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The Odd Couple: The Adventures of Sir Leon and Sir Gwaine

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Leon prided himself on his logical, practical plans. He wasn't one of the oldest knights for nothing--he did most everything by the book and managed to do it with grace.

The plan he came up with to capture the goblin was, by anyone's estimation, ingenious. He set a trap consisting of some gold from the coffers under a pressure plate which would drop a lead box on the unsuspecting goblin. Pretty clever, especially since Gaius was unwilling to tell him much about goblins in light conversation. And, conveniently, everything was timed perfectly--no one would be anywhere near the coffers this early in the morning.

Which was why Leon, after setting the trap just right, blinked in incomprehension as he heard someone walking in the hallway. A goblin? Leon prepared to hide--

The door opened, and revealed a lone figure in the hallway.

"Lancelot?"

"Oh, hello, Leon," Lancelot said. He heaved a sigh and stepped inside, crossing slowly to the window. "Can't sleep, either, eh?"

"Er…" Dealing with a depressed Lancelot wasn't exactly what he had in mind while trying to catch a goblin, but being Captain of the Knights had its duties. "Something wrong?"

"Oh. Nothing." That lasted about two seconds. "It's just that song you sang made me think about Gwen. I couldn't sleep, so I decided to write some poetry, like you suggested."

"Oh. Good." It sounded like such a good suggestion at the time. "Well, the coffers isn't the best place to write at the moment…"

"It's no trouble. I just wanted to get a coin."

"Oh?" Leon was aware of a shadow behind Lancelot in the hallway, and this shadow was much shorter. A green nose appeared around the door.

"I'm thinking of giving this one to her when she gets back, so I want it on clean paper." Lancelot held the paper in front of him and started pacing. "Listen to this…"

"Oh no, really--!"

"--When Gwenivere's near, my feelings are clear, my heart full of tears, there was true love here, for Lancelot and Gwenivere." He took a breath. "When Gwen holds a pen, I think of a wren--"

"I think its better read than spoken," Leon said quickly. "Cadence, and all that, you know." By now the goblin had completely entered the room, and was watching them with interest.

"Oh. I suppose it would be. I'll take a few coins, anyway."

And with that, before Leon could say anything, Lancelot took a handful of gold from the trap, and Leon was shouting urgently "Watch out!" just as the lead box bounced off Lancelot's head. He blinked, and fell over with a groan.

"Er!" Leon said. He dropped down beside Lancelot, and watched a goose egg bloom on Lancelot's brow where the box hit. Suddenly he was aware of a piggy little laugh that set his teeth on edge. He turned, and saw the goblin laughing at him.

"Good trap, eh, blondie?" the goblin cackled. For a second Leon thought that the goblin's laugh was echoing in the room, until he realized that there were several pairs of golden eyes were winking at him from the shadows.

"There can't be more of you!" Leon said. He felt exasperated more than terrified. Fortunately, the goblins had forgotten entirely about him, and in about five seconds swarmed the gold and disappeared, leaving the trap empty. A more adventurous mind might have come up with some sort of back-up plan, but Leon did not. His heart sank into his stomach, but there comes a time in every man's life when he realizes he needs assistance.

After he finished putting Lancelot back in his bed he ran off to find Gwaine.


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"Sir Gwaine? Sir Gwaine?"

Voices filtered to him through a drunken haze. Not drunk enough. If he was drunk enough, the voices wouldn't reach him. A nice, thick, cottony insulation, preventing everything from getting in.

If only. There wasn't enough liquid in all of Albion.

Instead, now a prodding hand had joined the voices. Something jabbing him in the chest.

Gwaine belched. That lovely almost-vomit-burp that happened when his body was ready to give in long before he was. Gross. He needed another drink.

Damn, he'd have to open his eyes for that.

"Sir Gwaine? You need to leave, sir, we need to clean out the banquet hall."

"Lemalone," Gwaine muttered, rolling over.

"Sir Gwaine, I really must insist!"

"Nedajrink."

"No, Sir, what you need is rest."

Why was no one listening to him?!

"It's a good job the King is away! It be a shame, Sir Gwaine, to find you like this!"

Gwaine opened his eyes. Too bright. Too many faces--ones he vaguely recognized. The cleaning staff: various maids and cooks and kitchen boys, to begin working all day to undo what the lords and ladies had done in a few short hours.

"One for the road?" he grinned hopefully.

"Right. That's it, Sir Gwaine, but I did warn you."

Ah. The Porter. Not a man to be trifled with, especially when you were the knight most known for getting caught in the wine cellar at all hours. Well, no matter: he was a big fellow, but hardly--

"Guards!" Not so loud, Gwaine groaned. "Please take Sir Gwaine to his chambers. He's drunk."

Hey, now.

Gwaine was instantly alert. Well, behind the drunken haze he was, anyway. They couldn't sic the guards on him! He was a Knight of Camelot! He was in charge of this circus! Well, after he assassinated Leon, that was, which he'd been plotting to ever since his binge began, though the plan was still in its infancy as he hadn't got much past the part where the blonde bugger needed to die.

Hands were on his shoulders. He recognized Alfred and Edgar--drinking buddies! friends, until now! traitors!--encouraging him quietly to come with them and just easy does it, he could sleep it off, he'd had enough...

"I'LL TELL YOU WHEN I'VE HAD ENOUGH!"

Gwaine wasn't sure why violence was the best solution to the problem at hand, but it generally served him well in most situations, and anyway he had reached his saturation point of Ability To Deal With Horse Manure, so he decided to administer a liberal application of the fact that he was the best brawler south of the River Humber.

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Conceivably, Leon should have found Gwaine brawling with the hapless kitchen staff to be even more vexing than usual. But somehow that didn't matter. Gwaine, although appearing to hold his own, was grossly outnumbered. He was currently shouting some curse as one of the cook's kicked him in the nether regions while the ktichen lads grabbed him and shouted that the pig sty would be a good place for him. Idiot or no, Gwaine did not deserve that. He took a deep breath.

"SILENCE!"

Everyone went silent, and froze in amusing tableau, staring at him with jaws dropped. Leon realized that the last time he shouted like that he was standing in front of a line of crossbowmen, shouting "LONG LIVE THE KING" at Lady Morgana. He used his big-daddy, no-nonsense, all-capitals voice. The only one who did not seem to be affected was Gwaine, which annoyed Leon a bit.

Gwaine took advantage of the servants' distraction by trying to stab the cook in the foot with a fork. Leon caught it just in time.

"He was bein' drunk n' disorderly, he was!" the cook said, nursing a bloody nose.

"That's no reason to have him beaten ," Leon said. "I know he's not of noble birth, but he is a Knight of the Round Table. Arthur would not have made him so if he was not worthy of the title."

"He's drunk, Sir Leon!" the cook said, angrily. "He won't even remember."

"I can assure you, he will remember it well enough tomorrow when he wakes up covered in bruises. Were he as sober as you I wouldn't think much of it, but you used your clearer minds not to help him, but to humiliate him. You, who he is charged as a knight of Camelot to protect with his very life, would treat him like a dog? Knights are your servants as much as you are theirs. If you cannot respect his actions, at least respect him." He paused. "Do I make myself clear?"

The servants nodded quickly in a chorus of "yes, my lord"s.

He sighed and helpedd Gwaine stand up. That lasted about two seconds before Gwaine sank in his arms, and with a little effort (why the hell was Gwaine wearing armor?) he pulled him over a shoulder. "I'll just get him out of your hair. Oh--and there's a stoup of wine for each man who *doesn't* mention this to Arthur."


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Leon sure talked pretty when he was in heroic-rescue mode. He made for a very dashing figure.

Perhaps that was only because he was slung over Leon's shoulder, Gwaine mused, and all he could stare at was Leon's fine, strong, firm backside...

Wow, he was really drunk! That Camelot wine was stronger than he thought. It only took two barrels to get him really rip-roaring instead of the three he expected. Maybe he'd had more, though, he didn't exactly remember.

Or care.

"You habba nnnnnice smile," Gwaine hadn't meant to say as Leon deposited him in a bed--his own bed! Woohoo, haven't been here in a while. The sheets smelled nice. "I mean--frown." Now the world was right-side up, and Leon was definitely doing the opposite of smiling. "Anyway, 'snice, anyone ever toldjoo that? The beard helps."

Leon nodded patiently as he helped him out of his armor, and Gwaine was quiet for some time. Gwaine wiggled his toes as Leon dumped him out of his boots.

