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Daughter of the Dragonlord - extended nanowrimo edition

Chapter Text

"Again." The prince says.

Lancelot raises his sword into position, and with the other trainees, goes through the motion again. The prince narrows his eyes, walking around them, singling out bad elbows, raised shoulders, dropped shoulders, feet in the wrong place. He's a very hard, very exacting taskmaster, never giving any quarter and picking up on every little detail.

"Once again, ladies, I'm not doing this for fun!" He says, voice echoing over the practice ground. "You were recruited to be part of Camelot's knights, and need I remind you, we are not decoration. I expect you to be able to fight, and that means making sure you don't get killed, and more importantly, that your fellow knights don't get killed because of something stupid that you did. They're more important than you are, never forget that. And you being sloppy means that they'll be dead. I do not tolerate sloppiness amongst my men."

Prince Arthur of Camelot is a little bit of a surprise. Lancelot knew when he came to Camelot that Arthur Pendragon had a reputation as the best knight in Camelot, and possibly one of the best of Albion. However, reputation can be boosted and boasted of by bards and gossip, and there are plenty of knights who aren't much good outside the lists, or even in them. He watched some of the duels that were part of the competition that Lancelot wasn't a part of, and Prince Arthur is definitely as good as his reputation. Still, he wasn't quite expecting him to take such an interest and integral part in training. That's normally left to seconds and captains. In Camelot, however, it turns out that since the prince leads his knights into battle, he expects them to be up to his standards and that means overseeing their training with a gimlet eye and giving no quarter. Lance is part of the new intake after the tournament - aside from the main tournament for the knights and nobles, commoners are allowed to compete for one of a few places they make available, sponsored by nobles who have no children to send in to serve. You have to be better than anybody, and possibly even better than most of the nobles to be allowed in. Lancelot trained hard, for long hours, and even then he's struggling a bit.

"Faster. You've just left a bloody great gaping hole that I could get a boar through without any effort, and I don't need to tell you that a boar is far, far nastier than any human you might come up against." He pauses and sighs noisily, crossing his arms. "Merlin, could you at least make *some* effort?"

The knight in training he's looking at stops and drops his sword. Lancelot’s been trying to ignore them, but it's really difficult to ignore someone who's that terrible. It's as though they've not even had lessons, and that this is the first time they've even picked up a sword. Given that everyone else here trained for years and had to fight for a place, even the nobles - what's on this field are the ones who made it through the first tests, he can't understand how they earned their presence here. Everyone's been giving him glances, presumably wondering the same thing. Maybe they're someone whose father is so high up that the king risks a fight on their hands if they don't become a knight, and will be carefully ushered off to one side whenever any actual fighting is due?

He shoves the mail and cloth hoods he's got on back, and a long plait whips out. Lancelot and the other trainees stare, with good reason. It's a ... girl? A tall girl, but admittedly still very obviously a girl now he's looking. Pretty and high cheekboned with pale skin and dark hair.

The girl crosses her arms and glares at the prince. "I still don't see why I've got to do this."

Arthur sighs. "Because, Merlin, my loving father appointed you to this position, and it was decided that the easiest way to accomplish it was for you to have some training since you're supposed to accompany me into actual dangerous situations. This requires that you need to learn how to not be an active danger to all the other knights you'll be accompanying."

She rolls her eyes. "The entire point of my being here is to defend against all the times your swords fail, pratface. So me learning how to use them is a bit pointless when I can do this." With that, she snaps her fingers, and every single person in armour that's not the Prince or her finds themselves two feet off the ground.

Floating. With nothing to support them. At least when you're holding onto a rope you can feel what's holding you up, and the drag of the ground, just urging you to rejoin in. Even swimming you can feel the weight of the water holding you up. But this - there's nothing under them whatsoever. This is probably how hawks feel soaring high above the grounds. Lancelot is not a hawk, thank you, and it's a bit terrifying.

The prince rolls his eyes at the show of power, ignoring the fact that there are a bunch of massed armoured men, many of them battle-tested, desperately trying not to crap themselves floating around him. "Put them down, Merlin. We're quite aware that you can do that. however, it doesn't get you out of learning how to comport yourself as a knight and learn how to use a sword."

Merlin fumes and pouts. "You do remember that I got told I could be excused from any sword training at the age of ten because I was so bad at it?"

"Quite well, thank you. I'm sure you permanently scarred the sword master." The prince says. "However, circumstances dictate that you can't get out of this. I don't expect you to like it, I expect you to learn it. Let them down, Merlin."

"Fine." She huffs and gestures, and everyone lands on the field with a bump. A good half of them fall to their knees, not even trying to stay upright, kissing the ground and sending up prayers of thanks for being on lovely, familiar solid ground again. Lancelot is very, very tempted to join them but just stays upright. Which means he gets to see Merlin grumble and pout some more as the prince pulls her hoods back up and shoves the sword back in her hand.

They get on with their drills in form, Arthur continuing to correct them, and in Merlin's case, frequently having to grab her shoulders and jerk her into the correct position. "It's worse than having to teach book-loving squires on their first day. Shoulders down, Merlin, how many times do I have to tell you? You'll give yourself a crick in the neck if you try to do it like that." As he turns away, Merlin sticks her tongue out at him. "I saw that. You'd think as a lady-in-waiting you'd have more manners."

"Former lady-in-waiting, pratface. I was quite happy being one, too, and I'd quite willing to go back to being one in a flash. it's your fault I'm here."

"I'd be quite willing to not be saddled with you as well and dump you back on my sister. You suit each other perfectly. However, you'll have to take it up with the king." He pauses. "And need I remind you, it's not my fault, it's yours for intervening."

Merlin brightens visibly. "So you'd rather be dead? I can manage that really easily. Just say the word."

"Very funny, Merlin. Put your tongue back in your head and get on with it." He pauses. "Sticking your tongue out whilst fighting is an incredibly bad idea, by the way. If someone bashes you, your jaw tends to clamp up automatically. I've seen men bite clean through their tongues when that happens. Just think, you wouldn't be able to gossip or call me names. What a lovely quiet world that would be."

Merlin snarls at him as he walks away, smirking. Lancelot looks around. The new knights in training are gaping that anyone would talk to the prince like that. Everyone else - the knights in training who've been here for a while, the knights who're helping with training, and the servants and squires - is smirking, aside from Sir Leon, Arthur's second in command, who's just looking long suffering. Lancelot guesses there's a story there.

During the break, Lancelot sits down next to her. "I'm Lancelot. First day, I take it?"

