When a mysterious letter arrives in Camelot demanding total rule over England Merlin and Arthur must travel to Scotland to find out what's going on. But is every thing that simple...
Merlin’s eyelids flickered open and he looked at the canopy of trees above him. Faint rays of sunlight shone pleasantly through the gaps between the leaves and dappled his face in light. Merlin enjoyed the warmth of the sun for a moment. Birds of all sorts were twittering softly in the background like they should and there was a warm, gentle breeze ruffling his hair. Merlin patted the grass around him in search of the strawberries he had found and picked earlier.
He found one and popped it in to his mouth; letting the refreshing fruit juices wash around his taste buds. He liked strawberries. Especially freshly picked, wild ones.
He had firstly come to the forest to get away from Gaius who had ordered Merlin to clean his room or else but secondly he had come because it was a peaceful place to practice. He had smuggled his spell book out of Camelot under his coat and had planned to practice some spells in the forest but he had been distracted by the faultless weather and the patch of strawberries and had taken to lazily snoozing, leaning on a tree trunk.
Having finished the strawberry Merlin looked down beside him in search of more. Oh great! There was only one left. And what’s more it was tiny. He held the fruit up and looked at it crossly. Why couldn’t it have grown bigger? Mildly disgruntled at the size of the strawberry he picked up his spell book and studied it, flicking the pages slowly. At length he came across an enlargement spell. It looked quite difficult but never the less he waved his hand over the strawberry and recited the words from the book.
“Arisol mae thendae.” He muttered. The strawberry promptly grew at least three times bigger. Contentedly Merlin ate the strawberry and gathered his things to leave. He didn’t really want to go but he knew he couldn’t stay there forever. He took his time walking back to Camelot wanting to relish the agreeable summer weather. Vaguely he wondered what Gaius had meant by “or else”. Perhaps he should hurry after all.
When he reached Gaius’s quarters twenty minutes later he firstly peered through the keyhole to see if the physician was in side. Not seeing any one Merlin snuck in and went into his room. It was pretty messy. He looked at the clothes strewn about the floor and bit his lip. There was no way he could clean this up before Gaius came back. A sneaky grin grew on his face and he once again consulted his book.
When Gaius returned he found Merlin apparently swatting up on some herbal remedies and a spotless room.
“Did you do that?” Gaius asked in disbelief, pointing his head in the direction of Merlin’s room.
“Yeah.” Merlin grinned boyishly. It was the truth, he had cleaned it himself but if asked whether or not he had used magic he would have had to answer differently. Gaius seemed to stunned to answer and all he could do was beam proudly.
Suddenly a shout made its way from the open window.
“MAKE WAY! MAKE WAY!” It was said in a strong Scottish accent and shouted loudly with no politeness what so ever.
Merlin and Gaius curiously stuck their heads out of the window and looked down at the vast Camelot courtyard.
A horse and rider were galloping over the stone, throwing innocent bystanders left and right as they went. The rider had violent ginger hair, a thick curly beard and was wearing a huge red cloak that billowed out behind him like a pair of wings. Craning his neck further from the window Merlin saw a familiar blonde head enter the scene and challenge the rider.
“I am Prince Arthur. What is your business here?” Arthur asked with a tone of voice he used for intruders. The man swept of his horse, his cloak flying majestically out behind him, altogether ignored Arthur’s question and proceeded to walk with measured strides up the steps into the castle.
Arthur and a couple of guards drew their swords and commenced to race after the strange visitor.
Merlin and Gaius exchanged glances and obviously sharing the same thoughts hurried out of the room and followed the way to the conference hall. As they had guessed the bizarre visitor had indeed gone straight to the hall and had found the king there.
Uther who had been bent over a pile of papers and scrolls stood up angrily as the man burst into the hall with Arthur hot on his trail.
“What is going on?!” The king boomed indignantly.
“I tried to stop him!” Arthur pointed his sword at the newcomer’s throat, as did the guards. The man took as much notice of the weapons pointed at him as if Arthur and his guards were nothing but children getting in the way. He jabbed the nearest guard away with a cucumber like finger and continued towards the king.
Uther recoiled away trying to draw a sword from his belt that wasn’t there. The man reached the king and held out an arm as straight as a post toward him. Between his fingers poked a letter with a big red seal. Uther looked down at the letter that was being pointed at him in way a rabbit might look at a fox. Tentatively he reached out a hand and took the letter. Not wavering his eyes from the intruder he opened it and beckoned Arthur to come to him. Arthur complied and edged around the stranger, whilst glaring at him, to his father.
