.

"Well, then I want you all to go on with that. Best not to cause panic, after all. Get this man cleaned up and his family notified. Obviously whoever did this exposed a weak point in our security that I want patched up, and I want a new schematic of the guard shifts on my desk tomorrow morning. Until then, double the guards in this corridor. I will not launch a full-scale witch hunt on one piece of evidence, but do make it known that I am looking for information regarding any suspicious persons observed in this part of the castle this afternoon."

"Yes, sire. I’ll have a guest room made up for you and her Highness tonight."

"Oh, never mind that. I’m sure everything will be cleaned up by the time we get back."

"Get back?"

"From your concert," Arthur said, rolling his eyes as he walked off. "Though God only knows how Gwen managed to convince me to go with her. After this little scare I hope all of you plan on playing something a bit more serious...."

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53 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 1st July 2012, 03:41

The arrangements for the Friday Knights were a bit more jumbled than usual, and as always, the confusion was primarily caused by Gwaine. His hand still injured from punching a wall (an event that Leon still couldn’t bring himself to believe actually happened), Gwaine found himself able to contribute to the band in only two ways: by singing, or by playing the drums. The most experience Gwaine had with playing percussion was banging a tankard on the table to the beat of “Chug! Chug! Chug!” but Leon hoped that drums would put a bit of focus to Gwaine’s abundant energy. Leon sang “Tainted Love” first, which had the easiest beat you could find in a chanconette, and Galehaut did a fine job filling in for Gwaine on the bass vielle. After that Elyan sang “Beast of Burden,” but out of the corner of his eye Leon could see Gwaine champing at the bit to play something faster. Next up for singing was Lancelot, and Leon had to get out a pick to play the song he had chosen.

“Oh can't you see you belong to me? How my poor heart aches with every step you take…Every move you make, every vow you break, every smile you fake, every claim you stake, I'll be watching you…”

Leon was barely able to contain his embarrassment, especially since Lancelot kept giving Gwen meaningful looks as he sang it. Honestly Leon thought it was a relatively harmless song when he suggested it, but clearly he meant more by it than he originally let on. Galehaut plucked at the bass vielle sympathetically beside Lancelot as Gwen got more and more agitated. Lancelot *clearly* had the best heart of all the knights, and it hurt to see him torturing himself like this.

But Leon wasn’t in a position to point fingers about getting overly-sentimental. He sang the next song, one he picked out just recently because he still couldn’t get Elaine out of his head, even though he was fairly certain he didn’t have much of a chance with her. But it still gave him chills down his spine and when Lancelot’s angelic voice aided him in the chorus he found it extremely difficult to not look at Elaine as he sang.

“I'm in love, I'm in deep yeah, hypnotized, I'm shakin' to my knees…I gotta know tonight if you're alone tonight…can't stop this feelin', can't stop this fire…Oh! I get hysterical—”

“—Hysteria!—”

“—Oh can you feel it—”

“—Do you believe it—”

“…Ooh babe…Hysteria when you're near.”


It was certainly true—he fell to pieces whenever she was around. As much as he liked her, what was the point in pursuing her if he couldn’t even speak coherently to her? He wasn’t comfortable around her at all, even if he did want to be beside her all the time. She was leaving at the end of the month, and that wasn’t enough time to learn how to trust himself around her, not at all.

“That’s enough of that sort of thing, I think,” Galehaut said when Leon finished. “If we’re going for the sentimental we might as well have fun doing it. Come on, Lance, get your rebec! It’s my turn.”

Lance laughed at Galehaut’s unwavering optimism and played the trill opening note of “Foolin’”, and Leon quickly started the introductory melody. Galehaut’s voice, though not quite as stunning as Lancelot’s, certainly had more energy and playfulness to it. Leon thankfully made it through the entire lute solo without botching a single note, which certainly put him into better spirits.

Still—the beat seemed to lag somewhat from how they had practiced it.

“I think the one-armed drummer might be holding us back,” Percival said, putting down the cornetto he had been wailing on. It was more a joke than a real complaint, but Gwaine, in his usual practice of taking things personally and getting disproportionately offended for all of five seconds, tossed the drumstick away in a kind of fit.

“At least I’m not deaf!" he said, "I was getting tired of these old pigskins anyway. Move over, ‘Hauttie, I’ll sing the next one!”

“Excuse me, but Sir Leon got to sing two, I don’t see why you think you can just muscle your way in—“

But Gwaine rarely took no for an answer, and Galehaut eventually left in a kind of huff that only noblemen can properly achieve as Gwaine smugly took center stage.


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54 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 5th July 2012, 05:32

Merlin had hoped that if he beat everyone to the pub, they wouldn’t notice that he still had a fine coating of flour adhering to his shirt and hair. But after that whole thing with the gnomes and the dead antiquarian and subsequent demands from a certain king that everything be cleaned up right now, he’d not had time to go back and do a spell to remove the flour. In fact, he was running late, and so he was the last to arrive.

He was happy, after the long day, to plunk down in the seat next to Gwen, well out of the way and where he couldn’t be harassed into getting up for at least the next half hour. He noticed that Arthur had taken the corner seat on Gwen’s other side, where he couldn’t possibly get out unless everyone else also got up, and that would just be too much trouble. Gwen and Arthur both glanced over at him when he practically flopped down onto the bench.

“Nice shirt, Merlin,” Arthur said with deceptive innocence, and Merlin leaned forward to look at him around Gwen before rolling his eyes.

“Is that…” Gwen started, and Arthur and Merlin both looked at her, one grinning like a fool and the other looking entirely too deadpan to be sincerely bothered.

“It’s flour. Ask him where it came from,” Arthur said, sounding like a gleeful five-year-old, and Gwen glanced from king to manservant with raised eyebrows. Merlin snorted.

“There were flour beetles in the-“ he started, just for humor’s sake, and, sure enough, he was interrupted by Arthur.

“Gwaine dumped a bucket of flour on him. They’re having a prank war,” he laughed.

“A prank war? With Gwaine?” Gwen asked, looking slightly concerned, “That doesn’t sound like it can possibly end well.” Having heard this sentiment several times by now, Merlin just grinned and shook his head a bit ruefully, though whether he agreed or disagreed with Gwen was unclear. Up on stage, Gwaine succeeded in chasing almost everyone else off stage so he could be the center of attention, and as those who were singing or playing converged on the table, Arthur and Gwen both stood to make room and then wandered off toward the bar. Merlin took over Arthur’s corner seat and shortly found himself sitting with Lancelot, Galehaut, and Leon. Lancelot clapped him on the shoulder as he sat down and then sneezed at the inevitable puff of flour.

“Merlin, why are you covered in flour?” he asked in a bit of confusion.

“Gwaine. Prank war. I’ve already told them it’s a bad idea,” Leon answered before Merlin could say a word, sounding very put upon.

“It’s just a prank war. We’ll be fine,” Merlin reassured the eldest knight, while Lancelot and Galehaut both looked at him uncertainly, clearly doubting the wisdom of this sentiment. Lancelot looked like he was about to say something, but he was cut off as Gwaine started singing, and they all turned to at least pretend to pay fleeting attention to the knight.

...Luck and intuition, play the cards with spades to start
And after she's been hooked I'll play the one that's on her heart
Oh, o-o-oh oh, o-o-o-o-o-oh
I'll get her hot, show her what I've got…


They all turned back around and fell to talking amongst themselves for a moment. Leon and Lancelot were immersed in some discussion of battle tactics or record-keeping (which even Merlin had to admit was boring) and Galehaut was left out, so after the briefest of forlorn looks at Lance, he turned to Merlin, who grinned his usual what-I-was-paying-attention-really grin.

“Was that Arthur and Gwen who just got up?” he asked, and Merlin nodded, glancing after the pair of them.

“Yes, I think Arthur got bored of bothering me about the state of my clothes…” Merlin remarked.

“He’s quite fond of her,” Galehaut commented, with just the briefest of glances at Lancelot, who caught him glancing at him and grinned briefly before going back to his conversation with Leon. Merlin wasn’t sure who Galehaut was actually referring to with that “he,” but he chose to assume it was Arthur.

“Well, they are married, so… that’s probably a good thing,” he laughed, and Galehaut’s momentary frown told him everything he needed to know about the assumption he’d made. Not Arthur, then, which left Lancelot. Merlin chose not to say anything about that.

"...And baby when it's love, if its not rough it isn't fun…["/i] Gwaine sang.

There was awkward silence as Merlin tried to calculate Galehaut’s reaction and Galehaut looked almost forlornly between Gwen and Lancelot before turning back to the conversation.

“I don’t know what he sees in her,” Galehaut commented vaguely, and Merlin’s eyebrows both went up.

“What Arthur sees in Gwen?” he asked, slightly aghast. Galehaut shrugged, and then nodded.

“Would you like a list?” Merlin responded. Gwen had been one of the first friends he’d made in this place. He could have listed off what Arthur- what [i]anyone
, really- might see in the kind-hearted, sincere servant-turned-queen without even having to think about it very hard. Galehaut just huffed a put-upon sigh and continued glaring at the queen in a way that made Merlin kind of want to tell him to knock it off, even though he suspected it was jealousy talking, and not outright malice.

“No, thank you. I’d find it hard to believe, anyway. No one… no one can possibly be as perfect as everyone seems to think she is,” he said sullenly with a nod in Gwen’s general direction. "She must be hiding something." Stunned, Merlin just sat there awkwardly, really not enjoying the direction in which this conversation had gone.

“I wouldn’t let the knights hear you say that,” he said, finally, thinking perhaps the knight should be warned before he ran his mouth off and got himself in trouble. There were very few people of whom the knights were universally protective, and their queen was definitely one of them. Merlin had no doubt that things would get very ugly, very quickly if one of them overheard the newest knight bad-mouthing Gwen, no matter the sentiment behind the words.


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55 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 7th July 2012, 23:56

Maeglin

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"She's not even that pretty," Galehaut was saying as Gwaine and the others sat down, Gwaine gulping at his beer.

"Who's ugly?" Gwaine asked amiably, looking around excitedly. He happened to like ugly girls. In his experience, the ugly ones were better bedmates because they invariably tried harder.

Gwaine was sure he misheard the next thing out of Galehaut's mouth, so he asked for clarification.

"I said, I was talking about Gwen. I cannot see why Lancelot--"

"Yeah, I heard you the first time," Gwaine grumbled, as he tried to shift the conversation to another topic and turned his shoulder away from Galehaut. "Soooo, Merlin? Why do you still have flour on your shirt?"

"And she treats him like dirt. I've never heard a nice word come out of her mouth," Galehaut went on.

Everyone looked uncomfortably into their beers, trying to determine how best to handle the situation, since changing the subject wasn't working, and knights did not get into tavern brawls. Luckily, Lancelot was off in the corner tuning his stupid crumhorn, otherwise he'd probably be pissed to hear this. But Elyan was here, and he was twitching, and: "Hey, you want to knock it off? That's my sister you're talking about."

"Then why don't you control her more?"

"Sir Galehaut--" Elyan tried again, growling.

"No, no, let him get this off his chest," K encouraged, with an unreadable frown.

"She is clearly leading him on in the most cruel manner I've ever witnessed!" Galehaut went on, glad to have someone listening to him.

