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A Dish Best Served Cold

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76 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 1st August 2012, 03:50

Maeglin

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As Leon went ahead and Merlin hung back, Gwaine began to feel uncomfortable that they had become separated in the group of Druids. It felt vaguely like a prison escort, though that was of course ridiculous, not least because he could probably, in a pinch, take on the whole fleet of pacifistic pansies by himself.

Well, except there was the magic.

Gwaine didn't care one way or the other about magic--after all, Merlin was about as magic as you got and was as sweet as pie--but Gwaine had seen enough of the world to know that magic was one of those powers that got abused often enough to make him generally uncomfortable with those who wielded it.

That wasn't to say, of course, that he didn't have the ability to surmount his discomfort. Especially for a face like that.

He fell into step with her, and quickly made his move:

"So, you rescue knights from killer gnomes often?"

She looked at him sideways with a shy, and somehow very knowing, smile. She was silent just long enough for Gwaine to get uncomfortable enough to start thinking up a back-up chat-up line, when she replied with another question, "You are Strength, are you not?"

"Em..." Of all the possible responses, Gwaine had not expected that one. "Huh?"

"Grettir the Gatekeeper spoke of you."

Gwaine blinked. "Again, I've got nothing. You must have mistaken me for someone else. I look like a lot of people. Do you know I was even once mistaken for Cenred of Essetir--"

She laughed a sparkling, high laugh. Gwaine liked it when ladies found him amusing, but he usually preferred to say something funny before they laughed at him. "It is said many resist their destiny."

Now it was Gwaine's turn to laugh, and he looked around to see if Merlin and Leon were getting told the same rubbish and were buying it, but they were no where to be seen. "I don't believe in destiny, thanks. I'm a free-will-over-fate kind of guy. I don't like people telling me what to do, and I sure as hell don't hold with people telling me what I am going to do."

"Whether you want it or not, Strength," she said, smiling softly and walking on, "your destiny is greater than you want to believe." Gwaine wrinkled up his nose in distaste, but in spite of the setback, he kept pace with her. Before he could figure out what to say next, "That pendant you wear. It is special to you."

"Uhh." Gwaine tripped up again, and his hand went instinctively to clutch at the emblem, but he quickly rallied. "No, not especially." The pendant was all he had left of his family, but he sure as hell wasn't telling her that. What was with this girl and her probing questions? She was making him uncomfortable.

"I do not wish to discomfit you, Sir Gwaine," she said, and he relaxed a hair.

"So you do know my actual name?" Gwaine beamed at this victory. "My reputation precedes me, as usual."

"You are known by many names, to those who hear. You are the Strength which completes Magic and Courage, and you are Magic's Champion." She stopped, peering at him intently, and he stopped, mouth flapping. "But beware, for when you defend Magic, you will lose much."

"Oh, I will, will I?" Gwaine laughed as scornfully as he could manage, halting all thoughts of warming his bed with a druid girl tonight. He was actually kind of turned off at this point. No girl was worth this much introspection. He wouldn't ever be that desperate. "Well, thanks for the soothsaying and oracle...ing stuff, and thanks for saving us and all, but--" they were in sight of the castle, now, its lit ramparts sparkling over the line of trees, "but, well, here we are." He had actually never been so happy to see Camelot, and he marveled a bit at the fairly novel feeling of truly coming home. "So, you know, sorry to cut this short, but I think we can take it from here," he said quickly, painfully aware of the travesty that was him not asking her to his chambers.

Now she looked at him sadly, and stopped. For the first time, Gwaine felt a little remorseful for his quick words and closed mind, and, not for the first time, began to reconsider inviting her up to his chambers. For some reason he did not like the idea of leaving her alone here in the woods--which was ridiculous, because she was probably better equipped for survival out here than he could ever hope to be--yet he still felt oddly protective of her, even having only known her for half an hour.

Gwaine sighed dramatically and stalked back to where she stood. "On second thought, I've behaved appallingly. If you know me as well as you claim to, you'll know that's no surprise. I would--we all would--appreciate it if you would be our guests in Camelot tonight. We don't even need to mention that you're Druids, Arthur's frightfully thick when it comes right down to it, and--"

Now, quick as lightning, she grabbed his arm. Her eyes glowed gold, the sign of magic, and when she spoke, her voice was different: hoarse, deep, and foreboding, like the universe and everything in it was speaking through her. "Heed the prophecies. Your destiny is Strength, your choice is exile. Your blood is both your greatest downfall and your greatest triumph."

Gwaine tried to pull away, but her grip was inhumanly strong. He was just beginning to panic when the gold faded and she stumbled, looking dazed. "Hey, hey! Are you all right?" he asked, steadying her.

She looked confused. "Uh. Yeah. What? What did you say?"

"What did I say?" Gwaine repeated. "What did you say? You went all goldy-eyed and weird there for a minute."

"Oh," she said, straightening shakily. "That happens sometimes. What did I say?"

"I don't know! Something about my blood being my downfall and triumph. What was that?"

"I am a Seer," she explained. "Normally the messages are not that powerful. I apologize if I worried you. You said you can take it from here? I may need to just rest a moment." She reached out, touched a tree, and slowly slid down it until she was resting on the ground, her back against the trunk, her knees clutched against her chest.

"I'll stay with you," Gwaine offered gallantly, and looked around. "Is there a shelter nearby? Somewhere I can take you?" Also, where have the others gone?

Now she giggled. "Sir Gwaine, I am a Druid. I am sheltered everywhere."

"Must be nice," Gwaine said, hankering down next to her.

The silence was quickly awkward.

"That last bit you said," Gwaine tried, "not that I'm ready to believe it, but if I did--what does that even mean? My blood being my own problem or whatever. 'My blood,' does that mean me? Or my, em--" he paused, "I don't really have any family."

"I cannot interpret," she said with a shrug. "It could mean either. Or both."

Gwaine nodded.

The silence was awkward again. Apparently aside from prophetic mumbo-jumbo, Druids weren't great conversationalists.

"So...Anything we can do to pass the time?" he asked, actually quite innocently, but when he looked up at her, the sparkle in her eyes was anything but innocent. He licked his lips, equal parts hungry and nervous.

"I can think of one or two," she replied, leaning forward to capture his mouth in a kiss.