"Y'know, you're not a toooootally bad-guy. Kindova prat, right, but who isn't? And you're right about the knight thiiiing. I shouldn've reacted like that, gotta duty and ssstuff."

Was he apologizing? He must be seriously wasted. Teehee!

"It's all right, Gwaine. Just sleep it off. We'll talk when your feeling better."

"We can talk right now," Gwaine insisted, tugging on Leon's sleeve and belching loudly. "Needta tell you sssomething."

"I think it'll have to wait..."

"Nononononnnnoo. You'll like it. 'Sssssasecret!" Gwaine giggled. "C'mere." Gwaine curled his finger seductively at Leon. "C'mere. Listen."

Leon rolled his eyes but humored him, leaning in.

"I'm a nnnnnobleman!" He grinned manically.

Leon jerked back like he had been burned. Gwaine thought this was hilarious.

But Leon only frowned deeply. "If you're just going to fiddle around with me--"

"Noooo! I'm totally sarus. Seeeriouuuuss. Look." Gwaine hooked his thumb, after a few tries, into the chain around his neck. "Family crest. Well, one of 'em. Looooong story. Wanna hearritt?"

Leon stammered. "Er. Yes?"

"Dad was an idiot."

"Well, at least we know where you get it from," Leon supplied helpfully.

"I never knew him," Gwaine added abruptly. "He died when I was a child. Served Caerleon. Wait. Backup. Brother was a prince. King. Lot, you ever heard of him? Anyway. Dad dies, Mum marries a right prick of a knight, for the money, to look after us. There was four of us, then. Nnnnever knew Gwalchmai and Gwalhafed, they died, too."

"I'm sorry," Leon said. He sounded like he meant it, but what did Gwaine know? He was drunk!

"Anyway, then ssstepfather died, leaving me and Mum and the little ones. Gareth and Gwarae."

No, not them! Gwaine told himself, but he was already tearing up, and he couldn't stop himself.

"And then..." No. Stop! You've got to stop talking! "Then. Mum died. And--and--" There were tears streaming down his face. God, he was the worst with the drunk-crying. Once he got going...it was pathetic. He was pathetic. "Oh, God, I m-miss her!" he whined, and buried his face in Leon's chest, bawling openly now. "And Gaheris, too," he went on, wiping at his running nose. "Leaving me a-alone with the wee ones, and that wasn't good for 'em..."

There was an awkward pause. Leon gently patted him on the back.

Gwaine wiped at his eyes furiously and sniffed. "Where was I...oooooh, yeah." He sat up, pushing away from Leon. "So. Y'know. Ex-nobleman. At leasssst three times. Funny thing, nobility. In my blood. But not on paper. Funny, funny, fun-nyyy!"

Now at least he was giggling again. Which was better than crying.

Leon had a funny look on his face. Gwaine wasn't sure what he was thinking. That made him suddenly nervous.

"An' if you breathe a wwwword of this to aaaaaaannnnnyone, I'll. Do something. You won'like it. Beat your face...lovely face in, make it ugly..." Gwaine patted Leon affectionately on the cheek and tried to sit up, but only succeeded in falling off his bed.

Which was good, because that was where the chamber-pot was, and that seemed the most expedient place in which to vomit.

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Leon didn't know that to make of Gwaine's story, especially since he alternated between complimenting him, insulting him, crying like a baby and whacking him in the face. On top of that, he couldn't really understand him: drink, his thicker Orkney brogue and the fact that he mumbled anyway made it almost impossible to comprehend. What he could understand, he wasn't sure he wanted to, because it sounded so terrible that he couldn't even conceive of such a thing happening. How could a king turn down support for the family of a fallen knight? He never thought about it before--but surely there were rules?

When Gwaine cried into his chest he put his arms around him, like he did to the younger knights after they came back from their first battle. Kids young enough to be his children often thought that they had to go to battle, to prove themselves as men. Leon was often left picking up the pieces.

But this--this was something more ingrained than an emotional breakdown after a severe battle. These wounds ran deep, and it made Leon almost tear up to see him like this.

After Gwaine finished his story and threatened Leon's life if he told, he threw up--thankfully, into the chamber pot. He spit pathetically into the pot, and Leon quickly poured him some water from the jug on the nightstand.

"Here, drink this," he said, helping Gwaine drink the water. Gwaine sank down on the bed, hugging a pillow.

"If I could just see their faces, y'know? One last time…"

"Gwaine, I promise, I'm going to help you find out what happened to them. Alright?"

But Gwaine had already fallen asleep. Leon shook his head and rolled him onto his side. "Bet you'll forget all about this, come tomorrow," he said, and got up to leave.

Five pairs of yellow eyes blinked at him from the hallway outside Gwaine's room.

"That's them, isn't it?" one of them said as Leon froze.

"Yeah, that's them, alright," another said. "I'd know the nosy shortshank anywhere."

"Guards!" Leon shouted.

"Shout all you like, blondie!" The goblin said. "There ain't no guards about, leastwise none wot will come."

The goblins stepped forward, but Leon was more agile, and slammed the door before they could enter. He fumbled with the lock.

BAM! It almost felt like a horse kicking the door, before Leon could get the lock done. He threw his back against the door and dug his toes into a crack in the floorstones, holding the door closed--just barely.

"Gwaine!" he shouted. "Gwaine, get the sword!"

Gwaine opened his eyes slowly. "Hmm?"

BAM! The next strike against the door caused the hinges to rattle, and Leon snarled with effort against the door.

"Gwaine, hand me your sword!"

Gwaine blinked around, and made an attempt to take up the sword by the bed. He missed.

BAM! Little green fingers appeared around the door.

"Gwaine--!"

Gwaine barely managed to kick the sword towards him, but it was the work of a moment for Leon to draw the sword and stick one of the green figures beyond. There was a squeal, and the door slammed shut in an explosion of goo. Everything was silent.

Leon dropped the sword and sank to the ground, his back against the door. "What--the--bloody--hell?"

Gwaine raised an eyebrow. "You're welcome," he said, and went back to sleep.


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Gwaine woke slowly, groggy, to soft knocking on the door. Hm. He hadn't remembered getting into his own bed. Didn't remember much of anything about last night, as a matter of fact.

Unless...

Naaaaaaaaaaahhh.

Gwaine opened his eyes and lurched upright as the knocking continued. Yes, this was his bed all right. He was more or less dressed, though without armor, belt and boots. His breath tasted foul, but a wash of whiskey should take care of that. How much had he had last night?

And what was Leon doing in his room? He was propped up on the floor, opposite him, leaning against the door, his head fallen forward in sleep.

Perhaps all that wasn't just a dream. Great...

The knocking continued, louder now. "Sir Gwaine? Gwaine, get up, already!"

Lancelot?

The door rattled.

"It's stuck," he heard muffled through the door. Percival.

"Leon's not in his room, either. We training today or not?" Elyan.

"Here, would you look at this door?" Lancelot said. "Nearly smashed in!"

The door rattled again, harder, and Leon stirred. Suddenly, his head snapped up: he leapt to his feet in attack position. His face flashed through confusion before it arrived on Gwaine, and he glowered. "You all right?" he asked.

"Am I all right?" Gwaine bridled. Even if last night had been real, it was still going to take some getting used to the idea of Leon caring... "What happened last night? What time is it?"

Leon looked sore, tired, but not hungover. He pulled open the ruined door to greet Percival's shoulder as he seemed about to break the door down. There Percival, Elyan, and Lancelot stood, looking confused to see Leon there.

"What time is it?" Leon demanded.

Maybe he didn't get how awkward this could look? Gwaine wondered. Oh, to be so innocent!

"Uh. It's half noon, Sir Leon," Percy stammered. "Training?"

"Oh, my head," Lancelot complained. "What a night...!"

"...We could all just forget about training today," Elyan offered, hopefully. "You know. Let you two--rest?"

Leon gave them a deadpan look. "No, there will be training as usual. Er--Lancelot, have a rest--I'll leave you in charge, today. Gwaine and I have matters of state to attend to. Thanks." God, he appeared so unruffled! Like a bloody rooster!

"Uh. Yes, sir, right away," they said, and scampered off.

Leon tried to close the door, but it was clear the hinges had taken about all they could handle and wouldn't budge again. As he turned back to him, Gwaine couldn't resist. He pulled a blanket up over his chest daintily and said in as much of a falsetto as he could manage, "Oh, Sir Leon, I'm flattered. But now people will talk, and my father will insist that you marry me!"

