When Sir Edwin greeted him with an amused smile and a, "Good morning, Sir Percival," Percy didn't think much of it.
When Sir Bors and Sir Kay did the same he began to be a little suspicious.
When Sir Rhys smirked at him on the way to his chambers and asked if he wouldn't be more comfortable bathing in the mill pond, Percy began to feel really very suspicious indeed.
Deciding that enough was enough, he sought the one person who could usually be relied upon to know all the notable goings-on in the castle, mainly because he was too often involved in them himself.
"Merlin," he said, aiming the question at what he certainly hoped was Merlin (it was rather hard to tell) and trying not to draw any undue attention to himself. "Something's wrong! Everyone keeps using my title, and now Sir Rhys wants me to bathe in the mill pond."
Merlin carefully withdrew his head and shoulders from the large cauldron he was scrubbing in the shade of the kitchens (it was the annual spring clean) and stared at Percy. "Sir Rhys wants you to do what?"
Perhaps Percy could have phrased that better. "Er... I mean, I think there's something going on. Something... bad."
"Because everyone is being polite to you?" Merlin asked, dubiously.
"Well, yes." Percy began to wish he'd thought this through a little more.
Merlin frowned, rubbing absently at his cheek and only succeeding in spreading grease all over his face. "Maybe it's a new thing?" he suggested.
Percy wrinkled his nose, confused.
"Like with King Asrin." Merlin continued helpfully. Percy blanched slightly as he realised what Merlin was referring to; he certainly hoped not. When King Asrin had visited, all the lesser Knights and servants had been forced to adopt the customs of his court and avert their eyes from his exalted personage. Percy had spent so much time averting his eyes that he had walked into two suits of armour and fallen over a stray chicken in the middle of the courtyard. The bruises had lasted a long time.
"But there isn't anyone visiting at the moment," he pointed out.
Merlin pulled a face, shifting the cauldron until it was resting properly on the floor, then stretching his arms, first one, then the other, as he arched the kinks out of his spine. "Hmmm, why don't you ask Arthur then? I'm sure he'd know if—"
"No, no," Percy cut in hastily, before Merlin could do something awful like march him down to the training grounds, cauldron grease and all, and drag Prince Arthur out of his afternoon practice with the swordmaster (it wasn't like he hadn't done it before). "I'll ask someone else, I just thought you might know."
"Oh." It was possible Merlin looked slightly disappointed at not having an excuse to drag the Prince off the training grounds. Then he brightened, "You could try Geoffrey? I heard he's working on a new project for the King, maybe he's found some old rule of protocol or something? Unless," he finished with a barely concealed grin, "your father has written to request you be treated with the respect due to your station?"
Percy stared at him in horror and Merlin's grin became a snort of laughter. He swung the cauldron back between his knees and stuck his head back inside, still sniggering, his voice echoing oddly. "Good luck, Sir Percival!"
Percy resisted the urge to stick his tongue out — because he was a Knight of Camelot (and because the Head Cook was watching). Instead he made his way towards the library where Geoffrey was most often to be found. This short journey was a little less traumatic, as he only got 'Sir'd twice and no-one mentioned bathing at all.
He found Geoffrey in a small alcove, leaning over a large desk which held numerous rolls of parchment, tilting a large piece towards the window to catch the afternoon sunlight.
Percy hovered for a moment in the archway before he tried clearing his throat. Geoffrey failed to react at all so Percy cleared his throat a little louder, still to no avail. On the third attempt Percy took a deep breath, inadvertently inhaled a lot of dust and began coughing all over a very delicate looking Seal of Nobility belonging to Sir Ethelbert of Mona.
That seemed to work quite well.
By the time Geoffrey had checked the Seal of Nobility for damage three times, and then fetched Percy a goblet of water from the jug on the windowsill, Percy was beginning to wonder if Geoffrey was going to tell him anything at all.
"Well?" Geoffrey said at last, glaring at Percy — who was trying not to be distracted by the rather fearsome eyebrows. "What do you want?"
Percy coughed a little more. Geoffrey moved the rolls of parchment back several more inches. "I really am sorry about—" Percy began, but Geoffrey waved away his apologies impatiently. Percy took another sip of his water and put the goblet down. "I was just wondering about this... project you're working on?" he tried.
Geoffrey very pointedly moved Percy's goblet off of the delicate woodcut he had mistaken for a tray. Percy felt mortified.
"Er..." he didn't dare apologise again, "Is it to do with titles and protocol or..." he trailed off slightly as Geoffrey turned those terrifying eyebrows on him once more, "...anything like that?" he finished, rather feebly.
Geoffrey fixed him with a steely eye. "As I'm sure the whole court is aware, the King has asked me to record the history of our great Kingdom."