Gwaine groaned inwardly. Was the poor bastard drunk? Gwaine didn't think so. He'd need a better excuse than that for this behavior. But, still, Gwaine tried to give him the benefit of the doubt, and blinked.

"Wait, we're still talking about Guinevere, here, right? Like, the Queen of Camelot?" he said carefully, almost warningly, to give Galehaut a fair chance to reconsider what he was actually saying and maybe, if he wasn't a total idiot, to retract it...

"The Queen of Strumpets," Galehaut grumbled into his beer.

"Gee, Hauttie, tell us how you really feel!" K said with a laugh. But he was the only one who found this funny.

Gwaine stood up. His chair scraped across the floor loudly.

"Would you like to say that again, Sir Galehaut?" he asked.

"Gwaine..." Leon warned, but Gwaine ignored him.

"No, no, I want to hear him say it again, or decide he's being a fool and rescind it."

Galehaut waved his beer flamboyantly. "The Queen of Strumpets? I'd say that all day if--"

"STAND UP," Gwaine snarled, and the fire in his eyes slowly quieted the room around them, so when Galehaut slowly, eyes narrowed, less afraid and more concerned, got to his feet to stand over Gwaine, most of the bar was watching.

Gwaine wasn't sure exactly what came next. His instincts screamed at him that a broken glass bottle to the face would be the wisest tactic, but something niggling in the back of his mind called "chivalry" said something else. Wasn't a glove supposed to be involved? Gwaine wasn't sure where his had got to, so he snatched Percy's off the table and threw it down brazenly in front of Galehaut.

The room gasped collectively.

Galehaut had the audacity to smirk! Gwaine was going to enjoy teaching him a lesson. He eyed the glove sidelong. "You're not serious."

"Deadly," Gwaine said.

Galehaut raised his eyebrows. "To the death?"

Gwaine shook his head. "Nah. Just til I get through kicking your pretty little arse."

Galehaut gulped a bit, but to his credit, picked up the glove. "Is this to be a brawl or a duel?"

"I don't even care. I'll get you one way or another, and teach you a thing or two about manners--"

"Gwaine!" Arthur charged up. "Galehaut, what on earth are you?--Gwaine!" he said again, exasperated. Gwaine didn't want to talk to him, either. Why wasn't he fighting this duel? Why wasn't Elyan? Was he the only one man enough to teach this fruitcake a lesson about how Gwen was the most perfect creature in all of Albion and he better watch his step if he happened to be too stupid to agree?

"You better take your wife home, sire. With a face like that, she'd launch a thousand ships to war, apparently," Gwaine said, turned, and went back to the bar as Arthur turned to Leon for an explanation.



Last edited by Maeglin on 17th August 2012, 22:41; edited 4 times in total

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56 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 8th July 2012, 21:42

“Someone tell me what the hell is going on!” Arthur bellowed, though clearly he expected no one else to answer besides Leon.

“A challenge has been issued, sire,” Leon said. He wasn’t entirely sure whether he should explain why the challenge had been made, but Gwen, watching the scene awkwardly at Arthur’s side, appeared to understand exactly what had transpired. He gave Gwen a pleading look.

“It is within their rights to duel if they want to,” she said, “Isn’t it? How does all this work?”

Arthur tried to explain. “Well, if a challenge has been issued, and Galehaut’s accepted, they’ll need to designate seconds.”

“Someone uninvolved—like Lancelot, perhaps?”

“Yes, that’s the idea—“

“Yes,” Galehaut said, “Lancelot du Lac will be my second!”

The knights turned to where Lancelot sat on the far end of the table. He had been tuning his crumhorn and thus heard nothing of the altercation. There was a comedic honk from the crumhorn as Galehaut’s shout disturbed him. “Eh?—oh, yes, if it is required of me—but, here now, what’s all this about—?”

“Never mind that,” Gwen chimed in quickly. “You’re going to be Galehaut’s second.” Gwen did not wait for anyone to reply to that before she crossed over to Gwaine and said, “Why don’t you take Sir K as your second?”

“Whoa, whoa—wait a minute!” Leon practically chased Gwen over to where Gwaine stood and interrupted her whispering into Gwaine’s ear. “Excuse me, your Highness, but are you out of your mind? You know how Sir K fights—Galehaut was out of line but K is not the sort of person that should act as a second.” He turned to Gwaine. “I’ll be your second.”

Gwen shook her head. “If you’re Gwaine’s second, Lancelot won’t have any reason to worry.”

Leon knotted his brow. “Why should Lancelot need a reason to worry?”

“Because, Leon,” Gwaine said, “Galehaut fancies him.”

“What? Don’t be—“

Leon was interrupted by a shouting match between Lancelot and Galehaut. Sir K was standing nearby, looking a lot less guilty than he should.

“I beg your pardon?!” Lancelot was saying.

“I didn’t mean to cause trouble,” Sir K said, “But, Sir Galehaut, you didn’t exactly try to keep your feelings secret, and I was just repeating what I heard, since Lancelot asked—”

Galehaut shrugged, appearing very flustered. “I only meant, Lancelot, that Guinevere is—“

“I know what you meant! How could you have said something like that?—“

“I was defending you! Besides, you already agreed—”

“You know I won’t go back on my word, but if you talk about her in that way again I’ll challenge you to a duel myself!”

Lancelot stormed from the tavern. Galehaut sulked for a few seconds, then followed him out. Now that Gwaine mentioned it, the signs were easy to read.

“Oh,” he said.

“Don’t you see?” Gwen continued in a whisper. “This is a perfect opportunity to edge them together in the right direction. If you’re Gwaine’s second, Lancelot can still be angry without worrying about the fact that Galehaut tried to defend his honor.…”

“Defend his honor? But he called you a—“ Leon knew he wasn’t going to continue, and Gwen dutifully interrupted him.

“Never mind what he called me,” she said. “He was just trying to say that Lancelot’s love is misguided, which it is.” Gwen’s unbreakable determination to see the best in everyone came through yet again, and when she put it like that it sounded fairly legitimate: everyone tended to blame Lancelot for loving a married woman, which they of course should, but to a stranger sympathetic to Lancelot already, it was in fact pretty noble to try defending the man who no one else would defend.

Alright, it could only really make sense in Guinevere’s all-loving, overly-accepting mind, but Leon couldn’t argue with her of all people.

“If Galehaut is put in some real danger,” she continued, “and with Lancelot watching, then perhaps…”

“Well?”

“…Well, it’s not the best plan in the world, but I don’t have much to work with at the moment,” Gwen said, getting annoyed. “And it’s a start, anyway.”

“A duel isn’t exactly the best way to gain true love,” Leon said, and, as Gwaine started to open his mouth, “This isn’t funny, Gwaine.”

“No, of course it isn’t,” Gwaine said. “You know what else isn't funny? That my tankard has been empty for a full five minutes!”

And with that he wandered off to get more ale. A moment later Arthur appeared and fixed Gwen with a look. Leon had never seen the “we need to talk” expression on the male counterpart of a married couple before, but he saw it then, and Arthur and Gwen walked off whispering at each other.

…Which left plenty of room for Sir K to saunter over.

“You’ll have to explain all this dueling business to me, I’m afraid,” K said with a smile. “Fighting a duel is not something I’m particularly familiar with.”

“You seem to be very familiar with starting one,” Leon said, happy he actually succeeded in coming up with an acceptable comeback. “But then you always were a good mixer.”

“Oh, my dear Leon, don’t be so upset! I only do it for the same reason I do anything else, which is the same reason that I would, say, marry the Lady Elaine, or bring down Camelot to its very foundations, or hide a baby scorpion in your boot.” He grinned and laughed as if it was all a big joke. “I just like to have fun!”

Leon tried to not consider these as K laughed into the last of his tankard of ale, since it was obvious he just spouted a few things off carefully calculated to make Leon’s blood boil. The man was insane! Camelot and the Knights had had nothing but trouble since he arrived with that stupid gnome….

“Sir K,” Leon said as K lowered his tankard, “You wouldn’t happen to remember where you got that gnome you gave the King, would you?”

“Oh, that old thing? No, I don’t recall. I hope it’s not defective in any way.”

“No, it, er...seems to be doing the job splendidly.”

“Well, that’s a relief. Now, I think there’s an ale over there with my name on it…”

Leon tried to read K's expression for something, anything that might give away, for instance, some secret plan to take over Camelot using gnomes and a silver tongue, but he gleaned nothing from K’s smiling face before it turned toward the bar.



Last edited by beeayy on 9th July 2012, 04:02; edited 1 time in total


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57 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 9th July 2012, 03:08

When all parties involved had either gone off in a huff or returned to the bar or sat back down, Merlin still stood there blinking and trying to make sense of what, exactly, had just transpired. Had Gwaine actually just challenged Galehaut to a duel? Merlin turned and looked at his friend as the knight returned to the bar, eyebrows raised slightly in concern. It wasn’t that Gwaine couldn’t generally handle himself in a duel, but then… mistakes happened. And Sir K acting as his second? Merlin understood Gwen’s logic, even if he still thought it was a horrible idea, but that seemed like tempting fate in all kinds of dangerous ways.

Merlin was about to go to the bar and talk to Gwaine, but as if he’d been listening in on Merlin’s thoughts, Sir K came sauntering past, clearly also on his way over to the bar.

“Merlin!” he said loudly as he clapped a hand over Merlin’s shoulder, causing him to nearly jump out of his boots. “How are you, my friend?” the king’s cousin asked, and Merlin grinned to hide the thought that’d just flashed right through his head- No friend of your’s, certainly.

“Sire?” he asked instead, wondering what Sir K wanted this time. His armor was already clean, his horse was probably more well-taken-care-of than it had been in years, and his rooms were clean. Merlin knew, because he’d taken five minutes to go check earlier in the afternoon.

“’Sire’? Come now, you don’t call any of the other knights ‘Sire’. I heard you call Arthur ‘clotpole’. Why the formality? My cousin didn’t put you up to it, did he?” Sir K asked, and, convinced he was once again making himself look stupid, Merlin just shrugged.

“No, no one did. I just thought…” he said, trailing off. Sir K flashed that disarming grin that Merlin didn’t trust as far as he could throw the owner, and Merlin again wondered what, exactly, K wanted, or if he was just trying to throw him off guard, or perhaps if he was going to try and get him to admit he had magic again. Merlin started looking for some avenue of escape.

“Well, don’t think too hard. Wouldn’t want you to hurt yourself,” Sir K joked, his voice returning to a normal speaking volume. This sort of joke was funny when Arthur made it, and would have ordinarily been met with some equally cutting remark, but it wasn’t half as amusing coming from Sir K, and Merlin bristled slightly. “So, Merlin, still haven’t told Arthur about your magic?” he asked, and Merlin gaped. Was this man really idiot enough to mention magic in the middle of a crowded tavern? He wiped the look off his face and tried to look completely disinterested.

“I have not idea-“ he started. K interrupted him.

“’What you’re talking about,’ yes, I’ve heard that. Honestly, Merlin, do you think I’m stupid? That’s not very kind,” K said, and he smiled. It was the smile of a snake. And this man was going to be Gwaine’s second? This was a horrible idea…

“No, Sir K, never stupid. Likewise, I am not so stupid as to break the laws of Camelot,” he said, but he was bad at lying, and his eyes skittered nervously off to the side as K stared at him.