Leon replied by throwing a shirt in his face. "Shut up," he said, sounding more irritated at his antics than genuinely mad at him. "Are you fit?"

Gwaine scoffed. "Am I fit!" Was there wine still left in Albion?

"Good. Put a clean shirt on, we've got work to do."

"We've got what who now?" Gwaine still needed a drink to bring the world back into focus.

"There's goblins in the palace."

Gwaine stopped, his shirt hanging around his neck. Leon was out the door and halfway down the hall already. Slowly a grin spread over his face.

"You coming?" Leon called.

"Oh yeah!"



Last edited by Maeglin on 29th December 2011, 17:37; edited 1 time in total

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Leon strode towards the council chambers purposefully. This goblin problem was certainly getting out of hand, and the council needed to be notified. After that, a new action plan could be arrived at.

Oh, the journal entry he'd have tonight...

It was only then that on the periphery of his consciousness he was aware of Gwaine dogging his steps excitedly. He was saying , "I told you so, I told you so, but no, you wouldn't listen, oh no! And I would have beaten you in that fight anyway, which is particularly hilarious because your probably a foot taller than me and I could still beat you! But you know the best thing is that I told you so, isn't it, because you can't say I didn't, you have to admit that I was right and you were wrong, don't you--"

Leon turned around and threw Gwaine up against a wall, and said, very civilly, "I was wrong. You were right. Will you please shut up, now?"

Gwaine cleared his throat. "You're doing it again."

"Doing what?" Leon snapped.

Gwaine coughed and looked down at his dangling feet. Leon put him down quickly. "Sorry."

"It's fine."

"Anyway, we've got more important things to do--there's a goblin infestation."

"Say no more, blondie--wait--did you say infestation?"

"Yes. I saw four in the coffers, and five tried to break in and kill us."

"Oh. Why would they try to kill us?"

It made Leon incredibly jealous that Gwaine just took his word for it, but he tried to ignore his anger. "I don't know. I didn't think goblins did that sort of thing. But I've only heard stories."

"Something odd is going on, I wager."

"Hmm. We'll have to tell the council."

"Right. And when they've laughed us out of the room like you did me, what will we do?"

"They won't--" but they probably would. Gwaine certainly looked too hungover to be believed, and he probably didn't look much better. "Alright, fine. I came up with a goblin trap last night. In theory it should work again, if there are no interruptions." He paused. "We should get started right away."

"Right."

They started toward the coffers.

"Oh--and Leon?"

"Yes?"

"I told you so."

Leon tried not to get angry again. But he only broke into an exasperated grin, and he shoved Gwaine off him as he ruffled his hair.


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"This is not going to work."

"It certainly worked last night!"

"Yeah...on Lancelot!"

There was a pause. "Hur hur hur."

"Shut up. I need to concentrate."

"This is so contrived, Leon! No goblin's ever going to fall for this! It's rubbish!"

"Come on, let's hide behind here. And keep your voice down."

"And what good is it going to do to catch just one?"

"We only need one. And be quiet!"

"And alive, that's stupid. What we need is something big and flat and heavy, squash them all at once, so that--"

BOOM!

"Oi! Bugger this, lemme outta 'ere!"

"Told you so."

"Shut up. Anyway, I don't see what good these 'humane' traps do, anyway, we'll let it out outside the castle walls and it'll just come right back in again!" A pause. "Unless...!"

"Don't look so excited, Gwaine, we are not torturing the prisoner. We are Knights of the Round Table and--"

"Oh, you're no fun!"

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Leon glared at Gwaine, and knelt down by the box, which was rattling ominously. Putting one hand on top of the box to keep it still, he rapped hard on the side of the box as he shouted, “Oi!”

Gwaine blinked at Leon. “Oi?”

“I'm trying to speak its language!”

“’Oi’ isn’t foreign—unless its French or something—“

“Will you shut up?!”

“Lemme out, ye daft wigeons!” the goblin snarled.

“Look, we will let you out if you say who sent you to kill us.”

“Sharnt!”

“I think he means ‘no’,” Gwaine said helpfully.

“Will you please be *quiet*!” Leon snapped.

“I’m aten’t tellin you nothin’, blondie! Nor you, shortie!”

“Look, if you *don’t* tell us, we’ll—chop your head off.”

Gwaine raised an eyebrow. “Really?”

The goblin scrabbled at the inside of the box. "You Camelot softies won't touch an 'air on my 'ead!"

“He's right, you know. That didn’t even convince me.”

“Do you have a better idea, shortie?”

“As a matter of fact, I do…”


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"I mean an idea that doesn't involve breaking the Knight's Code!" Leon growled.

Gwaine looked offended. "What did you think I was going to torture the poor bugger?" he said, even as he thought, Damn, he guessed. Quick, new plan.

"Hey, stop that!" Leon said, swatting at him.

"Lend us a few quid," Gwaine insisted, tugging at the purse on Leon's belt.

"What do you--"

"Hey. Gobber. Can I call you gobber?" Gwaine said, nonchalantly leaning against the bucket and grinning widely.

"Up yours, shortie!"

"Fine," Gwaine said, rattling some coins in his hand. "Guess I'll go spend these on drink."

There was a pause.

"These?" the goblin asked. "These what?"

"These tasty, shiny, scrumptious-looking gold coins. Guess I'll go give 'em up to Stuart the barkeep--and if you've ever met Stuart the barkeep, you'll know that once he gets his fat hands on a gold coin there's absolutely no getting them--"

"Me! Me! Meeeeeee!!" The goblin began shouting hysterically, kicking and struggling against the box so that both Leon and Gwaine had to hold it down. "Give them to meeee!!"

"I dunno," Gwaine said, enjoying this far too much, clinking the coins together in his palm. "Three coins is quite a lot to just give away to an uncooperative goblin..."

"Gwaine!" Leon hissed. "You can't negotiate with it! It's an enemy of Camelot!"

"Look, do you want to find out who's behind all this or don't you?"

"Okay, okay!" The goblin shrieked. "I'll talk! I'll talk! Please, please, pleeeeeease, just let me touch the gold, good Sir Gwaine?"

Gwaine raised his eyebrows at Leon and winked at him before sliding one gold coin beneath the box.

Orgasmic noises issued from the box that frankly embarrassed Gwaine.

"Right," he said, banging on the top of the box. "There's more where that came from after you talk."

"Lady Morgana!" the creature whined. "She's said she'll pay us a large sum for killing you lot and causing mischief! Now gimme!"

Leon looked surprised. But Gwaine remained skeptical.

"Fine. I'm off to the tavern. I say we leave him in there overnight to cool down, Leon..."

"Waaaaaaait!! Wait wait wait! Where's my gold, meatsack?"

"Rude and a liar. Told you. Can never trust a goblin," Gwaine said, clinking the coins together for good measure. "Well, I'm off to the pub to make Stuart a little richer. You coming, Leon?"

"It--well, it just did what you wanted..."

Gwaine laughed. "Ha! You believe that? He's just squealing like a pig, telling us what we want to hear. Why I could probably belch a more convincing lie than that--"

"Noooooooo!! Nononononononononoooooo!!!!! It's true, I tells ya! All true! Morgana's at Tintagel! Planning to take over Camelot while Arthur's gone, and she's paying us to kill the knights in charge as we can before she stages her attack!! Pleaseohpleaseohplease gimme the gold! I told ya all I knowed!!"

It was actually horrible to listen to, but that sounded like a genuine confession to Gwaine, who was himself an expert liar.

Gwaine slid the two gold pieces under the box. While the goblin was then distracted by his newfound riches, Gwaine quickly tipped the box over and grabbed the goblin by the throat.

"Thank you," he said sweetly, before his face darkened into the picture of barely-contained rage and the promise of death. "Now. If I ever see you in Camelot again, see, I'll kill you, take your gold, kill your family, take your family's gold, and spend it all on drink until I'm dancing naked on top of a table, understand me?"

The goblin nodded, horrified, and when Gwaine dropped him, he was gone in a flash.

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"Right," Gwaine said, jumping up. "Tintagel, is it? Why, that's not too far from here. Get the beer and sausages--it's questing time!"

And he would have run off to fetch the horses, but Leon grabbed the nape of his chain mail just in time. Gwaine's legs tried to run on without him. "What?" he snapped.

