A/N: Hi again! I am on a ROLL here people. Here's another oneshot from the Talk Sense to a Fool 'verse. I hope you like it! Please leave a review!
Elladora in Camelot
If there was one thing that had changed significantly since Merlin's triumphant return to Camelot 6 months ago, Arthur thought, it was that the warlock had acquired an odd sense of humour. Well, more aptly put, he enjoyed using his newfound freedom in using magic to jerk others around. What had started as silly jokes and party tricks used to inspire awe in visitors and locals alike, had transformed into something a little more interesting, for a lack of better words.
He was crouched currently outside a run down and crumbling facade of a castle from the days before the Purge. The Knights and Merlin had accompanied him as they kept watch. There were a grand total of 7 of them, which meant that stealth was the more useful approach rather than an upfront strike. Less chances of fatalities that way. This was where Leon and Arthur had presumed that Lot, the King of the neighbouring Kingdom to the north, was hiding out, planning a siege on Camelot.
They were here to sneak in, grab enough time to make a copy of the plans and then slip away just as quickly. Arthur was more keen on being prepared to withstand the assault and catch himself an errant King, than he was to attempt a coup on the place. It was crawling with soldiers, on the tail end of 300 men to his 7, though his sorcerer could probably level them on the first try. Arthur may trust the man with his life, but frankly, his strategic abilities left much to be desired. His idea of "planning" consisted of getting from Point A to Point B, with the in between being labelled as "Ah, I'll figure something out".
So here they were, it was well into the night and Gwaine was pointing out that most of the soldiers were clearly drunk but still somehow coherent enough to keep proper watch. Lancelot wondered out loud if they were being backed by some as of yet unknown, warlock. Merlin shrugged, saying he couldn't be sure, but wouldn't rule out the thought. That left them going back and forth between various methods of gaining entrance to the building and yet being unsure which was likely to make the least amount of noise.
While they deliberated, Arthur's gaze drifted back to his manservant and his odd antics in the past month alone. And of those there were plenty.
There had been the morning that Merlin was finally deemed physically fit enough to return to work as the King's manservant. Arthur had been lying in bed, sound asleep, Gwenivere tucked under his arm. He'd been aware of a faint swishing in the room, chalking it up to Merlin hanging the laundered clothes in their armoire. He could faintly hear the sounds of his four children playing the courtyard, wreaking havoc. He was fairly certain that was Rowena shrieking Salazar's name in revulsion.
"Let's have you lazy daisy!" The falsetto voice had Arthur groaning in annoyance and Gwenivere laughing as she woke up. He rolled over, easing himself out from under his newly pregnant wife.
"Merlin, what did I tell you about -" The words died in his throat when he'd managed to get a good look at the warlock. Well, he said warlock, the correct term would be sorceress, because it wasn't Merlin but Elladora, standing in his bedroom in the most ludicrous version of the castle maid uniform he'd ever seen. To top it off, Merlin was wearing some kind of ridiculous hat, and his hair was curled. Arthur's mouth actually gaped open in shock.
"Merlin, what in the name of the God's are you doing?" It was a miracle he'd even been able to say that, in all honesty. Then Merlin had to go and start batting his eyelashes at the King, as if he'd actually lost his admittedly, already rather questionable, mind.
"Well, you did say that you found my usual methods of waking you up very tired and boring. I figured I would switch things up a little." He did a bizarre twirl and Gwenivere actually gasped in her laughter. "I think this is tantalising enough, don't you?" He leaned forwards and Arthur scooted backwards in bed in horror. This was possibly worse than anything Godric had done so far in all of his pranks, and this included the pig from last week. Mind you, they'd been cleaning dung from the hallway for weeks and every time he ran into Helga, the poor girl would turn red in fear and bow repeatedly in apology for her brother's pranks.
"No, get away from me, you lunatic. Merlin, I swear to you, change back right now, or I'm going to throw you into the stocks for life." Arthur hissed at him, sitting half up in his bed, only now realising he was shirtless, and his door was open, leaving the room wide open to the view of servants passing by. He saw Gwenivere's lady-in-waiting approach then turn and leave quickly when she caught sight of Merlin posing in front of the window. It seemed the threat hadn't worked in the slightest.
Only one thing for it then, Arthur leaned over, grabbing his wine goblet from last night and lobbing it in the general direction of Merlin's head.
The manservant ducked out of range, which propelled Arthur out of bed, searching for another thing to hit him with it.
"What is wrong with you, you idiot?" He grabbed the pillow but Merlin turned back into his disheveled self and pranced out the door with the armor he was meant to be cleaning.
"I got you out of bed in one try though, didn't I?" He said, winking before ducking away from the pillow and disappearing down the hallway.
"He isn't wrong." Arthur scowled at his wife's words.
"That's why he's annoying."
Of course, Arthur could be spending his time, camped outside this foreign castle more wisely, but somehow, observing his manservant was just far more interesting. He would never admit it out loud of course, but it was the truth and the truth didn't always need to be spoken for it to be true.