“Ah, well, he’ll find out eventually, right? Are you planning on telling him about the dragon, too, or are you afraid that might be too much? It would certainly be a shame if any of the knights found out, after what that beast did to the castle. And their friends. He killed a great many knights, didn’t he?” he asked, glancing over to Leon. Merlin took the slightest step back. Well, yes, that would be awful. Leon would hate him forever. Gwaine might even hate him, for that one. But apparently K wasn’t done talking yet. With another one of those snake-smiles, he added, “Then again, I imagine there are others who might like to know that Camelot has a sorcerer, wouldn’t you think? A friend of mine, actually, might be quite interested, especially if she knew who it was. With that sort of information, she could cause… all sorts of trouble, I should think.”

Merlin was done with any pretense of affability with Arthur’s cousin. He glared at him. Was he actually threatening to tell an enemy of Camelot who Merlin really was? That would be a disaster, especially if it ever got back to Morgana. Unless… She could cause all sorts of trouble, he’d said. Surely he wasn’t actually talking about Morgana. The thought was enough to make the color go from Merlin’s face, and he knew that any pretense of denial he’d been keeping up was now rendered utterly pointless.

And Sir K found it absolutely hilarious. He laughed and clapped Merlin on the shoulder again.

“Merlin, the look on your face! It’s comical, really. You’re a funny one! Thank you for the laugh. Really, thank you,” he said, and then turned around and hailed Gwaine, practically bounding across the tavern to speak with the knight about something that would no doubt be bad for someone or something’s health, if his behavior so far this evening was any indication. Merlin watched him go. He wanted to say something to Gwaine, but he couldn’t. He could’ve said something to Gaius or Lancelot, but what could they do? Tell him to be careful? Arthur wouldn’t listen to either of them any more than he’d listen to Merlin. And he couldn’t say anything to Leon, who would have believed the man’s ill-intent, because Leon didn’t know he could do magic. In short, no one he could tell could do anything about Sir K’s threats, and anyone who could do anything about Sir K he couldn’t tell. Wonderful.


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58 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 9th July 2012, 05:20

Maeglin

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"Are we sure this is a good idea?" Gwaine had settled with his elbows on the bar as the others sorted things out when Gwen approached him, sweetly apprehensive as she always looked (especially when she wanted something from him).

Gwen sidled up next to him demurely. "Well, we've got to do something for Lancelot, don't you agree?"

"No," Gwaine said sullenly. "I don't care if he gets himself sacked."

Gwen pursed her lips. "I think you do care, Gwaine."

Gwaine answered that with a swig of beer.

"At any rate, I care," she said, as if this settled it, and Gwaine sighed.

"What do you want from me?"

"The first part's easy."

"Awesome."

"I need you to teach Galehaut a lesson."

Gwaine almost choked on his beer laughing. "Is the Queen getting vengeful?"

"Oh, certainly not," she said, with a small wink that said otherwise, "But I do hope it might evoke protective instincts in Sir Lancelot."

Gwaine snorted.

"And then, when you beat him--though I'd appreciate it if you didn't kill him--"

"Aw, Gwen, you're no fun," Gwaine teased.

"--I want you to let Lancelot beat you."

Now Gwaine did spit out his beer. And that was alcohol abuse! "You want me to what?"

"Let him defend Galehaut, and let him win."

"But--" Gwaine stammered, "but that means--"

"Let him win, Gwaine. Do not make me insult your prowess by suggesting he might win, anyway."

Gwaine narrowed his eyes. "Ugh," he groaned, "lady!" he grumbled. "Milday," he added, petulantly.

"Thank you, Sir Gwaine," Gwen said, squeezing his arm. "I knew I could rely on you."

"Yeah, whatever," Gwaine said mildly, as he watched her leave, arm in arm with the king.

He finished his beer as K sidled up next to him with a new one. "Perfect timing," Gwaine said with a side grin.

"Not the only thing perfect about me," K said with a wink and a chuckle.

"You don't mind being my second?" Gwaine asked. "You know I haven't even actually seen you fight, you might be rubbish."

"Oh, yeah," K laughed. "That's me, I'm rubbish at hand-to-hand. I'll be useless out there."

"Ha," Gwaine said. Then, "Thanks, K."

There was a comfortable silence between them.

"Why does Merlin have flour on his shirt?" K asked, by way of changing the subject.

"Ha!" Gwaine chortled gleefully. "He's an idiot and challenged me to a prank war."

"Ha-ha! And here I thought he was smart," K chuckled.

"You thought wrong."

"I feel sorry for him. It's hardly a fair fight."

"Oh, it's fair," Gwaine assured him. "Like you said, he's smart. When he wants to be. I owe him good for the last one."

"Have you tried the wax on the soles of his shoes one? That's a classic."

Gwaine thought he couldn't love K more. "That's priceless! Wax on the bottom of his shoes! Next round's on me, mate, that deserves a drink!"

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59 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 13th July 2012, 02:41

Gaius often scolded Merlin for darting around as if it would simply take too long to walk everywhere, and his mother had constantly admonished him as a child to slow down before he ran into someone or something. But for all his mother’s nagging and his mentor’s scolding, Merlin had never learned to walk everywhere. When you were a servant to the king and an assistant to the court physician, you didn’t get to walk everywhere. So he was in a habit of walking only when he had to.

He had to walk, however, through the crowded hallways and paths of mid-Saturday-morning Camelot, and he had to walk with the plates of food to take to Gwen and Arthur for their breakfast. He was late, partially because he’d hit a patch of something slippery on the way over and nearly thrown both plates while trying to catch himself.

“Why is it that you’re always late on Saturdays, Merlin?” Arthur asked as he kicked the half-open door the rest of the way open with his toe. Merlin set the food down on a table and grinned.

“I used to be on time, if you recall, but you kept throwing things at me when I woke you up early on the weekends, so I stopped,” he answered, not missing even a beat.

“No, I threw things at you because you couldn’t resist chattering on at length about everything my knights had been up to at the tavern the previous night,” Arthur answered, wandering over and snatching a bread roll before wandering off back across the room.

“Yes, well, you’re the prat who was making me get up before dawn on a Saturday just to deal with your smiling face,” Merlin countered. He saw the bread roll sailing at his head from the corner of his eye and turned to catch it, setting it neatly on a plate. Gwen laughed, and king and manservant both turned to look at her.

“If you’re done playing with the food?” she asked, and took both plates to set at the big table where Arthur had currently scattered papers and figures and a tunic that needed washing, and shoved all of it out of the way to make room for the two of them to eat.

“Gwen, I can-“ Merlin started, because that was his job, and she just leveled a look at him before sitting down.

“I know you can, but I don’t mind. And you should be off to eat your own breakfast,” she answered. Merlin had to admit that this was true. He usually at before he brought the food here, but he’d raced out of Gaius’ without so much as glancing at the loaf of bread on their table. He flashed a thankful grin at the queen.

“And take the laundry with you,” Arthur said as he wandered to the table. Merlin rolled his eyes and gathered most of it, then almost dropped all of it when Arthur chucked the tunic that had been on the table across the room at him. “But eat first. We can’t have servants fainting all over from lack of food, even if it is their own fault for oversleeping. I’m sure your thick skull would crack the floor, and that would be a mess,” Arthur said, but Merlin grinned again behind the armful of clothes at Arthur’s quickly disguised, joking concern, and left.

He usually took the short flight of stairs just down the hall from Arthur and Gwen’s rooms two at a time, that being quicker than one at a time, and his feet knew them whether or not he could see them. So even though he was carrying an armful of clothes, when he reached the top step he bounded past the second to land on the third.

With an ungainly flailing that threw clothes everywhere, he felt his foot skid right off the step. It missed every subsequent step, as did his other foot, and his startled squawk turned into a yelp as his tailbone hit the steps and knocked the air right out of him. He threw his right hand back to catch himself before his head could likewise hit a step. Something- hopefully not a step, because he’d never live that down- cracked and he skidded the rest of the way down the stairs and to the bottom of them, head thunking the last of them, but only enough to cause a bruise. Dimly, over the sounds of himself clattering down the stairs, he heard someone laughing. It sounded suspiciously like Sir K, and he wondered if he was really so lucky as to fall down the stairs in front of the newest knight.

“Did you see that? He threw the clothes everywhere! Perhaps someone should tell Arthur is manservant is sleeping on the job,” the voice continued, and Merlin amended his previous thought. Yes, he really was that lucky. That was definitely Sir K hovering just around the next corner, having a laugh at Merlin’s clumsy expense.

He sat in a sprawled heap at the bottom of the stairs for a moment without moving, trying to process what, exactly had just happened. Clothes, thrown when he’d reached back to stop his fall with his arm, were scattered about haphazardly. For just a split second, he felt nothing at all. His head didn’t hurt, even though he knew he’d bumped it on a stair and would have a bruise, and as the breath that’d been knocked out of his lungs shuddered back in, he twitched fingers and toes to make sure he could. His legs were fine, and his left arm… but when he moved the fingers on his right hand, it caused a sharp, stinging, startling pain to shoot all the way from fingertips to shoulder. Biting off a yelp so it came out as a strangled groan, he moved to cradle the arm protectively against his chest, which really didn’t help at all, unsurprisingly. Very quickly, he surmised that the crack moments earlier had not, in fact, been a step, but very probably one of the bones in his arm. It at least hadn’t been his head, which had certainly been a possibility given the situation, but that wasn’t a whole lot of comfort just at the moment. And why was K still laughing as if he thought this was a hilarious joke and Merlin was just faking? His voice rounded the corner, but Merlin was looking at his arm and didn’t hear him until he actually spoke. When he glanced up, he was surprised to see not just Sir K, but standing slightly behind him, Gwaine. At least his friend looked significantly less amused than Sir K, but still… he sincerely hoped this hadn’t been partly his idea, this “watch Merlin fall down stairs” thing. It was a stupid idea, and curse it, it hurt.

“Gwaine? What are you-“ Merlin started to ask, but K interrupted him, and Merlin’s look of pained confusion turned to a glare as he looked up at the king’s cousin. For a split second, he seriously considered doing something like knocking him on his face by yanking the floor right out from under him, but this was a rather commonly used corridor and he was trying to avoid actually using magic in front of Sir K, just on principle. So he settled for glaring at K instead, pointedly ignoring Gwaine for the moment.

“Merlin! It looks like you dropped something. Are you taking a break already? Or did you just forget how to walk down stairs?” he asked jokingly, completely ignoring that Merlin was still hunched over his arm, teeth grinding. If he stayed angry at Sir K, he thought it might distract him from the throbbing pain in his arm, but that… wasn’t working quite as well as he’d hoped. Sir K laughed, both at his own joke and Merlin’s not-so-surprisingly-ineffective glare. “You just never fail to amuse me,” he added.

“You should walk away, Sir K,” Merlin commented through his teeth, which only seemed to amuse Sir K further.

“Or what? You’ll make me? With the magic you refuse to admit you have?” he asked, and Merlin realized he had no answer to this. Instead, he dropped his furious glare and rolled his eyes, and waited for K to get bored of tormenting him and go away so he could somehow get the clothes cleaned up and limp over to Gaius’ to get his arm taken care of.


