Summary: Merlin is orphaned at a mere five years old. Hunith is Gaius' younger sister. Balinor was born to a high noble from Nemeth, but his mother died in childbirth. In this story, Uther is the son of the tyrant King Constan; Balinor and Uther were great friends until Ygraine's death.
A/N: I was taking a shower when this idea came to me. I consider Balinor to be around twelve years old and Uther to be around fourteen in the flashbacks for now. It will soon change.
I don't own Merlin
Harold paused in his stride. "Balinor?" He turned around in surprise to see his only son run-up to him, almost tripping in his haste. Harold hid his smile. His son always got indignant when someone made any mention of his clumsiness, a high embarrassment for him. Balinor ceased to listen when his Father insisted that it was the gangly limbs he got from his Mother and that the boy would grow out of it.
"Please, Father!" Balinor cried aloud again. "Take me with you to Camelot! I promise I shall behave."
"We discussed this Balinor," Harold says sternly, but his heart melts at the sight of his son's big blue eyes. He sighs. "You will hold your tongue in front of the King of Camelot and you will obey everything I say…"
Harold shook his head, seeing Balinor just nodding his tiny head up and down in joy, obviously not registering a word his Father was saying. Knowing he was going to regret it, Harold glared at the boy and ordered him to be ready in ten minutes or he would be left behind. Balinor sprinted away so quickly, Harold feared he would injure himself again. He sighed again and strode off to give his servants more instructions, telling himself that next time he wouldn't cave so easily to his son's desires, all the while knowing that would never happen.
"Mama! Mama!" Merlin curled next to his Mother's body, tears streaming down his cheeks. Merlin was playing with some straw dolls while his Mother had been cooking up some warm broth when she suddenly collapsed on the floor and began twitching until she stopped breathing. Merlin had been too terrified to move, his bright blue eyes fixed on his Mother's chest moving up and down in rapid motions. When his Mother gave a choked gasp, his senses returned and he rushed outside his hut and began screaming for help.
Jacob, who was banging on some metal outside of his own house rushed inside with Merlin and used what rudimentary medical skills he had to valiantly help Hunith, but it was to no avail. When he shook his head, Merlin began to cry and hugged the motionless body of his Mother, knowing something terrible had happened.
When Jacob tried to pry Merlin's tight grip on his Mother, Merlin screamed a terrible sound, and blue fire erupted all over the hut. Jacob yelped and tugged on the little boy harder until he lifted up Merlin and sprinted out of the hut. He got out just in time, for the entire small hut had all but burned down in the deadly flame when Jacob turned around.
Villagers were shouting and pointing at what was obviously a magical fire. Jacob hurried away from the hut, his hand clamped tightly on Merlin's mouth. The boy struggled against Jacob, tears streaming down his face faster and faster.
"Shh! Merlin! Quiet!"
Merlin shook his head, still fighting as Jacob half carried and half dragged the crying child into the woods. The man knew that if the villagers found out that Merlin was the perpetrator of the fire, the child would be sentenced to death by them. So he ran and ran away as fast as he could from Ealdor, his thoughts only on Merlin and to keep him safe.
Jacob was a simple man. Hunith was a childhood friend. He had lost his Father at a young age and the only people he grew up with were two strong women- his Mother and Hunith. And he owed it to his best friend to see her son was safe.
Soon he ran out of breath and slowed down when he believed there was no more danger. He set Merlin gently down in front of a tree, so the boy could lean on it. Jacob dropped himself next to the child with a heavy sigh. He turned to Merlin, only to see the boy curl his knees and cry softly into them. Finally, Jacob began to cry too and wrapped Merlin in his arms. The boy shuddered and gasped, but Jacob didn't let go.
He was still shocked that the boy had magic and upset that Hunith never revealed it to him, but he was too sorrowful to be upset. After all, having magic was too dangerous to reveal, especially when it was a child's life that was in on the line. Now he could only think of the future. Where would they go? Jacob's last thoughts were on the peaceful druids before he fell asleep with Merlin in his arms.
Camelot was beautiful, not that Balinor really noticed. He was too excited about the castle and the adventure! When they did arrive at the castle, Balinor was a little disappointed. It looked a little too tiny for his tastes, but the disappointment did not last long. After all, he finally got to accompany his Father to a foreign land. His Father was a great diplomat, which was the reason King Julien, Father's first cousin, always sent him to other kingdoms to speak on Nemeth's behalf.
Nemeth was always so boring to Balinor. There were so few children to play with. Prince Rodor, his elder by three years always acted too important and stiff to play with Balinor. Balinor just wrote him off as a big bore. The children from town were fun sometimes, but too often they were frightened to speak with him because he was the first cousin once removed of the King.
Now, however, Balinor thought excitedly as his eyes eagerly took in Camelot's walls, he could explore and do something new and entertaining.