"Merlin. Really, really wishing it was my last day." She says, pulling off her gloves and grumpily plucking at her tabard and mail coat. She looks at him. "You don't look familiar, and you didn't introduce yourself as son of anyone. Let me guess, you're
one of those strange people who actually wanted to be a knight of Camelot so badly that you competed for one of the sponsored places."

Lancelot grins. "Guilty as charged. However, I'm nowhere near as strange as you. How does a girl who's terrible with a sword who quite obviously doesn't want to be here get strong armed into it? I've heard tales of girls who so desperately wanted to be a knight that they cut their hair and bound their breasts, and here you are, calling the prince names - and getting it away with it by some miracle, the rest of us would've been thrown in the stocks for it. You, my lady, are very clearly not one of those."

Merlin sighs. "I was stupid enough to save pratface's hide from a magic attack a few times in full view of the king. So he, in his infinite wisdom and mercy, decided that it'd happened a few times too many for his liking and so Arthur needed a bodyguard." She traces a glowing line in the grass. "And who better than the person who was actually there to save him and thus not bother with the bother of auditioning people for the job? Never mind that I'd got a position already. That I was very happy with and quite good at."

Sir Leon looms over them. He's the prince's second in command of the knights, and is a little nicer than Prince Arthur. A little more encouraging, but just as strict. And bigger. "It's your own fault for showing skill and quickly reacting to the situation in public, Merlin. If you were a soldier, you'd know that’s called volunteering and you only ever do that when there's no other options left." He pauses, looking at Lancelot. "As for the name calling, the reason she gets away with that is that she and Arthur have been insulting each other in public since they were babes. The rest of us have no such protection."

"You'd like to, though." Merlin says, beaming at him. "Do I need to remind you of last month?"

"I have no idea what you mean, Merlin." Sir Leon says, twitching slightly, before going on his way.

"So how long have you been his bodyguard?" Lancelot asks.

"Since a bit before the tournament." Merlin says. "Then Valiant did his thing with the snakes and then suddenly the best way for me to do it is get shoved into a padded coat and a bloody great heavy mail coat. never mind that I actually did it from the stands and that wasn't a pitched battle." She raised her voice on the last bit. "I still maintain that certain blond twerps are just doing this to torment me!"

"I can't imagine why you'd think I'd do this to get back at you for years of you being you, Merlin." The prince says. "Now get up and run around the field, that's enough break. The rest of you, do some stretches."

Merlin's jaw drops. "What?"

"You heard me. Get on with it, you need to build up your fitness and getting used to wearing mail." The Prince says, folding his arms and grinning. "Go on."

"I'm going to kill you in your sleep." Merlin says. "See if I don't." She gets up, slowly, Lancelot giving her a hand. mail really is very heavy if you've never worn it before, and balance can be a bit of an issue when getting from sitting to standing. She starts walking, before breaking into a very slow, careful trot.

"I said running, Merlin! Faster!" The Prince yells, laughing.

Eventually Merlin gets around the field, and nearly collapses, puffing heavily and nearly as red as her tabard in Pendragon red. Lancelot hands her the water, and Sir Leon pats her on the shoulder sympathetically. "It'll get better as you get used to it. I promise."

"I don't believe you." Merlin grumbles between gulping the water down and breathing like a horse after a race.

"Honestly." Sir Leon says. "Normally you get to build up your muscles before you're made to run in mail, but getting thrown in at the deep end does mean you'll get used to it fast. You'll be wearing it most of the time anyway and get used to it that way."

Merlin just groans. Prince Arthur appears, smirking. "So, got enough breath left to call me names, Merlin?" he asks, drawing her name out.

"I will always have enough breath for that, Pratface." Merlin mutters as he walks off, whistling. And then suddenly jumps, spinning round to glare at her.

"Right, break time over, time to get back to work!" He yells. "That includes you, Merlin."

"What did you do?" Lancelot asks quietly as he helps her to her feet. She doesn't look like she's dying quite so much now. lady-in-waiting to running around in mail in the space of a day is probably an incredibly large jump in fitness expectations, he'll admit.

"In another life?" Merlin groans, grabbing her sword as she gets up. "Probably drowned kittens."

"I, er, meant just then." Lancelot clarifies. "When the prince jumped."

"Cat spark on the back of his neck." Merlin grins. "It's a little amplified when you're wearing metal." Lancelot winces in sympathy.

The Prince has called an end to the first day's training when two women appear on the edge of the field. One tall, finely dressed beauty with pale skin and long dark hair that has to be the Princess Morgana, and a shorter, curvier dark skinned girl with her who by her dress appears to be a serving maid. And she's just lovely. They come over to Merlin, fussing over her.

"What did you do, Arthur?" The princess asks, glaring at him as she and the maid attend to her. "She's exhausted. And why on earth have you got her training with the knights?"

Arthur rests his sword on his shoulder. "Father and I agreed that since it was clear that I'd be attacked probably just as much during my duties away from court, Merlin should learn to keep up and defend herself. She'll be trained as a knight. She wasn't quite as awful as I was expecting." He pauses. "No, I tell a lie. Just as bad."

"Merlin?" The princess asks incredulously. "You want to train Merlin as a knight? Did you completely take leave of your senses?"

"She's actually worse than Gareth was when he started." Prince Arthur says.

The princess blinks, and says incredulously "Worse than Gareth? Are you quite sure?" Lancelot assumes Gareth was one of the nobles sons sent to serve in the knights at a young age. He wonders if he can find out just how bad this Gareth was. Maybe he's now one of the best knights. It's unlikely, but it's possible with hard work and dedication.

Arthur nods. "I didn't think it was possible, even considering her record. Merlin at least appeared co-ordinated before we put a weapon in her hand."

"She is normally, she's just got no experience in any sort of fighting." The princess says. "And of course you didn't take any joy in tormenting my poor lady-in-waiting, did you Arthur?"

"I have no idea what you mean, considering you two made it your mission in life to be my tormentors." Arthur says.

"You have far too high an opinion of yourself to imagine that we think that much of you to expend any effort, Arthur." Morgana says. "As it is, we're going to take Merlin to get cleaned up and rest. Try not to die in the meantime as Merlin will be indisposed."

Morgana's maid smiles sheepishly at Lancelot. "We're not like this all the time."

Lance smiles back. he can't help himself. She is really, really lovely. "I imagine not. Hopefully next time they'll be more concerned with training than calling each other names."

