“Are you alright, Merlin?” Arthur asked before doing anything else.
“Yeah, I’m fine.” Merlin replied, hurriedly letting going of his rib that was aching more than ever.
“You saved my life!” The boy suddenly said, climbing to his feet and staring at Arthur.
“I do it all the time. Ask him! He should know!” Arthur replied, waving a hand at Merlin and grinning.
“I’m Elliot.” The boy said, extending a hand to Arthur, a mask of utter amazement plastered all over his face and relief swimming in his large blue eyes.
“I’m Arthur and that’s Merlin.” Arthur said, taking the hand offered to him and shaking it.
“I thought I’d seen it all! What was that thing?” Merlin said, gazing at the dead beast.
“I’m no expert but I think it was a Behemoth.” Elliot said, going over to the creature’s carcass and kicking it to make sure it was dead.
“Why was it chasing you?”
“Don’t know. I was just doing sentry duty when it appeared out of no where.” Elliot explained, yanking his sword from the creature’s eye and wiping it on the grass before sheathing it into its scabbard.
“Sentry duty?” Arthur asked.
Arthur and Merlin both gave him blank looks.
“Well, come on! Where you been living? Don’t you know there’s a war on?” Elliot said, laughing as if it was some kind of joke.
“War?” They asked simultaneously, frowning with confusion.
“I take it your not from around here then?”
“We’re from Camelot.” Arthur said.
“Whoa! Shmancy! How’d you wind up here?”
“Long story.” Merlin replied.
“Long walk.” Elliot said.
“Walk to where?” Arthur asked.
“Camp of course! Look, I’m not supposed to let anyone into camp but you just saved my life and you look kinda lost so I’m gonna make an exception.”
“We are lost.” Merlin said before Arthur could deny the allegations.
“Come on then. I know loads of people who can help back at camp.” Elliot said, beginning to walk down the track and looking back at them expectantly.
They all began to walk down the path, leaving the dead beast where it lay, the light breeze ruffling its matted mane of ash coloured fur.
“So, what’s this long story all about?” Elliot asked.
“Don’t ask me. I was unconscious for most of it.” Merlin laughed.
“We were hunting and then this huge bear appeared from nowhere and attacked us-“ Arthur began but was interrupted.
“Is that how you broke your rib?” Elliot asked Merlin.
“How did you know?” Merlin frowned with confusion.
“I’ve seen enough injuries to know when something’s wrong. You lean over to your left side.”
“Anyway, like I was saying, it attacked us and we fell off into a river that carried us to somewhere where I was found by a gang of bandits who decided because we knew where their camp was that we had to be executed.” Arthur said.
“So they took us to these cages to be eaten crows.” Merlin added.
“You escaped the crow cages?!” Elliot exclaimed.
“Clearly.” Arthur pointed out, gesturing at his aliveness.
“No one’s ever escaped them before. My Uncle was caught once and…” Elliot trailed off.
“You mean this whole war thing is with them?” Merlin asked.
“Hang on, whoa, back up. Lets get thing straight. There’s no war going on in Camelot. Where are we exactly?” Arthur demanded.
“Well right now we’re kinda on the border between Camelot and Eldred.” Elliot explained.
“What’s this war all about anyway?” Merlin asked.
“Land. They came a few months ago and demanded our land. Of course we refused to let them have it so now they’re trying to take it by force. Like that’s ever gonna happen!” Elliot snorted.
“Who are they?” Arthur inquired.
“No idea. They came right out of the blue.”
“Their leader isn’t called Almaric by any chance?”
“You’ve met him then?”
By this time they had walked down the entire track, turned the corner and gone down the next track to the left.
“Right, well, here we are!” Elliot said smugly and waltzed down a smaller side path, Merlin and Arthur following.
They entered a clearing to find a huge camp with several tents on the ground and actual houses build amongst the treetops, long bridges linking them all together.
This camp, like the bandits camp, was teeming with life, dozens of people bustling about. This settlement differed from the other though as there where several women and children sitting around, the children playing a game of tag, one of them squealing as they were caught.
“Welcome to our camp! We…err don’t have a name for it yet.”
“You set this all up in a few months?” Arthur exclaimed.
“Pretty much yeah. Oh, look. That’s my twin sister Amy, there.” Elliot pointed to a pretty blonde girl who was coming towards them, her dark blue eyes flashing curiously at the newcomers.
“Who are…oh, wow! You are gorgeous! Umm…I mean hi…” Amy stuttered, her ears going a violent shade of magenta as she saw Merlin.
Elliot ignored this as though it happened all the time.
“Amy, Merlin, Merlin, Amy. Arthur, Amy, Amy, Arthur.” He said as they shook hands, the girl’s pink ears going scarlet as a slightly scared Merlin took her hand.
“I…umm…” Amy muttered and cleared her throat, “so…err…why exactly have you brought two strangers into camp?”
“They saved my life actually! I think they deserve our help. They’re from Camelot and they’re lost.” Elliot explained.
“Oh, really? You’ll be staying here a while then?” She asked hopefully, sending a shy smile at Merlin who thought it looked like a hungry shark.
“Until you can spare a guide to take us back home. We wont be any trouble.” Arthur promised.
“Oh, I wouldn’t mind if you were.” Amy giggled at Merlin who shifted uncomfortably.
“How’s father?” Elliot asked and the girl’s mischievous eyes became suddenly serious.
“Same as before. He was asking for you earlier. I’ll find them some food if you like.”
“Thanks.” Elliot nodded before bidding his leave.
“Come on, Merlin. I’ll cook you some rabbit if you want.” Amy said, grabbing Merlin’s sleeve and dragging him towards the camp.
Merlin sent a “HELP ME” plea over his shoulder at Arthur who was desperately trying to suppress a fit of laughter.