So this was just a little idea that caught and would not let go, decided to write it for a bit of a break on my longer pieces...I hope you like it.
PLEASE PLEASE PLEASE leave me a review and let me know? pretty please cherry on top?
The things that George did not understand…
George prided himself as one of the best in his craft; really an artist of utter perfection. In what craft does he speak you ask?….why, in the art of serving of course; a most humble and vital area of work. And while he knew that there were few who could best him at what he had been born to do, he was still cognizant enough that he could admit that there were some things that he just did not understand.
No correction that's not quite right, there were some things about that annoying, upstart, nuisance named Merlin that he did not understand…..ok, no, that still didn't come out completely right, he could do better than that...
There were some things about Merlin and his beloved Prince that George did not understand…and it was becoming clearer and clearer to him that he never would—though, that would not occur if he had anything to say about it!
First and foremost, he could not wrap his head around just what it was about Merlin that made everyone around the bumbling numbskull fall for his inept charms….George was twice the servant that he was—but did that matter? NO!... no, it would seem that it did not.
And it completely baffled him. From what George could see, there was nothing special about this Merlin, nothing that should garner such leniency and favoritism—not only from the prince, but it would seem from most of the knights as well! Hell, the skinny twat even had the court physician wrapped around his devious little fingers….George for his part was not so easily taken in—he had never met a more slovenly, lazy, clumsy, idiotic servant then Merlin. He had seen the insubordinate way that Merlin spoke to their master! IT JUST WASN'T RIGHT!
But did the idiot get punished for it? No. He did not. And just why he didn't, was just one of the many things that George could not understand.
George had been raised with the great tales of royalty and the marvelous house of Pendragon. His mother had wooed him to sleep many a night, with the stories of how she and her mother before her, and her mother before her, had faithfully and dutifully served the royal family; how their honor stood on the very cusp of whether or not they could provide for said family and do so perfectly. He had long since known that one day this responsibility would fall to him and because of this, he had striven with all his being to be the best servant that he could be. To meet his master's every whim known and unknown, voiced and silent, to be above and beyond all the servants that Arthur may have had before. It was so very important to George that he prove himself worthy in the eyes of the wonderful, magnanimous, strong, brave, beautiful Prince (and soon to be king) Arthur. And it hurt his very soul to see the way that others disregarded this duty. And in others he meant….yes, Merlin.
Oh how he hated the boy. The boy, who did not deserve such honors, did not deserve or even respect the fact that to be the manservant of the prince was a great gift, something to be treasured and cherished…not complained about and neglected. Honestly, he wished that Arthur would put him in his place…because sure, his beloved prince had sent the mouthy manservant to the stocks more often than anyone in Camelot had ever been sent to the stocks before, but couldn't his great sovereign see that it was doing no good? That Merlin continued to disrespect and undermine him? But no, his prince was too kind for that, to good hearted to see the horrible truth….
Still it did not quite answer the question as to why the prince put up with a servant of such failings. Really, it made so little sense, it wasn't until after George had been given the chance to serve in Merlin's place did he realize what must be going on….for it was the only reasonable explanation.
Merlin was a sorcerer.
Oh sure, you might find it difficult to believe or even contemplate…Merlin, of all people being a sorcerer, but George knew better. After all, how else had that inept peasant secured his position as Arthur's manservant, if not with magic of the darkest kind?
It was the only thing that could possibly explain why Arthur had chosen to reinstate Merlin as his servant after having experienced the masterful treat that was George.
It did not take long for this idea to set in and like a virus it grew and consumed, until it was all that George could think about, all that he could see. He became convinced that while he had been toiling away learning just how to polish armor to perfection, or how to heat bath water so that it would feel like the divine holy waters blessed by the Pope himself, that Merlin had been immersed in practices so wicked and dark that they would have made the blackest of heart, faint.
The problem was that George didn't know what to do or how to go about exposing the wickedness that was Merlin…for how could he make his prince believe that Merlin was evil when he was one of the few people who Arthur trusted? And if that wasn't a sign of sorcery, then George didn't know what was! A prince trusting a mere servant! The very idea made George feel an uncomfortable churning in his gut—one that he was not about to admit, felt a lot like….well, jealousy.