The maid wrinkles her nose as she strips Merlin of her mail and tabard. In a very efficient fashion. Perhaps it's a requisite of maids in Camelot? "I think that's wishful thinking. Merlin and Arthur can't open their mouths without arguing." She gets one arm under Merlin's and braces herself as she pulls her to her feet. "Come on, you, up. There's a bath awaiting you." Merlin mumbles something. "And a meal and tea, don't worry." She and Merlin walk off with Morgana following behind. Well. Merlin's more stumbling in her exhaustion.

Prince Arthur folds his arms as they watch them exit, and says wryly. "And just think, I'm going to be saddled with that until my father says so or she gets injured."

Lancelot tries to bite his lip, but it comes out anyway. "You didn't have to be that hard on her."

Arthur barks a laugh. "I'm that hard on every new recruit. Trust me, Merlin was getting no special attention there."

"It seemed a bit vindictive considering she's got no training whatsoever." Lance swallows. "I meant no disrespect, sire."

"Merlin's going to be an asset to Camelot's knights if it kills me." Arthur says. "And if her ego takes a battering along the way, so much the better." He grins, slapping Lance on the shoulder. "I like you, Lancelot. Be careful your forgiving nature doesn't get you killed."

----

Merlin comes in with a large pot of hot water, the pot floating in front of her as she closes the door behind her. "Got the hot water and the fresh towels. Where did you want them?"

"Over there, thank you, Merlin." Gwen says as she lays out Morgana's dress for tonight. "Did you have any trouble with it?"

"No, aside from one of the footmen asking if he could send you a flower." Merlin says. "I said he could deliver it himself if he was that keen. At which point he blanched and mumbled something about not wanting to disturb you in your duties."

"Quite right." Morgana says, emerging from behind the screen in her shift. "If they haven't got the guts to approach you themselves, they're certainly not worthy of you."

"I suspect they're probably more afraid of you." Merlin says.

Morgana grins, twisting her hair back out of the way. "I can't imagine why. I'm very approachable and not at all scary." Gwen snorts. "Unless you're my brother."

"In which case we loyally support all attempts to terrorise the pillock." Merlin says, going over to the wardrobe. "So what dress did we have in mind for the concert tonight?"

"Well, Lady Helen is said to be quite enamoured of saffron and gold." Gwen says. "So no clashing or merging. That means no purple - what about red?" Morgana looks thoughtful, and grins quite wickedly.

"You're not seriously considering the shoulderless one, are you?" Merlin asks.

"You know, I think I just might. It is a rather impressive occasion." Morgana says.

"And a perfect time to scandalise pratface." Merlin grins. "Right, let's get you ready."

The evening starts off pretty well, with some lovely singing from lady Helen. Then it goes a bit fuzzy. Next thing Merlin knows, the dragon's making a pointed coughing noise in her head.

"I suggest you wake up, young witch."

"Piss off, sleeping." Merlin grumbles. And then blinks. Because last she remembers, she was listening to a performance by the most in demand singer in all of Camelot, and she doesn't want to be missing that. She can't have nodded off, surely. She opens her eyes, cautiously, to a near-silent hall. Everyone's asleep. And... covered in cobwebs? It looks like those legends where everyone fell asleep for a hundred years when a fairy cast a spell on a castle. Everyone except Lady Helen. Who's chanting and spinning around in a somewhat demented fashion.

Everyone else starts waking up, but they're still fairly frozen. Merlin finds that she can move a bit. and that's when the knife appears. It spins, Helen screams something about Uther losing a son as she did, and ... oh bugger, it's heading for Arthur. Merlin pulls against the spell webs, rising to her feet, wrenching against the webs that are still trying to fug up her head, wrenches hard, and lets out a big pulse of magic that deflects the knife, but it somehow explodes everywhere, the webs are affecting her control. A great shudder goes through the hall, and the chandelier creaks in a way that just sounds wrong, the ropes shouldn't sound like that, they sound like something's warped and is tearing as they creak. And that's when the ropes very definitely snap and the chandelier falls. Right onto Lady Helen.

Merlin scrambles off her chair whilst everyone else is trying to move properly, to go and see if she needs more spells to keep Lady Helen immobile.

The body under the chandelier is... very definitely dead. And no longer has black hair and the features of a beauty, but grey hair and the face of a woman in her late forties, at the very least. Merlin frowns. Who on earth -?

Arthur's at her side soon enough. "Do we know who she is?"

"No idea. It's not Lady Helen. Must've impersonated her with magic." Merlin says. "You're lucky the dragon woke me up."

"Yes. Well. I suppose." Arthur says.

"One day you're going to get the hang of this phrase called 'thank you', pratface." Merlin says.

Over in her chair, Morgana's making a disgusted face. She's not the only one. "This is horrible. What kind of spell does this?"

"Maybe it's the one that all those legends of castles going to sleep come from." Gwen says.

"It's still disgusting." Morgana says, murmuring something that sounds very like the spell you use for spindles. The cobwebs attach themselves to nearby poles, and the poles start spinning gradually, reeling it all in, strand by strand. After a few minutes it starts to look a bit clearer and everyone a bit less dusty. "It'll all be gone soon enough, my lords. Apologies for the disturbance." She declares.

Arthur marshals his knights to get rid of the dead body once Merlin's lifted the chandelier, floating it up and repairing the ropes and chain links.

Uther makes some sort of declaration declaring the threat over, which you'd think was fairly obvious given the fact that there's a dead sorceress getting carried out of the hall, but no, official reassurances from the king apparently help calm the court lords and ladies. She's never understood that. Once the cobwebs are gone, it turns out that the food's all right underneath. Most of the nobles have stayed, if only to gossip about the horror of something like that happening in the middle of court, and poor Lady Helen, and who could be targeting the prince.

During the feast, Uther beckons her father over for a word, and they have what looks like a rather intense discussion, complete with pointed looks at her and pratface.

"What do you suppose they're talking about?" Merlin asks Morgana. "It's not like this is the first time I've saved pratface's life." Then a horrible thought occurs to her. "Oh no, the gossip's not started up again, has it? Just because you save someone's life doesn't mean you actually like them."

"According to ballads it does." Gwen says, topping up the wine and taking some quail that Merlin passes her.

"Ballads know nothing." Morgana says. "On the other hand, prolonged squabbling does tend to mean something."

"Yes, it's called we've disliked each other since childhood because your brother is an unreconstructed prat. Who thinks having shiny hair and regular features mean that he should be able to charm his way past anything." Merlin says.

"He needs to learn to act like a pleasant human being first." Morgana says. "But no, I've not heard anything about you two being madly in love recently."

"Good." Merlin eyes her father, who's now back at her mother's side, talking quietly. "Maybe it was asking Kilgarrah to behave himself. he's been having too much fun dive bombing herds recently. You can actually hear him going 'wheeeee' if it's close enough."

