Back in Gaius’s chambers the man whose village had been attacked had been given a home in another part of the castle and Merlin had explained to Gaius about Uther and Arthur’s plan.
“I can only hope that everything goes according to plan. This is a very dangerous mission.” Gaius said.
“All missions Arthur goes on are dangerous.” Merlin pointed out, cocking his head cheekily.
“Yes I suppose your right there…” Gaius chuckled, “Anyway I have a dangerous mission for you.”
If Merlin had ears like say a cat or a dog he would have pricked them.
“What is it?” He asked.
“It’s a possibly life threatening task Merlin. Are you sure your up to it?”
“I’m up for anything!” Merlin said enthusiastically.
“I need you to get me some ginger root for me.” Gaius’s mouth twitched; with amusement at Merlin’s crest fallen face.
“Do you enjoy doing that?”
“Sometimes!” Gaius chortled, “Make sure you get a lot.” He called as Merlin slouched dramatically in pretend annoyance out of the room.
Merlin found a good few roots of ginger in the forest and it was getting towards dusk when he returned to give is findings to Gaius. He was about to open the door to Gaius’s chambers when he heard a voice calling his name.
It was that dragon again Merlin thought to himself. He was about to tell it to go away and mind its own business when he realized the last time he had ignored it he had almost turned into a snake. The dragon’s information (however riddled his words were) was valuable and had helped him countless times in the past. Merlin battled with his head and heart for a moment before giving in to his better instincts. Opening the door he promptly dumped the ginger roots on to a nearby shelf.
“Sorry Gaius can’t stay. I have to go…um…somewhere…” Merlin mumbled to Gaius and quickly rushed out again before he could ask any unwanted questions.
Merlin evaded the castle guards and trotted slowly down the stairs that led to the underground caves resentfully pondering on what he was going to say and what the dragon wanted him for in the first place.
The last time he and the dragon had spoken to each other he had sworn that he would not be coming back.
Before turning the last corner that would bring him face to face with the dragon Merlin took a deep breath. Tentatively he stepped around the corner.
The huge dragon was sat on its rocky perch like an abnormally large bird.
“Ahh. Merlin.” The dragon boomed. Merlin was about to speak but it stopped him, “No don’t. There is barely any time now. Arthur will (if he hasn’t already) found a ship that will take him to Edinburgh. You must go with him. There is danger ahead.”
What else is new Merlin thought.
“Can’t he ever stay out of trouble?!” Merlin said more to himself than to the dragon.
“Can you?” The dragon reply wisely. Merlin shuffled his feet.
“Did I not tell you there was little time young warlock? GO!”
Merlin had a sudden notion to ignore the dragon but knew that that was probably a bad idea so sighing heavily he retraced his steps back up the stairs.
Was he ever going to have a normal day he wondered. Well what now? Probably go and tell Arthur he was going to. Grudgingly he trudged towards the prince’s chambers where he imagined Arthur would be. He knocked on the door.
“What? Unless you have something important to say then don’t bother coming in.” Arthur sounded busy.
Merlin pushed open the door, entered the room and stood quietly by the wall. Arthur was pouring over a heap of maps and didn’t look up. Merlin cleared his throat to get his attention. Arthur jumped. He obviously had been to absorbed in the maps to notice anyone come in.
“What do you want Merlin?” Arthur said looking back down at the maps, slightly peeved that his servant had succeeded in making him jump.
Merlin hadn’t thought about what he was going to say when asked this question. He couldn’t exactly say, “Oh I’ve just been talking to a dragon and he said I had to come with you” and paused, looking for something to say.
“Erm…I think I should come with you. To Edinburgh I mean. I was umm…told…by…someone…to go with you.” Merlin chewed his tounge, wishing he had thought about what he was going to say earlier.
“That’s nice Merlin. You can’t come with me though.” Arthur said with an air of sarcasm. Merlin frowned.
“Its to dangerous.” Arthur still hadn’t looked up from the scrolls. This was bad. It appeared that Merlin had caught Arthur in a bad mood. He was obviously too busy to listen to some servant. It was to late to go back now though.
