Of food and throwing things.
I do not own either Merlin or Buffy the Vampire Slayer, they both belong to their respective creators.
Thank you to everyone who has read and especially those who have reviewed.
Merlin rushed into the work room, closing the door behind him before turning excitedly to his mentor, ‘Gaius, you have to try these.’ He handed the physician a wrapped toffee.
Gaius examined it, ‘What is it?’
‘It’s called a toffee, you just take off the paper and eat it.’ Merlin was practically bouncing in excitement.
‘Am I going to regret this Merlin?’
‘What? No, no,’ he shook his head emphatically, ‘it’s good, I promise, I’ve had one, totally safe.’
Taking a leap of faith Gaius unwrapped the sweet and put it in his mouth.
‘Now, chew.’ Merlin watched him with an uncomfortable intensity.
Obediently Gaius began to chew and his face became an equal mix of enjoyment and concentration as his teeth began to stick together.
After about a minute he had finished all but one last piece which was stubbornly clinging to his molar and no amount of poking it with his tongue would shift it. He turned to Merlin, ‘Are you trying to make my teeth fall out? Do you have something against me retaining all my teeth into my old age?’ His slight smile somewhat softened his words and his glare faded as he enjoyed the sweet after taste.
Merlin smiled, ‘Oh, you know you enjoyed it, you're just annoyed that a lowly serving boy discovered it.' He held up his and to stop his retort and looked smug, 'I’ve got a stranger one, and I promise this one won’t hurt your teeth, big baby.’ The last bit was muttered under his breath and Gaius narrowed his eyes but chose not to comment.
Merlin unfolded his handkerchief and placed it on the table with a flourish. There was a small brown block that looked like it was starting to melt, soiling the white material. ‘I bet you’ve never tasted anything like this,’ Gaius could hear the pride in the boys voice that he had brought him a curiosity. ‘Don’t chew this one, let it melt on your tongue.’
‘Where on earth are you getting these?’ He picked up the block without waiting for an answer, he grimaced slightly as some melted onto his fingers and he quickly put it in his mouth.
It was divine.
He had been fairly sure the first one was some kind of sugar, butter mixture if in an unusual form but he had never tasted anything like this brown substance.
‘It’s chocolate.’ Merlin stated with authority and a little wonder.
‘Where did you get it?’ .he asked after a moments silence while he enjoyed the flavour.
‘Willow gave it to me, it was in her bag, we looked through it this morning, she has some strange things.' He smiled to himself knowing that Gaius was going to want to get his hands on the pain killer pills.
'So you're talking to her now, that's an improvement.'
'Yeah, she's nice.' The boy had a dreamy smile on his face that did not bode well. 'I promised I'd take her something to read later, do we have anything that's not you know, herbs, magic or evil creatures?
'I'm sure we can find something although if she's looking for fiction she might be out of luck.'
'Oh, she said anything would do. She's not like any noble lady I've ever spoken to, I don't know if it's because she can't remember anything or if she's really just kind an considerate all the time. I'm....' He stopped when he saw the look on the physicians face. 'What?'
'Merlin, I absolutely forbid you to develop feelings for this girl, she's a noblewoman, I can just imagine what the King would say if he saw you with that dopey look on your face, who knows what kind of trouble you'll get into.'
'Don't be ridiculous Gaius, she just needs a friend, and besides,' he added as he headed out of the door, 'she thinks I'm handsome'
Gaius just shook his head in despair and hoped his young charge would come out of this unscathed.
When Gaius visited the Lady just before the evening meal she seemed restless but otherwise in good spirits.
'You seem much recovered today, My Lady,' he began as he walked over to the bed.
'Please, call me Willow, and yeah, the painkillers are crazy good, I mean they made me a bit sleepy but I had a nap after Merlin left.' The physician was a little puzzled by her strange use of English but he overlooked it in favour of checking her injuries and getting information.
'I'm not sure that I approve of self medication, may I see what you have been taking?'
'Sure.' She picked up a strange container from the table at her bedside, 'you just push the cap down and twist. It's childproof.' She explained as though that straightened anything out.
He set aside his curiosity about the bottle itself and followed her instructions. He examined the contents only to find himself completely mystified, it was a compact, regular shape and nothing like any medication he had ever seen, he was fascinated. 'I hesitate to ask my Lady,' she frowned at him, 'I mean Willow, but may I have one of these to examine, I have never seen their like before.'
'Of course, after everything you've done for me you can take the whole bottle,' she paused, 'well, you could maybe leave me a couple, for tomorrow. My head still hurts. Sorry.' She was apologising that she couldn't give him the entire contents when he had only requested one in the first place. He was beginning to see what Merlin had meant when he said she wasn't like most nobles.