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77 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 3rd August 2012, 05:48

While Gwaine and Leon walked ahead, each talking to a druid in hushed tones that Merlin couldn’t even begin to hear, he kicked along at the back of the group, his good hand stuffed in his jacket pocket, watching the other druids around them out of the corners of his eyes. He didn’t jump when one of them fell into step beside him, but he also didn’t look up. He just continued kicking the twig he’d found along the path, glancing up only to make sure Leon and Gwaine were still there. They were both still deep in conversation, but neither looked overly distressed, so he stopped worrying and went back to kicking the stick along in front of him.

“Emrys,” the druid next to him finally said, and Merlin sighed shortly. He couldn’t ever get them to call him Merlin, no matter how many times he told them. It didn’t stop him trying…

“It’s Merlin,” he answered, without looking up. The steps next to him paused and then hopped forward to catch him.

“Merlin?” the druid asked, and Merlin glanced up to find himself meeting the curious green eyes of a man not much older than he. That was a surprise in and of itself, given that he’d been expecting someone much older. Somewhat embarrassed at his slightly rude response, he flashed a quick grin.

“Merlin. Only the druids call me Emrys,” he said helpfully, and the other man shrugged. Merlin went back to watching his feet, waiting out whatever cryptic message the druid had for him. Or perhaps he just wanted to know why Merlin was being so slow about getting Arthur to repeal the ban on magic. Either way, it was a conversation Merlin wasn’t going to start.

“The knights… do they know you’re magic?” the young man asked, and Merlin snorted, looking forward at Gwaine and Leon. He shrugged one shoulder- the good one, the one that wasn’t sending a steady reminder of his abrupt trip downstairs from fingertips to shoulder blade.

“Sir Gwaine- the shorter one- he does. He figured it out. Sir Leon doesn’t know. It’s probably best it stay that way,” he answered warningly, though really there was probably little need to worry about that.

“And does Sir Gwaine also know of the Lady of the Lake?” the druid asked, and Merlin nearly tripped over his own feet in shock. They knew? The druids knew about Freya? He looked around at the others and up towards Gwaine and Leon, worried they might have heard, or that the druids were angry and had split them all up to exercise some form of druidic justice without having to deal with two angry knights. But Leon was deep in conversation with an older druid, and Gwaine had stepped to the side to talk to the woman he’d been walking with. Neither of them looked like they were paying much attention to anything else, and Merlin sighed with relief before looking wordlessly at the druid walking next to him.

“Anyone with any skill at magic will have felt that spell you cast,” the man said, which didn’t help Merlin’s state of mind. Did that mean Kilgarrah knew also? And Morgana? “…But we are perhaps better informed of the comings and goings of our forest than others,” the young man added, and Merlin thought he detected the hint of a wicked grin at his very obvious momentary panic. It only made him frown. If the druid hadn’t been so obnoxious about it, Merlin would have liked to ask, at the very least, if the druids might make sure Freya was alright, or if they knew where she could go and be safe. Even though there was no doubt in his mind that she could defend herself, he didn’t like the idea of her being all by herself at the lake.

The druid seemed to read the conflict on Merlin’s face, and his grin only grew wider.

“Sorry, the elders… they keep telling me I shouldn’t do that to people. But it’s fun, you know? I mean, you must know. Surely you do magic for fun, sometimes,” the young man said, and Merlin scowled for only another second before he grinned somewhat hesitantly.

“Not often, but sometimes. Don’t tell Gaius,” he answered, and was quiet for several strides. “Is Freya safe, out here? I don’t know where else she could go,” he said, and received a sort of half-hearted shrug in return. Merlin fidgeted, tugging again at loose threads in the wrapping on his arm.

“She is safe. The lake protects its own, and she cannot leave its confines, so you needn’t concern yourself with that,” the druid finally answered, and Merlin stopped walking.

“She what?” he asked, hoping beyond hope he’d heard that wrong.

“She is safe?” the druid asked, turning and looking at him with some concern.

“No, about the lake. She can leave the lake?” he asked hopefully, but the druid shook his head. Merlin could have cursed. He’d have liked to curse and throw something, but that would alert Gwaine and Leon both to something very wrong in his world, assuming they both heard him, and then they’d ask questions and he didn’t have the wherewithall to throw things, curse, and come up with some outrageous lie to tell Leon all on top of the entire rest of his rotten day. So he just gaped at the druid like a landed fish.

“Em- er, Merlin?” the man asked.

“She can’t leave?” he asked.

“Sorry, mate, I thought you knew,” the druid answered, sounding remarkably like Gwaine there for a moment before casting a flustered glance at his elders as they passed both of them without a word. Realizing they were going to fall behind, Merlin shook himself and started walking again, albeit with his head down, fingers clenching and unclenching as he tried to work through this latest bit of news. The druid walked backwards in front of him for several steps before he held out a hand to stop him. Merlin looked up, about ready to push him out of the way and continue on to the castle with all haste no matter what questions it raised.

“There’s probably a way around it. You found a way around that curse on her, right? Look- stop, you’re going to turn that into ribbons.” That last was directed at the anxious fingers that were currently back to fidgeting with the wrapping. Merlin stopped pulling on threads and shoved his hand furiously into his jacket pocket.

“I can fix that- you know, if it bothers you,” the young man said, and Merlin wanted to shake him. Of course it bothered him! His arm was broken and his shoulder had been dislocated and then relocated, and he hadn’t taken a thing for it because Arthur had tried to give him that wretched, foul smelling, acid-tasting stuff earlier and he’d been too distracted to get anything else!

Then again, if he went back with a healed arm, Arthur would ask all sorts of inconvenient questions. But the druid looked so distressed and apologetic that Merlin did feel somewhat bad for wanting to yell at him. So he huffed a sigh instead.

“No. I can’t go back with a healed arm, not without everyone wondering why, and how,” he answered, and the druid nodded. He also reached out and touched his fingers very gently to Merlin’s arm anyway, and Merlin almost pulled away, but for the warmth that ran from his shoulder right down his arm, taking away the worst of the pain and leaving behind only a minor annoyance.

“What did you do?” Merlin asked accusingly, although perhaps not as accusingly as he would have liked.

“It won’t help for more than a handful of hours, perhaps long enough to sleep. I really am sorry about your friend. I will speak to some of the others, and make sure she is watched over when we can,” he said. Merlin flexed the fingers on his bad arm, marveling a little that it didn’t hurt much at all. He looked up when the druid mentioned Freya, and thought for a moment. They’d almost reached the castle, and Merlin could see the others up ahead.