"Dragons make sounds like a child on a sled?" Gwen asks.

"Sadly, yes." Merlin says. "I just wish they'd be quieter about it." She sips some of the wine. "Maybe that's what Uther's talking to my father about. Kilgarrah's got into the catnip, been acting up and he's telling him
to sort him out."

"Would he listen?" Gwen asks.

"Well, he's got to." Merlin says. "Pay attention, that is. That's what makes people dragonlords. You can hear them, speak the language, and make them listen. They don't have to do what you say, but they get a pretty strong compulsion."

"A bit like Morgana, then." Gwen says.

"I'm not sure if I should be offended or not." Morgana says cheerfully. "Am I the dragon or the dragonlord in this situation?"

"That's for us to know and you to find out." Gwen says, nibbling on the quail.

A day later, Uther calls an audience as he says he's got an announcement to make.

"Any ideas?" Merlin asks as she and Gwen get Morgana ready.

"No idea whatsoever." Morgana says, then grins. "Maybe it's an announcement that Arthur has to marry that ugly niece of Bayard's to seal the peace treaty when that's signed."

"The one with the squint?" Gwen asks as she tucks the last strands of Morgana's hair into place. "She's supposed to be quite nice."

"Yes, but Arthur's vain enough to be completely offended at having to marry her." Morgana says. "I'd have to talk to her in person to find out if she's actually nice or just a pushover."

"Not everyone who's described as nice is a pushover, Morgana." Gwen says reprovingly.

"Nobles' daughters don't tend to be nice if they have any sort of backbone." Morgana declares.

In the hall, everyone's standing around, and Uther has that look on his fact that indicates that he's pleased with himself as he's had a marvellous idea and the court's going to have to deal with it.

"Pratface is twitching already." Merlin murmurs.

"Shush, I don't want to start giggling in court." Morgana murmurs back, trying not to crack a smile. Gwen, of course, is managing to keep a perfectly solemn face. It's a pity they've never really had the patience to learn mind speech properly, but then they'd probably still have a problem keeping their faces straight. Oh, and Gwen couldn't take part.

"In light of the very nearly tragic events recently, I wish to recognise and give thanks to the woman without whom my son would not be alive today." Uther says. "Step forward, Merlin, daughter of Balinor Dragonlord."

Merlin blinks, frozen. Gwen and Morgana discreetly shove her forward, so she has to step forward to avoid tripping and flailing. She steps forward in front of Uther, turning to face him, uncomfortably aware of the entire court staring. and not in the way when she's managed to make a scene with her magic, or her and Arthur have had yet another yelling match, or the gossip has managed to reach that level again. You'd think they'd be sick of it now, but it's been popping up on a regular basis for the past few years. And curtseys. "Thank you, sire." She says, just loud enough to sound appreciative of the honour of being recognised. Assenting noises are normally the only responses permitted and considered advisable. Here's hoping this is all it is.

"Your service is greatly appreciated and your modesty commends you. In fact, you've saved his life from magical attacks several times recently. Attacks on his life have been increasing as he comes of age, as enemies of Camelot wish to destabilise its position. Unfortunately, Arthur's worth as a warrior is not enough to combat all of them, and thus he requires a bodyguard to combat such magical attacks."

Arthur blurts out "A bodyguard? Father!" Merlin very firmly does not smirk. His face is the picture of wounded manhood, and should be used to illustrate it in books.

Uther ignores Arthur's offended tone, and adds "Indeed. Steel cannot repel them all. Normally we would have to hold trials, but as a candidate has already proven themselves as highly competent in dealing with such situations, I am pleased to announce that Merlin will be rewarded with position of bodyguard to Prince Arthur." He smiles, as Merlin feels her heart sink to her feet. Morgana's face has frozen. So has Gwen's. She suspects her face looks much the same. Half the court is now whispering furiously.

"I - your highness, this is too much." Merlin stammers, gulping. She doesn't dare look at Arthur right now. She pauses. No, she really should look, because he's the only other person saddled with this situation. And there it is, half furious, half stunned haddock.

"You have proven yourself a great asset to Camelot, Merlin, and I felt that you should be rewarded suitably." Uther smiles. he looks so pleased with himself.

Arthur grits his teeth. "I wouldn't want to deprive Morgana of such a loyal servant. And potential bodyguard."

"Your sister is quite capable of defending herself against magical attack and quite cognisant of the need for vigilance." Uther pauses. "And of the honour of this position for her lady-in-waiting."

"...There are other sorcerers." Arthur tries as his last public attempt.

"But none so firmly tested as effective and used to coping with your ... idiosyncrasies." Uther replies. Merlin doesn't manage to restrain her smirk at that one. Nor does Morgana. They weren't aware Uther ever used polite language for Arthur's tendency to be a tosser and lack of patience with, oh, almost everything. It may be an awful situation and now she's half wishing she'd let Arthur die the last time, but oh, that's a good line. They're definitely using it on him to see what happens.

----

Once they've exited the hall, Morgana and Gwen steer Merlin into an alcove. "I don't need a moment to get my breath." She complains.

"Oh, we're not doing this for you." Morgana says, craning her head to see over he people coming out. "We're waiting to catch your father to see what he was thinking."

"What?" Merlin asks.

"You never know, he might have been brow beaten." Gwen says.

"The only person Balinor has ever been brow beaten by is Hunith." Morgana says. "When you're used to facing down dragons kings pale into comparison. Have you ever seen Merlin here act remotely sanely in the face of royalty? She's got no concept of danger."

Merlin eyes Morgana. "You sound as though you fancy the position yourself."

"It always looked more interesting than princess." Morgana says. "Also, you've ridden dragons. It involves flying, Merlin."

"It also involves very annoying overgrown lizards singing out of tune in your head when they pass an inn where a bard was murdering a perfectly reasonable ballad." Merlin says. "In the middle of the night. For a week."

"Oh, look, there's your father." Gwen says, getting on her tiptoes.

"Balinor!" Morgana says, expertly hooking her arm around his, all smiles. "How are you?"

Balinor smiles. "Not so bad."

"Your daughter wished to talk to you." Morgana says. "Considering you seemed so concerned about her standing at court all of a sudden. It's quite fascinating, really."

Balinor looks at Merlin. "You look just like your mother right now. Precisely how pissed off with me are you right now?"

Merlin smiles. Sweetly. "Did you discuss this with mum?"

"A little." Balinor says.

"And she was all right with you shackling me to Arthur, was she?" Merlin asks.

"Well, she thought that if someone was going to get lumbered with the job it might as well be you." Balinor says. "Given that you've got experience at it."