Gaius thanked her profusely and the next ten minutes were given over to medical examination. 'Well I think you may be well enough to get out of bed tomorrow, you are healing very quickly indeed, you are a very lucky Lady. I will ask Gwen to find you a gown. I'm afraid my taste in dresses is not what it used to be and your own gown was ruined by your adventure in the forest.' He smiled at her kindly, 'get some rest my Lady and I will send you up some dinner.'
'Could you thank him for me?' She spoke out of the blue as Gaius was on his way out, he noticed that her cheeks flushed slightly for a moment and he raised a questioning eyebrow. 'I mean for the book,' she indicated a leather bound volume on the other side of her bed. 'It was hear when I woke up, and since he's the only person I've spoken to about books, I assumed...' she trailed off.
'Yes of course, how unusually thoughtful of him,' and devious Gaius added to himself because he could see that the book was a history and it was not one of his collection, that meant there was only one place it could have come from. Merlin had been 'borrowing' from the castle library again. Geoffrey, the court historian and librarian was not going to be pleased when he found out.
Of course he wasn't overly worried, with the exception of the Lady Willow it had been a quiet week and he was almost looking forward to seeing how the young warlock got out of trouble this time. He'd never admit it to Merlin but the boys escapades were better than any entertainment to be had around the city. In the mean time he had some ‘pain killers’ to investigate.
Willow was woken the next day by Gwen opening the curtains and letting the morning sun flood into the room.
'Oh I'm sorry my Lady, I mean Willow, I didn't mean to wake you, how are you feeling this morning?' She began laying out food on the table next to the bed.
'I feel so much better, Gaius said I might be able to get out of bed today.' She began eating a bit of bread, she'd noticed last night when dinner was brought to her that she was ravenous, something to do with healing taking a toll on the body and of course she hadn't eaten for almost two days.
Gwen smiled, 'he mentioned that, so I brought you a dress, Morgana thought you might like it since the colour is almost the same green as the one you were wearing when...' she indicated Willows bandaged head.
'That is so nice of her, will you thank her for me or will I get to meet her?' Willow was equal parts excited and nervous about the idea of meeting all the people Gwen and Merlin had told her about, she desperately wanted to make a good impression and she was worrying a little about how many things they were giving her when she had no way to pay them back.
'I know she's been dying to meet you so if you feel up to visitors I'm sure she'll come as soon as she has a moment free.' Willow bit her lip and frowned and obviously Gwen noticed as she quickly added, 'If you're not feeling well you can put it off for another day, I'm sure Morgana will understand.'
'No,' Willow shook her head and took a moment to appreciate that she was able to do that without insane amounts of pain. 'It's not that I don't want to meet her, it's just, well...' Her cheeks flushed with embarrassment. 'What am I going to do with my hair.'
Willow could see that Gwen wanted to laugh but she was too nice to actually let it escape her. She came over and began to very gently examine the offending hair.
'I saw it for a moment in the mirror yesterday, all I can say is I'm glad Merlin saw me before I cracked my skull open, I'd have hated for this crows nest to have been my first impression.'
Gwen was out of Willows field of vision but Willow thought she detected a smile in her voice. 'I'm sure Merlin wouldn't mind, after all he helps Gaius with sick people all the time, I'm sure they usually look much worse than you.' Gwens paused suddenly, 'Not that you look bad, I mean you've been injured so obviously you're not at your best, but that's not to say you're not attractive' She paused for breath and would most likely have kept talking but Willow decided to jump in before they were both embarrassed.
'I'm beginning to think babbling is contagious. If you include me there have been four people talking in this room and three out of four have babbled, Gaius is the only one who hasn't and that must be because he's had years and years and years and a few more years to practice resisting the babble-bug.' Willow smiled and Gwen finally relaxed enough to let out a giggle.
By the time Gwen left the room Willow was fully clothed in her borrowed dress, happily sitting in the window seat surrounded by cushions and engrossed in the history book Merlin had provided the day before.
As predicted by Gwen, the first in a long line of visitors was the Lady Morgana who turned out to be the gorgeous woman Willow had seen at her bedside when she first woke up. They made small talk for a while but the Lady seemed distracted and stressed and Willow felt herself tensing in sympathy without even really understanding why. It was almost a relief when she made her excuses and left.
Willow had about twenty minutes to contemplate what could possibly be distressing the woman before another knock on the door and the entrance of two guards announced her second visitor, Uther Pendragon, King of Camelot.
