Merlin craned his neck to see out the window of the car. The palace loomed in front; he still had a hard time believing he'd be living and working here with his uncle, the Royal Physician. How in the world would he ever fit in? He was just a small-town country boy. All he knew about the Royals he read or saw on television. As they drove up to the front steps, he could see Gaius and two other people standing there, waiting. He quickly tamped down his excitement and waited for the car to stop.
Once it did, he waited for the driver to open the door. Merlin stepped out and Gaius walked right up to him. “Good to see you my boy.” He embraced his nephew warmly then turned to introduce the others. “This is Leon Knight, head of security and his colleague, Morgana Le Fay, head of magical security.”
Morgana approached first. “Good to meet you. I'm told you're quite handy with magic in addition to your medical skills.” She held out her hand to shake his.
Merlin blushed but shook her hand. “Yes, though I'm not as well trained in it. I was hoping Gaius could help a bit with that.”
“Of course,” the physician replied.
“Good to meet you Merlin,” Leon said, holding out his hand to shake Merlin's. “If you come with me I'll get your clearances and badge set up.”
The group of four walked up the steps into the palace. It was a long walk to the security office so Merlin got to see quite a bit of the palace on the way. He found it much more beautiful than he'd heard; his head turned all around. The others around him just smiled indulgently.
Once he was all set, Gaius took him to his rooms in the palace. There was a small room close by that Merlin would live in. He was just excited he'd get actually get to live there.
Gaius showed him all around his room and office then described Merlin's duties as his assistant. The Pendragons were a fairly healthy family, though the Crown Prince took his sports quite seriously and suffered several small injuries as a result. Gaius informed him that he'd get to meet the King and his son that night at a banquet celebrating twenty-five years of Uther's rule. The young physician was so excited he nearly tripped into Gaius's drug cabinet.
Later, Merlin went to his room to change for dinner. He was glad Gaius had told him everything he'd need for the job, which included a tux. He changed quickly and found Gaius waiting for him in the hall. “You ready to meet the family?” He asked.
“No,” Merlin replied with a nervous laugh. But he followed Gaius's when the old man started walking.
As they walked to the dining hall, they passed through the foyer again. A beautiful woman was walking through. He noticed an oddly-shaped bottle sticking out of her handbag. “That's Lady Helen Mora,” Gaius whispered.
“The famous singer?”
Oh, the bottle must be something for her voice, Merlin thought. “She's beautiful.”
“She's the King's special guest; she'll be singing at the banquet.”
“Fantastic.” And they'd reached the dining hall.
Several well-dresses dressed guests milled around, chatting with drinks in their hands. Merlin and Gaius went to the drinks station but only got sodas—tonight they were on duty.
A few minutes later the talk quieted and there were several taps on the floor. A loud voice announced the King and the Crown Prince. The King looked well for his age and entered smiling. Prince Arthur was only a couple years older than Merlin. And now that he saw him in person, he could see better why half the Kingdom was in love with him.
The King and Prince mingled for a few minutes before a gong sounded. The King made a short speech then invited everyone to sit. Lady Helen would perform first. She appeared at the opposite side of the hall, standing on a short dais.
She opened her mouth and the most beautiful voice Merlin had ever heard began echoing throughout the room. It had an ethereal, spellbinding quality. In fact, most everyone in the room seemed so transfixed that their eyelids were drooping. Merlin clapped his hands over his ears and watched a Count across the hall slump to the table. Around him, others began falling forward as well. Even stranger, cobwebs appeared and began draping themselves over everything. Lady Helen was a witch!
He watched to see what she'd do next; he was shocked to see her pull a dagger from the bodice of her dress. She stalked toward the head table and he followed her line of sight to Arthur. He looked up to see she was right under the massive chandelier, so he spoke a single word to send it crashing down onto her.
The people in the hall began waking. Arthur and Uther stood and gazed down at the witch. Her glamour flickered and she transformed into an old woman. Not Lady Helen. People began talking to each other, not watching the witch. Only Merlin saw her raise herself up enough to throw the dagger at Arthur.
Merlin jumped out of his seat and ran toward the Prince, consciously slowing down time on the way. He got there in time to pull Arthur out of the way of the dagger. It embedded itself into Arthur's chair as they fell to the floor. They got up slowly.
Both King and Prince stared at Merlin. Gaius rushed over to examine Arthur. Uther recovered enough to speak: “You saved my boy's life. A debt must be repaid.”
“Oh, well . . .”
“Don't be so modest. You shall be rewarded.”
“No, honestly, you don't have to, Your Majesty.”
“No, absolutely. This merits something quite special.”
“Well . . .”
“You shall be rewarded a position in the royal household. You shall be Prince Arthur's personal bodyguard.”
The entire room broke out into applause. Arthur thanked him graciously. Gaius patted him on the back. Morgana congratulated him on spotting the witch so soon. It turned out that Uther had condemned her son after he'd used his magic to rob and murder others. Naturally, “Lady Helen” didn't agree with that and felt that since he “took” her son she'd take his.
Merlin was gratified by all the attention. He'd thought he'd have a hard time fitting in here, but now he had two rewarding positions, a magic teacher and new friends. He had a feeling he'd fit in sooner than he thought.