"Oh," said Percy — who had somehow managed to miss this news, "So, no new protocols then?"
Geoffrey looked scandalised, "I record facts! It is not for me to make up new anything."
"Right," said Percy, "Of course, I'm sorry I—"
"I am only interested in recording the deeds of our King and his family and of his Knights, for the glory of—"
"Did you say his Knights?" cut in Percy. "Er... sir."
Geoffrey stopped speaking and raised a haughty eyebrow. "Of course. One of my tasks has been to record, for posterity, the background and immortal deeds of the Knights of Camelot."
Percy swallowed. "I wouldn't happen to be in there... would I?"
"Of course. I wrote your entry myself, only yesterday."
The vague sense of unease that had followed Percy all morning coalesced into what was most definitely a Bad Feeling. "But I haven't told you..." his voice was coming out a little strangled, so he tried again. "That is, I haven't told you anything about my background."
Geoffrey waved a hand, dismissively. "You needn't worry, your sister was more than helpful." He rifled through a stack of parchment on the shelf to his right and passed a densely written page to Percy, who was too busy gaping at him at first to take it.
Percy dragged his gaze down to the top of the sheet and began reading.
He read it all the way through once. Then he read it again. Then, just for good measure, he read it through a third time.
Then he went to find Isolda.
Percy's initial plan to track down his sister and demand she take back every scurrilous and untrue thing she had told Geoffrey immediately, was somewhat undermined when he marched around the corner of the guardhouse and onto the archery field — to find himself confronted with Isolda, Lady Fleur, Lady Morgana and her handmaiden Guinevere.
"Percy, what a pleasant surprise," said Lady Morgana, looking most amused as Percy came to a halt and glared accusingly at Isolda. "Were you looking for your sister?"
"Yes, I was!" said Percy rather indignantly, before realising where he was and who he was talking to. "Er, I mean, yes my lady." Belatedly, he became aware that he was standing with his hands on his hips, frowning disapprovingly in what was probably an uncanny impersonation of his old nurse, and that Isolda's face had gone quite red with the effort of suppressing her laughter.
Percy relaxed his arms in what he hoped was a casual and unhurried fashion and tried to look like he wasn't thinking about sending his sister to a nunnery (especially while she was holding a weapon). "Please forgive me for interrupting your practice."
Lady Morgana smiled graciously, while Isolda just grinned like the unprincipled hoyden she was, and said, "We are honoured by your company, now that you're an illustrious Knight of Camelot, and with an entry in the Annals no less." She stopped smirking long enough to give a deep sigh. "I hardly expected you to still remember your poor sister."
Considering his 'poor sister' had only recently stopped sneaking into the Knights Wing to steal his practice sword from his bedchamber, Percy was not at all taken in by this show of humility. "Yes, well," he said firmly, "It is about that that I wish to—"
"Oh, it's my turn," Isolda interrupted, thrusting a stack of newly fletched arrows into his arms, "Hold these a moment."
"Of course, but I—"
Ignoring him, Isolda stepped forward, fitting an arrow to her bow and lining up her shot carefully, before she loosed the string and shot the arrow unerringly into the centre of the target at the other end of the field, earning herself a round of applause from the other three. She curtsied, laughing, before turning back to Percy. "Sorry, what was it you wanted to speak with me about?"
Knowing his sister as he did, Percy should not have been surprised to find himself, some ten minutes later, sandwiched between Isolda and Lady Fleur (who had kindly moved aside for him with a shy smile), still holding the arrows and attempting to remonstrate with his sister entirely in whispers.
"Isolda, I insist you go and speak with Geoffrey at once," he hissed as Lady Morgana hit the target just off centre — to groans of sympathy from her audience — before she passed her bow to Guinevere for her (more successful) attempt.
"I have no idea what you mean Percy," Isolda replied virtuously, "I told him nothing that wasn't true."
"You told him I was born and raised in a forest!"
Isolda blinked at him innocently, "But you were. The castle is surrounded by forest."
That was... true. But, "You know very well that's not what Geoffrey thought you meant!"
"Isn't it?" said Isolda, "Oh dear." She stopped to clap Lady Fleur, who wasn't quite as adept as the others, but who had at least improved enough to stop worrying the page hovering in attendance a good twelve feet away from the target. Percy couldn't really clap without dropping all the arrows, so he smiled at Lady Fleur instead and she promptly blushed and fumbled her bow, which made him feel terribly awkward as he really hadn't meant to embarrass her.
"And I was not raised ignorant to the ways of men!" Percy continued, trying not to sound too sulky as Isolda completed another (perfect) shot.
Isolda snorted. "You mistook father's currant wine for raspberry cordial and passed out drunk in the entrance hall when you were fifteen, Percy."