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60 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 15th July 2012, 05:23

Maeglin

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Few things would induce Gwaine to wake up early. Getting Merlin back for that apple stunt was certainly going to be one of them.

He hadn't counted on Sir K's aid, but was glad to have it, as beeswax proved to be hard to steal from the candlestick maker without backup. Also, Merlin was generally a light sleeper.

Not to mention all of this had to happen well before dawn, as Merlin was an early riser. Gwaine opted to just not go to bed, albeit that he had a duel the next day. Nothing that a lot of strong tea wouldn't fix. They even had the perfect hiding spot just outside Arthur's room. Yes, everything was going to plan.

Until Merlin fell down the stairs.

Stupidly, Gwaine didn't see that one coming. He realized, in this single, horrible moment that seemed to last a lifetime, that he hadn't thought the entire thing through at all.

Which was why his mind didn't clear until Merlin had already walked--limped--away. K was still laughing--K who somehow knew about Merlin's magic--and looked at Gwaine expectantly.

And Gwaine realized something else.

Sir K was a bastard.

"Gwaine! What a prank!" K laughed, clapping him on the back. "This will surely go down in the annals of history!"

Gwaine barely found his voice. "Don't," he ground out.

"Don't what? You ought to be congratulated! It worked out perfectly."

Gwaine shook off K's embrace. "He got hurt, Sir K. It's not funny." A cold wave of fear gripped him, and before he knew it, he was following Merlin to Gaius' apothecary. He had to see what the damage was. He had to--

K grabbed his arm again, still laughing. "But Sir Gwaine, his face--"

Gwaine actually did not register what his body was doing until K was lying on his back on the ground, holding his face. The spike of pain in his still-injured fist was nothing compared to the rage that flooded him.

"My friend's pain is never for your amusement, Sir K."

Sir K scrambled to his feet. "The King will hear of this!" he snarled as he held the growing bruise on his jaw, though he was somehow still smiling, as Gwaine advanced on him again. "Not only of this, but of how you caused his servant great injury!"

Gwaine stopped. His fist hurt. His heart hurt.

K was smiling.

"You should walk away, Sir Gwaine," he said.

So Gwaine did. When he was out of sight of K, his anger gave way to deep concern, and he broke into a run. He didn't stop until he arrived at the physician's quarters, throwing the door wide to see Gaius inspecting Merlin's arm.

At the door, words left him again, and he paused, gulping like a guppy.

"Come to gloat?" Merlin scowled.

Gwaine gulped. "Merlin, I--" he tried, and stammered for a few more moments in mixed anguish and embarrassment. God in heaven, he was an idiot!

Gaius coughed. "If you are just going to stand there, Gwaine, you can bring me that bottle of ointment on the table," he pointed.

Gwaine's legs and arms worked, apparently. Well, except for the one hand he was apparently to determined to not let heal, but that was a small price to pay as long as K sported a puffy lip. He crossed the room and handed Gaius the bottle.

Merlin hissed as Gaius manipulated his arm, and that spurred him to attempt words:

"Jesus, Merlin, I'm so sorry, I--I didn't mean for--I wasn't thinking--"

Leon burst into the room: "Gwaine! Do you recall you have a duel in five minutes? If you are not there on time then you forfeit!"

Arthur charged in after him: "Sir Gwaine! Why on earth did you strike my cousin? And why do you no longer want Sir K as your second? And what the hell did you do to my servant?" he cried, his voice going up at the end as he rushed to Merlin’s side, in a rare moment of tenderness.

Gwaine grimaced. The answer required either an hour’s explanation, or none at all.

Not that an explanation would excuse anything.

“I...I’m sorry, okay?” he said, and brushed past Arthur and Leon and stalked out of the room with, “I’ll see you at the lists.”

“Gwaine!” Arthur barked. “You need a second, the Code demands--“

"Damn the Code!" Gwaine finally exploded, rounding on his King. "You be my damned second if you’re so keen, it’s your wife’s honor I’m defending!" The room was suddenly silent. "I will be on the field, and if anyone lets that Kilhwch in my sight, I’ll--"

“You’ll what, Sir Gwaine?” K asked mildly, appearing in front of him. It was really only Leon’s hand on his shoulder that kept him from flying at the smug blonde knight. “After all, you applied wax to the soles of the king’s servant’s shoes. I have no quarrel with you, whatever you may feel toward me, and yet hope to stand by you to defend the Queen’s honor.”

Gwaine glared at K, then wheeled around to look at Leon, and Arthur, and Gaius and finally Merlin, whom he couldn’t even bring himself to look at. Gwaine really wanted nothing more than for the earth to swallow him up, or at least snuff everyone else off the face of the planet, or at least go back to a time before he ever listened to K, or even met K, or possibly, before Gwaine was even born.

Yeah, maybe if he had never been born. That might be good.



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61 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 16th July 2012, 00:45

Leon looked from Gwaine to Merlin. Now that the inevitable adrenaline was wearing off Merlin’s face was becoming more pale, and his glare was becoming more of a grimace. It was Arthur’s responsibility to take care of his own servant, but Leon couldn’t help feeling responsible for him, too.

He could try to give Gwaine some room to speak, but what good would that do? Sir K was a sneaky little devil, and Leon had no trouble believing that K instigated this particularly dangerous prank, but it would do no good to accuse him here, when Gwaine was unfortunately equally to blame. Battles had to be chosen carefully, especially with Sir K.

“I think, sire, that a game just went a bit too far,” Leon said. “Perhaps we should give Gaius some room to work.”

“Yes, thank you, Sir Leon,” Gaius said stuffily. "That would be nice."

Sir K smiled, conceding the win to Leon, and bowed at Merlin with a, “Don’t worry, you’ll be lifting laundry baskets again in no time,” before he left.

“Gwaine?” Leon said, indicating that he should follow him out. Gwaine threw a regretful glance back at Merlin before they left. Thankfully, now that the audience was gone Gwaine became a bit more vocal.

“I didn't mean to! I didn't want him to get hurt, it was an accident! Do you think I--that I would ever-- And K! That bloody snake--he laughed when Merlin was clearly hurt! He gave me the stupid idea in the first place!”

“I told you that Sir K was not to be trusted,” Leon said simply. “But it was you that put the wax on his shoes.”

Gwaine said nothing, but sniffed and wiped a hand across his face angrily, and then nodded, looking down. Leon turned and tried to take his shoulder with more sympathy than warning, and Gwaine didn’t shrug him off.

“Accidents happen, Gwaine,” he said. “Be glad Merlin didn’t get seriously injured. Anyway, right now you have more important things to deal with--"

"He was seriously injured, and I don't think anything is half as bloody stupidly important!" Gwaine said petulantly.

"I believe it would be a conflict of interest for the King to assume K’s place as your second," Leon continued firmly, "but I’ll be your second if you need--“

Gwaine cut him off. “No.” Gwaine glanced away, then said, “I need you to make sure Merlin's alright. I'll ask Elyan or something.”

"Good. Gwen is Elyan's sister, after all. And of course I'll make sure Merlin's alright, but I'm sure he's made of stern stuff." Leon took the charge happily.

When he returned to the apothecary Leon found Arthur still with Merlin, and Gaius wrapping the last of the bandages around Merlin’s arm.

“It won’t be comfortable, but at lest it’ll keep your shoulder in place,” Gaius said.

Merlin shifted in the tight wrappings as Arthur measured out a honey-colored liquid into a glass. “Now, I want you to drink all of this,” he said, handing Merlin the glass.

Merlin took it uncertainly. “What is it?”

“It’s good!” Arthur said, a bit too jovially. When Merlin raised an eyebrow he added, “Well, it’ll be funny to see you drunk, anyway.”

Merlin took a sip and made a face. “Eugh! It’s like—acid death!”

“It’ll put hair on your chest!” Arthur insisted.

“And soil!” Merlin said, peering at the liquid with extreme reticence.

“It’s only scotch, Merlin,” Leon said. “It’s good!”

“Well, then you drink it!”

Leon took a sniff of it and stared at Arthur. “You’re giving him fifteen year?”

“I thought he’d be grateful,” Arthur said, equally mystified. “And it’ll take the pain away, so—Merlin!”

“I’ll drink it later!” Merlin said, already out the door, leaving Leon with the scotch and Arthur shaking his head.

“Well, I was going to give him the day off,” Arthur said. “But I suppose he—hey!” Arthur snatched the glass of scotch away from Leon before he could take a second drink. “Come on, we’d better go make sure that Gwaine and Galehaut don’t kill each other.”

They found Gwaine, K, and Galehaut on the field, surrounded by a small crowd. Leon was not the first one to notice the important missing person.

“Where’s Lancelot?” Guinevere asked, appearing at Arthur’s side.

“Doesn’t Galehaut know?” Leon asked. He approached Galehaut, who was effortlessly stretching some way away. “Galehaut—“

“Don’t ask me, Sir Leon,” he said. “I haven’t seen him since the…altercation. I think he took my intervention on his behalf as an insult.”

“You’re not fighting for Lancelot’s honor here,” Leon said.

“Sir Gwaine might not be, but I am most certainly doing so.” He gave a bright smile, a welcome change from the bright smiles that Sir K gave, but Leon still got the feeling that he was hiding something. “Do not worry about me, Sir Leon,” he said, “I am quite capable of taking care of myself in a duel.”

“Still, I would feel better if you did. I’ll go have a look ‘round for him.”

“What a thoughtful man you are, Sir,” Galehaut said. “Only…you might want to hurry? Sir Gwaine looks to be in no mood for delays.”


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62 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 17th July 2012, 05:02

Maeglin

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Gwaine was in no mood to kid around.

"Elyan, with me," he said as he walked past where the knights were lined up. Elyan wrinkled his brow but followed Gwaine to where the armor was laid out. Gwaine savagely took up a sword and shield, since that was what it appeared Sir Galehaut had chosen.

"Gwaine?" Elyan said. "What's up? Are you okay?"

"You're my second," he said, and then snarled and threw the sword into the grass at his feet when he couldn't grip it with his stupid useless injured hand.

Elyan looked at him, eyes wide with concern.

Gwaine tried to calm himself as he took up the sword in his other hand. "Sir Elyan. Will you please be my second? Not even for me, I don't care, but for your sister."

"Wasn't Sir K your--?"

"Will you or won't you?" Gwaine growled. It seemed as though he'd be fighting left-handed today. Again. Gaius would probably kill him for even entering the duel like this. You know, like breaking his ward's arm wasn't reason enough to kill him.

Yup, he was dead.

He began to lash the shield to his right arm, tied so that it would stay even if he couldn't grip it.

"You're not left-handed," Elyan pointed out.

"No. But I am royally pissed off. You won’t have anything to clean up, I guarantee it," Gwaine said, and looked sidelong at Elyan. "So you in or not?"

"I'm in, I’m in," Elyan sighed, shaking his head at him.

But Gwaine ignored the look and brushed past him, heading for the field. He spun his sword experimentally as he squinted up at Galehaut. “So, how do we do this? I should warn you, I’m not used to rules and Codes and things. I’m sure Leon’s told you.” He tried to make his grin shark-like, and he was sure he was angry enough that it mostly worked.

“I look forward to trying my hand against your unique…style, Sir Gwaine,” Galehaut said, bowing. “I have heard that you are generally unbeatable among the knights.”