"We can't just leave now," Leon said, holding him still.

"Why not?" Gwaine shoved him off. "Arthur left us in charge, we can do whatever we want--"

"Exactly. He left *us* in charge. Who's going to look after Camelot while we're gone?"

The pair fell silent for a moment, deep in thought. "Elyan?" Gwaine said. "He is the Queen's brother, after all."

"Absolutely not! Gwen told me enough stories about him."

"A responsibility shirker, eh?"

"He burnt a house to the ground!" Leon frowned. "Percival, perhaps?"

As the words left his lips, he was struck by a vision of what Camelot would look like upon their return. It involved a lot of people throwing each other about, giving each other manly handshakes and taking to removing their shirtsleeves. Leon glanced at Gwaine--the vaguely confused look on his face told him had had just thought the same thing.

"Sorry, never mind," Leon said quickly.

"OK, what about Bors?"

"Too young."

"Balin?"

"Balin's an ass."

There was a knock at the door.

"Gwaine--there you are. I was wondering if you had something to cure a hangover, please? This headache's driving me mad…"

Lancelot walked in, holding his head sheepishly.

"I wouldn't ask," he continued. "Only it's really...what are you two grinning for?"


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Ahh, nothing like questing! The open air, the freedom, the adventure!

The bugs, the cold, the rain...Leon's irritating silence...

It turned out, though he should have expected as much, that Sir Leon was really boring in long stretches. Gwaine couldn’t remember another time where they’d been in each other’s company for such a length of time and with no one else around. So Gwaine did most of the talking. Which was fine by him! He was just relating the events of the King's wedding celebration, and he had just gotten to the part where he and the four ladies he was with started playing strip poker and--

"I think we'll camp here for the night," Leon said. Probably the first words out of him all day.

"Oh. Em. All right. Yes, let's. I'm famished."

He expected a jab about him always being famished, but nothing was forthcoming. The continued silence as they unpacked their horses and set up camp was even more telling.

Was Leon mad at him?

Gwaine was left wondering for almost an hour more as they got the fire started and proceeded to sit around it munching cold sausage and drinking warm beer and continuing to not talk.

Apparently, at some point in all of this, Leon had mercy on him:

"I was very angry," he said suddenly, "about what you told Lady Elaine."

Gwaine pulled his head out of the pack, where he had been searching for a biscuit he might have left in the bottom from the last time they were questing. "Eh?"

"I mean--I kept your secret. No reason why you should have made me take the blame twice over." He poked at the fire. "I know you fancy so many girls, but some people are particular for one."

"Oh!" Gwaine was startled by this: not only what Leon was saying surprised him, but also the very fact that he was saying it at all came as a shock. Leon was the aloof, distant Great Leader of Men, he didn't talk about his feelings, and certainly not to Gwaine! "Em," he tried. "I. Ah. Was trying to help, don't you know."

Leon raised his eyebrows.

"No, really! Wasn't trying to horn in your action, mate, honest. I was trying to help! I was working the right angle and everything. Can't have her getting hot and bothered thinking of me thinking of her in the buff, now can we?"

"Girls don't think like that," Leon said, with a naïveté that was frankly adorable, and added, with less certainty, "They've got--natural modesty. And things." He took a swig from the canteen, suddenly all business. "It doesn't really matter, anyway. She won't look at me again."

"Oho!" Gwaine laughed and actually clapped Leon on the back at that. "That is where you are wrong, sir! You'll forgive me, Leon, but I believe that since I have significantly more experience in this...area...than, ah.......you."

This wasn't working. Leon seemed really upset! Gwaine sighed. "I mean, I thank you for covering for me like that with her Da, and believe me, it was nothing but an accident. And it's not like I didn't pay for it, you know, falling two stories on me back--"

"Two stories!" Leon exclaimed.

"Well, I say two. It was really three, but I took a level off for going through the two awnings. Anyway, this isn't about me... This is about, erm, well, me. Being an ass, I mean, as usual. Maybe?" He grinned hopefully.

God, Leon was giving him that disappointed look. He hated that! Why did it have to be disappointed? Why couldn't he ever get properly angry? Enraged, even? Throw him up against a wall, he could deal with that! Gwaine hated it when Leon looked disappointed at him!

"Is that an apology?"

Gwaine grimaced. "I guess...I'm sorry?" No, that wasn't right, Leon just scowled more:

"You guess?" Yep. Definitely dissappointed.

Gwaine recovered quickly, firming up his tone and his resolve. "No, I am sorry." He paused, wondering how far he should, could, ought to, and wanted to go with this. "In fact, I'm more than sorry!" That was an idea. And the poor bugger clearly needed his help. "I'll make it up to you, Leon. I vow never to rest, metaphorically speaking, of course, as these things take time--"

"Er--"

"--until you and the Lady Elaine have admitted your love for one another--"

"--What?--"

"--and are living happily ever after!"

"Now, hold on--"

"Great! Now that that's settled," Gwaine said, jumping to his feet, "I think I'll go kill us something to eat--"

"Wait a second, I never said--"

Leon also jumped up, and was bowled over by a figure in blue that leapt out of the shadows.

"Gerroff me!" Leon said.

"What the hell?" Gwaine said.

"Er...help!" the figure said.

Drawing his sword, Leon scrambled to his feet to join Gwaine, who also had his sword drawn. Now they could properly view the intruder in the light of the fire, they shouted in unison--

"Merlin??"



Last edited by Maeglin on 18th February 2012, 05:46; edited 1 time in total

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Oh, sure, everything had started out well. Rather, things has started out well if you ignored being the third-wheel manservant to the newlywed king and queen. Actually, the traveling had been quite tolerable, riding along behind the carriage with nary a command to follow. Arthur was much less worried about making his life difficult when he was making calf-eyes at his new wife, and Gwen had never been the type to make his life hard in the first place. Not a single person, creature, or enchanted inanimate object tried to assassinate Arthur.

Things were really going quite well, he thought as he brushed down all of the horses. Arthur, working for once, was trying to set up a tent next to the picturesque little stream he’d found. Merlin, who’d set up his fair share of camps with no assistance whatsoever from Arthur, saw immediately exactly what was going to happen. The right corner was, at any moment, going to skid off the damp mossy stone upon which it rested right into the stream, which would then swamp the entire corner of the fabric monstrosity, leaving Gwen and Arthur to sleep either in a damp tent or no tent at all. While he doubted Gwen would have cared, Merlin was sure that would make Arthur cranky, and by extension his own life infinitely more difficult.

“That’s going to fall into the stream,” he said over Arthur’s horse’s shoulder, continuing to brush the horse’s dark brown mane. Arthur turned and looked at him with one of those patented, “I have no idea what you’re saying but it better be important” looks.

“The tent corner, there, is going to fall into the stream,” Merlin repeated, pointing for Arthur’s benefit at the right corner of the tent. Arthur attempted to drag it off the rock, but since he already had two other corners of the tent tied down, it wouldn’t budge. Merlin watched as Arthur ineffectually tried to move the tent for a few more moments, to Gwen’s amusement as she stood nearby watching.

“You have to move the corners first,” Merlin remarked, walking over toward the tent and yanking up the other two corners.

“When you set up one of these, leave the corners until last. That way, you can move it. No, not like that, you have to drag it away. No, not like that either. Look, like this. You should set tents up more often,” he said, and as he was about to go on merrily harassing Arthur-

“Merlin-“

“And perhaps your knights-“

“Merlin,”

“That way they won’t be in the way-”

“Merlin!” He stopped motoring his mouth and looked at Arthur. In the meantime, he’d set up the last corner, dragged the tent away from the stream, and tied it to wooden stakes in the ground- all without thinking. He gave Arthur a look with raised eyebrows.

“Shut up.”

Well, that was the thanks you got for being helpful. Merlin snorted, rolled his eyes, and went to make supper.

Later, when the fires were banked and everyone seemed to be sleeping but the two sentries- even on their honeymood, the King and Queen had to be wary of becoming targets- Merlin sat and poked sticks into the largest fire. There was a crackling out in the forest, as of a deer, or perhaps a fox, but the sentries both went to check it out anyway, crossing the camp and ignoring Merlin as they went.