Merlin folds her arms. "You didn't talk to her at all, did you?"

Balinor looks a bit sheepish. "No, love, I didn't."

Merlin rolls her eyes and hooks her arm in Gwen's. "In that case, you can break it to her that you had a hand in the royal decree that forced me to leave a very good position. I'd love to hear her reaction to Uther's reasoning."

Gwen looks concerned. "Your mum doesn't throw pots, does she?"

"Gwen, mum's a healer. She's not going to stoop to pots." Merlin says scornfully as they walk off, leaving a somewhat worried now looking dragonlord in their wake.

Morgana smiles sweetly. "Do give my regards to Hunith, my lord." She inclines her head in farewell and sweeps off after her maid and soon to be ex lady-in-waiting.

---

Once they're in Morgana's rooms, Merlin collapses in a chair, covering her face with her hands.

"I'm going to die." Merlin groans. "Actually, no, I'll kill him first, and then my head'll be on the chopping block for killing the prince of Camelot."

"The miracle would be that you lasted so long without killing him." Morgana says soothingly, rearranging her skirts. "Remember, accidents happen and you can't possibly be expected to be there all the time. He might be smothered in his sleep."

"You really can be smothered by your own bedsheets. Some really nasty accidents have been known to happen to people just trying to get out of bed, according to the older servants." Gwen provides, then adds hastily. "Not that I'd condone it, of course."

"Gwen, you're a true and lovely friend." Morgana says. Then frowns. "Merlin, why are you wincing?"

"Certain great scaly overgrown lizards are calling." Merlin says, rubbing her temples. "He's being particularly loud."

Gwen goes over to the window and leans out of it. In the distance she can see a shape that looks like a large bird, coming closer. She turns "I think you've got a visitor...?"

"Tell him to bugger off." Merlin says.

The light that was coming through the windows gets blocked out by the shape of the large dragon currently Perching on top of one of the roofs above the courtyard. "I will not 'bugger off' as you so delicately put it, young witch." Kilgarrah booms.

"I said bugger off and I meant it." Merlin says, raising her voice. "Go and harass my father."

The dragon chuckles. Which reverberates a bit around the courtyard of Camelot, causing the animals and those of a nervous disposition who haven't already to scatter. Just because dragons are regular visitors to Camelot doesn't make them any less scary. It's the teeth and claws and propensity to breathe fire that does it, apparently. "Oh no, young witch, it's you that I wish to speak to. I hear you and young Pendragon are making steps closer towards your destiny." he pauses. "Although when I was younger, young witches did not swear nearly as much. They were far more gracious."

Merlin gives Gwen a look "And you didn't believe me about dragons being the worst gossips in the entire kingdom."

Gwen looks at her and then at the sight of Kilgarrah through the window. "To be fair, you don't really think of them doing human things."

There's a clatter from down below, and a yell. "Merlin, are you around here somewhere?"

Morgana leans out of the window. "She's up here, Arthur."

"Young Pendragon!" The dragon booms. "Did I not say that you would become two sides of the same coin?"

Arthur groans. "Oh no."

Morgana looks down at her brother, up at the dragon, then back into her room where Merlin's sitting on a chair and pouting. Finally she looks at Gwen. Gwen shrugs. "At least it's not dull, my lady."

----

The next morning, Morgana's reading at the window while Gwen and Merlin tidy up and organise a few things. "So how do you think this is going to go?" Gwen asks.

"Keep an eye out for people who look a bit demented at state occasions?" Merlin shrugs. "I have no idea. I'll probably get through an awful lot of embroidery while he attempts to look good in front of those cloth-eared toadies who hang around him and think hitting things is the most fun you can have with or without your clothes on."

"Don't worry too much about trying to keep him alive." Morgana says. "Maybe just a little maimed."

"Don't the Irish have that rule about kings having to be physically perfect?" Gwen asks as she smooths out the sheets. "I heard that one of them lost an eye being very heroic whilst saving the kingdom and still had to give up the throne."

"Do go on, Gwen, this is a very fascinating subject." Morgana says. "Speaking as the next in line to Camelot's throne."

There's a knock at the door. Merlin opens it. "Hello?"

It's the steward, who raises an eyebrow. "You haven't heard?"

"Heard what?" Merlin asks as he brushes past.

He stops in front of Morgana. "Your highness." He says, bowing. "I apologise for intruding, but Merlin is needed elsewhere." He turns back. "Might I ask if you have anything in here?"

Merlin looks at him. "Anything what?"

"Possessions and the like. You're being moved to your new quarters."

"I have new quarters?" Merlin asks, perplexed. "What's wrong with my room at my parents' house?"

"You need new quarters as befits your new station and position." The steward says. "The position of bodyguard involves being close to the prince at all times, and not just there early as a servant should be. You need to be considerably closer than a house in the town."

Merlin folds her arms and raises an eyebrow in disbelief. "You're not serious."

"I am entirely serious, Merlin." The steward says. Sadly he's well known to be a man with so little sense of humour that he could be compared to a rock, except rocks may have found at least two jokes funny in their lives. "Please follow me."

"Um, there's a small chest and I think a few books." Gwen says, pointing at one of the lower shelves in the corner.

Merlin picks them up and frowns. "I'm still protesting this change of position."

"For now your king has decreed it, Merlin." The steward says. "Please follow me."

Merlin follows him with her chest and books through the corridors, the items bobbing along with her. When they arrive at Arthur's quarters, Merlin blinks. There are servants going in and out of the room next to his, carrying her things. Books and spell bits and clothing. "...This one? when you said close, I didn't think -"

The steward ushers her in past the servants. "I assume you'd like some say in how your room is arranged."

Merlin looks around. It's being dusted and aired. She sighs. "Randulf, you can put that down." She says to the big bearded servant currently sweeping the room out. "This is ridiculous."

Gytha, who's in the middle of making the bed, looks round. "Oh, hello, Merlin. It's a bit of a step up, isn't it?"

Merlin frowns. "I've got to spend time with the prat, I don't count that as a step up, even if this is a very nice room." Randulf's still sweeping. "Randulf, I did say stop. Sit down, I can do this myself." she says, snatching the broom from his hands and setting that and the cleaning cloths to clean on their own.

Randulf shrugs. "used to it."

Merlin sighs. "Honestly, this is all utterly ridiculous as it is." There's a noise from next door that sounds distinctly like a blond prince. "Hold on, I need to go and yell at someone."

Gytha waves cheerily. "Have fun."

Merlin bangs the door open to Arthur's room, where he's reading some documents. "Why are the servants moving all my things to the room next to yours?"