“Only generally?” Gwaine smirked, getting a laugh out of the crowd.

Arthur rolled his eyes but waved his hand for silence. “Then let us begin the duel,” he said in his Speech voice. “Sir Gwaine, for why do you challenge Sir Galehaut?”

‘Because he’s an ass and a sissy,’ Gwaine barely refrained from muttering, and when Arthur coughed he said out loud: “For the Queen’s Honor!”

Arthur turned to Galehaut. “Sir Galehaut. For why do you defend you from Sir Gwaine?”

“For the Honor of her Subjects,” Galehaut responded proudly.

Oh, sure. Stealing his material now, too, the fighting-for-the-common-man angle. This was going to be a genuine pleasure.

The crowds began to cheer as the opponents made their ways to the opposite ends of the lists. Gwaine pumped his arms and egged them on, letting his blood go ahead and boil, his vision go red. Galehaut didn’t deserve it, but he was going to get all of Gwaine’s anger--not only what he deserved for insulting Gwen like that, but all his anger--at K, at Arthur, at Merlin being hurt, at himself, at everything.

Trumpets sounded. Galehaut saluted him.

And then Gwaine caught Gwen’s eye. Or perhaps she caught his.

And she was shaking her head at him, ever-so-slightly, warning.

Gwaine gulped: he had forgotten. He wasn’t supposed to wipe the floor with Galehaut--not yet--not as long as Lancelot wasn’t watching.

So unfair.



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63 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 17th July 2012, 06:00

His arm hurt, but certainly not badly enough- yet- that he would even consider that nasty stuff Arthur had tried to give him. He had a feeling, though, that if he didn’t distract himself fairly soon, it was going to start throbbing worse, and he might actually be tempted. So, before he could get quite that desperate, he decided he’d go clean up the laundry he’d dropped and get it taken care of before going to watch the duel and make sure Gwaine and Galehaut didn’t accidentally succeed in killing each other. He was still annoyed with Gwaine for not considering that waxing the bottom of someone’s shoes could seriously injure them, but it sounded like K had put him up to it. And while he hadn’t really been paying attention when Arthur had come storming in, having been distracted by Gaius poking and prodding at his arm, he was pretty sure Arthur had been asking something about why Gwaine had struck K. And the knight had had a very obvious fat lip when he’d left… and it wasn’t so very hard to put two and two together. Gwaine had probably punched Sir K, and it had been after Merlin had stumbled away to get his arm tended to. So maybe he wasn’t quite as annoyed as he’d been.

Picking up the clothes took a little longer than he’d anticipated, and balancing the basket of clothes one-handed when usually he would have used both was awkward. He couldn’t even carry it against his chest, because that jarred both his splinted and wrapped lower arm and his shoulder. After countless growls of frustration, he finally managed to get the clothes all the way to the castle laundry rooms, where they were taken from him to be washed. He set off back across the castle, already bored with having his arm wrapped against his body and fidgeting with the bandage that was keeping the splint where it belonged.

He wound his way back to the practice grounds at a walk, instead of his customary half-run, seeing as how his usual neck-or-nothing bolting around the castle hadn’t worked terribly well earlier and would now only jar his shoulder and a number of bruises. It was frustrating, having to walk when he really would have liked to be at the practice grounds right now, and he wasn’t paying a lot of attention to where he was going. He nearly tripped over several gnomes as he rounded a corner, and leapt back with a startled squeak that he would have denied if anyone had been around to hear him. Gnomes? Had Arthur really put gnomes in the halls now? He stepped forward and looked at them more closely, frowning. They looked like the ones Arthur had thrown into the chest. One of them, the one holding the rake, he’d definitely seen Gwaine smash.

This was bad. The gnomes had escaped their chest, and they could rebuild themselves. Who knew where they were right now, and in a castle full of nobles, they had plenty of prey to choose from. He had to tell someone, but first… first he had to deal with these. Obviously breaking them didn’t kill them, but maybe it would at least slow them down.

So he picked them up, one at a time, and dropped them back to the floor with a satisfying crash. Then he kicked the pieces up and down the hall so there was more distance to cover if they wanted to put themselves back together. Some of the pieces he bent to pick up and dropped just outside the castle doors on his hurried way to the practice grounds. No, jogging definitely wasn’t what he would have described as comfortable, but he needed to tell Gwaine about the gnomes before they went and killed someone else.

But he was a little late. He saw Gwaine and Galehaut squaring off well before he was within shouting distance, although Lancelot was missing as Galehaut’s second, and K seemed to have been replaced by Elyan. Also, Gwaine appeared to be fighting left-handed. Merlin supposed he shouldn’t have been surprised, but it didn’t stop him from rolling his eyes in exasperation as he joined the others watching, ignoring the several double-takes from those who hadn’t witnessed him falling down the stairs in order to look around for Leon and Lancelot.

They were nowhere to be seen, either one of them. And that made Merlin decidedly nervous, given the wandering gnomes. But he stood quietly and watched and pulled at a loose thread in the bandage on his arm until Arthur, standing next to him, whacked his good arm and told him to, “Stop that, or I’ll send you back to Gaius,” without ever taking his eyes off the fight.


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64 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 17th July 2012, 16:53

Leon made it a point to know where each of his knights liked to relax when they were by themselves, mainly for occasions like these. For Gwaine, it was a quiet tavern on the edge of the Lower Town. Percival liked sitting on the fence of the sheep pen. Merlin was usually hiding somewhere in the apothecary rafters.

Lancelot could invariably be found somewhere in the castle’s extensive gardens.

They covered almost a complete side of the castle, and extended almost into the forest a quarter mile off. When Ygraine died, the gardens were forgotten and they essentially grew wild. In his later years Uther tried to do something now and then to restore the gardens, but as soon as Gwen and Arthur became engaged Gwen had done wonders for the garden to improve it. Still, most of it was overgrown with untrimmed hedges, moss-covered benches and wildflowers filling the paths. Lancelot frequented the garden in any state, though. His usual place to sit and write poetry or just think noble thoughts was on a stone terrace overgrown with ivy, which allowed him to look up at Guinevere’s window and watch one of the castle exits that Gwen sometimes used. The terrace was empty, but Leon thought he saw a shadow on the far end of the garden near the forest. It disappeared around a hedge.

Leon pushed through a patch of particularly tall hollyhocks toward it. “Lancelot!” he called, but he only heard the rustling of leaves and the crunching of branches. Leon sighed and stomped off after the errant knight. “It isn’t like you to sulk like this,” he shouted. “Galehaut did this for you, you know—!“

But as he rounded the hedge he found himself looking at an empty field, lined on one side by a gnarled and forgotten orchard. The field rippled like water in the wind—a storm was going to be kicking up soon, judging by the gathering storm clouds above. They seemed to be gathering with surprising speed.

Figuring that the missing knight was not sulking around here after all, Leon turned to head back, and his boot hit something that tinkled and scraped gently against the cobblestone. He looked down, and saw a little ceramic gnome knocked on its side by his boot.

He stepped back, unblinking, then came forward and smashed the gnome under his boot. It shattered.

This—this was madness! Camelot [i[never[/i] had a problem with gnomes before!...

There was a sound like wood creaking, and he turned slowly to see that the trees really were growing before his very eyes. Here and there he saw flashes of red among the layers of green foliage, but in the wind Leon couldn’t help but blink.

They moved closer across the orchard, and the orchard itself, before Leon’s very eyes, was receding away, making the field Leon’s only option for escape.

But Leon recognized their formation—it was a typical pincer move, meant to drive him out of the covert provided by the hedges. They wanted to get him running across the open field. He immediately recognized it as a fox-hunting move, which put an unpleasant thought in his mind: they were planning to hunt him down.

His heart instantly began to pound in his chest. He only had a few seconds before they got to him. But he thought so much about hunting that it only took a few seconds to switch his brain over from thinking like a hunter to thinking like the quarry. The beasts of venery flashed through his mind—Hare, hart, roe, buck, wild boar, wolf, badger, fox—all with very different evasion strategies and subsequent hunting styles. But they chose fox, and the strategy for the quarry’s survival in such a hunt was based on cunning. Stay to the covert. Make them lose the scent. Keep a non-linear path.

And make sure to lead them away from the castle.

He almost found himself smiling. “You lot picked the wrong quarry,” he said, and, just as the first gnome was about to reach him, he threw off his red cloak, bounded over the closest gnomes, and disappeared into the forest thicket.


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65 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 18th July 2012, 05:34

Maeglin

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Gwaine wasn't used to fighting like this. Not really.

He'd fought for sport before, for the entertainment of some people more sadistic than others. That was nothing new.

But he wasn't usually this distracted. He wasn't usually fighting these kinds of fights left-handed. He wasn't usually worried about his best friend, wasn't usually so consumed with hate for a cruel man (and Gwaine's tolerance for cruelty was high) who had deceived and betrayed him, wasn't usually trying to match-make and help people who didn't deserve to be helped, and he certainly wasn't usually being kept in check by a woman who wouldn't even sleep with him!

Gwaine was normally good at prolonging fights.

Today was not a normal day.

And, okay, Galehaut was maybe pretty good in a fight. But Gwaine wasn't in the mood to admit that.

The long and short of it was, he was getting his arse handed to him up and down the field. Oh, Gwaine could defend himself. He wasn't getting hurt, but this wasn't looking pretty, and many of the other knights looked embarassed. Every time he even swung a little hard in retaliation, Gwen caught his eye and shook her head at him, and he was forced to pull his punches back and not brain the little brat.

And now it was raining. Super.

So when Lancelot finally arrived, Gwaine had never been so glad to see him in his life.

Gwaine didn't even wait for Gwen's signal, and honestly, the fight was over pretty quickly after Lance showed up--when Gwaine had free reign once again. A shield bash to the head, a kick to the instep, and an even, precise cut over the back of Galehaut's hand which made him drop his sword.

Then he smacked him around a bit--not enough to kill him, and not really enough to maim him, as he turned his blade so the flat edge struck him, leaving bruises where Galehaut could not get his shield up fast enough. And this felt good, this getting to let go. He had Galehaut swordless and backpedaling across the field hiding behind his shield. Sure, he looked like a villain, not giving Galehaut a chance to pick up his sword, but Gwaine was pretty sure he already was a villain after today, so he could hardly dredge up the energy to care. In fact, if he kept going like this and Lancelot didn't intervene soon, as the Queen's gamble hazarded that he would, Galehaut might actually not walk away from this one on his own two legs--

Then a sword crossed his vision, blocking his next attack.

There he was.

Gwaine looked up. Lancelot had, apparently, entered the arena, and had, apparently, taken it amiss that he was tearing Galehaut a new one on his account, and also had, apparently, picked up Galehaut's sword. Gwaine looked between them as their swords clashed, and since Galehaut looked sufficiently cowed and not a little bit bloody and battered, he let him go, and turned to face his new opponent. He and Lancelot squared off, and Gwaine saluted him as some squires hurriedly dragged Galehaut off the field.

Now Gwaine had to fight Lancelot, for, like, Galehaut's honor or something. Which was stupid.

Especially because the Queen had told him he had to let Lancelot win.



