The sun rose over Camelot as the lower towns began their morning hustle, wives fetching water for their houses, traders coming in to set up shop, and travelers coming to find some breakfast and an inn. One traveler stood out in particular, his eyes shone like gold, but his hair was dark as ebony. His skin as dark as bark. As well as the two cats peeking out of his bag. He wasn’t like the usual visitors to Camelot, he was special. He was Merlin.
Born to an impoverished widow, Merlin didn’t grow up with much, but it was enough to survive on. His mother always knew something was different about him, however, different got you killed. So she tried her best to hide his irregularities and to make him seem normal in the eyes of their village, but his eyes made it difficult. So in a desperate attempt to keep her child safe, Dindrane wrote to her old friend in Camelot, asking her to take in Merlin. So Merlin left, with only what he could carry on his back as well as his twin cats, Gareth and Igerna. So basically his entire life.
Merlin knocked on the creaky wooden door, reading Apothecary. It slid open as a young woman looked up from her books and potions,
“Yes?” she said in a rather annoyed tone.
“My name’s Merlin. I’m Dindrane’s son. Are you Enide?”
“Oh, Merlin. You’re early. I wasn’t expecting you till Friday. Please come in, make yourself comfortable.” Enide stood up, dusting off her pants and ushering Merlin in.
“Milady, are you wearing pants?” Merlin looked away blushing.
“What you’ve don’t have women scientists in your village? What has Din been teaching you?” she rolled her eyes but began to clean a spot on the table off for him.
Enide brought out a bowl of soup and Merlin devoured it. He asked for seconds and thirds until there was none left. She picked up the bowl, but he stopped her,
“Please allow me. I have to earn my keep somehow”
“Oh trust me, you will be” she winked and cleaned up the bowl.
Merlin settled into his new home, Enide had given him the empty room opposite to hers. The walls were lined with books on medicines, herbs, animals, and the human body. Nothing of true interest to Merlin, but he flipped through them nonetheless. Gareth and Igerna settled in as well, taking it upon themselves to hunt the mice near their quarters while Merlin slept. Merlin began to help Enide with her duties, delivering tinctures to her particularly sexist patients as well as those that needed home deliveries. One day though, when Enide was making her normal round of tinctures and Merlin was reading, a message arrived from the king.
“Merlin,” Enide called from her desk, “We’ve been invited to a banquet tonight. I believe it’s time for you to meet the king and his son” a grunt came from Merlin’s room.
That night, Enide put on her fanciest dress, it was dark blue with gems that shown like the stars themselves. It was the first time Merlin had ever seen the apothecary in a dress. Merlin put on his fanciest outfit as well, though his was not as nice. It was a simple oversized shirt tucked into his oversized pants with only a belt keeping the outfit on. His shoes were dirty and his hair was ragged, but he was as handsome as he’d ever been. They walked from their tiny rooms to the banquet hall.
Merlin’s eyes widened at the sight of the expansive rooms. A banquet table was pushed off to one side with two larger gold encrusted thrones. The other side had the nobles mingling, women gossiping and the men boasting about their latest conquests. Enide snorted and approached a man dressed in the finest silks with a golden crown resting on his balding head. She bowed and began a conversation, leaving Merlin alone and feeling out of place. Although he had caught the eye of a young man in the corner, his hair as golden as Merlin’s eyes. He approached Merlin as though approaching a wild animal, his red silk cape flowing behind him.
“Who let the servants attend” he smirked and the few nobles around him laughed. Merlin’s eyes searched for Enide, but she was mingling with the guests.
“I’m not a servant. I’m Enide’s ward. She invited me” Merlin straightened his back and raised his head, proud of who he was, but the man just snorted and turned to the small crowd that had gathered.
“Did you hear that? The woman apothecary invited him” there was bitterness on his tongue when he spoke of Enide. The crown that sat lazily on his head bobbed as he talked, but Merlin couldn’t take his eyes away from the man's blue eyes. Thankfully, a young lady came to his rescue. Her baby blue dress swirled around her, like the Lake of Avalon was surrounding them. She looped her arm with the man.
“Arthur, leave the poor boy alone. Look at him, he must be starving. Come eat, don’t be scared” She ushered Merlin into the room, towards the table where servants were lining the table with food and the nobles began crowding. Merlin sat with Enide, near the golden thrones reserved for Arthur and his father, the man Enide had been walking with. Merlin looked out of place with all the gold and silks, but the nobles respected him nonetheless, simply for his connection to Enide.
The night dragged on, with dancing and food, but Merlin took no part in it. He stood in the corner, watching the extravagant affair. Watching the man with the golden hair and brilliant blue eyes. Watching Arthur. “Arthur” Merlin whispered, letting the word drip off his tongue. It felt perfect saying his name like he was always meant to.
“Watching the prince, I see” Merlin jumped at the new voice, it came from a young woman standing next to him with a pitcher of wine. Her dress wasn’t fancy like the nobles but wasn’t as ragged as Merlins.
“Apologies milady, I didn’t see you there” Merlin glanced at her, before returning his gaze to Arthur.
“Oh please, I’m no lady. I’m just a servant,” Her eyes followed a different beauty. A woman in a black dress with red accents, accentuating her long blonde hair, “I’m Guinevere by the way. Though most people call me Gwen” Merlin snorted.
“Apologies Gwen, but that’s a very European name for someone of your descendance”
“I could say the same to you. Merlin.” She winked at him, before leaving to refill a nobles wine glass. Merlin rolled his eyes as Gareth and Igerna snuck into the room, sweeping between nobles legs trying to get to Merlin.