The problem was catching the faker in the act….getting the right people to witness what George knew was true. And in all honesty, it should have been easy! For there were countless signs that something wasn't adding up, but for whatever reason no one but George seemed to realize this!
One of the most obvious tells was how Merlin seemed to hover everywhere that Arthur went. George was no simpleton….he had heard the warnings and tales of how evil witches operated. He knew (since he had heard it straight from his great aunt's lips and despite her rather severe drinking problem, and her fondness for telling him that he was a useless, spineless boy, that she would not lie on such matters—no matter what the rumors said!) that a sorcerer needed to stay close to their enchanted for the effects to continue working.
It was so obvious to George that this was why Merlin was so insistent on going along on those cold, long, dangerous quests with Prince Arthur—for everyone knew from how the manservant complained that he hated such trips, especially the ones that involved hunting—it was simply another trick of the devil spawn's that he somehow made Arthur the one to command it of him! To demand that Merlin accompany him everywhere (George just shuddered to think why Merlin had Arthur demand his manservant come up to his chambers every evening, well past the time that would be appropriate for anyone, even Arthur's servant to be in his private chambers. He had yet to work up the courage to investigate those private meetings, but he would….eventually)—it just further proved George's concerns for his prince. If Merlin was sneaky enough to somehow manipulate the Prince's actions…well, there was no telling what he might make the prince do or say!
No, George had to put a stop to this….it was his duty as a loyal and trust worthy (unlike some) servant of the royal court. Plus, when he exposed Merlin for what he really was, well Arthur would finally come to realize just how wonderful and appropriate George was and…and perhaps he would get rewarded for his faithfulness! Yes, he would get promoted to Arthur's manservant and then, and then maybe Arthur would demand that he come up for private meetings….er, he means then he would get to serve Arthur as he should. Yes, that is what he meant.
There were other signs to be seen as well, and not just how the prince allowed Merlin to get away with things that most kings and princes wouldn't even allow their spouse—like stealing food from his plate, or disappearing for days at a time to go down to the tavern, the insults and continued shoddy work….oh he was only getting started! For example he often caught the prince staring after Merlin with a certain-a certain look in his eyes! One that he was sure the prince would never have had, if not bewitched by the traitor.
While some might think that the look was—was well, George couldn't bring himself to speak of such things, as his aunt had told him many a time such things were meant to be kept between a man and his wife, not to be discussed or thought about in public!—George knew that the look was actually suspicion. Yes, he had to believe that his wonderful, beautiful prince was not staring at his manservant in that way, (because his prince should not stare at anyone that way but hi…er, getting back on topic, cough, cough) but rather with suspicion as if knowing he was being bewitched by Merlin (and George had decided he would simply ignore the fact that Merlin seemed to stare back at the prince in the same manner when he thought no one was watching).
Unfortunately for George he could not seem to find a perfect opportunity to expose Merlin…he (because of that upstart) had been relegated to acting as a mere kitchen boy! (of all the humiliations) and therefore seldom had the chance to be near the duo…and thus could not find the perfect moment. Because…because it had to be perfect! It had to be!
Well George had, had enough! He had been watching and waiting, hoping to catch Merlin in the act of feeding the Prince some controlling potion, or casting a spell of sorts (of course George hadn't actually ever heard or seen magic cast so he wasn't exactly sure what he should be looking for…but that was besides the point! Obviously he would know it for what it was when he saw it- maybe the caster would give themselves away by growing horns or spewing frogs….he had heard that sorcerers did those sorts of things. Although, he truly did not want to think of how the frogs got in there in the first place…it was another one of those icky things that George did not know, and was rather okay with not knowing) but nothing.
He could wait no longer, it was apparent that Merlin was sneakier then George had initially given him credit for….and while he hated to be presumptuous and intrude on the Prince's privacy (especially when the prince had specifically ordered that he was not to be disturbed under any circumstance) he had no choice; it was for the prince's own good after all. Yes, it was time for George to buck up and investigate just what happened during those late night meetings between Arthur and Merlin.
He had become convinced that this was the period of time in which Merlin hexed the prince, since George had followed the manservant around (covertly—Merlin surely had no idea that he was being followed) and had not seen the idiot hex the prince during the day. The best explanation for this was that these types of evil tricks must take time and preparation, something that Merlin would not be able to do in the light of day—hence getting Arthur to request his presence late at night….