Arthur looks up and sighs. "Because you're my bodyguard. That means you're supposed to be near to protect me from attacks day and night, not just in public."

"I have absolutely no wish to know how much you snore. What's wrong with one a few along the corridor?" Merlin asks.

"It's a bit difficult for you react to yelling for help from several rooms away." Arthur says, putting the papers down. "Given that normally the guards are further down the corridor, I think it would be sensible for the person who's supposed to be guarding me from magical attacks to not have to sleep in the corridor. Hence the room next door."

"There's also a door just here for access between the two rooms just in case." George, Arthur's scarily helpful manservant says, drawing aside a tapestry. He's been hovering in the corner. Just being alert in case Arthur needs him to run an errand.

"Um, thank you, George." Merlin says. The tapestry is on a rail and looks as though it functions like a heavy curtain door. it'll keep a bit of sound out, but if Arthur snores, she's going to find that silencing spell Alice has occasionally threatened her and Morgana with and use it on him. Night-time assassins be damned.

"I live to serve." he says glassily. Merlin and Arthur exchange glances. George is so devoted to his job that it can be a bit creepy. All the servants, no matter how high or low their status, agree on this. Uther has rejected 'being overly devoted to his role' as a reason for Arthur to get a new manservant. "Now, will you be wanting to breakfast with his highness each morning, my lady?"

"Depends. How good is the breakfast?" Merlin asks.

"The very best the kitchens can provide, my lady." George says, radiating helpfulness and pride in his job.

"We'll discuss it later, George." Arthur says. "Though I'm not sure Merlin counts as a lady."

"Good point. My father's not dead, so I'm not a dragonlord yet." Merlin says. "lady-in-waiting doesn't actually mean noble, George, you know this."

"Very well." George says. "Did you want me to bring your clothes in while you breakfast in the morning?"

Merlin sniffs. "I can dress myself, unlike some people." She says, not looking in Arthur's direction. Morgana's dresses tend to do up at the back, and she has her hair to do, so of course she needs help. Arthur, on the other hand - it's not as though a shirt and breeches require an extra pair of hands to get on.

George sniffs. "As you wish."

"George, could you fetch some drinks and a light snack? I need to talk to Merlin." Arthur says.

Merlin glances over her shoulder at the door once George has left. "His not blinking an eye worries me."

"He never blinks." Arthur says, picking up the documents again.

"What, never?" Merlin asks. "I thought it was just him in company."

"Occasionally my eyes start burning in sympathy if I think about it too much." Arthur grimaces.

"He does know that the hidden door is for the mistress to come and go discreetly, doesn't he?" Merlin asks, sitting in a spare chair by the table and looking around.

"I try not to think that he knows anything about that kind of thing." Arthur shudders. "Even though it's not like he hasn't caught me in bed with a woman before."

"Really? Thought you had one of the worst track records possible at court." Merlin smirks.

"That would have nothing to do with the influence of you or Morgana, of course." Arthur mutters.

Merlin does her best innocent look. Spreading discreet rumours about Arthur or dropping hints is one of Merlin and Morgana's more amusing past times. "Are you saying that they don't swoon at your feet by the sheer force of your charming personality?"

"Funny, Merlin." Arthur says.

"Seriously, what am I supposed to do, trail around after you?" Merlin asks, arranging her skirts. "A bodyguard's not a lady-in-waiting, so I'm not your servant." She pauses. "Besides, you've only been attacked in really public places during events."

"Given that George only attends to me in my chambers and at feasts, I have even less idea." Arthur says, picking up his quill and making a couple of notes. "I've always assumed Morgana only requires you at all times so she has someone to gossip
with."

"Remember how I like your sister but I don't like you?" Merlin says, smiling sweetly.

"I'll ask my father exactly when he requires you to be on duty." Arthur sighs. "I'm quite sure you being by my side at all times is overdoing it."

Arthur wakes up to voices. Specifically, his servant and Merlin, his newly appointed bodyguard cum eternal thorn in his side. And they're not in Merlin's room or the corridor. "What are you talking about at this hour?" Arthur asks, sitting up.

"Routine for the mornings." Merlin says, then turns back to George. "I can't believe he sleeps this late."

"It gives me more time to prepare his clothing and the room." George says. "So, my lady, if you do -"

"That'd be great." Merlin nods. "I'll handle the -"

"That would be a great help, it's quite difficult to get hot water up the stairs and still have it be hot." George says. "It'll give me more time for -"

"That reminds me, if there is anything with blood stains -" Merlin says.

"I defer to your superior experience." George replies.

Arthur stares at them. It's a bit unnerving to be almost entirely ignored by servants who aren't cleaning and actually discussing him. "No, really, what are you two talking about?"

"Servant stuff." Merlin says. "You know, all the things that make your life easier that you think happens by magic."

"Wonderful." Arthur rubs his hand across his eyes. He doesn't really care, it's just annoying being woken up by it. "Breakfast?"

Merlin walks over to the table and gestures, a tiny flash of light flaring from her eyes. "We've got it here. Surprised the smell didn't wake you."

"But how do you even know what he's talking about?" Arthur demands after George interrupted with a murmured half finished question and Merlin nodded and agreed.

"You probably do it with Leon discussing troop placement." Merlin says.

"We normally include the name of the thing we're discussing." Arthur points out, using the last of his bread to wipe up the last of the grease. "However, out of curiosity."

"You? Wanting to actually learn something that doesn't involve weapons?" Merlin asks. "Pigs are about to fly without the help of magic."

"Very funny, Merlin. I heard one thing. Why would George defer to you on the subject of blood stains?" Arthur asks, working through his reasoning. "Morgana may be fond of sword practice, but she's never fought for real where her opponent was trying to properly injure her. You're a lady-in-waiting, you wouldn't have done her laundry anyway. George is so picky that he gets sniffy about the mere suggestion that someone would clean something by magic, so why would he defer to you on that?"

Merlin sighs. It's one to rival Morgana's most put upon sigh. It might even rival Gaius's when a knight's done something terminally stupid to land himself in the healers' rooms. "Pratface, I'm a girl."

"Do girls get injured more often as children?" Arthur asks, perplexed. He doesn't remember that happening to Morgana or Merlin as they grew up.

Merlin actually groans. "I can't believe I'm having to talk to you about this. I'm a girl. That means I'll see and deal with more blood than you ever will." Arthur raises an eyebrow in disbelief. "I bleed? Every month?"

Arthur flushes. "Oh. Sorry. I'll never speak of it again."