Then there was that fiasco of a training period, Arthur thought, remembering it as if it were just yesterday.
There was a new influx of recuits to his Knights and Arthur made it a personal mission to be sure to see through the initial training of each man. He saw no better way to evaluate each man at his core, for the man they were now wouldn't change. Their temperaments and even behaviours might change, but not their core. That would remain the same, no amount of training or laps would affect it. He would be able to tell who was courageous, sneaky, intelligent, clever or just ingenious.
Merlin was the last one, he decided as he watched the scrawniest of the bunch jab weakly in the air and yet somehow stay more stable on his feet than the behemoth next to him. Not to say that he wasn't brave, sneaky or intelligent, but it was his cleverness that astounded Arthur most of all. He chose the most strange ways to accomplish tasks that Arthur wouldn't think of at all.
He continued in this train of thought until he noticed his subjects were more than a little distracted. Veterans and new men alike were all staring somewhere past the King, their gazes simultaneously fixated and yet, they all appeared not to be looking directly in that direction. Almost instantly after his initial realisation, the King realised that all of them seemed suspiciously enthusiastic in their training endeavours, a zealousness that he had yet to observe in them,
Well, he would have to see just what could inspire such a thing, wouldn't he?
He regretted it almost the instant he'd turned around. Sat on the bench near the training gear and helmets was Merlin, polishing a helmet and gazing around at the men training, innocently.
Except that it wasn't Merlin, it was Elladora.
Arthur nearly threw his hands up in frustration and marched over to where the black haired woman sat, dressed in pomegranate red, the color highlighting the paleness of his skin and the length of his slender fingers as they glided over the surface of the helmet, shining it.
"Merlin." The woman looked up at him, smiling brilliantly, somewhere behind Arthur in the distance, there was the sound clanking armor, like someone had stumbled onto the ground suddenly.
"What are you doing?"
"My job, sire?" The look was too innocent for Arthur to assume Merlin was just fooling around.
"Why are you Elladora?" He tapped his foot on the ground, incredulously trying to work out this new development in the peculiar creature that was the warlock.
"Why not?" Eyes blinked at him and he willed himself not to hit the man, since he was a woman. Curse magic.
"You're distracting my Knights." He crossed his arms over his chest and waited for Merlin's response expectantly. The man - woman – looked around and shook his head.
"Doesn't look like it to me, look, Sir Luther has managed to finally land an actual blow on Sir Percival. A minute ago, he couldn't even hold the sword correctly." Merlin pointed to them with an oil stained hand peeking out of an oil stained sleeve.
Arthur turned to look at the man in question and bit his lip when he saw Sir Luther, a new redheaded recruit from Caledonia facing off against Sir Percival actually fighting the older Knight. A while ago, Percival had been having a hard time convincing him to stop whining about the heat long enough to try. Not only that, but it seemed all the men, including the older ones, those who didn't know of Elladora, were striving to appear particularly muscular and well versed in combat while she looked on.
Arthur finally understood what Gwenivere meant when she'd used to mutter these words under her breath at court trials.
Men were insufferable.
Now, as they crouched behind the bushes, observing the soldiers change watch shifts, it occurred to Arthur that now was probably not the best time to be considering the reasons his manservant was a little touched in the head. He forced himself back to the task at hand.
"Alright, so, we've got the one knight at the front and two in the watchtowers, we need a way to approach quietly so he can't sound off an alert and we can't use magic to subdue him, it could tip off any sorcerers to the fact that we have one of our own.
"Surely Morgana's told everyone about Merlin being Emrys or whatnot by now." Elyan said, while Leon shrugged. Magic just wasn't his topic.
"Sire, I suggest we circle around the back, and split into two teams. The first deals with creating a sufficient distraction and the other slips in unnoticed. We should decide on two calls so that we may alert each other to the arrival of more Knights - "
"Oh for god's sakes -" Merlin threw his hands up in the air and stood up straight out of the bushes in full view of the Knight stood at attention in the gateway. Somehow, while standing up, he'd managed to turn himself into Elladora, which distracted the man long enough to march right up to him and grab him by the neck of his armor, sealing his mouth to the other's in a searing kiss. Elladora succeeded in manoeuvring him behind the wall adjacent to the gateway, out of sight of prying eyes and once he was sure they weren't being watched, he brought his hand up and delivered a swift blow to the back of his head, efficiently knocking him out.
The man crumpled to the ground, out cold while the King and his Knights stared disbelievingly at him. They followed him quietly, stepping gingerly around the unconscious body of the entrance guard, feeling a strange amount of pity for the man. Last to enter were Gwaine and Lancelot, who paused at the still form. Lancelot put a comforting hand on the other Knight's shoulder.
"You have your work cut out for you, Gwaine."
The long haired man could only nod wordlessly.
Was it strange that this sort of baffling behaviour made him love the man more?
Did he care?