So it was only logical that if George was going to save his beloved sovereign, he would have to break one of his own steadfast rules and go against the prince's orders for once. He truly would not do so if it were not such a dire situation…even knowing what lay at stake did little to calm the nauseous churning of his stomach at the thought of so blatantly disregarding an order. But still, it had to be done.
George crept silently with the many years of practice at moving without being seen, through the night darkened hallways towards Prince Arthur's bed chambers. For once he was glad that the prince was so obviously enchanted by his manservant that he regularly ordered no guards to stand outside his chambers on nights that Merlin was present (if that wasn't a sure sign of something amiss, then George didn't know what was!)
With near silent footsteps George moved up to the door and placed his ear directly on the thick wood, only to pull back in shock when he did so. He had suspected the worse…but even he didn't expect Merlin to be hurting—or by the sounds of it torturing the prince!
"Merlin, please…..fuck, just do it already!" was the unmistakable voice of the prince, sounding out of breath and as though he was in….well, it had to be pain. Yes, pain.
"Do what…sire?"Merlin's own voice replied sounding almost teasing and coy….the very thought that the evil man could tease the prince while obviously hurting him enraged George to his very core.
"Don't be an idiot! You know what, you daft tease" the prince's voice retorted this time sounding less breathless and more frustrated—maybe the Prince was trying to break whatever enchantment Merlin had placed on him… hence the rising annoyance in his tone? That was good! It had to be good….
George pressed his ear up harder against the door straining to hear what was happening now….he knew that he should go and alert the guards or something, but somehow he couldn't quite draw himself away from the door…..
It did no good however, the door was annoyingly thick and sound dampening and he could only make out that Merlin had answered the prince but not what he said (likely the spell part of it!). George's time for inaction however was soon called to an end when he heard what could only be called a scream (of pain he was sure) in the prince's voice.
George didn't even pause to think over his next actions as he flung the door open and froze with horror at the scene in front of him.
What kind of witchery was this?! He may not have been overly familiar with how sorcerer's cast their spells but he had never heard of a spell that required for-for the caster to be on their knees and putting their mouth…..there! And now that he saw the prince in person he couldn't exactly say that the look on his face was exactly well….pained per say….
He didn't know if he should be thankful or put out that the duo didn't even seem aware of his interruption or continued presence, far too caught up with-with whatever they were doing. To shocked to do anything else, George ripped his gaze from the scene, feeling oddly flushed and hastily retreated from the room.
The thought of calling the guards and exposing Merlin for whatever magic he was doing didn't even cross his mind until he was back in the safety of his own room. What where they doing? And why? Sure, George had heard a few rumors or the odd story when he ventured to the tavern (which he did rarely because it was not proper for a member of the royal staff to be associating with such reprobates)of certain, loose moraled women doing such deeds….but he had never thought—considered that such acts could take place between two men. Or even worse a prince and his servant! It was, it was…..well….it was something.
And just why George was feeling so flustered and hot over seeing such a thing, was yet another thing that George did not understand
An entire week passed before George was able to get past what he had witnessed in the Prince's chambers….he was still not entirely sure what exactly he had witnessed, because surely it could not be what he thought it was! Surely not….
No, it took some time to-to stop thinking about the scene and arrive at a logical explanation for what he had saw, but he eventually reached the realization that it had to have been some sort of sorcery….it wasn't…couldn't be the, well, the other thing. No, that was just silly.
Once he had finally shook off whatever evil magic Merlin had cast on him that night (because he was sure that Merlin had cast something that caused him to continuously fantasize think about what he had witnessed) George knew that he had to think of a solution because it was obvious that he was running out of time to expose Merlin before the manservant achieved his nefarious goals (George was still not entirely sure what exactly these goals were…just that they were nefarious).
He was just finalizing plans on setting up a trap of sorts for Merlin, one that he could spring during the week, unfortunately it would seem as though he was too late and that Merlin had succeeded in causing trouble and mayhem.
