Merlin practically hid behind Arthur as Amy tried once again to get him to sit next to her while they ate the rabbit she had cooked over the fire that they were currently sitting before.
“I’ve got some more parsley over here Merlin if you want it.” She said, patting the log beside her and waving a bunch of green herbs.
“Umm…no thanks. I’m good.” Merlin mumbled and busied himself with taking a bite out of the rabbit he held.
Amy’s lib wobbled and she put the herbs down, hanging her head dejectedly.
“Aww, look, Merlin. You’ve gone and broken her heart!” Arthur teased, grinning devilishly.
Merlin said nothing but threw a murderous look at the prince.
Suddenly Elliot appeared from a tent and made his way over to Merlin and Arthur.
“I told my father about you and he wants to meet you.” He said.
Arthur discarded the remainders of his rabbit and followed Elliot back into the tent, Merlin scurrying along at his heels before Amy could do or say something to make him stay.
The inside of the tent was small and dark, only lit by a few small candles. In the centre, near the back, there was a small camper bed with a heap of animal skin rugs on it, moving up and down steadily as the person underneath them breathed.
As they drew closer they saw an elderly man was on the bed. He had long grey hair and a pale face, wrinkly and old. His right arm that was above the blankets was in a blood-incrusted sling, clearly broken.
“He was critically wounded in the last battle.” Elliot explained in a whisper at a questioning glance from Arthur.
“Elliot? Elliot, is that you?” The old man said at the sound of his son’s voice.
“Yes father, I’m here.”
“Help me up.” The man said and Elliot obediently propped the man up so that his legs were hanging over the side of the bed.
He took Merlin and Arthur in for a moment before speaking.
“My son tells me you saved his life from a Behemoth. I am grateful. My name is Adrian, the leader of these men. Do you wish to stay with us a while until we can spare you a guide?” He said in a cracked voice.
“If that would be possible, yes.” Arthur replied.
“Eh? What’s that? Speak up lad!” Adrian cupped a wrinkly hand to his ear.
“If that would be possible, yes.” Arthur said a little louder.
“Aye, very well, but you must earn your keep.”
“Of course but Merlin here has a broken rib. May he be excused?”
“A broken rib you say?”
“Elliot, have Bryce fix it up.” Adrian ordered and Elliot obediently took Merlin outside.
“I know you.” He stated, turning to Arthur, once they had left.
“You are the crowned prince of Camelot are you not? I saw you once on my travels.”
“Yes, I am.”
Adrian pondered over this for a while, almost for so long that Arthur considered getting up and leaving from the chair he had adopted.
“Will you please fetch my daughter Amy, dear boy?” The old man suddenly asked.
Arthur made his way out of the tent and went over to Amy who was poking the fire, dreamily staring at the sky.
She heard him approach and jumped up.
“Arthur? Can I ask you something?”
“Sure but your father wants you in the tent.”
“Yes, yes. Umm…what does Merlin like?” She said.
“Does he have a favourite type of food or thing or whatever?”
Arthur could see she was consulting him on what to get Merlin, as it seemed she had taken it upon herself to get him a present.
“He likes scarves. Red ones. You know the sort that hang round your neck.” Arthur replied, hiding an amused smirk badly.
A grin crept slowly across her face and she made her into her father’s tent, a thoughtful expression on her face.
Arthur chuckled to himself and looked around for Merlin who would be somewhere with Elliot and a physician, Bryce that Adrian had mentioned.
Sure enough Merlin was some way off sitting on a log, a big man with an even bigger moustache expecting his injuries. The man must have been Bryce as he was holding a box of surgical equipment and a bundle of bandages.
As Arthur got closer he could see the mans huge black moustache leaping up and down on his upper lip as he told Merlin to hold still for the tenth time as he tried to wrap a bandage over the gash on his chest.
It had healed well and seemed to have shrunk slightly and Arthur was glad that his friend would be all right.
“Ah, Arthur.” Elliot said as he came over, “Can you sharpen swords because if you can then that’s one of the things you can do to earn your keep like my father said.” He suggested.
“Right, go over there and find Alistair. He’ll get you started.”
“Will do.” Arthur nodded and walked over to where Elliot had pointed, behind one of the tents.
He found Alistair (a tall lanky boy with curly brown hair) and proceeded to sharpen a huge heap of swords that took him most of the day to finish.
He was taking a breather and watching the sun go down when Merlin, Elliot and Amy (clutched firmly onto Merlin’s arm like a leach) appeared.
“You done?” Elliot asked, inspecting one the swords with an expert eye.
“Right, well its time we found you somewhere to sleep. It’ll probably be one of the tree houses.” Elliot said, pointing to one of the wooden huts in the sky.
“I’ll get the mattresses!” Amy volunteered and reluctantly detached herself from Merlin’s arm, running off into one of the tents to fetch sleeping mats.
“Follow me.” Elliot waved a hand for them to come and made his way over to a long wooden ladder that led up to the labyrinth of tree houses.
Having climbed the stairs they wobbled their way across a dozen rope bridges to the central and largest house where they found a huge room with hundreds of mats on the floor and a few people already turned in for the night.
Amy appeared with two mattresses and two blankets and Arthur couldn’t help but notice she gave the thickest and more comfortable looking ones to Merlin.
Elliot found his own mat somewhere in one of the corners of the room and bayed them goodnight, leaving them to find their own spots amongst the hundreds of mattresses.
They found an empty patch and Arthur slammed his mat onto the floor, soon following it.
It was one of those mattresses that gave you the hint of comfort but not quite enough and instead just teased you into the thought of luxury but then made it worse because it wasn’t there for the taking.
Arthur pulled the blanket over himself and tried to ignore Merlin who kept tossing and turning and the man on the other side of him who was dribbling and snoring like a thunderstorm.
Yet another long night.