“Thank you,” he said as the druid he’d been walking with stepped back and followed after his elders, and the young man raised his hand in a distracted wave as he turned and nearly tripped over a tree root. Merlin shook his head, still slightly confused as to the very un-druid-like behavior, but then… Freya didn’t act much like a druid either. So maybe they weren’t all stuffy, cryptic, riddle-speaking old men. Then he turned and went to join Leon, looking around for Gwaine as he joined the knight. Leon looked a little confused, or perhaps shell-shocked, something with which Merlin wholeheartedly sympathized.

“You too?” Merlin asked with one of those half-grins that wasn’t so much amusement as sympathy. He looked around absently for Gwaine, but his friend was nowhere to be found. “Have you seen Gwaine?” he added, and Leon perked up and looked around as if expecting Gwaine to jump out from behind a bush and shout ‘Surprise!’ and then cackle with glee when both Leon and Merlin just about jumped out of their skins. But no one jumped out, and Leon frowned.

“He must be here somewhere, unless he went ahead. We could go on and see if we find him,” he said, and Merlin followed as he continued on toward the castle, peering around into the dark forest.

When they were almost clear of the trees, there was a loud crashing that, predictably, caused Merlin to jump and Leon to both jump and half-draw his sword before Gwaine came tripping and stumbling out of the forest, grinning a cavalier grin at his friends’ reactions. Merlin thought, and remembered seeing Gwaine walking with one of the women of the group, and when Gwaine looked at him, he rolled his eyes and resumed trudging to the castle.

As they neared the gates, someone stepped forward from leaning on the wall to meet them. Leon paused for a split second and then stepped forward past both Merlin and Gwaine to say hello to Elaine and ask her in that very concerned tone of voice if she was alright, which only made her laugh. After turning to make sure that Gwaine and Merlin were both still following, they turned and walked into the castle.

“Think we’ve been ditched, mate,” Gwaine said, clapping Merlin on the shoulder- the one that didn’t hurt, luckily- before they followed Leon and Elaine back into the castle.


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Merlin: Merlin
Doctor Who: Sarasine (Sara) Tekri
Supernatural: Alexander (Alex) Colt
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78 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 3rd August 2012, 06:59

Arthur sighed, leaning on the table, facing away from his knights and servant as he collected himself. His eyes darted to Gwen, who nodded slightly, and then, straightening, he turned around to face them. A rag-tag bunch they looked, thoroughly worn-out and exhausted—almost comically so—and yet these three men were responsible for saving his life and many other lives in Camelot. He was not pleased to have been dragged out of his bed in the middle of the night, but he would have been less pleased to have woken up being roasted alive by…

“I still find the idea of homicidal garden ornamentation ridiculous,” he said, exhaling, “but, it appears we owe you our lives nevertheless. You are to be commended.”

“Oh, like I might get the day off tomorrow?” Merlin tried.

“Don’t be stupid, Merlin,” Arthur snapped. “What would you even do with a day off, anyway?” Merlin opened his mouth to answer, but Arthur ploughed on: “I should like a full debrief tomorrow. In the meantime, I want you all to go to bed, by way of the court physician. That is an order.”

Merlin, Gwaine, and Sir Leon all bowed and made for the door. Gwen gave a small cough.

“One more thing,” Arthur added, and they turned back: “Take the morning off.” This last bit was said with a small grin, and they smiled back, appearing relieved.

Arthur turned back to his wife, who was already removing her dressing gown and crawling back into bed. “Was that good?” he asked.

“The perfect touch,” she said, welcoming her king and husband back into bed. “They didn’t look as though they would be much good for anything tomorrow. You might have given them the whole day off.”

“I couldn’t do that, they would only get into trouble. Well, Sir Leon wouldn’t, but—“

The rest was lost in a kiss.

Knock! Knock! Knock!

Arthur was going to kill the next person who walked through his—

“Sorry to bother you, cous—oh!” Kilhwch said as he barged in, and then averted his eyes as Gwen pulled up the covers over her nightshift with a small squeak of modesty. “Oh! I’m sorry, I—I just saw the others leave, I thought you would still be—I’m so sorry, I can come back later…”

“No, no, it’s all right, K,” Arthur said exasperatedly, crawling out of his warm bed. “What is it?”

“I came to apologize!” Kilhwch said anxiously. “As soon as I’d heard about the gnomes, I came to explain—you must know I never conceived that my gift would threaten our very lives! You must believe me, Arthur, I—I feel just wretched!”

Arthur patted him on the back, guiding his well-meaning cousin back to the door. “It’s quite all right, Sir K. Of course you didn’t know. Thank you for coming to see me, now—go to sleep!”

Arthur felt no remorse for slamming the door on his cousin.

...

Later that morning, Galehaut made a visit to the Queen. He waited somewhat nervously for Gwen to answer the door, and when she did so he bowed. “May I speak with you, your Highness?”

“Of course,” she said after only a short pause, gallantly making room for him to enter though it was clear that he had completely surprised her. This, putting him on somewhat better footing, suited Galehaut just fine, and he entered the royal chambers with better spirits than he originally believed he would. Best to get it out quickly, then. “I have behaved in a contemptuous manner towards your Highness in the last few weeks,” he said. “I was distracted from my first duty, which is to be a knight of Camelot and uphold the chivalrous ideals such a position requires.” And here he knelt, and proffered a bouquet of flowers which were fastened with a gold bracelet—“Please allow me to renew my vows of loyalty to you, and offer my sincerest apologies for words spoken in passion, not malice.”

He only raised his head when he felt Guinevere take the bouquet from his hand.

“How long have you been practicing that?” she asked. She was smiling.

“Oh, it just came to me, you know,” Galehaut said, rising to his feet. “You forget that I am a man of court. Does not Arthur give you such poetry?”

She laughed. “When Arthur heard that cats leave dead mice in their owners’ shoes as gifts, I sincerely feared that I would wake up with a dragon’s head sitting on my slippers,” she said. “But I appreciate it. Thank you.”

Galehaut smiled, but it was forced. “I think I hoped rather than believed that you were a villain. I shall never forgive myself for how I treated you.”