Merlin puts the lid on the porridge bowl and looks sympathetic. Ish. Poor men and their inability to even cope with the concept of periods whilst yelling about the glory of battle. "Trust me, you'll probably hear about it if I continue to be your bodyguard."

Gwen stops by the training grounds while Merlin's idly flicking through a magic book. On the field, Arthur's practising. "Catching up on the learning you keep avoiding?"

Merlin rests her elbows on her knees and puts her chin on her fists, blowing a bit of hair off her forehead. "Gwen, I'm so bored."

"Really?" Gwen asks. "It's something new, Arthur's the prince so you get to see a load of things that you don't get to with Morgana. I'd have thought that would at least be interesting." Merlin shakes her head. "Really? Not at all? What about arguing? I've heard about at least one squabble in the corridors in the last few days."

"Gwen, I have nothing to do. Nothing. My life now consists of trailing after Arthur or sitting or standing around while he hits things with lumps of metal. I can't even tidy or clean anything like I used to help you with because George is so picky and so efficient that the rooms are always sparkling and everything gets picked up the second it's moved out of place." Merlin sighs. "The most I get to do is heat the water."

Gwen bites her lip. "Morgana's been doing that herself for the last few days. She asked why the water wasn't as hot as usual and I had to tell her."

Merlin puts her hand on her chest in disbelief. "Gwen, I am shocked, shocked that you'd even admit that you couldn't fix everything."

Gwen wrinkles her nose. "Very funny, Merlin. So what caused the squabble?"

"Oh, he and his idiot friends decided that they'd kick a servant around - Davey, he mostly works around the armour area so I don't know if you know him - and then get him to hold the target while they flung knives at it." Merlin says, rolling her eyes.

Gwen has her hands to her mouth. "You're kidding. That's just bullying. He could've been hurt. He wasn't, was he?"

"Well, the toadies were egging him on, so there was no help there. And Arthur sneered when I told him to stop." Merlin says.

Gwen winces. "Oh dear, I can see where this is going."

"The target may have fought back a bit." Merlin says, grinning. "And then there was yelling." She pauses. "Only a bit."

"Just enough for everyone around you to stop what they were doing because there's free entertainment and something might get broken." Gwen says. "but really, that's been it?"

"One argument and forcing pratface to treat servants a bit better in my presence has been the entirety of my new life." Merlin raises the book. "Anyway, hence me shocking Gaius and Alice by asking to borrow a book and read up on my spell lore." She frowns. "I always forget how much you have to repeat things just to get any effect."

Gwen grins. "This is what most people with magic who aren't you and Morgana have to do, so I've heard. Just think, you're having to work at it."

"It's weird and just wrong." Merlin grins, sitting up. "All right, tell me if there's been anything interesting that's gone on with you. I tried to get your brother to talk but apparently you don't discuss anything of interest when you go home."

"Well..." Gwen's about to launch into the latest gossip when a certain blond twerp looms over them.

"Gossiping, Merlin? Aren't you supposed to be looking out for the latest threats to my person?" Arthur asks.

"If there were any threats I cared to take notice of, I'm sure you'd know about them." Merlin says. "And your ego doesn't need massaging."

The morning of the tournament dawns. Merlin watches as Arthur's strapped into his armour for the final bout. "I'd wish you good luck but..."

Arthur rolls his eyes. "Yes, I'm quite aware that you're cheering for whoever I'm fighting against. Go and sit with Morgana and keep an eye out for anything from there."

"It is a better vantage point to spot things from." Merlin agrees. "Have fun getting your head bashed in." She says cheerily as she exits.

The fight seems relatively evenly matched until Valiant knocks Arthur down, and Valiant presses close with his shield instead of his sword. Merlin frowns. From all of the bouts she's watched over her life, from training to tournaments, that's something you don't do. They're close enough for her to see Valiant definitely say something that's not normal speech, and the snakes painted on his shield look like they’re moving.

Merlin lashes out a hand before she even knows she's done it, spell on her lips to freeze things issuing forth, honed by days of boredom and seeing if she could freeze flies that insisted on landing on her book.

Everyone that can see Valiant's shield gasps as he gets up a bit, unaware of what they can see. The snakes on his shield that form his emblem are caught in the act of writhing out of the shield, mouths caught mid-bite, fangs raised. "I suppose he was prepared to win by any means." Morgana murmurs.

"But poisoning your opponent mid-fight?" Gwen asks. "The entire point of the tournament is a test of weapons skill, not magic."

On the ground, Arthur's got to his feet again, using his sword to cut the head off the snake frozen in the act of reaching out to bite him. Valiant gapes and struggles, speaking something else, agitated.

Merlin narrows her eyes, casting a spell to deflect his. It's like swatting a fly. Uther gets to his feet, having now seen the shield as Valiant struggled with it. "Guards! Arrest him!"

The guards tramp onto the field, from the sides where they were mostly acting as decoration with their pikes, and surround Valiant. he goes without much fight, shield clattering to the ground.

Arthur dusts himself off and walks over to the stands, pulling his helmet off. "I see you proved yourself useful, Merlin."

Merlin folds her arms. "I can't take the credit, I'm afraid. I'm a terrible bodyguard, I'll have to go back to working for Morgana."

Arthur wipes some sweat off his forehead. "Sadly for you, I saw you gesture and your eyes flash out of the corner of my eye, and far too many people were facing in your direction. Sad to say you were seen once again saving my life, Merlin. it's getting to be a habit."

"Definitely by accident and it's a compulsion I'm trying to break myself of." Merlin replies.

Morgana leans back in her seat. "You two are aware it looks as though you're asking for her favour." Both Merlin and Arthur look disgusted. Morgana snorts in an incredibly indelicate way, and Gwen covers her mouth and giggles.

"I think it more likely I'd be coming over to accuse her of being responsible for the snakes." Arthur says.

Merlin looks at him, looking rather offended. "You really think I'd stoop to poison."

"True, it's a little subtle for you." Arthur agrees. "You'd prefer me to meet my doom in a far more embarrassing way."

"Precisely." Merlin says, now mollified.

Morgana waves her hand dismissively. "And poison is sometimes entirely too messy."

The next morning, Merlin and George are setting out breakfast, Merlin yawning a bit due to the feast the night before. "Really, my lady?" George says with a faint hint of disapproval.

Merlin rubs her nose to get rid of an itch. "I was on duty. You know, the big events that Pratface has a habit of getting attacked at? had to keep an eye out the whole time for magic users who decided that bumping off the prince was a good idea."

"It's your job, you should be able to pace yourself." George sniffs.