Last edited by Maeglin on 19th July 2012, 03:17; edited 2 times in total

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66 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 19th July 2012, 02:41

Leon bounded through the brush, leapt down underneath a rotting log and went still. He tried to catch his breath in complete silence, and made himself wheeze and cough. It was raining, and though he knew he should be shivering without his cloak to keep out the damp he thanked every drop that fell. Hunts didn’t go on in the rain. With the water to wash away his scent, combined with all the feints and back-switches he threw into his escape, the gnomes probably lost his trail long ago. Still, you could never be too careful. More than once he managed to catch a fox that had wandered back to the open field when it erroneously supposed that he had given up the hunt.

He waited for about half an hour under that log, feeling beetles crawling around his hands and regretting the loss of his cloak as a thick fog settled in on the forest floor. It couldn’t be later than, oh, three in the afternoon, but already the storm clouds and the mist made the forest look bathed in twilight. But there was no sign of a gnome anywhere.

He got up after a cautious look-round revealed no ceramic monsters, rubbing some life back into his legs—he must have ran nearly five miles into the forest—and had a good cough at the damp in his lungs. He used to spend whole nights out in the forest. Now all he wanted was to curl up next to the fire with a cup of mulled wine.

I’m not getting that old yet, am I?

He knew this particular area of the forest, and took a familiar trail back to Camelot, figuring it didn’t matter. Anyway, the trail was surrounded by brush and he could easily leap back into the thick of it if any gnomes were spotted.

Still, he was getting cold, and his sweat which already drenched him felt even more cold without the protection the log provided. He started to jog.

He knew the trail so well that when he tripped he was genuinely confused, but he managed to catch himself just in time—

He didn’t remember any more.


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67 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 19th July 2012, 04:58

Maeglin

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Gwaine deserved this.

He was a piss-poor judge of character.

He never thought before he acted.

He was directly responsible for the injury of his first friend.

He had just let his anger get the better of him against a man who didn't really deserve it.

He generally made his King look bad--and he kind of didn't care.

Gwaine tried to tell himself this as Lancelot attacked him, with precise, predictable, honorable, textbook efficiency that Gwaine had mostly--okay, barely--under control.

And the queen had practically ordered him to lose this match to Lancelot.

And he hurt, and he was tired, and fighting bloody left-handed, and Lancelot was probably going to take him down anyway if he kept this up, but still he just couldn't bring himself to lose. It was a hard habit to break, knowing his entire life that losing meant death.

No, he told himself. This was just a game. This was just play-fighting. He could lose, and he wouldn't die. At worst, it would be a ding in honor he didn't have, and a knock to pride he didn't care about.

And it would make Gwen happy.

And it might get Lancelot on track.

And it would make Galehaut's day.

And he deserved it.

So Gwaine faked a convincing slip in the wet grass and went down on his back. He half-bothered lifting his sword-arm, but with a flick of his wrist, Lancelot disarmed him and held the sword at his throat.

"Do you yield, Sir Gwaine?" he asked, flicking his wet hair out of his face dramatically.

Gwaine rolled his eyes. "Yeah, yeah, whatever, let me up," Gwaine grumbled, taking a knife from his boot to cut the bonds holding the shield to his right arm before scrambling to his feet out of the mud. He stalked over to where the knights were gathered and Galehaut was being seen to by Gaius.

Arthur soon joined them. "Well fought, Sir Lancelot," he congratulated, and then turning to Gwaine, threw his arms wide with an incredulous look. "What happened out there, Sir Gwaine?" he teased, half-serious, half-playful. "I thought you were supposed to be undefeated?"

"Apparently not, sire," Gwaine ground out, not looking at him.

"I thought you fought admirably, Sir Gwaine," Gwen said, with a warm smile and a grateful nod. He followed her gaze to where Galehaut lay on a litter:

"This saving my life business is becoming a habit of yours," Galehaut was telling Lancelot.

"I try to always be true to my word," Lancelot said, patting his hand.

"But--I insulted her, and if you did not think I was trying to defend you, I don’t--"

"It’s alright, Galehaut. I understand now what you were trying to do for me, and even if it was misguided it took a lot of courage to do. Besides," he added with a smile. "I don’t like to see a man friendless."

"I apologize for what I said, of course," he added to the room at large, before turning back to Lancelot: "I only did not want you to feel that you were alone."

"Nor I, you. I had promised to stand by you and I did not. Rest assured I shall not leave you in desperate need of help ever again."

"The world doesn’t deserve your kind, Lancelot," Galehaut said, shaking his head.

They looked into each other’s eyes for a moment, Lancelot’s soft brown meeting Galehaut’s pale blue.

Arthur coughed. Lancelot and Galehaut realized they were still holding hands and let go quickly.

"Yes, well, I hope you have learned your lesson--" Arthur said, "all around."

Gwaine nodded enough to be dismissed, and began scanning the crowd for Merlin. Even if Merlin wouldn't talk to him, Gwaine still had to make sure he was all right.

And then he was going to get drunk.



Last edited by Maeglin on 5th August 2012, 06:58; edited 1 time in total

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68 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 19th July 2012, 06:43

Gwaine, Merlin couldn’t help but noticing, looked fairly definitely pissed off. He was definitely taking it out on Galehaut, who only partially deserved it for being wretched about Gwen, or he was until Lancelot stepped in, almost right on cue, and took up where Galehaut had left off- but with a lot more luck. Merlin knew Gwen had asked Gwaine to lose on purpose, but he honestly couldn’t tell if the knight was faking it or not. Granted, the slipping looked a little contrived, maybe, a little, and Merlin couldn’t hear what he said to Lancelot, but he could read body language as well as anyone- and Gwaine was not happy.

When Arthur went to congratulate Lancelot and talk to Galehaut and Gwaine, Merlin hung back slightly, partially because he couldn’t very well bring up the gnomes around Arthur without getting them all in trouble, and partially because he wasn’t so sure whether Gwaine was angry or guilty or just annoyed he’d lost on purpose. He waited until he realized Gwaine was looking around for him, and started to raise his arm to catch his attention.

Except his arm was, unsurprisingly, still wrapped to his chest, and tugging on it hadn’t felt great. He winced and then wished he hadn’t because Gwaine had undoubtedly caught the look. Merlin was pretty sure he saw an answering wince on his friend’s face, and realized that of course, even though the stupid prank had been K’s idea to begin with, Gwaine was pretty much blaming himself for it, which meant he was going to have to deal with guilt-ridden Gwaine on top of reassembling gnomes and an absent Leon. But he grinned somewhat hesitantly as his friend walked up to him looking really quite miserable.

“Look, Merlin, I-“ he started, dropping his eyes to his feet, and Merlin just shook his head slightly before forestalling the apology.

“It’s alright, Gwaine, no permanent harm done,” he said.

“But-“

“Just forget it, okay? Or blame it on K, or… something. I’m fine,” he said.

“Mate, I don’t know what fine means in your world, but…” Gwaine said, making a sort of hand motion that included Merlin’s arm and the numerous other bumps and bruises.

“You’re right, clearly I’ve been hanging around you knights too long,” he said, and added, “How’s your hand?”

“It’s fine,” Gwaine answered, and frowned when Merlin grinned brightly.

“So you were just fighting left-handed with your shield strapped to your arm for fun?” Merlin asked, snatching Gwaine’s hand out of the air as the knight waved it dismissively. Gwaine made a face as Merlin poked at it, but short of rewrapping it there wasn’t really much to be done. He rolled his eyes and let Gwaine snatch it back.

“Maybe you’re the one who should have his arm wrapped to his chest,” Merlin muttered, and then held up his hand when Gwaine looked momentarily guilty again. Then he thought better of it- maybe if he let Gwaine apologize he’d quit having to interrupt him. So he dropped his hand and just gave Gwaine one of those passive looks.

“Merlin, I really am sorry. I’m an idiot,” he said. Merlin snorted, realized this might come across as obnoxious, and grinned.

“Sure, okay, now can I tell you about the gnomes? It’s kind of important,” Merlin answered, and Gwaine glanced around as if Arthur might walk up behind them and whack them both upside the head for mentioning them again. Then he looked at Merlin.

“They got out of the chest Arthur put them in. And the ones you smashed put themselves back together, I saw them on the way here. I smashed them again, but I don’t think it’ll do much. How do we get rid of them?” he asked. None of Gaius’ books had been of any help in this matter, not beyond the one he’d found earlier that had told them what the little beasts were. But Gwaine just shook his head.

“Maybe Leon?” he asked, but was interrupted from any further discussion by Elaine, who stepped up to he and Gwaine looking a little confused.

“I’m sorry, but were you just talking about Leon? I can’t find him, and I haven’t seen him since he went to find Lancelot,” she said to the two of them. Merlin glanced over at Gwaine, who was looking nervously at Elaine, who was looking at the both of them as if expecting an answer.

“He’s probably just…” Gwaine started, and then couldn’t come up with an excuse.

“…been waylaid by George. About the moths. They’ve been eating the tapestries, and you know how George is,” Merlin supplied helpfully, and saw a twitch out of the corner of his eye that might have been Gwaine very carefully not smacking his forehead with the palm of his hand at yet another of Merlin’s many insect excuses.


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69 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 20th July 2012, 02:40

Leon wasn’t unconscious for very long--maybe two or three minutes, because when he woke up his body was still swinging slightly, and his leg didn’t feel half so bad as it did only ten minutes later. And it took him about ten minutes to comprehend that, for one, he had indeed been knocked unconscious, probably by knocking his head on a rock when he tripped.

It took a bit longer to realize that he was upside-down.

The disorientation was just beginning to fade, and he looked down, then up. His left leg was snared with a thick and thorned vine around the ankle, which hung down from a tree branch about three feet below—no, above—him (he had to keep up and down straight, because where would he be if he could not?). He leaned his head back, making himself swing gently again to the tight groan of the ivy. He couldn’t feel his foot anymore, but his leg was shooting pain up his—no, down his—spine and into his shoulders. His head was pounding, and his nostrils, eyelids and sinuses felt like they were full to bursting with blood. He reached up and touched his temple with his gloved hand, and peered at it with bleary eyes. Quite a bit of blood had run down his face and into his hair, but it would probably stop bleeding soon.

As he swung there, about five feet away from the ground, he couldn’t help thinking it was all so bloody unfair. They had been foxhunting, hadn’t they? They couldn’t just—change tactics in the middle of a hunt! Whoever thought of hunting a fox like a common hare? But that was exactly what they did, and Leon hated to admit it but it worked. A snare, set over a common path, was textbook—any squire could tell you that. And he fell for it.

He didn’t even try to get his foot free. With both feet snared, it might be done, but with one the balance was off by too high of a margin, and one leg just didn’t have the strength required to get him loose. He could hang there for hours before any gnomes bothered to check the snare.

What did he have? His chainmail, the boot off one foot, and a knife, the only things he didn’t throw off within the first few minutes of the chase. He worked the knife out of its sheath and spent the next two hours alternating between trying to cut the vine and, since it was almost impossible while trying to bend up like that, breathing. After one desperate and utterly unsuccessful strike at the vine his weary and sweaty hand lost hold of the knife and it landed blade-first in the ground with a thud. He swore colorfully—that was probably all Gwaine’s fault—then immediately regretted it. If they didn’t know he was trapped before, they certainly knew now.

And it was getting dark.

His head ached with agonizing pulses as he turned to see a red ceramic hood just barely visible in the mist. His heart pumped hard in his ears.

