Merlin fell over his feet. Again. He did that a lot. Ususally he just picked himself up, brushed the dirt off his behind, perhaps grinning wryly at anyone who happened to have seen.
But today was different. He didn't want to be his ungainly self at that moment. Why did these things always happen to him? He could walk by Gaius without so much as a stumble but as soon as he was confronted with a girl, especially a pretty one, his feet got as tied as his tongue and behaved as if they belonged to a seven foot clown. On stilts. Doing somersaults.
And the girl who has come to see Gaius about her sick mother was pretty. Very pretty. Raven black hair framed her rose bloom cheeks. Large, expressive brown eyes were brightened by threatened tears and the lower lip of her very kissable mouth was trembling with suppressed emotion.
Kissable? Merlin blushed as he realised he was imagining what it would be like to plant a smacker on those lips. He didn't even know her name!
"Merlin. Merlin. MERRRLLLLIIINNNN!" Gaius' shouting jolted him out of his very pleasant day dream.
He jumped up from where he was watching from his room, tripped over his feet and fell down the steps, ending in a crumpled heap at the girls feet.
Not again! His face flamed with embarrassment and he hardly dared to look up. But when he did, the girl was looking at him with concern written all over her face.
"Are you allright?" she murmured. Her voice was like gentle rain on a warn summers evening, melting over him like honey.
"Mmmmmmm, errr, yes thank you" he said, struggling to his feet, pushing his hair out of his eyes so he could get a better look.
"Merlin, this is the Lady Gemma Wolferstan" interjected Gaius. "She has come to us from the neighbouring realm of Wethershire. Her mother is very ill and the physicians her father has brought in to find a cure are out of ideas. There is not much time. From the symptoms my lady has described, her mother is suffering from a sever case of Moochitis, a fever of the brain, brought on by being made to walk too far on that very hot day last week, too much of a shock to her system after spending the winter in a cold, unheated castle . The only cure is the leaf of the feverfew plant, which grows in only one place in the whole of Uther's kingdom."
Merlin did not like the look of Gaius' furrowed brow as he said 'only one place in the Kingdom' and groaned inwardly. He had a feeling he knew what was coming next.
"Merlin" continued Gaius, "I need you to accompany the Lady Gemma over the Majestic Mountains to the marshes of misery. I would not let her go for the world, but the plant has to be picked by a close relative for the antidote to work. You must be her protection on the way - and I need you to use ANY means possible to ensure her safe return.The Lady Gemma can be trusted. In her Kingdom, your, er, special gift, is not frowned on as it is here."
Merlin knew what Gaius meant by that. He was being told to use his magic. Although, he knew the journey would be full of perils, to be able to use his natural talents lifted his spirits somewhat. That, and the fact that he would be alone with Gemma for three, maybe four days was a huge incentive.
"Merlin," Gemma was looking down at him, ever so slightly. (Down he thought? Must find a spell for increasing height - that or magicking up a new pair of shoes). "I will be eternally in your debt if you assist me in this matter. My mother is very dear to me and my father will reward you richly. Well, he will reward you. Actually he may not but if he doesn't I will sell all that I own to make this dangerous journey worth your while"
Merlin looked down at Gemms (he was standing on tiptoe). "My lady" he said "It will be an honour to attend you on your journey. And please, I want no reward".
With that he bowed low in what he hoped would be a manly flourish, but he banged his head on the side of the table and fell in a crumpled heap at Gemma's feet. Again.