Percy hardly thought it fair to bring up things that may or may not have happened some years ago. "Even if that were true," (which it wasn't. Well, probably not – Percy's memory of the event was still hazy), "I do not recall ever being so ignorant as to bathe in the mill pond!"
Isolda smirked, "Did I say bathe in the mill pond? Oops, I meant swim in the lake." She sighed. "These things get very confusing, I think it must be the heat." At which point she swept a weak hand across her brow, as if she might be about to swoon.
Percy pulled a face which he hoped adequately conveyed just how little sympathy he had for her convenient attack of heat stroke. "You needn't try that. I was there when you nearly burned down the hay barn, remember—"
"A simple mistake," said Isolda, recovering enough to snatch a fresh arrow.
"—and then pretended to cry when father found out!"
"Sometimes desperate measures are called for," Isolda replied, loftily. "And anyway," she said, raising her voice so the others could hear, "It's too late to change it now because William Bard is already writing a song about you."
"Oh yes," said Isolda, "He's already on the seventh verse — I think he's just working on a rhyme for 'valiant steed'. Apparently no-one's seen him so enthusiastic about a song in years, and he's been so unwell these past months that I'm sure no-one would begrudge him his enjoyment of Sir Percival of the Wild and Noble Heart."
"The wild and noble—?" Percy said, aghast.
"And he still has that terrible cough," went on Isolda, looking sad.
"And a limp," put in the Lady Morgana.
"Oh yes, and a limp too. Truly I think to stop writing it now would break his heart." Isolda broke off, taking a moment to collect herself. Percy began to get a feeling of impending doom.
"But still," he said, weakly, "It's hardly right that he should…" he trailed off.
"It sounds a most exciting tale," ventured Lady Fleur.
"It does indeed," said Lady Morgana.
"Thrilling," said Isolda. Behind her, Guinevere cast him a look of mingled sympathy and amusement.
Percy felt himself wavering. If the man was truly ill... "I suppose it wouldn't be," he swallowed, "it wouldn't be so bad."
Lady Morgana beamed at him approvingly and Percy felt himself go bright red — which would, he thought, be the exact moment Prince Arthur arrived — looking tired from practice, waterskin in hand.
"Really Percy," the Prince drawled, "When I gave my Knights the afternoon off, I hardly expected you to spend it flirting with Morgana."
"I wasn't!" Percy stammered at once, his face now so red he half expected it to catch fire. "I was just—"
But before he could say any more Lady Fleur, to everyone's surprise, broke in. "Sir Percy was kind enough to visit his sister," she said stoutly, looking rather amazed at her own daring.
The Prince looked highly amused. "My apologies, my lady," he said, inclining his head, "I stand corrected."
Lady Fleur managed a small curtsey in reply and then became extremely interested in her bowstring.
"Was there something you wanted, Arthur?" said Lady Morgana, after shooting Lady Fleur an approving smile, "Because if you're looking for Merlin, I'm afraid he isn't here."
Prince Arthur gave her a withering look, "Of course I'm not looking for Merlin. I was merely taking a walk around the grounds."
"Of course you were," said Lady Morgana, smirking.
The Prince scowled. "Don't you have anything you're allowed to be doing? Some embroidery, perhaps?"
Lady Morgana gave a pained sigh, "You're absolutely right. I was just saying to Gwen how fatiguing this archery business can be, wasn't I Gwen?"
"You were my lady," said Guinevere promptly.
"And I should hate for my aim to slip, and lose Camelot its heir." She paused, seemingly horrified by the thought, and Percy heard Isolda snort. "Imagine," she continued, "I might have to rule in your place!"
The Prince glared at the group, who were all, except for Percy and Lady Fleur, badly hiding smiles. "In that case, I'd best leave you to it — your aim is poor enough already."
Lady Morgana grinned, apparently having won the point somehow. "Good luck finding Merlin!" she said, carefully selecting a new arrow.
"I am not looking for him!" snapped the Prince.
"Arthur!" panted Merlin, bursting onto the archery field as if on cue, and clutching his side. "The steward said you were looking for me? Are you all right?"
Prince Arthur fixed him with the glare Percy had seen silence even the bravest of knights.
"What?" said Merlin, straightening up.
Arms folded, the Prince seemed determined to ignore the outbreak of muffled laughter behind him. "I'm sure I said no such thing," he said, firmly, before eyeing Merlin's grubby face with something like disapproval. "What on earth have you been doing?"
"Oh," said Merlin, looking relieved that nothing disastrous had happened, "I was scrubbing the cauldrons."
"With your face?" Prince Arthur asked, pointedly.
"With my...? Oh!" Merlin rubbed at his cheek, managing to spread the grease right up to his hairline, "Is it gone?"
The Prince rolled his eyes, "Idiot, give me that," and he promptly tugged Merlin's ever-present neckerchief off, wet it with his waterskin and, before Merlin had managed more than a cursory protest, began scrubbing at Merlin's face.
