Looking around at the people about him Merlin saw Gwen and Morgana both had horrified expressions on their faces and hands clapped to their mouths. Gaius was standing resolutely with an unreadable expression on his face but the king’s reaction to the golden statue that was Arthur was by far the most worrying.
Uther looked like his ship had been capsized. Like his perfect little world had turned upside down. Basically like his son had turned into gold. As Merlin watched him his face contorted and morphed from immense confusion to horror to a sort of “what next” look.
“How?” Uther said in a strangled choke.
“We don’t know sire.” Gaius answered.
The king appeared to be in a logical mood today and pulled himself together.
“Can…can we move him?” He asked.
“I don’t know.” Gaius reply. “You can try.”
Uther took the statue by the shoulders and pulled with all his might but Arthur remained rooted firmly to the spot as if stuck there. It seemed that when he had turned to gold he had been glued to the floor.
“What do we do with him?” The king said, staring at his son and heir.
“Well-“ Gaius began.
“No. No. It is clear that a sorcerer did this. I shall have the kingdom searched immediately.” Uther began to head for the door.
“Wait sire. A search will not help anything. A sorcerer powerful enough to do this will never be found. We need to keep this matter hidden.” Gaius argued quickly.
“What do you mean?”
“If you let the people know what had happened to their prince they will panic. You must keep this a secret.”
The king mulled this over and seeing Gaius was right answered. He really was in a logical mood and it’s a good job he was considering the given situation.
“Well I would but the people expect him to fight in the tournament. I can’t say he’s ill. They’d never belive that.”
Gaius gazed at the floor in thought.
“I would suggest a knight to pose as Arthur but the less people who know about this the better. It will have to be someone here.”
“I’ll do it.” Uther said, puffing out his chest.
“But then how will you explain your absence?” Gaius reasoned and Uther deflated.
There was momentary pause and you could almost hear cogs grinding in the peoples heads.
“You’ll do it.” Uther suddenly said, eyeing Merlin.
“WHAT?” Merlin gaped.
“You’re the same height…you’re skinnier but with chain mail know one will notice…you’ll have to wear the helmet at all times of course…” Uther said assessing Merlin’s appearance.
“NO! NO! NO! NO! NO! There’s no way I can pass for Arthur! I’m useless with a sword!” Merlin desperately tried to reason with the king who suddenly looked insane.
“You’ll be using a lance.” The king retorted.
Morgana sniggered and Merlin silenced her with a look.
“It will only be until Arthur recovers Merlin.” Gaius said.
“NO! Seriously I’ll ruin his reputation! I’m not doing it!”
“I’m ordering you to impersonate my son.” Uther commanded with an air of satisfaction.
Merlin groaned inwardly. He couldn’t disobey a direct order from the king. He dreaded to think what Arthur would do it he could hear them.
“But how is he going to recover? We don’t even know who did it!” He said.
Uther adopted a more serious face and glowered at the ceiling in deep thought.
“Gaius, I want you in charge of keeping this from everyone. No one is to breath a word of this. Martin will pose as Arthur in the tournament. Mor-“ The king started issuing his orders.
“My name is Merlin.” Merlin growled.
“Merlin will pose as my son. Morgana and Gwen you are not to speak of this to anyone except to the people present. Gaius, I want an answer for this…” Uther waved a hand at Arthur, “…by the morning.” As the king finished he suddenly lost the strong outlook he had maintained and seemed to shrink.
“You should rest sire. I shall tell the people you were called away on an urgent matter.” Gaius said.
“No. No. I’m fine.” Uther said straitening up, “Arthur was to fight Knight Lambert in the next round so you’d better get Arthur’s armour on Melvin.”
“Merlin!” Merlin snarled angrily under his breath.
“Come Morgana.” Uther ushered Gwen and Morgana out of the room and left himself, taking one last look at his son.
“THIS IS MAD!” Merlin yelled to Gaius as soon as the door closed.
“I can’t do anything Merlin. I’m sorry.”
Merlin growled to himself but realized that having to impersonate Arthur was the least of his worries.
“How are we going to change him back? He can’t stay a statue the rest of his life!” Merlin asked, gesturing towards the stiff golden figure.
“I’ll take care of that. Do you want any help with the armour?”
Merlin wasn’t sure how Gaius could take care of it but he could hear the sound of a bored crowd outside the window.
“No. That’s ok. I’ll do it myself.”
“Ok. Make sure your careful out there.”
“Yeah…” Merlin said unsurely.
“You’ll be fine.” Gaius said, clapping the young man on the shoulder.