Then, as always seemed to happen, there was a crash, two surprised cries, and a great looming shape cannoned through the trees, startling Merlin into jumping out of the way as it went right through the banked coals, bugling as it trampled around. Arthur appeared, shirt half tucked in and sword ready to slice off something’s head. The deer-like beast swung huge antlers around and bright white teeth shone sharp in its open jaws as it swung Arthur’s direction. Well that wasn’t going to work, it would trample the tent, Arthur, and Gwen like it had the guards, who had no yet emerged from the trees into whence they’d disappeared.

“Hey! Over here! Hey you… deer… monster… thing!” Merlin shouted, throwing a rock hard at the beast’s hind end.

“Merlin, what are you…” Arthur shouted, sounding annoyed as usual, though perhaps also a little alarmed. Merlin waved him off, turned, and crashed away through the forest. It wasn’t like he was unfamiliar with running around in the forest at night- although rarely in the lead of some carnivorous deer-beast with horns as wide as a horse was long. He jumped a log, careened around a tree and splashed through probably the same stream they’d camped by.

The deer-beast kept up admirably, and Merlin could hear the thrashing of its massive horns as they smashed into or over smaller trees and clattered against bigger ones, and when he once turned to see how much of a lead he had, those unnaturally sharp teeth were bared. They were far sharper than a wolf’s. Actually, if anything, they reminded him of the Dragon’s teeth. A dragon deer, just his luck.

As he swung himself around on a tree trunk and forced the beast to stop, turn, and thunder after him (but further back now) he suddenly found himself leaping over a fire and colliding with something that sprung up in his face. He went down in a sprawling heap, and the thing he’d collided with shouted.

“Geroff me!” That voice sounded oddly familiar.

“What the hell?” Yes, that voice definitely rung a bell. Realizing who he’d run into, Merlin scrambled to his feet and, skipping any pleasantries and instead gasping for help, turned to pinpoint the sounds of the approaching beast. He found himself at Leon and Gwaine’s swordpoints, their twin looks of consternation- a different look for each of them, amusingly enough- not quite mirroring his own of near-terror.

“Deer! Er… monster! Monster deer!” he said finally, pointing past both knights to the approaching sounds of something very large and very angry crashing through the trees.

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Leon was once again unceremoniously knocked down my Merlin just as the beast came crashing through the trees. It was a huge thing--bigger than any deer he'd ever seen! Apparently it had forgotten all about Merlin, and busied itself with stamping out the fire while Merlin huddled behind a fallen log.

"Look at the size of it!" Leon said, sitting up to get a better look.

"Get down!" Merlin said urgently, tugging at his chain mail. But Leon wasn't paying attention--years of growing up horseback chasing down deer in the forest made him willing to turn a blind eye to the creature's size, its huge fangs, its red eyes. It had to be twenty-five pointer! It must have fantastic meat. Arthur was right about hunting--it may not mend a broken heart, but it's good fun!

"Hand me that crossbow!" he told Merlin, unaware of the giddy excitement in his voice. He could feel his usual caution slipping away.

"What?" Merlin looked at him as if he was mad, and said, "Are you mad?!"

"Arthur will never believe it!--it's absolutely gorgeous!" Of course what Leon saw in his well-bred mind was a bit more picturesque than what the beast really looked like. But that didn't matter. Just at that moment the animal snorted and charged off into the trees. Without missing a beat Leon leapt to his feet, grabbed a crossbow, and pounded after it.

"Hurry, Merlin! Come on! We can't let it get away! Gwaine! Head it off, quick!"


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Gwaine and Merlin stared after Leon.

"Head it...off?" he repeated.

Did they really just see that? I mean, this wasn't Percival or Elyan or one of the other knights. This wasn't even Gwaine himself, which would have been infinitely more believable. This was Sir Leon. The only one of them for whom the "Sir" part was natural, was practically a part of his name.

He didn't just...go off like that!

Gwaine was...outraged? For a single guilty moment he realized what it was to be the one standing behind trying to sort things out while someone else charged heedlessly off into danger for no apparently good reason. He had a struggle with his conscience, but fortunately won out, and snapped out of it with a, "So he is a man, after all!"

"This isn't funny, Gwaine!"

"You're right. What the hell does he think he's doing?" he cried. "That's a Sailetheach, not the bloody white hart!"

"I, ah...think he's hunting it," Merlin said sheepishly. He seemed accustomed to explaining the stupid antics of the nobs and nobility. He needed to get out more. Then, "Wait, you know what that thing is?"

"Yeah, saw one once, hunting party in Tara, but only the Irish are crazy enough to take one of those beasts down. I've seen one bite a hound clean in half! And it took twelve of us then to kill it!"

Merlin was looking pale, though, so he stopped.

Leon's desperate cries of "Gwaine! He's getting away, Gwaine!" grew fainter in the night, so he laughed, stood, and clapped Merlin on the shoulder. "Look, come on. I'd much rather bring Arthur enough venison for a year than explain to him how Goldilocks went and got himself killed."

He ran on ahead, only noticing after a moment that Merlin wasn't following. "Come on, Merlin, I want you to stick close to me!" he called. "Take my crossbow, it's weakest in the eye and knee-joints."

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It took Merlin’s eyes a moment to adjust to the darkness after the deer monster reduced the fire into charcoal ash. He took advantage of the moment and hunkered down behind a fallen tree, only to find that he was the only one doing so. Leon, in a very un-Leon-like show of nobleman idiocy was watching the monster with… admiration? Did he actually want to hunt that thing?

He didn’t even pay attention when Merlin tried to get him to stop drawing attention to himself. What was it with the knights and hunting things? First Arthur thought he’d take on the deer single-handed and half asleep, and now Leon wanted to HUNT it?

“It’s not gorgeous! It’s a slavering monster deer!” he hissed as he nonetheless handed Leon the crossbow. Who was he to question a direct order from one of Arthur’s knights? Ok, so he did it all the time. But that was beside the point. Knowing that Arthur had, in fact, left both Gwaine and Leon in charge, Merlin looked to Gwaine to prevent Leon from going off after something that would probably kill him, then chew him up and leave various limbs strewn about for ten miles around.

Gwaine thought it was funny. They were all insane, and here was the proof Merlin had been looking for all these months. He looked at the crossbow Gwaine shoved at him like it was also going to bite him and took off after Gwaine and Leon, muttering the whole time.

“Of course. No one is crazy enough to hunt one of those! No one except the Irish and-“ he paused for a moment as he nearly ran into Gwaine, who’d stopped crashing around to listen for the sounds of Leon presumably either killing the deer or being killed himself. Gwaine took off running again and Merlin trotted after him, “No one except the Irish and Arthur’s knights.” he grumbled as they finally caught up with Leon and the- what had Gwaine called it? A Sailetheach?

Leon had cornered the beast against a rock wall, and it had predictably turned and had its horns down, sharp teeth bared and bright red eyes glaring hatred at the knight armed with only a crossbow.

“Didn’t you just say no one but the Irish are crazy enough to hunt that?” Merlin asked Gwaine as they all stood there at a momentary impasse. Gwaine looked at him and shrugged.

“Maybe he’s part Irish,” he answered and clapped him on the shoulder again before propelling Merlin toward Leon and the beast where he could keep an eye on him. The beast chose that moment to charge, causing Merlin to jump to the left and the knights to the right. Rather than taking the opportunity to escape, the monster shrieked, turned, and charged again with frightening speed at Gwaine and Leon, who were not quite prepared for the attack. Merlin fired a crossbow bolt… and found that when he’d jumped, it’d fallen out of the bow. Splendid. With no other recourse that didn’t involve trampled knights, and since he was currently obscured by both darkness and a giant deer, he muttered under his breath at a tree just as the Sailetheach passed by, causing a limb to fall and entangle its horns. With a bugle of rage, it flung its head in the air and left an opening between flailing forelimbs and sharp pointy teeth for Gwaine to shout, “HA!” and dive in to slice it across the knee. It went down, disentangled itself from the tree, and was about to scrabble back onto its feet- sort of- when there was a thwock! followed by the sound of a crossbow bolt thunking into something solid. For a moment the deer was still, and then it crumpled. Gwaine stood, sword still out, and looked at Leon, who looked from the deer to the other knight.

“That was a good shot,” Gwaine admitted as they both stepped forward to see the crossbow bolt buried neatly in the dead deer monster’s eye.

“You can come out now, Merlin,” Leon laughed, apparently assuming Merlin had been hiding behind another tree.

“Good job that it got caught in a tree so you could trip it,” he said to Gwaine as Merlin joined them, looking very annoyed but saying nothing. Both knights looked at the tree, whose branch was now hanging slightly crooked due to being pulled half off by the deer as it went down.