That's right, Camelot was once again under attack….and the worst part was that only George was aware that the enemy forces had help from within. For he was sure that Merlin was playing some part in this violent siege on the castle—he was a sorcerer after all, and sorcerer's could only do evil and not to mention they were always trying to bring Camelot to its knees. It was simply too large of a coincidence for this army to be attacking while Merlin was once again at Arthur's side.*
George did not know what to do….he was a servant after all, not a brave, self sacrificing knight or warrior; he didn't want to be in the middle of violent sword fights and dying men's cries. He didn't want to have to worry about losing his life far too soon and never having realized his life's ambition….it just wasn't fair!
It was thoughts and fears like these that found him ducked behind a large wooden tankard that usually held the weeks supply of wine for the castle, he had ducked into the now empty kitchen (most of the staff had either joined the fight or retreated further into the castle for better protection—George himself would have done so had he not been caught trying to find where Merlin was when the attack commenced, now this would have to do—hopefully it would be enough).
He tried not to move an inch afraid that even the slightest twitch might draw attention to where he was hiding, when he nearly jumped out of his skin at the sound of the kitchen door slamming open.
"Sire! Arrthur…would you stop?! You need to get out of here, out of Camelot. You cannot allow yourself to come to harm…Arthur!"
George shrank further back into the shadows as the now all too familiar voice of Arthur's manservant drifted over to him, a frantic hissed whisper. George should do something, reveal himself, tell Arthur of Merlin's complicity in this attack but he found he couldn't move—he would have sworn sorcery but the fact was he was just far too afraid to move at the moment.
"Shut up Merlin! I am not going to cowardly run and hide while Camelot is in danger" Arthur hissed back his own anger and frustration evident.
"But Arthur…you are the prince! Camelot cannot afford for you to get caught….please Arthur" Merlin pleaded sounding desperate.
"What kind of prince would I be if I left just to save my own skin?" Arthur replied stubbornly, "and why did you lead us to the bloody kitchen of all places?" the prince demanded finally becoming aware of their surroundings.
"Er…there is a cellar that leads to a tunnel, that leads to the forest outside of Camelot?" he offered sounding a little unsure.
"No! for the last time, I am not leaving Merlin….you go….I will not think less of you for it, you have no discernible skills to keep you alive…" Arthur said and while it sounded like an outright insult, George could hear the worry in his voice.
"No Arthur, my place is with you, if you stay, then I will stay" Merlin refused his own brand of stubbornness seeping into his voice.
George wanted to spring up and tell Arthur not to fall for it, that it was a trap but still he remained frozen in place, watching the arguing pair a few feet in front of his hiding place, Arthur's back to him while he could just make out Merlin's stubborn blue eyes over Arthur's shoulder. A noise from the right finally drew George's attention away and he let out a soft gasp of horror.
He took in the silently moving man, the man dressed in enemy colors, blade aloft sneaking closer and closer to the unaware pair, posed to attack the prince's vulnerable back. He should act! He had time, he should give a cry of warning or jump in front of the prince's back, protecting his future kings life with his own….it was what he should do, and yet he didn't.
He couldn't move, couldn't do anything but stare in horror as the enemy soldier drew ever nearer to his majesty…the blade rising, catching the kitchen light and reflecting back at George, the rusty color on its tip evidence that it had already been used this day. It was too late….too late to stop the attack, to do anything but watch his prince die.
George let out a strangled sob at what was inevitable waiting to hear the scream of pain from Arthur's lips and the cackle form his assailants and perhaps Merlin's….waited….hating himself for his cowardice and moment of frozen apathy…..
And yet it never came, he watched the events play out like they were in slow motion, seeming to take hours to happen and yet over in seconds: Merlin's eyes widened in horror as he caught sight of the weapon plunging down at the Prince's back. Merlin's eyes flashing a brilliant gold color. A bronze kitchen tray materializing in-between Arthur and the blade at the last second. The blade skidding along the tray in a downward arc and somehow ending up impaled in its owner's unprotected abdomen instead of Arthur's back. Near silence as the attacker's body slumped to the floor with a pained gasp.