“Well, I forgive you, anyway,” Gwen said, with characteristic open-hearted goodness. “…What made you change your mind about me, if you don’t mind me asking?”

Galehaut knew that she would ask something like that, but he couldn’t help but see the moment flash before his mind’s eye: the moment when, earlier that morning, he accidentally interrupted a conversation between Lancelot and Guinevere in the courtyard. He had been picking the flowers he now offered to Guinevere for Lancelot, planned on giving him the bracelet to make him see that he cared more for Lancelot than anything in the world. That plan died when he saw the looks in their eyes. Gwen looked at Galehaut with a little concern and great compassion, and it was mild, temperate and welcoming of all, even him. Lancelot had a gaze of the most selfless, gentle love that Galehaut had ever seen—but it was not meant for him, and it faded as Lancelot looked at him.

He shrugged. “Oh, a glance is all that’s needed, your Highness. He certainly picked a fine woman to love.”

But the way he said the words alerted her to his thoughts. She slipped the bracelet off the flowers and offered it, but Galehaut backed away. “Keep it, please,” he said.

“Do not give up hope so easily,” she said, putting the bracelet into his hand despite his protests. “I know your conviction is stronger than that. Save it for the day when you can give it to him.”

Galehaut, touched to the depths of his heart by her words, smiled with nostrils flaring and eyes glistening. He knew then that Lancelot would never love him, not when the woman that he loved was so kind. He wanted to cry, and he knew that he was a very huggable individual so he would probably get lots of cooing attention if he did. But he didn’t particularly like doing what people expected him to do. He could change the game when it suited him, and this seemed like the perfect time to do so.

“You’re too kind,” Galehaut said, putting the bracelet in his pocket. “Your complexion does not suit gold anyway, I think.”

Gwen still looked concerned. “Galehaut—you can count me as your ally, you know. I am—going to help you in any way I can.”

“Your Highness, you become more charitable by the second,” Galehaut said, beaming but not admitting a thing. He added with impish delight, “Might I beg an embrace from my new ally?”

Guinevere turned out to be very good at giving hugs, and Galehaut was almost able to forget his heartbreak as he skipped off down the hall.

That afternoon, Gwen looked down from her bedchamber window and noticed that Galehaut and Lancelot were having lunch together. She had no idea how Galehaut managed to pull that off so quickly, but Galehaut seemed to be a man of many talents. She watched them with a smile. And who knows?... she thought to herself, and went down to have lunch with Arthur.

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79 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 7th August 2012, 19:31

On his morning off, Merlin got up early, before the sun, and went to the stable. He saddled Diablo, muttering softly to the sleepy horse, and clattered off through the gates just as the sun was rising. After last night, he’d have really preferred to stay far away from the forest for several days, but there was the matter of a certain someone being stuck in her lake. Merlin wasn’t sure what he was planning on saying, but he knew he had to speak to her, so he sent Diablo through the trees along a familiar route to the lake.

When he reached it, he at first saw no one. It was enough to make him panic, briefly, as he half-swung, half-tumbled off of Diablo and almost ended sitting on the ground. After he’d caught his balance, he stepped away from the black horse and gave the lake another quick glance.

“Freya?” he called hesitantly, stepping toward the water.

“Right here, Merlin, stop worrying,” Freya said, and he whirled to the right to see her sitting, half-hidden by the old mooring post, knees drawn to her chest and her feet just touching the water. She was skipping stones across the water at her feet, the arcs of every skip shining brief, bright colors before the stones plunked back into the lake. As Merlin joined her, she glanced up at him and flicked another rock across the water, grinning as it skipped five times before disappearing. Merlin sat down next to her, cross-legged to keep his boots from getting wet for the second week in a row. He watched her out of the corner of his eye, fiddling with the sling on his arm. After several more stone-skips, Freya reached over and put her hand over his to stop him pulling on the tail-end of a thread. He sighed unhappily and turned his hand over to interlace their fingers.

“What did you do to your arm?” Freya asked, and Merlin shrugged one shoulder.

“I fell down some stairs and broke it,” he answered, glancing over to see Freya watching him with some concern.

“What’s wrong, Merlin?” she asked when he looked back down without saying anything.

“We- Leon, Gwaine, and I- were in the forest last night, and we ran into some druids,” Merlin said, “And one of them told me you can’t leave the lake.” Freya looked away and across the water, but seemed entirely unsurprised.

“You knew?” he asked, and she nodded.

“The first thing I tried to do was leave. I wasn’t sure if you’d done that spell or if it was Morgana, and if it was Morgana, I didn’t want to stay here for her to find me,” she said, and then wrinkled her nose. “It felt like I was trying to walk through a grater,” she added, and Merlin looked over at her, closing his fingers around her hand in sympathy. That certainly sounded unpleasant.

“Why didn’t you tell me?” he asked, and she grinned crookedly.

“I thought I could figure it out myself, and then you wouldn’t have to worry about it,” she said, turning back from watching the water. Merlin realized after a minute that he was gazing off thoughtfully just over her shoulder, and that the slightly abashed look on her face had been replaced by a soft smile.

“Sorry,” he said, and looked thoughtfully at Freya’s feet where they still touched the water.

“If I only go a few feet, it doesn’t hurt so bad. But it’s easier to just stay in contact with the lake. I don’t think it wants to let me go,” she said, reaching her free hand out to touch the wavelets that lapped at her toes.

“We’ll figure it out,” he said, meeting Freya’s glance very earnestly.

“What if…” she started, and he shook his head, gesturing without thinking and then flashing a quick smile as he and Freya both glanced at their still-clasped hands.

“No. We’ll figure it out. There must be a spell to convince the lake to let you go. It’ll be fine,” he said, and Freya laughed, holding her hand up placatingly.

“Okay, okay. I believe you,” she said, and they both went quiet.

“How did you get time to come out here?” Freya finally asked.

“Arthur gave me the morning off. Leon and Gwaine, too,” he answered smugly.

“The king gave you the morning off?”

“Yes he did.”

“Did you save the entire kingdom or something?”

“No, just the castle. Well, mostly the nobles in the castle.”

Freya was quiet, one of those do-I-even-want-to-ask looks on her face, and then she shrugged.

“What was it this time?”

“Gnomes. Little clay gnomes, with red hats. And rakes, some of them.”