King Constan stood grandly in front of his castle, a wide smile on his hardened face as he greeted Balinor's Father. They spoke some thinly veiled pleasantries, Balinor remembering that Nemeth and Camelot's relationships were a little strained, looked at the Camelot knights a little more wearily. Balinor's eyes latched on to the Camelot's Prince. He forgot the boy's name, he thought sheepishly. Father would be disappointed.
The Prince looked to be an even more bore that Rodor, which was saying something. He held himself in a stiff, upright position, his smile as brittle and fake as imitator gold. Balinor had some grievances with said rocks, so he disliked the boy on sight. When the Prince's eyes landed on him and dismissed him with one glance like he would do an errant fly, Balinor's dislike grew. He huffed irritated, ignoring his Father's stern stare and glared boldly at the Prince. The royal noticed and shifted his stance slightly to give him an aggressive look. Balinor rose an eyebrow as if to say bring it on. Their staring contest continued until the King lay a hand on his son's arm, startling the boy, and Balinor straightened, feeling a little proud.
A smile played on his lips as the Prince shot him a parting glare. So bring it on, he thinks, giving the boy a cheeky smile that he knew would irritate the Prince.
After traveling through various villages all the while hinting around a little obviously and recklessly that he sought the druids, Jacob let out an exhausted sigh and plopped down next to Merlin again, spooning him some sweet porridge. He was lucky enough to have all his coin on him when he thoughtlessly rushed into the woods with Merlin two days ago. The rest of the time was spent traveling and resting in odd places.
The boy had not spoken a word since he screamed that tragic day and set aflame his entire hut. Jacob had no idea how to help him. He was never good with children, the little creatures were as baffling as wild monkeys to Jacob. He was a reclusive man, and the only person who ever really brought him out of his shell was the mother of the little boy next to him. He felt extremely guilty about not noticing Hunith's sickness growing worse. He had given it little thought when she fell slightly ill, believing it to be a fever. By dismissing Hunith's growing deterioration, Jacob blamed himself for his best friend's death and now because of him, little Merlin's had tragically seen his Mother die right in front of him.
The boy probably hated him right now. He had after all sort of kidnapped the boy right after the hut caught on flame and now they were just wandering around like vagrants. Jacob spooned Merlin some more porridge, the boy obligingly just opening and closing his mouth. Jacob was only grateful that he didn't have to order the boy to chew as well. Merlin acted little like a ragged doll by now and Jacob feared his mental state. Just when his thought became even more despairing, a man in mismatched clothing with a staff appeared out of nowhere, startling Jacob so much that he squealed a very unmanlike sound and immediately hugged Merlin close to him.
"S-stay back!" He ordered waveringly. The odd man knelt down near them, holding out a hand in a gesture of peace. Jacob relaxed a little at the action as he gazed at the man's warm brown eyes.
Merlin squirmed a little bit in Jacob's tight grip, gasping a little bit and stared dazedly at the man in front of them. The man smiled at the boy reassuringly, but Merlin just stared at him.
"I am sorry for startling you," the man finally spoke, his voice just as warm as his eyes and his words hinted an accent that Jacob didn't recognize.
"Who are you?" Jacob demanded.
"I am Elder Lona," the man, Lona apparently, spoke just as calmly as before.
"A druid," Jacob whispered, understanding what the title was for.
"Indeed," Lona nodded. His eyes traveled back to Merlin. "And you, Jacob of Ealdor, carry Emrys Ambrosius in your arms."
"Who?" Jacob asks confusedly, tightening his grip on Merlin. "If you're talking about the child, I am pretty sure his name is Merlin. I knew the boy's mother. She named him Merlin, after the songbird." It hurt to speak of Hunith in the past tense so he kept rambling on.
Lona smiled, this time a little sheepish. "Of course, his birth name would be different, but his prophesied name from the beginning of time is Emrys."
Lona took in Jacob's shocked and bewildered expression and Merlin's still blank one and shook his head slightly and stood up. Jacob stood as well, scooping up Merlin to his chest protectively.
"Forgive me," Lona bowed his head. "I see your journey has been a long and tasking one. I will explain matters more clearly once we reach the Camp."
"Camp?" Jacob asks confusedly, feeling dumber by the second from the lack of understanding most of what the man was saying. He blamed it on the loss of sleep.
"Of course," Lona smiles enigmatically. "You were seeking out a druid camp, weren't you, if I am not mistaken."
Jacob feels his cheeks redden slightly. "Yes," he says hurriedly. "But how do we know you are who you say you are?"
Lona smiles again, and by now Jacob is getting a little irritated by the man's constant cheeriness. He narrows his eyes as Lona lifts up a hand and fire blooms and dances mesmerizingly on top of his palm. Jacob cannot take his gaze away from the flame. When Merlin whimpers slightly, he is brought back to reality and glares slightly at Lona who quickly squashes the flame by closing his hand over it.
"Sorry," he apologizes, extending his other arm to Merlin. The child stares at it for a second before grabbing it. Before he knows it, Jacob already decides to trust Lona because of that one action.
Lona smiles warmly again. "Let's go, shall we?"
And Jacob blindly follows, carrying Merlin.