“But I have to come!”
“Why?!” Arthur looked up impatiently.
“I was told-“
“I don’t care if you were ordered Merlin! You’re not coming and that’s the end of it. Now would you kindly shut the door on your way out!”
Merlin ground his teeth with annoyance.
Merlin threw Arthur a steely look and went out of the room. AGH! Why was he so stubborn? How was he going to go now? He wondered the halls of the castle, racking his brains for an answer.
If the dragon said he was to go it was probably for a good reason. He had to go there was no doubt about that. He pulled a face, making a servant girl who was walking past stare at him oddly. Merlin gave her a sheepish grin and hurried off.
Then it came to him. He could stow away on the ship! That sounded like a reasonable plan didn’t it? Except he didn’t know which ship Arthur was taking to Edinburgh and there was no asking him, as he probably already suspected Merlin and wouldn’t tell him, though it was more like Arthur to give him the name of a completely different ship and have Merlin get lost.
He could get Gaius to cunningly ask Arthur, Merlin supposed. He wouldn’t tell Gaius why he wanted to know of course because that would arouse suspicions about the dragon. Merlin decided this was what he was going to do and changed his direction to Gaius’s chambers.
When he reached his destination he went in and sat opposite Gaius who was eating his dinner.
“Ahh, Merlin. Here’s yours.” Gaius pushed a bowl of slop towards Merlin. Being used to Gaius’s cooking by now Merlin began tucking in to the paste.
“Umm…I have a favour to ask.” Merlin deemed it as good a time as any to ask Gaius.
“I was wondering about which ship Arthur had chosen. I’m really interested in ships and stuff! Could you find out which one it is?” Merlin said in what he hoped sounded like a confident voice.
“Yes, I can ask Arthur if you’re to lazy to do it yourself, Merlin, if you really want me to.” Gaius said smiling.
Merlin sighed silently with relief that Gaius had not asked any questions.
“Thanks. Urm…seeing as the ships going tomorrow or something do you think you could find out today?” If Merlin was going to become a “stowaway” any time soon he needed to know as soon as possible.
“I guess I could yes. I’ve got a delivery to make near Arthur’s chambers today. I’ll ask him then.” Gaius looked slightly suspicious at this sudden interest in ships but seemed to ignore it.
Later on Merlin was waiting anxiously for Gaius’s return. The physician had gone to do a few late calls and had told Merlin he would ask Arthur which ship he was taking. Merlin heard footsteps in the passage out side the door and stood up, desperately hoping it was Gaius. It was.
“Did you ask him? Which ship is it?” Merlin asked, regretting the unintentional quickness in his voice. Gaius didn’t seem to notice this though.
“Yes, I asked. He’s found a ship and is taking it tomorrow morning.”
“What’s this ships name?”
“The Magnanimous I do belive. It is said to be the fastest ship in England!”
“Really?” Merlin was trying to back up his statement that he had an interest in ships, “Where is it docked?” Gaius gave him the name of the dock, “Are you sure?” Merlin asked.
“Quite. But Merlin why the sudden enthusiasm for-?”
“Oh do you hear that?” Merlin hastily cupped a hand to his ear, trying to change the subject, “I think it’s Arthur! Probably wants his boots polished!” Merlin quickly legged it out of Gaius’s chambers and hurried through one of the corridors to get away leaving a confused Gaius by himself.
Later, as Merlin still aimlessly wandered the corridors, he realized he had better prepare for the journey ahead and set of to the Magnanimous if he was to get there in time. It was pretty late now and Gaius was probably asleep. Merlin peeped into Gaius’s chambers and inspected it. Gaius was snoring loudly in his bed so Merlin crept in and went to his room.
He bundled all his clothes and belongings into a rucksack and scribbled a note to Gaius telling him were he was going and everything would be ok. He left the note on a table and crept back out again. He snuck through the castle and made sure no one saw him. It was getting pretty late and there were only a few guards here and there so it was relatively easy to find a horse and set of to the docks.