“If you’ll tell me about it without making me ask a hundred questions, I’ll teach you how to skip stones,” Freya said blandly, and Merlin looked over at her.

“What if I already know how to skip stones?” he asked, letting her hand go to pick up a pretty round stone.

“You don’t.”

“I might know…”

“You can’t skip a round stone, Merlin,” Freya said patiently, holding up a perfectly flat one she’d picked up. She held it out to him and then closed her hand around it as he reached for it. She gave him a look, and he held out for all of thirty seconds before relenting.

“I’ll tell you about the gnomes if you teach me to skip a stone and how to do those color arcs you had it doing earlier,” he said. She rolled her eyes, then leaned forward and kissed him quickly before sitting back. He blinked at her in surprise and then grinned.

“Alright, start talking,” she said, and started picking more skipping stones from the rocks on which they sat.


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Merlin: Merlin
Doctor Who: Sarasine (Sara) Tekri
Supernatural: Alexander (Alex) Colt
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80 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 8th August 2012, 04:03

Well, there was no time like the present. Leon had the morning off, and Elaine was going to be leaving the castle any day now--Lord Bernard seemed impatient and Leon saw servants coming and going from their chambers with trunks and chests of all kinds. He couldn’t wait any longer to make his (quite possibly final) move.

Thankfully, Leon didn’t have to wait long outside of the Ascolat’s rooms. He was shown in, and saw Elaine sitting by the window, doing some final stitching on a tapestry.

“My lady,” he said with a bow.

She smiled. “When are you going to start calling me ‘Elaine’?”

Leon tightened his lips and mumbled, “I don’t know.” Well, that was a stupid thing to say. He dragged his eyes upward, not allowing himself to look away like a coward. “I came to speak to Lord Bernard, if I may.”

“He’s just packing up the last of his cloaks—he’ll be out in a minute. Won’t you sit down?”

There was no where else to sit besides the couch, and he sat next to her while trying to not invade her personal space although the couch was rather a small one.

“Have you…started packing yet?” he said.

She didn’t look up, but just kept on stitching. “No, not yet.”

“Oh.” That was odd. But he admired a woman that didn’t spend all her time fussing over dresses. She looked beautiful, though, sitting there stitching in the sunlight. He suddenly thought about what it would be like to wake up to that every morning—and to be able to talk about crossbows over breakfast, too…!

He tried to act more business-like, which was difficult considering the devouring nature of the couch that seemed determined to press him and Elaine together. But she didn’t look anxious at all.

The door to the bedchamber opened and Lord Bernard entered, a few cloaks bunched up in his hands. Leon emerged from the couch with difficulty. “Yes, Sir—Lionel, isn’t it?” Bernard asked.

“Leon, my lord,” Leon said, giving a bow. He was starting to wonder if the man got everyone’s names wrong on purpose.

“Yes, yes, what is it, lad? Packing cloaks is a risky business and I don’t need to be disturbed!”

“Yes, of course,” Leon said, pretending that Lord Bernard’s statement made perfect sense. “Only I had a request to make before you leave.”

“Well, what is it? Spit it out!” He suddenly wheeled around toward the bedchamber and shouted, “And what are you doing?”

Leon was surprised to see Merlin poke his head around the door to the bedchamber. He must have come back to work a bit earlier than Leon. “I was just going to say—“ Merlin started before Bernard cut him off.

“Hurry, Martin, get back on that trunk! We’ve got to compress all the air out of those cloaks or the clasps won’t be able to take the strain!”

Merlin gave Leon an odd sort of look but did as he was told and scampered back off into the room as Lord Bernard turned back to Leon. “Well?”

“Yes.” Leon cleared his throat, having practiced this bit several times in his head beforehand. “Lady Elaine’s talents as a weaver have not gone unnoticed. Camelot prizes excellence and talent from all corners of his lands, and so on behalf of the kingdom I request that you consider allowing Lady Elaine stay on here at the castle through the winter. The King would be willing to reward her handsomely for producing other tapestries to decorate the Great Hall with. She would of course be able to have her choice of rooms to stay in, and—“

Lord Bernard cut him off with an energetic wave of his hands. “Oh, for God’s sake, Sir Lionhart, have you been living in a cave? Elaine already agreed with King Arthur that she would be staying on yesterday!”

Leon froze, and blinked in silence for a second. “Oh.”

“Honestly, Camelot needs more messengers to let people know about these things, instead of sending man after man to badger me about something that’s already been decided!” Lord Bernard continued. “I mean! First it was the Queen, then the King—then that servant Marvin—then that other long-haired drunkard that calls himself a knight—I doubt I could have taken Elaine away if I wanted to!”

Leon felt himself turning red as Elaine started laughing uncontrollably into the tapestry. “Er—yes, my lord. I apologize—”

“Why ask me, anyway?” Bernard went on, now almost looking like he was enjoying himself, “Elaine is a grown woman and can do what she likes! Far be it from me to decide where my daughter likes to spend her time! If she wants to stay, who am I to say she can’t? I’m just her father, after all! All I have left to say on that matter is that she better find herself a lord to marry or so help me I’ll send her back to Ascolat for horseback riding lessons, don’t think I won’t!”

Leon gulped, not quite sure what to make of Lord Bernard’s speech, but Elaine looked about ready to pass out from laughter, and Lord Bernard relented. “Now, if you don’t mind, I’d like to get back to packing before the five kingdoms arrive and ask me to let her stay too!”

Leon nodded dumbly but Lord Bernard had already stormed off, shutting the door with a bang behind him.

There was a moment of silence, broken only by Elaine’s uncontrollable giggling.

“You might have told me,” he said, almost petulant.

“And miss the chance to see your famous pluck in action? Not on your life!” she said with a final laugh. Her eyes turned on him, and the mirth in her gaze faded into something else. “But now that that’s done with, I suppose we’d better be moving things along, then.”

Oh no, not ‘things’! “Things?” he asked, feigning confusion. “What things?” Oh God, if she asks me to court her Gwaine will never let me live it down. Oh, but how perfect that would be if she did! But she won’t. I’m familiar with the psychological pattern. Still, he felt the urge to back away as she stood and came toward him. She stopped well within his personal space, and stood in front of him with her arms straight at her sides.

“Sir Leon, do you like me?”