"Hey!" Merlin tried unsuccessfully to pull away, "You can't just—"
"There!" said the Prince, thrusting the sodden and dirty bit of cloth back into Merlin's hands. Merlin glared at him, one side of his face a bright (and very clean) pink.
There was a silence as the Prince seemed to remember his audience. Percy noticed the Lady Morgana was actually shaking with laughter, and Guinevere and Isolda were not far behind. Even Lady Fleur looked rather taken aback.
For one disconcerting moment Percy thought the Prince was embarrassed, before he stepped back from Merlin and barked, "Next time, make sure you are fit to be seen!"
Percy thought he heard Merlin mutter something about "the state of my neckerchief, and it's the red one," before he sulkily said, "Fine, I apologise for coming to see if you were all right, Sire." The Prince ignored him. Merlin looked around, as if only just taking in the ladies, Percy and the archery butts. "What are you doing down here, anyway?"
"I was taking a walk," said the Prince, as if daring anyone to suggest otherwise.
"Oh," said Merlin, "I thought you might have been talking to Percy about the new protocol, or whatever it is."
Oh right, that. For a few blissful minutes Percy had actually forgotten about the horror that was his impending immortality in verse.
"The what?" said the Prince, sounding confused.
Merlin looked at Percy, "Didn't you find out what it was?"
Isolda turned to look at him. So did everyone else. Percy swallowed, and tried to remember that his father didn't hold much with reading anyway, and would likely never ever see it (or hear it, if Percy was really lucky). And then he reminded himself that William Bard had a terrible cough. And a limp.
"It seems," he began, then cleared his throat and tried again. "It seems William Bard is writing his new song about me."
Isolda grinned. Even Prince Arthur looked vaguely impressed.
Merlin, however, looked delighted. "Excellent," he said, "Is there likely to be a feast to celebrate, do you think?"
Percy had one more thing to do before he went to bed that night. Ignoring all thoughts of fearsome eyebrows he made his way back down the corridors to the library — where a single brace of candles revealed Geoffrey, making annotations to a large, illuminated manuscript.
This time Percy made sure to clear his throat very loudly, and at a safe distance from any potentially fragile artifacts.
Geoffrey glared at him, "Not you again!"
"I'm sorry to disturb you, sir," said Percy, "but I need to make a small correction to my entry in the Annals."
Geoffrey stared at him as though Percy had just asked to use his collection for firewood. "A correction? I'm afraid you are too late, the piece is finished."
"It's only one word, on one line, sir," said Percy hopefully, "I wouldn't want there to be any mistakes."
Geoffrey harrumphed a bit at that, but dug around until he had found the correct piece of parchment. "Well? What is this correction you think so important?"
Percy took a deep breath and thought of the one thing his sister had helpfully omitted. "I think my sister might have misled you as to her name, sir. She is known to all as Isolda - her second name and the one our mother gave her - but my father named her for his second cousin," When Geoffrey continued to look sceptical, Percy decided to throw caution to the wind and added, "His second cousin was sister-in-law to an Archbishop." It was almost too much to hope that Geoffrey shared his father's views on the subject (Isolda had often said their father was like to have the words inscribed upon his tomb), but after a worryingly long moment, Geoffrey reached grudgingly for his quill.
"Very well then, but only the one word."
"Yes, sir," said Percy, relieved. He took a deep breath, and made a mental note to keep his chamber door locked from now on. And hide his sword. "Her given name is Dindrane, sir."
Geoffrey continued to look most put out, even as he made the correction. "I shall have to tell William Bard you know," he said grumpily, "He is writing a song about you."
"Oh," said Percy, as if he hadn't thought of that at all, "I hope he won't mind, I know Isolda would hate for him to be inaccurate."
This is based on the following pieces of legend, gleaned from
Wikipedia extensive research.
There are many versions of Percival's birth. In most accounts he is of noble birth; his father is either King Pellinore or another worthy knight. His mother is usually unnamed but plays a significant role in the stories. His sister is the bearer of the Holy Grail, she is sometimes named Dindrane. After the death of his father, Percival's mother takes him to the Welsh forests where she raises him ignorant to the ways of men until the age of 15. Eventually, however, a group of knights passes through his wood, and Percival is struck by their heroic bearing. Wanting to be a knight himself, the boy travels to King Arthur's court, and after proving his worthiness as a warrior he is knighted and invited to join the Knights of the Round Table. In early versions, Percival's sweetheart was Blanchefleur and he became the King of Carbonek after healing the Fisher King, but in later versions he was a virgin who died after achieving the Grail.
Uh... obviously I have used this research selectively to fit my character (no-one is dying young thank you). Apologies to Arthurian scholars!