“OK, OK…” Leon breathed to himself. Without taking his eyes off the gnome he unhooked his belt and wriggled out of his chain shirt. For once it was easy—the thing’s weight made it almost slip off. Gripping the bottom of it in two hands, he swung it around once and savagely brought it down—the gnome practically exploded as the chainmail sleeve crashed into it.

Leon laughed almost maniacally at the gnome’s fractured pieces. However, the movement caused him to dance in the air like a moth in a spiderweb, and he swung a few times before he caught sight of another gnome directly opposite the first. Another wind-up and he cracked the chainmail like a whip, sending the gnome crashing into oblivion before it could touch him.

Adrenaline pumped through his weary veins once again as he smashed gnome after gnome with the chain mail, even managing to pick off one that was climbing down the vine that bound him. Beads of sweat rolled down his forehead, and sizzled as they hit the ground below him.

Sizzled?

He caught his breath, and inhaled the chemically, burned-earth scent that he encountered in the anteroom with Merlin. He looked around, expecting to see light at the source of the magical fire. But all he saw was a very faint circle of blue flame directly below him. It didn’t burn the leaves it surrounded and it didn’t illuminate hardly anything at all.

But in the frigid damp of the forest he could distinctly feel heat rising from it.

Dusk turned into night.


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70 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 20th July 2012, 03:22

Maeglin

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"You're lying," Elaine said.

"What? No, I'm serious. George is possibly the most neurotically thorough servant--" Merlin began.

"Leon's disappeared," Elaine insisted. "He wasn't watching the duel. Now, either he is in trouble with me, or he is just in trouble." She looked at them sternly. "Also, Sir Gwaine, your lip is bleeding," she added, handing him her hanky.

"Where is Leon, now?" Lancelot asked, stepping up to them.

"He went to find you," Merlin said. "The gardens, or something?"

"I came from there and did not see him. What's wrong?" Lancelot demanded, while Galehaut, who had gotten up from the litter he was lying on, half-bandaged, came up behind him.

"Um..." Merlin began, but, well, now that they had an audience, this just sounded stupid.

Gwaine blew out a breath: "Evil magic gnomes are infesting the castle. We thought we got rid of them but we're not sure. Leon...might be in trouble. We have to go find him."

The knights took this surprisingly well. "What do you want us to do?" Galehaut asked, setting his jaw.

Gwaine grinned up at him. Now that he had kicked his arse, he felt one-hundred percent better about Sir Galehaut. "No hard feelings?"

"On the contrary, Sir Gwaine. I feel as though you have taught me a valuable lesson. Now, what can we do to help?"

Gwaine looked at Merlin, and then back at the other knights. "Keep an eye on Arthur. I think they go after those of noble blood, so Gwen should be safe." Gwaine shrugged. "So should you, Lance."

"If you see any gnomes, smash them," Merlin added. "They can only move when you're not looking at them, so don't blink."

Lancelot and Galehaut nodded.

"Okay," Gwaine said, tossing the handkerchief to Galehaut, who snatched it out of the air.

With his right hand.

Gwaine blinked. "You're...not left-handed?"

Galehaut smiled shyly. "You are not left-handed, either. I thought it only fair."

Gwaine laughed and shook his head at Galehaut, as Merlin dragged him off.

They were at the gardens quickly. Heads down, looking for any signs that Leon had been here.

Unsurprisingly, they found nothing.

"Hey! What are you doing here?" Gwaine exclaimed, as he looked up to see the lady Elaine pulling on leather riding gloves.

"I'm coming with you, of course."

"Coming? Where?"

"To rescue Sir Leon."

"What? No, it's too dangerous," Gwaine said.

Elaine folded her arms and fixed him with a daring look.

"Do you even know where you are going?"

"We're looking for clues," Merlin defended helpfully.

She rolled her eyes, and with a glance around, walked across the garden to where an old woman was watering flowers.

"Excuse me, have you seen Sir Leon come this way?"

The old woman smiled up at Elaine. "Oh, yes, milady. He came just this way. Lookin' for Sir Lancelot, he was!"

Elaine turned and smiled at Gwaine and Merlin, who looked dumbfounded.

"And did you see which way he left?"

"Oh, aye. He up and run off east to the woods, like he was chasing butterflies, he was!" she laughed heartily at that.

Elaine smiled, thanked the woman, and walked back to Gwaine and Merlin.

"What was that?" Gwaine asked.

"Asking for directions. Now are you coming or not?"

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71 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 21st July 2012, 06:00

Without waiting more than a moment for their answer, Elaine had turned and started walking toward the forest. After throwing each other looks that were equal parts confusion and consternation, Gwaine and Merlin went after her.

“Elaine, wait. You can’t just go running out there,” Gwaine remarked, stepping in front of her and turning to block her path. She leveled a look at him, and he looked back over her shoulder at Merlin, nodding toward the stables. Merlin looked at him cluelessly for a moment before a look of comprehension dawned on his face and he turned to go get horses.

“It’ll take all night to find him on foot. He could be anywhere! We need to take horses,” Gwaine explained, taking Elaine’s elbow and turning her the direction Merlin had gone. With a snort, she followed after him and between the three of them, they got Diablo, Royale, and Elaine’s horse saddled. One their way out of the castle, they had the sense to “borrow” some of the torches that were set in sconces along the wall, because they would certainly need light when the sun went down. It was already growing toward dusk, and in the forest night fell even faster for all the trees.

It wasn’t easy to track Leon or the gnomes, so by the time they were able to find any sign by which to track the knight, Elaine knew all about the gnomes and what they’d been up to, and they’d had to light the torches. The rain seemed to be letting up, but now the wind that often came after the rain had kicked up and the torches wouldn’t stay lit. After the third time they had to stop to relight the things, Merlin surreptitiously said a short spell to make the foolish things stay lit. Elaine proposed splitting up to look for Leon, but neither Gwaine nor Merlin were leaving her alone with a lot of gnomes running around- she was noble, after all. Also Leon would kill them both stone dead if he ever found out they’d done such a thing.

They moved through the forest calling Leon’s name until Elaine thought she saw something and insisted on checking it out, leaving Merlin and Gwaine to trail after her, ducking branches and trying to keep their balance as the horses picked their way over uneven forest floor by the meager torchlight. Elaine had a mind of her own, that woman…

But it turned out her eyesight was better than either Merlin’s or Gwaine’s, because as they drew nearer they saw Sir Leon, swinging upside down by one foot, whacking away at gnomes with his chainmail shirt. It was ingenious, really, using the chain mail, and it appeared he’d already had some luck with the tactic. They clopped closer as the last visible light leaked out of the forest, leaving them no light source other than the torches. Oh, and the blue magic fire glowing beneath Leon. Because they could now be seen, the gnomes that had surrounded him were now immobile, but getting Leon down was going to be interesting, since the only one of their party with two fully-functional arms was Elaine, and she didn’t look like she was game for scrambling into the tree and chopping the vine that held Leon suspended off the ground.

“They caught you in one of those?” Gwaine asked as they approached and he and Merlin both swung off their horses, tying them to a branch nearby while trying to keep an eye on the gnomes and carefully skirting the blue fire. It was definitely magic fire- not burning any of the things around it, but still hot enough that when Merlin stepped close to it, he could feel the heat through his boots, just like any ordinary campfire.

“Not now, Gwaine, just get me down!” Leon said, perhaps a bit emphatically, and then noticed the third member of the party as she sat on her horse and tried to make sense of the whole scene. “Elaine?” he asked, swinging a little as he tried to get a better look at her.

“Perhaps we should deal with the gnomes?” Merlin asked, holding his torch down close to the ring of fire and the gnomes.

They all turned, not thinking, as the blue fire flicked right out of existence. Then, realizing no one was watching the gnomes, they all wheeled back around, torchlight spilling out away from the tree and throwing flashing, uneven shadows all around. But the gnomes hadn’t moved. There were certainly more of them, and more crawling out of the shadows every time the light fell off of them, but they seemed to be staying at a safe distance.

And then all three torches flicked out briefly before relighting, and the group found themselves completely ringed and hemmed in by the little red-capped figures, arms reaching, faces grimacing. Merlin glanced surreptitiously up at his own torch with some concern. That spell should have been keeping them lit, without flicking out and throwing them all into darkness. The horses whinnied as things brushed against their legs, running into each other and dragging their heavy hooves nervously across the ground.

“I think we should get Leon down sooner, rather than later,” Merlin remarked, eyes returning to the gnomes, hastily trying to concoct a plan by which he could illuminate the immediate vicinity without Leon or Elaine noticing he was doing some serious magic.


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72 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 22nd July 2012, 00:12

Leon would have been in good spirits and been able to laugh at himself a little if he hadn’t been hanging upside down for several hours. As it was he fumed silently as Gwaine and Merlin seemed to debate whether they were going to let him down at all.

Then the torches flickered in the wind, and Merlin, bless him, insisted on the most sensible course of action.

Gwaine laughed nervously as he eyed the torches. “Yeah. Sure. Alright.” he said. “Don’t take your eyes off those gnomes—I’m going to cut him down. Elaine, catch the great lump for me, will you?”

Gwaine, his eyes still on the other half of the gnomes that Merlin wasn't watching, started to untie the vine-snare as Elaine strode forward. Leon looked at her upside-down face with worry. “Lady Elaine, it’s not safe for—“

He was cut off, very abruptly, as Elaine took hold of him, turned his head slightly downward, and kissed him on the mouth. She was, just like last time, at the perfect height to do so, but there was some considerable amount of urgency in the kiss that made her fingers tight at his jawline and ears, pressing his lips into hers (not that he could have shied away, anyway). Being kissed upside-down was not the sort of thing he had in mind when he had just been rescued from being eaten alive. Having her nose and hot breath pressed into his cold bearded chin, her lips inverted against his while he stared her right in the throat, felt highly immoral and utterly wrong. But the thrill that went through him at such a strange kiss, with his senses heightened and his body still high on terror, was absolutely electric. He would never, not in a hundred years, get a kiss like that again.

She pulled away from his lips and he sank like lead—both psychologically and literally as Gwaine lowered him down to the ground, into Elaine’s arms on the now-cold earth below. “Are you alright?” she asked, worry in her every feature as she propped him up.

“Y-yes, of course,” he managed. His blood, now pumping the right away again, left a feeling of fizzy light-headedness.

“Good,” she said, and kissed him again. She had been holding back with the last kiss, and now he felt her tongue and teeth and other things he did not have any experience encountering besides his own. He gave a tiny bewildered moan of pleasure.

“Far be it from me to keep you two from getting interesting,” Gwaine said in affected tones of pomposity, “But could you finish eating him alive when we’re back at the castle, and help me by keeping those gnomes from stealing the horses?”

Elaine blushed quite deeply and practically dumped Leon on the ground in her hurry to stand up and face the ceramic terrors. Gwaine, taking the opportunity of free eyesight to roll his eyes, pulled a sobering Leon to his feet.

“Can you walk?” Gwaine asked. Merlin was off kicking ceramic gnomes into the trunks of nearby trees with satisfying crunches of ceramic. Now and then he said something under his breath, which Leon promptly tried to ignore—he hadn’t heard Merlin curse before and wasn’t in a mood to find out what Gwaine had managed to teach him now. He tested his leg and nodded before he turned his eyes on the gnomes, just in case Elaine or Merlin blinked involuntarily.