The King stayed just long enough to be convinced that she really didn’t know what had happened to her family. He then made a vague allusion to the need to discuss her lands and assured her that she was welcome to stay in Camelot as long as she liked.
He left as suddenly as he had arrived and Willow was unsure what to make of him. He was quite an intimidating figure and yet he seemed oddly familiar. It was very confusing but she was grateful that he had taken the time to make her welcome, she had been feeling uneasy about imposing on strangers, although since pretty much everyone in the world was currently a stranger to her she hadn’t know what to do about it.
The rest of her afternoon was taken up by a procession of Ladies of the court who she sensed were mostly looking for gossip and by the time they gave up trying to pump her for information they had all merged into a single giggling, vacuous entity and Willow couldn’t have told them apart if her life depended on it. Two of them had even brought her embroidery to pass her time and Willow had made a concerted effort to look grateful even though she had the feeling that whatever her pastimes had been before she landed in Camelot it probably hadn’t involved the fine art of needlepoint.
Dinner was a welcome respite and she was proud that she actually managed get up and sit at the table with a just little help from Merlin who had brought her the meal from the kitchen. Unfortunately he couldn’t stay and keep her company since he also had to wait on Prince Arthur but he promised to come back when he could.
Merlin entered Prince Arthurs chamber the next morning with the intention of quietly puting his breakfast on the table, quickly setting out his clothes, opening his curtains and leaving to visit Willow without giving Arthur the chance to find him some chores to do.
Obviously since he intended to do all this without waking the Prince the first thing that happened after he put the tray on the table was that he stubbed his toe on the table. He swiftly clamped one hand over his mouth to stop himself crying out and gripped his foot in his other hand hopping around the room on one leg.
The pain died down and crisis averted he relaxed with a sigh of relief and promptly knocked a piece of armour from where it had been perched precariously on the back of a chair. He dived for it, trying to grab it before it landed, but gravity defeated him and it bounced on the stone with a clang loud enough to wake the dead and when Merlin rolled over on the floor to inspect the damage he saw that Prince Arthur was sitting up in his bed staring at him.
‘Is there a reason you are rolling around on the floor with my armour?’
Merlin opened his mouth, trying to find an answer, ‘Umm…’
‘You know what, forget I asked.’ The Prince rolled his eyes in resignation, ‘I suppose I should just be thankful that my breakfast made it in one piece.’
Merlin got up from the floor and dusted himself off, resigning himself to a morning filled with boring chores.
‘When you’re done in here, go and ask the Lady Willow if she can see me this afternoon, it’s probably time I visited and I assume the rest of the court satisfied their curiosity yesterday.’
Merlin couldn’t believe his luck, other than two skinned knees he’d actually gotten what he wanted for once.
‘And Merlin,’ Arthur stopped him as he headed for the door, ‘if there is a single dent in my armour, you’ll spend the rest of the day mucking out the horses, for the whole castle.’
The warlock sighed and turned to pick up the offending piece of armour knowing he would most likely spend the rest of the morning making sure it was in good repair.
That afternoon Arthur knocked on the Lady Willows door, he shuffled his feet unhappy that the correct procedure had not been followed.
‘Come in!’ Came the reply so he stepped into the room closing the door behind him.
He found Willow sitting on the window seat, a wide smile on her face. ‘My Lady,’ he nodded in greeting, ‘I am very sorry to intrude, I sent Merlin to enquire whether you were receiving visitors this afternoon but I’m afraid he seems to have disappeared.’
He caught a slight movement from the corner of his eye and turned around to find his servant trying to tiptoe out of the room from where he had clearly been sitting at the side of the bed mending Arthurs armour.
Before Arthur could say anything Willow spoke up, ‘I’m afraid that’s my fault, Merlin came to ask me about your visit and happened to mention about you step mother being a troll and I’m afraid I couldn’t let him leave until explained the whole story.’ He could see that her lips were twitching as she spoke.
‘Merlin, have you ever heard of discretion?’ Arthur queried in frustration and a little embarrassment on behalf of his father.
‘No,’ Came Merlin’s reply, ‘Oh wait, isn’t that the name of Odins Kingdom?’
Arthur picked up and threw the first thing that came to hand which happened to be an embroidery hoop left by the previous days visitors. Merlin dodged it with a cheeky grin only to be hit squarely in the face by a cushion thrown by the Lady Willow.
The Prince watched as Merlin sent her a wounded look and she shrugged unapologetically, ‘it looked like fun.’