“Read it.” Uther said, taking Arthur’s sword and pointing it in a hostile manner at the man. Arthur, it seemed, had wanted to know what the letter said before any one else and spluttered at what he read.
“This cannot be serious!” He spat savagely.
“Read!” Uther ordered. Arthur, with a mixture of anger and disbelief plastered on his face began to read the letter loud and clear.
“I, King Argus of Edinburgh here by claim rule over the entire country of England and demand you give up your rein to me. If I do not have your total surrender by the end of this month I shall be compelled to take England by force.” Arthur flared up fiercely, “This is absurd!”
Merlin gasped in horror as Arthur finished reading, as did the entire court. Murmurings and hushed voices sounded through out the room.
“Is this some form of joke?!” Uther snapped at the man whose throat still had his sword grazing it, “Who are you?!”
The man spoke for the first time in a deep Scottish voice.
“I am King Argus’s (long may he live) royal messenger. And this is no joke.” He said without a flicker of respect for Uther. Arthur exchanged confused expressions with Uther.
“What are they going to do?” Merlin whispered to Gaius.
“Who can tell?!” Gaius replied.
“I’ll have him arrested!” Arthur was about to order his men to take the messenger away.
“No. That won’t help matters.” Uther looked at the floor in deep thought. Merlin caught Arthur’s gaze and raised his eyebrows questioningly. Arthur shrugged seriously as a reply. Uther appeared to have reached a decision.
“Tell your master that if he wants England then he shall have to fight for it!”
Cheers erupted around the courtroom and many of the more bold men through catcalls and snide comments at the Scottish messenger.
The Scot lifted his head arrogantly, jutting his jaw out fiercely and sailed out of the hall with out so much as a word. Merlin watched him go quietly. He had a feeling things were going to get worse before they got better.
Later on that week another visitor entered Camelot. He was a peasant from a village on the outskirts of Camelot’s kingdom and carried with him more bad news.
“We were attacked with out warning by Scottish raiders but a day ago!” The man was saying, “Our village burns! The raiders left only me alive and sent me here with this message.” The man cleared his throat nervously; “They said they would pick us off one by one until England is fraught with havoc and death!” The man was almost in tears at what he had lost.
“Have your manservant take him away.” Uther told Arthur who was standing horrified by his side. Arthur nodded his head at Merlin and he and Gaius led the man out of the courtroom.
“Go and find out what you can about this.” Gaius told Merlin, “I’ll take care of him.” He indicated the weeping wreck of a man at his side. Merlin nodded and went back to the courtroom.
Uther was once again deep in thought as was Arthur.
“We can’t risk a war. We have enough trouble as it is! Besides they don’t even know the reason they want England! And why come to us? There are many other rulers in Britain.” Arthur voiced his doubts to his father.
“So many unanswerable questions.” Uther sighed heavily.
“We could to reason with them. Find out why they want this. I could go to Edinburgh with a peace treaty.”
“Since when did you get such good ideas?”
Arthur grinned slightly. Merlin also grinned from his post near the door. That’s what he would have suggested had he been Arthur.
“Though perhaps not…” Arthur seemed to be rethinking his thoughts.
“Well the Scottish will be protecting their borders and as they seem pretty angry nowadays then it would be hard going to travel through Scotland if not impossible.”
The two men both considered this new difficulty.
Merlin didn’t understand why it was so hard. All they had to do was travel by sea and that would be completely out of the Scots way. Before he could stop himself he was letting his voice echo around the courtroom.
“Just go by sea!”
Arthur and Uther looked up from their thoughts, slightly startled.
“Excuse me? Who are the experienced ones here?!” Uther growled.
Merlin could have kicked himself. Why did he always have to go and open his big mouth? This was surely going to land him in the stocks. Fortunately Arthur interrupted his father before he could say anything.
“ He might be an idiot but he’s got a point. They won’t expect anything from the sea.”
Uther had the appearance that he was mulling this over.
“I suppose its possible…” Uther rubbed his forehead.
“I can have a ship ready in two days. I’ll need some men. Can we spare any?”
“Yes…I suppose.” The king appeared to have made up his mind, “I agree but on one condition.”
Arthur rolled his eyes. He sometimes wished his father would treat him more like an adult and not a child.
“Yes father. I’ll have a ship by tomorrow.” Arthur promptly left the room.