“Yeah, good job!” Gwaine agreed, but he was looking at Merlin and grinning as he said it. Merlin avoided doing anything really stupid like whistling innocently (mostly because he wasn’t very good at whistling), but he did glance at his feet as if something had caught his attention, and then coughed and looked at the deer.

“How are you going to get that back to Camelot? It’ll take two horses… at least. Probably three,” he said, jabbing it with a foot.

“Why, we’ll let you carry it! It should only take you… six trips? I suggest starting with an arm,” Gwaine said helpfully, and Merlin glared at him, but was saved from answering by more crashing. He didn’t even bother raising the boltless crossbow, instead stepping out of the knights’ line of sight- just in case- as two guards on horseback came galloping up.

“Arthur sent us to make sure you hadn’t got yourself killed,” they explained to Merlin, looking warily at the monster deer’s corpse. Leon stepped forward, once again looking the responsible, level-headed knight.

“Well, then, you may take this back to Arthur with our compliments-“ he started, but in a moment Gwaine broke in over Sir Leon’s formality.

“But since you’ll need Merlin’s horse to carry the thing all the way back to Camelot when Arthur sends you back, he can stay with us.

“Take that back? But…” one guard started, looking exceedingly doubtful, but Gwaine clapped his hands and grinned broadly.

“Glad that’s settled!” he said, and started tromping off back through the forest. Leon, in typical nobleman fashion, ignored the beast now that the chase was over and followed Gwaine, leaving Merlin and the two guards.

“Come on, Merlin, keep up!” Gwaine hollered back a moment later, and Merlin muttered an apology before following after the two knights.


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"You know, Merlin," Gwaine said, slinging an arm around Merlin's skinny shoulders as they walked back to camp, "I only said that in case you needed a break from Arthur; you don't really have to come with if you don't like."

"Er, well..."

Leon appeared on his other side. "Quite right. You may as well know that we are on our way to Tintagel, and it is likely to be very dangerous. In fact, I've half a mind to order you back to Arthur." Leon said this last bit with a glare at Gwaine, clearly for not consulting him first.

"What's going on at--you two aren't seriously thinking of storming Morgana's castle, are you?"

"No," Leon said, just as Gwaine said "Yeah!" but quickly added, "Only joking."

"Camelot has been infested with goblins ever since Arthur left," Leon explained, "and we have reason to believe they are working for Morgana. This is a reconnaissance mission only--" Funny, he seemed to be talking to Merlin, but he kept glancing at Gwaine. "As you know, Morgana's palace is poorly staffed, so infiltrating it enough to capture her payment to the goblins would not be an impossible task for two well-trained knights."

"Okay, look, you still insulting me, mate, or was that a compliment?" Gwaine demanded.

"I...beg your pardon?" Leon looked lost. Which was good. Gwaine wasn't about to break his nose for something he simply couldn't help, even if his arrogance was beginning to grate on his nerves again. Good thing Merlin was here.

Probably, as it would turn out, a very good thing, considering the abilites of their opponent, although Gwaine didn't follow this train of thought very far.

"Well, I leave the decision to you," Leon added magnanimously. "It will be a potentially dangerous quest, but I believe you could be useful."

"Keeping in mind the alternative is going back to being the third wheel on a royal honeymoon," Gwaine laughed, and Merlin, who had looked thoughtful for a few seconds, nodded quickly.

"No, yeah, I'll take my chances with Morgana and hordes of goblins, thanks."

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Leon worried. He always worried. It was probably why he was so bloody thin and gaunt, and why his hair was thinning.

Merlin and Gwaine traded jokes as they rode the rest of the day toward Tintagel, to the backdrop of Leon's silent worried thoughts. At the moment he worried about going on this mission with another young man who had no fighting experience, to foil the plots of Lady Morgana at a castle that Arthur did not know she had. His better judgment kept nagging him throughout the rest of the journey about future problems, so much so that he did not think of the present danger until all three of them were pressed up against the cold stone of the outer walls surrounding Tintagel.

"There's got--to be a back door--'round here some--where," Merlin puffed. They had to run the last hundred yards or so to the base of the wall, and Merlin was severely winded.

"I should have thought this through," Leon said, "We shouldn't've come."

"What, is the lion cowardly after all?" Gwaine said.

Leon's eyes darted around the top of the wall. "It's too easy."

"Too easy is nothing to complain about," Merlin said, who had gotten his breath back. "There's a door to the tower just there."

In a moment they were climbing the winding stairs. Empty stairs, Leon noted. Surely a tower of this size had some tactical use? Then why were there no guards?

"Now, if I were a pot of gold, where would I hide?" Gwaine asked. He poked his head in a few random doors. "She's got to be keeping the gold she's using to bribe the goblins around here."

"Conceivably there'd be guards," Leon said pointedly. "We should take position in--"

Gwaine laughed. "Come on, granddad, if I'm going to have to hold your hand the whole way, I might as well have left you at--"

Gwaine stopped talking, which was very uncharacteristic of him. Leon bounded up the stairs in the direction of Gwaine's voice. He had stepped into one of the rooms coming off the staircase, and Leon jumped inside--Merlin ran into him as he skidded to a halt just inside the doorway.

There was a half circle of black-clad soldiers standing in the room. He counted them quickly--twenty-five swords.

"This was easier than I thought."

This voice was all to familiar to Leon. He looked up, and there on the balcony of a room one level up was Lady Morgana, smiling warmly at them. She looked as beautiful and terrible as she did when she stood over him as Queen of Camelot. It made his stomach turn.

"Leon, I'm surprised at you," she said. "Not on top form today, I suppose." She shrugged dramatically. "It's probably beneath my dignity to kill you. Die well, knights of Camelot."

And with that she just walked away.

Leon drew his sword as the soldiers rushed them.


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Gwaine bridled as Leon stepped past him, as if he was in slow-motion, his cloak and hair somehow whipping dramatically in the breezeless tower.

"What d'you think you're doing?" Gwaine cried, also drawing his sword but yanking Leon back. "Stay behind me!" he demanded.

Leon's eyes flashed, insulted.

But Gwaine's eyes sparkled. "Well, someone's got to lead us out of here!"

Gwaine parried the first attacker and kicked him in the chest, back into the second two, giving them enough wiggle room for Gwaine to shove both Merlin and Leon back and out the door they came.

"You can't run!" Morgana's laughter followed them, and another score of guards met them in the corridor.

"Damn!" Gwaine swore, and he and Leon drew together, swords swinging. They kept Merlin between them, but beyond that, they seemed out of options.

So Gwaine laughed a bit. "There's only twenty for each of us!" he called to Leon. Leon might have laughed, or that might have been the dying scream of whatever poor sod who hadn't got up early enough in the morning to tangle with the Knights of Camelot!

As Gwaine skewered one guard, he relieved him of his sword and tossed it back to Merlin. He flashed Merlin his patented Sugar-We're-Going-Down-Swinging grin and, "That should even the odds," he laughed.

But things were looking grim. Gwaine was getting desperate, his eyes flicking around the narrow corridor for something, anything, when he spotted it: the window! They were some stories up, sure, but a few bruises and breaks was nothing compared to getting hacked to death by Morgana's guards, right?

"To the window!"

Funny how his lips hadn't moved. Leon had just given the order! He'd have to congratulate him later on thinking outside his helmet. Gwaine forced a few of the guards further back with a wide sweep of his weapon, pivoting and wedging himself in between the window and the horde. "Merlin, you first!"

"Not that window!" Leon hissed, jerking his head at one he had just sectioned off. Gwaine rushed over to stand shoulder to shoulder with him, covering Merlin as he muttered something that was probably hilarious but drowned out by the sound of clanging swords before leaping out and down with a cry.

The fight continued for a moment, as an awkward decision approached.

"Ladies first," Gwaine grinned.

"No, go on ahead, Gwaine, I'll cover you," Leon insisted.

"No, seriously. I take rear guard, I always take rear guard."

"Oh, for Christ's sake, Gwaine!"

"Oh, come on," Gwaine grunted, as together, he and Leon locked swords and pressed the foremost guards back enough for breathing space, and he glanced at Leon sidelong. "You're the fearless leader, remember?" He winked then, and, realizing he would probably regret this, actually shoved Leon bodily out the window.