“I was trying to lead them away from the castle,” he said.

“Ah, see, I knew you could be stupidly reckless in a pinch,” Gwaine retorted smoothly. “Now we’re out in the middle of nowhere, with torches that shouldn’t be going out but just happen to be doing so!”

He shouted that last bit, and Leon raised an eyebrow. “Why shouldn’t they go out? It’s windy.”

“Come on, Camelot torches ought to be made to withstand a little breeze,” Gwaine countered without missing a beat. “I’m sure you had a good plan, but we’d better get back to the castle.”

Leon nodded. “Merlin, help Elaine with her horse, we’ll watch them.”

Merlin, looking frustrated, turned away from gnome-punting and helped Elaine mount before he went to his own horse.

“Up you get, Leon,” Gwaine said.

“Mount up, I’ll watch them,” Leon replied.

“Leon, you know that normally I’d listen to you—“

“—You wouldn’t—“

“But I’m in charge of this mission, and I’ve got to get my ladies to safety.”

As one Leon, Merlin, and Elaine turned to Gwaine and said, “Who are you calling ‘your ladies’?”

That’s when the torches went out.


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73 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 25th July 2012, 16:49

Maeglin

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Gwaine blinked, to make sure that wasn't just a trick of his eyes somehow and, was, in fact, just his luck. A flash of lightning bathed the clearing in light for a second only.

"Merlin..." Gwaine ground out.

"I know, I know, I'm trying!" Merlin hissed back.

"Easy, it's not his fault," Leon said, fortunately misunderstanding what Gwaine had meant. "It's all right," he went on, way too calmly, like a father talking children down off a fright. Gwaine flinched and turned, as something brushed past him in the dark. "We just have to get on the horses and--"

"Nyeeeeehh!" Studly screeched--Studly, who never, as a rule, screeched or showed any signs of panic--leading the other steeds to practically wet themselves. In the darkness, they knew nothing but a flurry of hooves and screaming horses. Elaine was shouting. The horses snapped free of their posts.

In the next flash of lightning, everyone saw the horses tearing off towards Camelot, with Elaine along for the ride. Leon shouted after her.

Only Gwaine saw what scared them.

"Uh--boys?"

With every flash of lightning, more gnomes gathered. Gwaine turned his back to Leon and Merlin, like keeping eyes on their targets in the dark would help at all.

"Damn! Now we'll have to make it on foot," Leon didn't curse often, but he had waited until there were no ladies present, which was kind of cute.

"Boys?" Gwaine tried again, his agitation growing.

"We can't see anything in the dark," Merlin punctuated warningly. "We should get out of here."

Multiple, separate, tiny breezes whipped his cloak around his feet. It sounded and felt like the forest floor was crawling with insects. But he couldn't see.

"Merlin! Leon!" Gwaine snapped.

Lightning flashed again, and the brief revelation wasn't pretty.

Tiny ceramic faces twisted in grotesque delight, arms outstretched. There might have been a hundred of them, all around, in a tightening circle, above them in the trees. Gwaine smelled burning.

And in the following crash of thunder, Gwaine's first thought went to Merlin, so he grabbed the warlock by the shirt collar. As the thunder echoed back, Gwaine realized that was stupid, and he had to reach back to his other side to grab Leon's arm--Leon, who was in far more danger than Merlin, being of noble blood.

And as they were plunged into darkness and silence once again, Gwaine realized--or rather, you know, admitted, now that it was staring him in the face--that he was, if you wanted to be technical about it, noble, too.

"Oh, hell."

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74 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 28th July 2012, 01:48

The torches had gone out, and no amount of spell-casting or muttering or cursing under his breath would relight them. It didn’t stop him trying one last time as the lightning flashed and they all caught a good look at the gnomes, poised in the split second of almost-daylight brightness to attack. Merlin nearly jumped out of his skin when Gwaine grabbed the collar of his shirt, thinking for a moment that the gnomes were trying to get him out of the way.

This had really gone downhill quite quickly, he thought, jostling into Gwaine and Leon both as something brushed against his leg. Something else landed on his foot and he kicked at it, hearing the satisfying smash of ceramic on a tree trunk several feet away. But in another flicker of lightning, he saw that the circle had closed, and when the lightning flickered out, he felt more weight on his feet and was nearly toppled over as Gwaine ran into him, apparently trying to get away from his own assailants.

Merlin glanced around a bit frantically. If it came down to it, he could probably cast a spell to kill the gnomes- but there was certainly no way Leon wouldn’t notice, and that would cause endless problems. It would still be better than his two friends ending up as burned husks, though, and after only a split second’s thought, Merlin was fully prepared to do something- anything- that might at least slow the gnomes down, and took a breath in preparation to speak.

Off to his right, in front of Gwaine, a large number of gnomes exploded. Or, rather, it sounded like they exploded. Gwaine jumped back from the sound, collided with Merlin’s arm, and Leon had to grab them both to keep them from falling as Merlin yelped and stumbled back. A moment later, more gnomes exploded in front of where Merlin had been standing and in front of Leon, and shards rained down on their heads from the trees. For the next few breaths, there were only the sounds of ceramic clattering and smashing, while the three men tried to protect both themselves and each other from this new, unidentifiable threat. More lightning flashed, but they saw nothing helpful, not even shards of the gnomes, which appeared to have disintegrated into piles of sand.

One of the torches, discarded when it’d gone out, flickered back into life and Merlin jumped forward to grab it from the forest floor, then held it up to look at Gwaine and Leon. The forest was still disconcertingly silent, except for the soft crackle-pop of the single torch. There was clearly still something out there, because something out there had utterly destroyed the gnomes… and if it could destroy the gnomes, the chances that it could do the same to them was pretty high.

“Out of the frying pan…” Gwaine muttered, and Merlin had to agree with him.

“Nothing nearly so dramatic,” a voice said from the shadows in the trees, and all three of them turned, the two knights stepping forward and Merlin falling behind them- not for protection, but in case it became necessary to throw out a quick spell without hopefully being noticed.

Smiling, as if amused by the reactions of those they’d just saved, a group of druids stepped from between the trees and regarded Merlin, Leon, and Gwaine.

“You may put your weapons away, I believe. They will not be coming back,” the eldest of them said, and then nudged a pile of sand with his foot and added, under his breath, “Horrid little monsters…”


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75 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 30th July 2012, 07:03

The torch, as appreciated as it was, did not illuminate the forest very well. Leon peered into the darkness and nearly started out of his skin when he saw several drab, hooded cloaks in the flickering dark. Only druids wore such distinctive cloaks—indeed, only magic could have destroyed all of the gnomes in such a short amount of time. One of the druids stepped on the dust left behind by one of the gnomes, making it crunch under his boot.

Leon saw enough magic in his life to not react with too much fright to the druids, but he certainly didn’t feel at ease as the druids stepped into the weak torchlight and revealed themselves. Gwaine snatched the torch from Merlin and brandished it before the closest druid. “Well, whoever you are…!” he growled, then, seeming to lose heart before the solemn gaze of the nearest druid, finished with a quieter, “Thanks.”

“The Gnomish people will not bother Camelot again,” the druid said. Even in the dim firelight Leon started to recognize him. The bushy gray hair, the green cloak, the penetrating stare….

He felt the color drain from his face. “God have mercy…”

“Come,” the druid Iseldir said, thankfully not hearing him. “We shall return you to your people.” He turned away, letting Leon break his stare. He turned to see Merlin staring at him with concern, and he looked down, blinking rapidly. It—it wasn’t—he wasn’t supposed to meet him....

He found himself walking directly behind Iseldir in the half-darkness. Gwaine and Merlin were walking with other druids, and thus the torch light flashed in and out against the dark green of Iseldir’s cloak. It looked so different from the soft candle glow that shone on it all that time ago. It was the first thing he saw as the blackness of death fell away. He remembered the blade that pierced his shoulder, the mace that crashed into the side of his skull. He remembered lying there, breathing in fallen leaves to the sound of his haggard breathing and the screams of knights as they fell around him. He was terrified, but—but at least he died fighting for his king. He could finally pay the debt for losing Galahad’s life to the dragon.

His eyes could barely focus, aware with a kind of numb emptiness that death almost—that death had—opened beneath him. He died, like he should have died under the dragon’s breath, and he felt a certain peace in it for the balance it restored.

Then something cold had touched his lips, and his senses returned to him, his breath came ragged into his throat, like it didn’t belong there. Candles glared all around him, and the grey-haired druid’s eyes staring at him. He staggered to his feet, his wounds miraculously gone, and the druid did not try to stop him. Should he be grateful? Defiant? He only felt afraid. “My name is Iseldir,” the grey-haired druid said, and then added, as if he had read Leon’s mind, “Run home.” He had always been a swift runner, and he had never wanted to run so badly as he did then. The druids backed away as he tore out of the cave and sprinted through the trees, relishing in every step that took him farther from the knights that died around him and closer to the kingdom he thought he died for.

It wasn’t right. This was the second time that he should have died, and lived instead. A hard knot formed in his stomach.

He faced death many times after that, intentional and accidental. At the hand of an immortal soldier’s blade, at the tip of an errant bolt from a crossbow. Every time the knot in his stomach grew a little larger. Why was he always the one who survived, when all of his friends met their deaths?

“We meet again, Sir Galahad,” Iseldir said, jerking Leon sharply out of the realm of introspection. He had stepped to the side and slowed his pace, allowing Leon to walk beside him. But the name that the druid called him made him break stride. He had to have misheard the man. But—he knew he didn’t. He knew in the way that his heart plummeted into his stomach. He could try to deny it, but he couldn’t bring himself to contradict that steel expression as the druid waited for him. “Why did you call me that?”

“You are the Knight who found the Cup of Life and used it to protect his people, are you not?” He turned and Leon followed after him.

“But—well, I found the Cup of Life in a way, but I didn’t protect anyone,” Leon said. “It brought nothing but destruction to Camelot and to…” he stopped, realizing that the druid probably knew all too intimately the destruction that its discovery had brought to everyone.

“You and the Cup of Life are intertwined, Galahad,” the druid continued. “There is a tale of a man whose lips touched the Cup, and who used the strength it gave him to bridge the divide between magic and majesty, to stand before law to protect the half which makes the king whole.”

Leon remained quiet for a few minutes, trying to dismiss every word of this prophecy while at the same time memorizing every word. He knew druids spoke in prophecy, perhaps…perhaps this divination was meant for Galahad, if he had lived.

“You question my prophecy?” Iseldir asked.

“I am not Galahad,” Leon said, emphatically.

“If you live your life in his shade, are you not his shadow? What Galahad was meant to accomplish, magic has given over to Leon Æþling.” He paused for a moment, then continued, “You are wise not to be thankful for the life returned to you. You know that such a gift is a burden, often neither good nor bad.” Here he smiled, a strange expression on a face so stern. “But this is good, Sir Galahad. It is good that you should live.”

Leon wanted to take his name and shove it down the druid’s damn throat—either that or scream. But Leon was naturally sensitive to the wills and intentions of others, so he blurted out, “Thank you,” and meant it. The knot in his stomach didn’t go away, though.

The druid just looked down, and rejoined the druids walking ahead of them.


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