What? “Y-yes, of course!” Leon said. What, she had to ask? Was he that in control? He certainly didn’t feel like he was in control…

“Then why don’t you just say it? I don’t make a very good beast of chase.” She sighed. “If you like me, then let’s take that for a mutual agreement and give courting a try. What do you say?”

She put out her hand, making Leon bridle until he realized she was holding her hand out for him to shake, as if this was a business transaction. Strangely enough, Leon was alright with that. Simple and straightforward, that’s what he liked. He licked his bottom lip, then reached out and took her hand with a laugh of relief.

She smiled too, and said, “Good.” But her expression said, I’m going to give you ten seconds to kiss me.

Leon promptly kissed her hand. Elaine's eyes became a bit more demanding—that was obviously not what she meant.

On the lips, then. Yes. Alright. Can’t be too hard. From a tactical standpoint you have the high ground. The very high ground. Simple trajectory towards a stationary object.

His voice of reason decided to speak up. How the hell are you going to get all the way down there?

Should I kneel? Maybe I can sort of, um, crouch? Maybe once I get started I can sort of adjust. Yes. I think I’ve got it.


He took her hands in his and held them gently. “Then we are agreed.”

Go, go, go!

He closed his eyes and bent down. It seemed like forever as, vertebra by vertebra, his spine drew downwards. His sense of time was so thrown off that when his nose and lips did touch flesh he opened his eyes in surprise, and stared at her earring. He had kissed the corner of her mouth.

You missed! You bloody idiot, how could you mimhmm—! Mmmm….

Leon stopped paying attention to the inner voice as Elaine turned and closed her lips around his, caressing his mouth as her hands strayed upwards and gently stroked the insides of his wrists. The sensation of their movement made the hair on the back of his neck stand up.

There was a nagging throb at the top of his back, protesting at the angle which he was subjecting it to. He reluctantly pulled away and straightened.

Elaine just wrinkled her brow. “I think I might need to invest in a step-ladder.”


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SG: Agent Double-Oh-Negative
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81 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 8th August 2012, 18:49

Maeglin

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Gwaine hadn’t, incidentally, gone to see Gaius after their midnight debriefing with Arthur. The long string of late nights, bad dreams, and early mornings were finally catching up with him, so he was actually tired after having dealt with the gnomes, and had gone straight to bed. He’d slept well enough, actually, inasmuch as he had no weird dreams about the witch Morgana. He wasn’t sure he dreamt of anything, unless it was of the warmth of that lovely druid woman’s arms. And since Arthur had given them the morning off, he bloody well slept through it, and enjoyed it. When he woke, he was sick of lying in bed, and famished, so he headed to the kitchens, by way of Lord Bernard’s quarters to talk him into keeping the Lady Elaine on for a bit. He managed to waste a good deal of time going to the armorer to get his chain mail repaired from the duel, filching more food and drink from the kitchens, and tracking down a wash and a change of clothes. The day was going quite well, in fact, and he was just ready to properly face it, so he headed to the training ground where the others would surely be gearing up, determined to be early for once.

At least, that was his plan.

Just as he arrived on the field, waving animatedly at Percival (Leon was not there yet, and was probably spending his morning off dutifully doing paperwork somewhere), he was waylaid by a certain aged physician, whom he attempted to pass by with a nod and a wide grin—

“Good morrow, Gaius,” Gwaine said pleasantly—but Gaius was craftier than that.

Gaius raised one eyebrow at him, coming to a full stop. “It is well past morning, Sir Gwaine. I should say, ‘Good afternoon’.”

“Oh, is it?” Gwaine tried, still doggedly smiling, and trying to continue on his way to the practice field, but Gaius spoke again, interposing himself:

“You never came to see me yesterday after your duel.”

“Oh. Didn’t I?”

“I rather expected you would. Or after the incident with the gnomes, wherein, I gather, you helped Merlin and Sir Leon save the castle. They came to see me,” Gaius said pointedly. Now Elyan, Lancelot, Galehaut, and the King had gathered to watch this exchange play out, and began to point and laugh among themselves.

“Did they?”

“They did.” It was clear that the physician did not suffer fools, and parroting was getting him nowhere. Gaius’ good eye bored holes into Gwaine.

Gwaine stared right back. But he caved pretty quickly, especially since Arthur looked as though he was about to intervene on Gaius’ behalf, and Gwaine wanted to maintain what little dignity he had left. His shoulders slumped. “And I suppose you’d like me to come to see you, too?”

“What a wonderful idea, Sir Gwaine,” Gaius smiled. “You know, you aren’t nearly as thick-headed as the others say you are,” he said, hobbling past him as Gwaine tried to work out whether that was a compliment or an insult, and finally deciding that that was Gaius’ attempt at a joke. As the knights burst out laughing, he sent a rude gesture their way and turned on his heel to follow Gaius. “You could come along right now, in fact. I just completed my last errand and I’m free for a few hours. I am sure the King can spare you for a quick check-up? Just to make sure that nothing got knocked loose during that bout with Sir Galehaut. Or the one with Sir Lancelot. Or the fight with the gnomes. And to check on that hand of yours again.” With that, Gaius was on his way.

Gwaine followed along behind him, like a chastened child.

They had barely gone inside when Gaius began to bark orders at him: “All right, strip: shirt, shoes, belt, off. And get up onto that table.”

Gwaine couldn’t even really manage a cheeky reply, but set to work. The hiss he made as his hand cramped—again—while he wrestled with his boot was unfortunately timed, and did not escape the physician’s notice.

“Hand?”

Gwaine frowned. “It doesn’t hurt much anymore,” he tried. “It’s had a few months to heal, hasn’t it?”

No, Sir Gwaine,” Gaius corrected, “it hasn’t had any time to heal, because you refuse to allow it heal.” His tone was stern enough to cow Gwaine, who didn’t meet his gaze. “Now sit down. You were in the ring with Galehaut a long time, and Lancelot did defeat you. You can save me time and yourself embarrassment if you can tell me if you are injured anywhere else...”

An hour later, Gwaine’s whole body felt sticky with various healing salves, and bandages covered far too much of him. Three of his fingers were in tiny splints, keeping them straight together, and his knee was braced, and his lower ribs were wrapped tightly. Apparently, the combined forces of Hauttie and Lottie had worked him over harder than he thought (or, perhaps, more than he wanted to admit). He was dotted in strips of bandages that sealed smaller cuts and wounds. But the crowning misfortune of all of this physicking, and the primary reason that for all Gwaine respected Gaius he hated being under his care (hated all physicians, really, it was nothing personal), was that his hand was joined to the wrappings around his ribs and was pinned firmly against his chest.