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Throwing Merlin a sword did not, in fact, even up the odds. Rather, unused to fighting in close quarters, he first nearly dropped the thing on his own foot in surprise- it wasn’t every day someone threw a sword at you. Vases, shoes, chain mail, even armor pieces, but not a fully sharpened sword. Before he could even get a decent handle on the thing and start swinging, Gwaine had shoved him toward a window, through which Merlin saw… very sharp rocks.

“Er, Gwaine-“ he started to say, but Leon had already found a more suitable window from which to jump. Since Gwaine was busy dealing with the five or so soldiers who particularly seemed to want to kill him, Merlin made a subtle gesture with his hand and with a word, caused two of Gwaine’s attackers and two of Leon’s to suddenly lose control of their own weapons. Oh, they didn’t float in the air and attack them, as that would have been blatantly obvious. But he did grin in satisfaction as he watched the soldiers swing their weapons and accidentally hit their fellow soldiers. It left them enough of a breathing space to cut across the room to Leon’s window.

Holding the sword as far from himself as possible to minimize the chances of falling on it, Merlin jumped through the window frame. He stopped his own fall for the briefest of moments before realizing he was about to land not on rocks or cobblestones, but in a hay cart. A hay cart? What was Morgana doing leaving haycarts lying around outside windows? Then again, she hadn’t always been the cleverest of enemies. He dropped the rest of the way and landed with a soft thud, rolling away and throwing the sword out of the cart before Leon, apparently pushed by Gwaine and screaming... well, not quite like a girl, but close... tumbled unceremoniously out the window and landed flailing in the cart. As he scrambled out of the way, he looked up at the window and muttered something uncomplimentary at his fellow knight, who shortly followed him through the window- albeit with more grace.

“How dare you-“ Leon started as soon as Gwaine could reasonably be expected to realize he was about to get the lecture of his life- and mid battle, no less.

“Right, but do you want to shout at me or find the gold?” Gwaine asked, waving Leon silent and dropping over the edge of the haycart. Leon, still looking irritated, scrambled out of the cart after him, and Merlin followed. Rather, he would have followed, but it seemed Merlin hadn’t been giving Morgana enough credit- more armed men arrived to surround the cart.

“Do they never end? Where is she getting all of them?” Gwaine asked, apparently dumbfounded, as he met the first three of them.

“If you have to ask…” Merlin said, implying of course that she probably wasn’t recruiting these soldiers in any honest way. Again, because he was getting tired of being outnumbered five or six to one, he gestured behind his back and watched as enemy swords started swinging wide, or backwards. Between Gwaine, Leon, and the renegade blades, the little battalion that had attacked them was soon lying scattered about, leaving the way clear. Merlin hopped out of the hay cart and tried to brush himself off, but who was he kidding? He spent half of his life with bits of hay sticking out of his hair and his clothes. Leon and Gwaine were likewise trying to get the hay out of their chain mail, which Merlin could have told them was a hopeless waste of time, but didn’t for a moment. Then he coughed to interrupt them, which caused him to cough for real, and at least distracted Leon into thumping him on the back until he stopped coughing.

“Shall we go find the gold, then?” he asked when Merlin had his breath back, and the three trooped off in a randomly chosen direction- that of the cellars, which was where Merlin thought he’d hide gold if he were Morgana.

It turned out his guess was correct, and after hunting through the cellars for a good fifteen minutes, they came across a door that was both locked and guarded. The two guards were already nervous, no doubt having heard the faraway sounds of battle, and after Gwaine and Leon stopped arguing who would take them out (and agreed they’d share, like good knights of the round table) the three charged around the corner, got rid of the guards, and broke down the door.

They looked around the edge of the splintered wooden door with some trepidation, having already been trapped once. There, sitting in the back of the room, in an overtly humble chest, was a whole pile of gold coins. While the knights gawked, Merlin gave it a critical glare. That was going to be impossible to carry! Unless there was a convenient bottomless pit in the same room at the chest... which he doubted.


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"Well, what do we do now?" Merlin asked.

"I suppose we need to get rid of it somehow--make it so the goblins can't use it," Gwaine said.

"There's a waterfall just outside of the castle," Leon said. "We can drop the gold in there." he stopped as he noticed Gwaine's and Merlin's stares. "Gaius told me that they don't like running water."

"He never told me that!" Merlin said, for some reason looking upset.

"Do you normally ask him about how to defeat goblins?"

"No," Merlin said. If Leon didn't know any better, he would have thought he was lying.

"Well, it looks a bit heavy," Gwaine said. "I'll be amazed to see you carry it all the way to that waterfall, Leon."

"What?"

"You've got to restore your manhood somehow after that scream you gave on your way to the haycart."

"I was cursing! I didn't scream!"

"You did, mate," Gwaine said. "Merlin didn't even scream--he fell like a snowflake compared to you."

"You know, when we get back to Camelot I am going to give you the longest lecture you've ever--"

"Excuse me?" That came from Merlin, and Leon turned to see Merlin standing by the box of gold. "I think it's going to take at least two of us to carry this."

Gwaine gave a "Pfft!" and sauntered over to the chest.

"Merlin's right," Leon said. "It's probably heavier than it--"

Gwaine bent over and picked up the chest, about two inches off the ground.

"You see?" Leon said. "Let me try."

"No, no, I've got this," Gwaine said, grunting with effort as he hauled at the gold chest. Leon rolled his eyes and started shoving from the back. Merlin kept watch.

"It's gone all quiet again," Merlin said, looking around nervously. "Surely Morgana has some more soldiers to throw at us!"

Gwaine shrugged. "I doubt Morgana hires knights of the finest caliber."

"Yeah," Leon said. "Her rent-a-knights probably aren't even of noble birth!"

He laughed, but he was the only one. Merlin and Gwaine were staring at him, looking hurt and offended, respectively.

"Arthur would have laughed," Leon muttered, blushing.

"Shh!" Merlin suddenly said. His large ears looked ready to pick up any sound in Albion. Leon could hear nothing extraordinary, but presently Merlin said, "A regiment of guards--they're coming around that corner," and pointed down the hall they had just entered.

Leon stood up straight. "Right. Merlin, get back, behind the gold. Gwaine, you get in that alcove there, this is a defensible position that we can hold for….Gwaine?"


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Maeglin

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"It's them! Get them!"

Oh, balls!

Gwaine was sick of all fighting and faffing around. Not that he didn't like fighting, it was just annoying when you had better things to do. Remembering what Leon had said about rent-a-knights, and banking on the element of surprise working for him, Gwaine drew his sword and charged. "Get that gold out of here!" he shouted at Leon and Merlin's stunned faces.

"Where are you going? Come back!" Leon shrieked at him, but Gwaine was already far down the corridor. He was carrying two swords now, and both were out, he was clanging along in his heavy armor and boots, and dragging the blades along the stone on either side of the corridor to increase the amount of noise he made.

Then he started yelling. No words, really, just yelling, like, "AAAAAAAAAARRRRRRGGGGGHHHHHHHH!!" as he proceeded to round the corner and come face to face with a score of knights.

So he kept running, and he kept screaming.

It was a gut-reaction, he couldn't really blame them. It was funny how just waving your arms around and shouting "Boo!" really did work about 95% of the time. It usually only worked for a few seconds, sure, and it often only made them angrier when they recovered from the shock, but it worked.

A few of the front guards yelped and leapt back. Those behind them thought something really scary was after them and started retreating, stepping on those further back, until someone screamed, and by the time the vanguard had realized how ridiculous they looked, the rest of their companions had abandoned them in favor of running down the corridor.

Apparently, this tactic worked better in larger, stupider numbers. Gwaine would have to remember that. You know, if he ever got out of this alive.

The thrill was exhilarating: charging down a corridor, twin swords drawn, yelling at the top of his lungs with twenty-odd confused and stupid soldiers stampeding in retreat from an army of one.

Which lasted about all of thirty seconds.

Because of course, when they rounded that last bend, they rediscovered their courage along with their reinforcements, armed with crossbows now, and Gwaine's charging roar of "AAAARRRRGGGGHHHH!!" turned, very quickly, into a genuinely terrified "Aaaaaaahhhhhhh!!!!!"

Crossbow bolts flew around him, and Gwaine ducked back. More soldiers tore around that corner, and Gwaine fought them, but apparently they hadn't liked being made to look like fools and cowards, so they were back with a vengeance. And their friends soon joined them from the other direction. And there were no windows in this corridor.