"You try pacing yourself when it's a job that's mostly me trailing behind pratface bored out of my skull." Merlin retorts. "I definitely prefer attending to Morgana at feasts. And then the king insisted on everyone toasting my efforts at one point, and I didn't even get to drink for it. maybe if I keep doing it he'll stop drawing attention to it."

"Not if it's done so publicly." Arthur says, awake unexpectedly.

George actually straightens. Arthur didn't think it was possible. Apparently there really are times when George slouches slightly, no matter what Merlin says. "Your highness, is there anything I can get you?"

"Just breakfast and my clothes for training." Arthur says, pushing the bedclothes back and swinging his legs out of bed, rubbing the sleep out of his eyes and padding over to the table as Merlin waves her hand over the food to heat it up, George pulling out the chair for Arthur while Merlin sits down on the other side of the table as George gets his clothes.

"So, what's happening this morning?" Merlin says cheerfully, stealing a piece of bacon. "Torturing the new recruits?"

"They think they're good, but they have no idea what training is." Arthur shrugs. "It's my job to get them into shape."

Merlin picks up a slice of fried bread and breaks it in half. "While I learn the intricacies of some of the more tongue twisty spells." She sighs. "If I fall asleep, it's not my fault. Magic tomes are incredibly dry."

Arthur glares at the bit of bread in her hand. "Merlin, is George not feeding you?"

"Hmm?" Merlin asks whilst popping a bit of the bread in her mouth.

"Sire, Merlin is being provided with a very good breakfast as befits her new position." George says, sounding a little put out that Arthur's disparaging his efforts to be the most efficient and attentive servant in Albion.

"But she's still stealing bits of my breakfast." Arthur points out. "It's been a slice of bacon and one piece of fried bread so far. If it goes like the last few days, I’m going to lose a slice of black pudding or one sausage too." He cranes his head to assess her. "Where are you putting it? Did you do this to my sister's breakfast too?"

Merlin looks a bit guilty. "Morgana tends to graze her breakfast, so Gwen would bring up a big plate and we'd all take bits throughout and warm it up when it got cold again. It's habit."

"Is there any way for you to unlearn the habit?" Arthur demands. "Preferably quickly, for the sake of my stomach. Unlike my sister, I need this to fight on."

George coughs discreetly. It's never not going to make him sound like a sheep. "Ah, sire, I'd noticed that she was doing it and brought just enough extra to compensate for it. you are in fact eating the same size breakfast you normally do."

Merlin grins, and picks out a piece of black pudding. "See? George is a very efficient servant and very good at his job."

Arthur glares at her as she munches on the rest of the fried slice, black pudding in her other hand. "It's still a terrible habit that you should stop." Merlin raises an eyebrow and makes a stabby gesture with one hand, indicating quite clearly that if he was serious about it, she'd have been stabbed in the hand by now. "Merlin, I'm not about to do that at breakfast."

"What you’re saying is that you're still half asleep, so your vaunted reflexes are crap and you're afraid you'd miss and stab the table." Merlin says, pausing after swallowing her mouthful.

"Some of us are civilised." Arthur says, aiming a kick at her ankles.

"Tell that to someone who's not had bruised shins for years from you, pratface." Merlin says. "And you missed. You telegraphed it. You're going to have to get better at it if you're sharing a table with me for the foreseeable future."

"Kicking someone under the table is not a skill I can see that would be useful in honing." Arthur says.

"You says that now." Merlin says, moving her feet fully out of the way and getting up, stealing another bit of bacon for good measure.

"That reminds me, while I finish this, you'll need to change into hose and a tunic or shirt. And sturdy boots." Arthur says.

Merlin stops in the middle of raising the stolen bacon to her mouth. "Whatever for? Are we going rock climbing straight after?"

"Just put something resembling breeches on, Merlin." Arthur says.

"Worried that your new recruits might judge you for having a girl for a bodyguard?" Merlin sneers. "Hate to say this, Arthur, but I'm still really quite obviously a girl even in breeches."

Arthur rolls his eyes. "Just go change, Merlin." Merlin stomps off to her room, grumbling all the way.

Merlin follows Arthur down to the armoury. "Seriously, what do I need to be in these for? I'm perfectly capable of scrambling around in my skirts."

"You'll find out." Arthur says. When they get there, Leon and Elyan are waiting in amongst the racks of swords and pikes and armour. "Did you get what I asked for?"

Leon nods. "At least she's tall."

"At least I'm tall what?" Merlin asks suspiciously.

"Sorry about this, Merlin." Leon says as Elyan comes forward with a padded jerkin. Specifically, one of the ones that go under the mail coats the knights wear. Both of them shove her into it.

"What is this about?" Merlin asks as she pulls her plait out so it won't get trapped. And then Elyan produces the mail coat. "You're kidding. Whose idiot idea was this? Why on earth are you putting me in armour?"

"Group decision, I heard." Elyan says as he settles the distribution of the mail on her shoulders. "Pass the belt, Leon." He takes it from Leon and puts it round her waist, buckling it. "This'll take a fair bit of the weight off your shoulders."

"I still don't understand why you're putting me into armour." Merlin says. "is this revenge for me making you stop using Davey for target practice the other day? Because I'm not about to stop humiliating you for being an arsehole."

"Trust me, not even Uther thought you were about to stop yelling at Arthur when he made you his bodyguard." Leon says, picking up a coif and getting that over her head, again being careful of her plait. "You'll tuck that up inside the hood when you put this up or you've got a helmet, it'll add a bit of padding."

"Is that what all the hair's for?" Elyan asks, eyeing Leon's mane.

Leon tucks a bit behind his ear. "Not all of us can carry off the close cropped look."

"I still don't understand what this is for." Merlin says. "Am I being used for target practice and showing the new lot how to defend against magic?"

Arthur folds his arms, leaning against the wall, edge of his mouth turning up slightly. "Congratulations, Merlin, you've made the cut to join this training class for the knights of Camelot."

Merlin gapes. "You. Are. Kidding. Whose idiot idea was this? Did you take one too many hits to the head yesterday? Did the snake actually drip some poison into a wound and it got into your brain?"

"The King thought given the events of yesterday, it was clear that I should expect to be attacked by magic users during battle, not just at formal occasions." Arthur says. "And as you'd be accompanying me, you might as well have some training in how to defend yourself and not be a danger to others. Hence the mail shirt."

"I can't just wear a leather jerkin?" Merlin asks. "I'm barely going to be able to move in this."

"No, you're going to be trained as a knight." Arthur says, casting an eye over Leon and Elyan's work. "Look at it this way, Merlin, you'll stop endlessly whining about being bored."

"I hate you all." Merlin says.