Merlin picked up the offending cushion and looked as though he was about throw it back when Willow raised her hands in front of her and looked genuinely appalled, ‘you would throw a cushion at a poor, defenceless, injured,’ she gestured at her bandaged head, ‘noblewoman. You fiend, you scoundrel, you immoral brute.’
Merlin set the cushion on the bed shamefaced and Arthur could have sworn he heard Willow cackle before a second cushion smacked the unprepared Merlin in the face. ‘You shouldn’t let your guard down, even around defenceless women.’ Willow dissolved in laughter and Arthur joined her, deciding in that moment that he liked the strange young woman.
Merlin joined in the laughter a moment later and once they had all calmed down Arthur turned to Willow, ‘my Lady,’
‘Call me Willow.’
‘Ok, Willow, I just wanted to come and make sure you have everything you need and welcome you to Camelot. If there is anything I can do for you please just ask.’
For an instant Arthur could have sworn there was something predatory about Willows eyes and he felt the need to add, ‘Within reason of course.’
Willow grinned, ‘well I did have one thing I wanted to ask, if it’s not too much trouble…’ That Night
Gideon yawned and stretched his hands towards the fire, he’d only managed to get two hours sleep before he’d been woken to take the second watch. They'd been out here for two days and he longed for his warm bed at the castle barracks cursing the luck that had let him draw the short straw and be sent on this pointless exercise of a patrol in the Southern Forest.
He’d spent the last two days questioning villagers and listening to their boring gossip, over and over again.
‘Thomas was a good boy, he’d never have run away and left his old mum.’
‘Gerald was getting married next spring, why would he leave his fianc?, she’s a pretty little thing. Although she is the most awful seamstress, you wouldn’t catch me lettin’ any of my boys marry a woman who can’t sew a button, never mind mend a ripped tunic. Maybe he did run away after all, if you see him, tell him Janet Wiseman says he can do better.’
‘Garret was a waste of space, you mark my words, but he’d never leave, his poor parents have been trying to get him out of their house for years but he’s too lazy to do his own cooking and cleaning and no decent woman will ‘ave him.’
‘Boris? Run away? Don’t be ridiculous. Sarah says all his money is still in its place. I could see him leaving his wife, poor woman, but that miserly cretin would never ‘ave left his precious gold. She’s better off without him, most of that money’s hers anyway from selling her tapestries, but does he ever let her spend it? Miserable Sod!’
Gideon could quite honestly say that he had no interest in what had happened to the villagers, he admitted it was strange, them all going missing within days of each other but it was probably some wild animal. If they wanted to be safe and protected, they should move to the city like civilised people. He was a city boy through and through and he shouldn’t have to waste his time on people stupid enough to live in these god-forsaken, middle of nowhere little hovels.
He pulled out the handkerchief his sweetheart had embroidered for him, he caught a whiff of her perfume and his thoughts turned to happier things.
Movement at the edge of the fire light caught his eye, he immediately picked up his sword from it’s place leaning on a log next to him. He edged away from the fire to help his night vision, he wasn’t willing to wake up the rest of his patrol until he was sure he wasn’t chasing a rabbit.
Now that he had his back to the light his eyes slowly started to see into the night and he could make out the shape of a person. A few seconds later and he realised that it was a woman in a long flowing dress watching him from the trees. He stepped closer to her, he could see her features now, she was beautiful. She laughed softly and glided a bit further away to where a second woman in a similar dress was waiting. He was striding away from the fire with confidence now.
‘Wait!’ He called out softly, not wanting to wake the others and share his discovery. ‘Are you lost, can I help you?’ He followed them further into the darkness and soon they were joined by three others and he watched in awe as they began dancing in a patch of moonlight.
‘Come!’ One of them called out to him, they were now far from the camp and there was no chance of waking the other guards. ‘Join us!’
He started forward but as he neared them they backed away. ‘You can’t dance clad in all that iron, take it off and join our fun.’ They all smiled and their bodies moved again in a dance, their identical dresses clinging to soft, enticing curves.
With not a thought for his sweetheart back in Camelot, Gideon hastily removed his chain-mail and dropped it in a pile of leaves, then just to be certain they were happy he quickly added his sword and dagger before running to join them.
The next morning the guards woke to the sound and feel of rain. The camp fire had burned out and there was no sign that anyone was on watch. It didn’t take long for Sergeant Kernan to realise that they were a man down. He immediately organised a search of the surrounding area and they tracked a single trail of footsteps for about half a mile before all signs disappeared.
There was no sign of a struggle or blood to indicate an animal attack and none of the guards had heard anything out of the ordinary in the night, it was down right unsettling and the Sergeant made the decision to return to Camelot and make his report before any more of his men went missing.