And who the hell just shot a sword out of my hand? No way any of them could aim like that! Arthur can't aim like that!

Gwaine hissed and pulled his right hand in to his chest, held it under his armpit to stop the bleeding, but the left sword was still raised, still keeping the dogs at bay.

"Stand down!" came an authoritative voice echoing down the corridor. "I want this one alive."

Morgana.

Oh, damn.


The sea of swords parted, and the Lady Morgana appeared, in all that black lace and sadistically-teased hair. She was holding the crossbow! He glared at her.

She smiled in reply. "Put the sword down, Sir Gwaine."

"I'd rather die," he snarled, trying to sound more sure of that than he felt.

Her eyes glowed gold, and the sword was wrenched from his grasp.

"Well, fine, if you want to play like that," Gwaine grumbled, raising his arms in a petulant surrender.

"Oh, I always want to play like that," Morgana laughed, two-parts threat and one-part promise, as the guards rushed over him.

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"Gwaine--? Where are you going?! Come back!"

But Leon was cut off as a crossbow bolt flew past his head, and, because Gwaine was no longer in position, he was forced to duck back, dragging Merlin with him. They watched, horrified, as Gwaine alone charged the guards.

"He certainly has courage," Merlin offered, seeing Leon's face.

"A fat lot of good that will do if he gets himself killed," Leon said. He considered his options, but not for long--almost as soon as he was ready to follow Gwaine, more guards poured around the other side of the courtyard. Leon lifted up his sword.

"Merlin, I'm going to have to ask you to do something," Leon said. "Above and beyond the call of duty. Another--thankless task, if you will. I don't know if you can manage, but we've got to try. For the kingdom." He barely kept himself from adding, 'and for Gwaine.'

Merlin, usually all smiles even in situations as sticky as this, grew serious. "What?"

"Someone's got to get that gold to the waterfall, and someone's got to hold off the guards. I can't do both. You'll need to do one while I do the other, then we'll come back for Gwaine." Leon patted Merlin on the back. "This is your moment of glory, Merlin! Can you rise to the challenge?"


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Merlin did not have to be told twice to get out of the way when he heard the oncoming soldiers. It wasn't like standing behind the chest would do him much good, unless the soldiers decided it would be better to shoot past Leon and Gwaine and at his shins, but he also didn't particularly feel like being stepped on by the two knights.

Anyway, soon enough that didn't matter, because the soldiers were gone, as was Gwaine, leaving Leon and Merlin to stare after him in a moment of shock. They didn't have time to go rescue him just then, though. They'd have to go find him after the gold was gotten rid of. And that was going to be a very serious pain.

This was shortly proven as Merlin tried to lift one side of the chest and subsequently dropped it- right on his toes. Luckily, he was able to yank his foot out from underneath the gold-filled chest. He was still muttering dark, albeit magicless curses at the thing when he realized Leon was talking to him. Another thankless task? Merlin almost grinned, but didn't. Instead, he made an honest attempt to pretend to be as serious as Leon. Had this been Lancelot, he would no doubt have rolled his eyes at him and nonchalantly laid some sort of weight-reducing spell on the chest, and ushered it along as he off-handedly chucked soldiers here and there out of their way. Lancelot would probably have found it amusing.

But this was Leon, and Leon was in serious mode. Anyone else, realizing that Merlin rarely got serious and almost always waited until death was becoming a distinct possibility to do so would have realized he was only pretending to be serious. He pretended to think about Leon's idea for a moment, and then nodded, though he'd made up his mind a whole several seconds earlier.

"You've seen me use a sword, right?" he asked jokingly. Leon looked very uncertain for a moment. Arthur had been letting Merlin train along with them off and on for awhile, but just before the wedding Merlin had nearly taken off his head with a wild swing right as Arthur was walking past. It was a good thing he'd ducked... and then taken away the sword and threatened to throw it at Merlin if he did stay away from anything sharper than a butter knife in his presence.

"Well, I could push the chest... far behind you," Leon said, still giving Merlin a shot at the more glorious job. Merlin appreciated it, but still thought it was a bad idea. Sure, he could take the soldiers out with a wave of his hand, but then Leon might catch him at it.

"I can push the chest. You lead, I'll follow," he said, and Leon nodded, and perhaps let out a relieved breath. Then he went to the door and looked out, while Merlin hurriedly gestured at the chest. His eyes glowed bright gold and when he gave the chest a shove, he nearly ran Leon over with it. Leon looked back, waved him forward, and set off down the hall. They could hear sounds down the opposite direction from the way they went, presumably Gwaine trying to fight off a horde of soldiers single-handedly. As they went, Leon had to take care of several small groups of soldiers on their way to further outnumber Gwaine, but soon they’d reached open air. Leon even helped Merlin haul the chest up the stairs.

When they finally made it out of the castle and to the waterfall, Merlin stopped for a moment to catch his breath and waved the spell off the chest so it would fall like a gold-filled, heavy wooden chest. Leon, having checked that no one was yet onto their cunning plan, turned around and hurriedly gave the chest one last shove over the edge of the waterfall. He and Merlin watched it fall, spilling its contents as it went.

“You’re stronger than you look, Merlin. That chest was heavy!” he said, and Merlin just grinned and shook his head as if he was too tired to respond.

“Gwaine? Where do you think they’ve taken him?” he asked instead, looking up at the castle walls and, beyond that, the main castle towers. Knowing Morgana, she’d have him in the top room of the tallest tower. More stairs. Hurray.


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To his credit, it took four of them to drag him, kicking and fighting, up the tower. To their credit, they gave him a working over to even up the odds.

Only when something heavy and solid and suspiciously pommel-shaped collided with the back of his head did Gwaine go quietly. And when he had stopped seeing stars, he was alone.

He was chained to a wall, his hands stretched high, pulled nearly taught, above him and attached to a hook that mocked him with how high up it was. He struggled with it a minute, but escape that way wasn't looking promising. His hand, annoyingly, was still bleeding, and it began running down to his elbow. He was otherwise unhurt, though pretty bruised and battered: he concluded, sadly, that he must look worse than he felt. They had taken his armor--he could hear them squabbling over who got to keep it downstairs--and, he had to give them credit, the couple of extra knives he kept on his person for emergencies. They had also taken his shirt, and Gwaine didn't like the foreign feeling of being uncomfortable in this state of undress.

Well, damn. Here he was, like a princess in a bloody tower dungeon...

Bedroom?

This was confusing, even startling, for a moment until he realized whose bedroom this probably was, after which point, of course, it made perfect sense, and was even a little lax--where were the thumb screws she kept on her bedside table, and the cat o' nine tails hanging on the wall? He would be disappointed if that "wardrobe" in the corner didn't actually turn out to be an iron maiden.

You know, he told himself, the worse the situation, the worse your jokes get.

Gwaine was therefore startled out of his thoughts by the shrieking. Morgana sounded really upset, and he chuckled at that: it sounded like a foiled plan, and, hence, a job well done.

Pints all round and, oh, damn, that's right, none for me, because I am an idiot.

And when Gwaine heard the sound of footsteps on the stairs, he was suddenly very aware of another very real problem:

Morgana was very probably very, very angry.

One flash from her eyes confirmed this.

Angry was an understatement.

"Bad day, dear?" Gwaine asked playfully, swinging from his chains. Because when your name is Sir Gwaine of Orkney, why the hell wouldn't you poke a wounded dragon?

She practically snarled at him, knocking over a few vases in her rage, before regaining her composure. She straightened, adjusted her hair, and turned a smile on him that was somehow at least twelve times more frightening than her frown.

"Sir Gwaine," she said, all honey-venom, "so good of you to stay. I'm afraid it appears your friends have abandoned you." She said this last bit with a seductive pout, as if she hoped it would worry him.

"Oh, excellent!" Gwaine replied cheekily. "What's the bad news, then?"

One second, she was half-way across the room, well outside of retaliation-for-taunting range. Then her eyes flashed gold and she was suddenly standing right beside him, and the slapped him hard across the face.

"Ow! Jesus, lady!"

But the anger was a momentary slip, apparently, and she had returned to all smiles, cool and calm and collected again. The schizophrenia was definitely the scariest part about her.

She raised her hand again, and without meaning to Gwaine flinched, but she was only stroking his hair back from his face. "Now. Since your friends are on their way to Camelot with my gold, and my guards have been sent out after them..." She smiled. Like a shark. "What ever shall we do to pass the time?"

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