“Is this really necessary?” he whined, tugging at his arm experimentally, and finding it didn’t give except to discomfit his aching ribs.

“Sir Gwaine, you have three broken fingers, a torn tendon, a metacarpal that is fractured in at least two places, and less than two months ago you had a hole through your hand, which ought to have healed over by now but has not. Since it is clear your recovery time is dictated by your chosen lifestyle, you are unable to allow such a wound to heal, and even insist on compounding more injuries upon it. Therefore, as court physician, I must insist on drastic measures. I think you’ll find my orders cannot be gainsaid.”

“How looooong do I have to wear this?” Gwaine sulked as if he hadn’t heard the lecture, drawing out his whine ever more desperately.

“Until it is fully healed, or at least given a fair head-start. A fortnight ought to be enough—“

“Two weeks!” Gwaine shrieked, and began to struggle in earnest with the bindings. “No way, not happening. I can’t be a one-armed knight for two weeks! I won’t—”

“You’re right: three weeks may be more in order,” Gaius snapped, "unless you wish to be a one-armed knight for the rest of your life!" Gwaine had apparently saturated his limit for patience, and, cowed, he settled down a bit, though he glowered darkly.

It was that moment that Merlin walked in. He looked pensive, but was immediately stirred from his thoughts by the sight of Gwaine and Gaius in the room. “Hullo!” he said, grinning.

Gwaine grunted in reply.

“You actually got him to sit still?” he asked Gaius, and looked at Gwaine in mock bewilderment.

“Very funny,” Gwaine grumbled, swatting at him.

“Hey, look at that!” Merlin cried, pointing out how Gwaine’s hand was pinned to his chest, and motioned to his own arm, similarly immobilized, but in a suspiciously minimalist sling that Gwaine reckoned he could easily escape from if he wanted to. “Now we can be gimpy together,” he said, with sarcastic cheer.

Gwaine groaned. “You’re mad,” he said. “Help me get dressed. I feel stupid covered in bandages like this.” Laughing, probably at Gwaine’s uncharacteristic modesty, Merlin obliged him, and between their two left hands they got Gwaine’s clothes more or less back on in the right order. His boots and belt were managed with only a few mishaps, but while they strung one arm through his shirt, the rest of it bunched up around his neck, leaving his wounded arm’s predicament bare for all to see.

“Well, I’ve missed training now,” Gwaine grumbled, shooting a glare at Gaius as if this was his fault, and standing up.

Merlin laughed as if this was the funniest thing in the world. “There’s still time to go to the tavern,” he suggested, probably trying to make Gwaine feel better, as they stepped outside. “I thought you were getting quite good at the one-armed percussion.”

“Merlin,” Gwaine laughed, “I swear, if you don’t shut up, I’ll break your other…arm…”

Gwaine trailed off, and stopped in his tracks, as something caught his eye across the courtyard. He took hold of Merlin’s shirt, and Merlin, catching the strange look in his eye, looked around as if for danger. “Gwaine, what is it? What—”

And then he saw them, too:

Sir Leon was there.

And next to him walked two ghosts.



Last edited by Maeglin on 26th August 2012, 04:12; edited 1 time in total

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82 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 10th August 2012, 02:22

These “ghosts” had arrived in Camelot not long ago at all. Leon was putting away the last of the swords after training, with nothing more on his mind than what he was going to tell the knights about his relationship status tonight, when one of the day watch guards appeared in front of him.

“Excuse me, Sir—but the, er, children are here to see you.”

Leon wrinkled his brow. “What children?”

“They said you were expecting them, sir,” the guard said, looking about as confused as Leon felt. But he pointed, and Leon turned to observe a boy and a girl standing together. The girl was maybe in her early teens, with auburn hair pulled back and a bag over her shoulder. The boy, not much taller than the girl but certainly at least a few years older, had brown hair and he had a short sword strapped to his side. Both were dressed in worn but well-made travelling clothes, and were looking at him with half-expectation and half-uncertainty.

Leon’s mind raced. Why should two children want to talk to him—as if he expected them? They looked familiar in an odd sort of way….

Leon started visibly when he realized who they were--Gwaine's long-lost family members, who he had written a letter to...well, it seemed like so long ago. He walked quickly over to them.

“My name is Sir Leon,” he said.

The boy nodded vigorously but still looked too guarded to say anything, and the girl spoke up. “I’m Gwarae, he’s Gareth,” she said, and gave her brother a friendly punch on the arm that made him glare at her but at least brought him out of his shell. Aside from the different hair color she looked remarkably like Gwaine.

“Delighted to meet you, Gwarae,” Leon said, bending down to take her hand.

Gwarae tried not to smile, and she give him a long suggestive glance up and down. Leon knew that look—he saw it on Gwaine’s face plenty of times. And seeing that look in the face of a pre-teen girl who already looked quite a bit like Gwaine, oh, that was wrong on so many levels…

He quickly turned and shook Gareth’s hand, hoping to stay on subject. “You’re Gwaine’s siblings?”

“That’s right!” Gwarae said, still the voice of this operation. “Where’s Gwaine?“

“Oh, he’s—around,” Leon said, quickly looking around. Gwaine had missed training, but what else was new? “I’m sure we can track him down. Did you just arrive in town?”

Gwarae nodded. “Sorry we’re a day late—my horse threw a shoe somewhere around Ealdor, and the bloke in the village wouldn’t make a new one without—”

“I’m sorry—‘late’?”

“You never got our letter?” Gareth finally spoke up. His voice, if not his features, were reminiscent of Gwaine’s, but it was odd to hear concern in Gwaine’s voice.

Again Gwarae whacked her brother on the arm. “I told you we should have taken it into town!” She shrugged and flashed a smile at Leon. “He’s an idiot sometimes, I did tell him to take it into town…”

“And I told you it wouldn’t make any difference,” Gareth snapped at her.

“It’s alright,” Leon said quickly. He never interacted much with his siblings and found their easy bickering somewhat uncomfortable. “I just wasn’t expecting you so soon.” He looked down at them—they looked so young, and yet it appeared that they had travelled all the way to Camelot entirely by themselves. You could only see their maturity in their eyes. Leon felt himself already feeling protective of them, like he felt with Merlin.