The three of them stood there in shocked silence for a long minute: Arthur staring down at the dead man at his feet, just now realizing how close he had come to dying. Merlin staring in horror and shock at the dead man and with fear?- at George. And George at Merlin. At Merlin, who only moments ago had solid gold eyes—gold eyes….the one color that was only connected to sorcerers, wielders of magic—something so well known that even George with his limited knowledge on magic knew this symptom. Here was his proof! Here was the evidence that he had been searching for, for so long, his chance to unveil Merlin's secret, to finally prove himself as the better man…the man without magic.
And yet when he opened his mouth to do just that, he found that he couldn't. Because it would be a lie; not a lie in that Merlin was a sorcerer—no, that part was no doubt true…George had just seen him do the impossible and save Arthur's life at the last second…but because he would not be; was not the better man. It was Merlin who had just saved the prince's life (with or without magic it didn't really matter in the end, as the result was the same) while George had hid, frozen with fear behind a tankard.
He knew that he could expose Merlin for what he was at this moment, the moment when Arthur was staring between them, a flicker of suspicion in his eyes demanding to know "what happened!...what happened Merlin? Why where your eye's gold?" in a confused and uncertain voice. This was his moment, his chance to play the hero….but would he really be a hero if he did what his ambition wanted him to do?
He looked into Merlin's now deep blue eyes, eyes that shone with fear yes, but more with resignation and defeat…like he already knew what George was going to do and say, as though he knew what would come after. They were the eyes of a man who had already resigned himself to the fiery pyre, and was just waiting for the match to be struck. George wasn't sure what finally made the decision for him, but he would bet that that sad, resignation had a lot to do with it.
He found his mouth opening once again and the words that he hadn't even decided to say yet spilling out like an unchecked geyser, "Sire, it was the serving tray reflecting in his eyes. I saw the man with the blade and didn't know what to do…sire, I panicked and threw the tray at him and it miraculously, somehow ended up coming between you and his blade…..I do not know how sire…" more and more nonsense poured out of his lips, the shock of the situation and the sudden impact of his own enlightenment overwhelming his common sense.
By some miracle however, Arthur seemed to buy it. The suspicious light in his eyes faded and his stiff shoulders relaxed, and with them Merlin's own tense posture drained of tension.
"It does not matter Greg! What matters is your actions saved my life! See Merlin….this is the kind of quick thinking that can be used in a battle…." Arthur stated imperiously, causing both annoyance and guilt to swell in George.
Annoyance because dammit, his name was George not Greg!- he really didn't think that it was all that hard to remember and the guilt, simply because he was getting credit for something that he had not done, for something he had been too much of a coward to do. The latter eased however, when he caught Merlin's eye. Eyes that now shone with barely concealed mirth and fondness instead of hopelessness, the slight quirk of his mouth let George know that it was alright….that Merlin did not truly mind being called an idiot and having someone else take the credit for saving the prince's life. George had to wonder just how often the manservant had done just that only to have to pretend otherwise in the past, given his reaction.
George shook himself from his mental ponderings enough to accept the Prince's thanks, and for them to realize that the resounding silence from the previously battle heavy castle indicated that it was over. A careful journey from the kitchen to the upper floors revealed that Camelot had come out victorious. That by some miracle the enemy's forces had all suddenly collapsed- a long, slash to their guts falling them all at once. George stared in shock at the scene but pushed it aside as he took in the relieved faces of the Camelot knights and servants; faces that thanked the heavens that they had once again survived an attack on their home.
George looked around for the pair he had just left the kitchen with only to find that they were nowhere in sight. He wondered briefly if he had been wrong in his new found trust of Merlin, but his fears were soothed as he caught the sight of his blond prince practically devouring his lanky manservant in a far corner, unnoticed and undisturbed by the celebrating crowd around them.
The feast that followed involved far too much food and drink, and an embarrassing lack of propriety from people of all casts—knights flirting with serving girls, stable boys with ladies…the mix of relief at still being alive and alcohol allowing for people to act as they normally would not.
And as George made his way back to his chambers, pleasantly buzzed with ale he came to his second epiphany of the night.
There were still many things that George did not understand; but one thing that he was beginning to understand was that maybe, just maybe Merlin; the sorcerer, the manservant, the village idiot, was not such a terrible manservant after all.
*This is an attack that never took place in the canon series. I have Arthur as Prince in this so Uther is still alive although he plays little to no role in it.