When they reached him, Merlin was entranced by Arthur and paid no attention to them. No matter how much they clawed and brushed at his legs, Merlin was entranced with the golden prince. Merlin watched as Arthur swept the beautiful princess across the floor, wishing it was he in the princes’ arms.
Arthur twirled with Vivian in hand, holding her close and whispering into her ear,
“Do you know who he is? I’ve never seen him before” Arthur’s eyes swept Merlin up and down, catching the cats.
“He’s Enide’s ward, though he’s a bit odd don’t you think?”
“Odd doesn’t exactly describe it.” Arthur let go of Vivan as the song ended, “if you’ll excuse me” he bowed and disappeared into the crowd, towards Merin’s direction.
Arthur picked up Gareth, petting his head,
“Who’s this little guy?” Arthur asked as Gareth jumped out of his hands and hissed at him, “he doesn’t like to be picked up does he?” Merlin laughed and Gareth jumped into his arms.
“He apparently doesn’t like you, my lord” Merlin bowed and winked at Arthur who blushed and looked away.
“I have no idea what you mean. Servant” Arthur stormed away to get more wine as Merlin laughed and put Gareth down and pet Igerna before slipping out of the dance.
The hall was silent except for a few servants working. Merlin slid down the wall, taking a deep breath and running his fingers through his messy hair. Igerna and Gareth brushed against him and Merlin laughed,
“Arthur is an odd one, isn’t he? Oddly pretty that is. Course he is a prince, they’re supposed to be pretty”
“I believe you mean handsome” A voice startled Merlin and the cats. The voice belonged to a woman, dressed in a black dress, her blonde hair falling around her shoulders. Merlin scrambled to his feet.
“Apologise milady, I didn’t see you there” Merlin dusted off his pants and bowed.
“What’s your name stranger?” She asked, leaning against the wall next to Merlin and sliding down onto the floor.
“Merlin. Merlin Emrys. I’m the ward of Enide, and you”
“Morgana la Fey. Ward of King Uther” Merlin bounced up from the floor, bowing once more to her,
“Apologise milady, I had no idea you were royalty” a loud slam from the main hall saved Merlin from his embracement. The servants, Merlin, and Morgana rushed into the room to find an old hag standing in the middle of the room, a wolf, the size of a man, at her arm. The guards stood at the doors, their swords ready, but Uther stopped them from attacking.
“My name is Blanchefleur, you killed my son, Lohengrin and you will pay” she cried confusing many of the nobles
“Your son broke the laws of Camelot and he was punished accordingly” Uther stood from his chair, sliding it across the floor, “and I will not have my methods of governing questioned, especially not by sorceress” the nobles began to whisper amongst themselves as Arthur crept behind the woman, a dagger in hand. She turned and grabbed Arthur, turning the dagger on himself. Pressing the dagger against Arthur’s neck she turned back to Uther,
“You stole my son from me and now I will steal yours from you” the guards inched forward, but she taunted them, sliding the knife up and down, in front of Arthur’s neck. Merlin’s golden eyes darkened to a pitch black as time slowed. Merlin ran towards the woman and Arthur, slamming Arthur to the ground as time sped to normal. The woman blinked, looking around for Arthur. Uther signaled to the guards, who charged the woman, arresting her and dragging her out of the hall.
Uther stood next to Arthur, his arm around him and Merlin standing before them,
“Merlin Emrys, you saved my son's life and for that, you will be rewarded” He slapped Arthur’s back and smiled, “you will be appointed a station in the royal household as Arthur’s personal servant” Merlin’s jaw dropped and Arthur looked to his father in astonishment.
“Surely you can’t mean that. Father, he’s a bumbling idiot. Look at him” Uther ignored his son and continued on with the celebrations.
In the hall, Gareth and Ignera rolled their eyes and headed back to Merlin’s room, only to be bumped into by a woman, hiding her face under a red hood sneaking through the halls of Camelot.
The mysterious woman slid into the celebration, hiding in the shadows as everyone began to spread out and mingle again. The woman found Morgana, hiding in the back corner watching Uther and Arthur laugh,
“Milady, please follow me, I have something to show you” Morgana followed the woman into the servant hall, where surprisingly, no servants were to be found. The woman lowered her hood, revealing her fire red hair and ocean blue eyes.
“Excuse the interruption of your celebrations Lady Morgana, but I have these papers to show you,” the woman pulled a rolled-up stack of papers out of her pocket, tied together with a thin red ribbon, “what do you know of your mother and father?” Morgana stiffened and grabbed the papers.
“My mother died when I was young, and I never knew my father. What is it to you?” Morgana unrolled the papers to reveal three birth certificates and a death certificate.
“You are the daughter of Igraine and Sir Gorlois. You are my sister. When you were just a babe, Uther came and fell in love with our mother, a widow at the time. And he married her. Stealing her away from her two daughters and only allowing her to take one of three daughters. She chose you” Morgana flipped through the papers, the birth certificates were for three girls, Morgana, Morgause, and Elaine all with the same parents. The death certificate was for the father of the three girls, Sir Gorlois, who died in service of the crown. Morgana threw the papers to the ground,
“You lie. I am the ward of King Uther, not his wife’s bastard.”
“That's just it sister. You’re not a bastard. You are the legitimate daughter of a knight and his wife. The wife, Uther stole” Morgana turned towards the door leading to the celebrations,
“You’re wrong” she hissed before heading back to the celebrations.