“Please allow me to find accommodations for you,” he continued, gesturing towards the castle. “I’m sure we can find a couple of rooms near Gwaine’s quarters.”

“A couple of rooms? In Camelot?” Gwarae asked, her face the picture of amazement.

Leon nodded. “Your brother is a knight of the Round Table,” he said, taking the opportunity to brag about Gwaine (although Gwaine definitely did not deserve it). “You can rest from your travels, and I’ll track down—“

Leon turned when he realized that Gwarae and Gareth had stopped following him into the castle. They were staring across the courtyard, and Leon looked up to see none other than Gwaine himself standing transfixed on the other side. Leon’s eyes lit up. This was going to be great—he might even get to see Gwaine cry…

…again…


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83 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 12th August 2012, 20:21

Maeglin

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Gwaine had heard that there were stages of grief.

Gwaine wasn't exactly sure what emotion he was dealing with when his little brother and sister appeared before him out of the distant past, but whatever it was, it came in stages:

1. Denial: No, this can't be them. They must have died. I looked for them, and couldn't find them. They're dead. This is an evil plot of Morgana's. Or I'm overreacting. They maybe just look like Gareth and Gwarae. It's been--dear God--has it been ten years? Of course they look different, it's been ten bloody years. I'd know them anywhere. Jesus, Gwarae looks like mother.

2. Anger: Why couldn't I find them? I must not have looked hard enough. Maybe they didn't want to be found. Maybe they hate me. Maybe someone did something to them, kept them from me? Leon. This must be Leon's fault. Who gave him the right to go behind my back looking for my family like that, only to spring them on me like this, unannounced? Why didn't he warn me? What a dick.

3. Bargaining: Why do they have to see me like this? If only my arm wasn't strapped to my chest, so I could hug them properly. Dear God in Heaven, don't let them hate me, don't let them blame me like I deserve. I'll do anything. I'll give up drinking.

4. Depression: If I'm so happy, what the hell am I crying for? This is either a dream come true, or a nightmare. I could die happy now. I want the earth to swallow me up. Oh, my God, they are here! They are real and they are here! I regretted nothing more than losing them, and now they are back! I've never been so happy, not since Gwarae was born, not since Gareth learned to say my name. I don't deserve this.

5. Acceptance: This happened when Gwaine realized that these emotional stages flashed through him not in a single instant as he thought, but over the course of many minutes, during which his body responded quite on its own. He had run at them, and they had charged him, and they screamed and yelled his name as he called out to them until they collapsed in a heap in the grass, embracing and rolling around on the earth hugging and crying and kissing and shouting.

When Gwaine came back to himself, he was buried in their tiny (though not so tiny as he remembered) arms and he had managed to capture both little siblings in one arm, and his face hurt from smiling, and Gwarae was crying uncontrollably and Gareth was trying not to do the same. Leon and Merlin were standing around them, grinning ear to ear.

"Why didn't you fucking tell me?" Gwaine demanded of Leon, but didn't wait for an answer, instead held his younger siblings out at arms' length and drank them in like water in the desert. "Here, let me look at you. My God, how you've grown! You look well, where have you been all this time? I looked for you--you have to know that I--"

But at that, Gareth's eyes darkened and he grew serious--

"Why did you leave us, Gwaine?"

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84 Re: A Dish Best Served Cold on 12th August 2012, 23:20

"Well...it didn't go as well as planned. I thought you said they were all stupid in Camelot?"

"I said nothing of the kind," Morgana snapped, propping herself up on one elbow in bed. She rolled over and, half sexually-charged and half full of barely-contained-homicidal-rage, gripped the knight sharing her bed by the throat. "If you would listen occasionally, you would know that I in fact said the exact opposite. Sir Leon, Guinevere, and even that dratted servant Merlin can all be quite intelligent, or at least lucky. I told you to watch out for them," she snarled, and let him go.

"Arthur's an idiot, though. The gnomes almost worked. I hardly had to lift a finger--I could have just sat there and watched while he destroyed himself." The knight grinned widely, propping his hands beneath his head and looking far too pleased with himself.

"Arthur leads some kind of charmed life," Morgana growled, shoving blankets off herself and standing up. O-ho, the knight thought to himself with no little glee as he leered at her naked form, So she doesn't know about the whole Merlin's-a-warlock thing, then? Best keep that lovely little gem to ourselves, then! "If it was so easy to kill the idiot I would have done it long ago," she went on. "He may be smarter than he looks, though I doubt it. Or he at least knows how to keep intelligent people close by him. At any rate, you're not doing me any good failing in the tasks I give you and running back here with your tail between your legs!" she cried, wheeling back on him again.

He had the decency to look cowed, and sat up in bed. "Of course, my lady. I will not fail you again."

"We'll see," Morgana replied, sounding unconvinced. "Anyway, I want you to meet someone." Morgana turned and called over her shoulder: "Floree!"

"Hello," the knight said, leaping to his feet and scrambling into his trousers, as a blonde serving girl waltzed into the room, bringing Morgana a rich fur robe.

"This is Floree," Morgana said, pulling the robe around her. "I would like you to introduce her to the court as a handmaiden for the Lady Elaine."

The knight cocked his head at the pretty little thing, trying to figure out how she worked, as if she was, possibly, rigged to explode. "And what's your secret, my dear?" he asked her, condescendingly. "When do you blow up in the King's face?"

Floree only smiled shyly at him and dipped into a routine curtsy. There was something faintly amiss about the smile, though: like a cat's smile, ostensibly cute and friendly, though it hid a predator.

Morgana, who stood behind her, wore a matching smirk.

"Now, get dressed and get out. You better be back in Camelot before nightfall. We wouldn't want anyone to suspect where you've been," Morgana said dismissively.

The knight bowed extravagantly, and took the serving girl's hand as if she were a high-born lady to lead her to where his steed--fitted with the magical bridle that made the two-day trip between Camelot and Tintagel into the matter of a few hours--waited.

"Kilhwch," Morgana hissed, making the knight turn around at the far end of the hall. "If you fail me again, don't bother coming back."

...

THE END

...

Follow the continuing adventures of The Friday Knights in the next installment:
"The Tapestry"

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