Set around the time of the episode "The Lady in the Lake"
If he kept his eyes closed for the first few moments after he woke, it was easy to pretend this was Camelot. It was easy to imagine he was about to be woken by a gentle shove to his shoulder by his father or sister. The sounds from the world outside the smithy's wall was Camelot waking up to greet the day. The smell of bread baking was given off by the bakery owned by Carys, not a little, old man who hated everybody with the same passion he loved his baking. Alas, Elyan had to open his eyes eventually. He had to actually wake up and knuckle the sleep from his eyes, revealing the tiny room he shared with Master Louis' apprentice, a beefy teen named Erik.
Elyan sighed as he sat up on his cot. Erik peered at him through a slightly open eye from his position face down on his cot. "What would it take for you to start the fires today?", the boy asked him.
Shaking his head, Elyan grinned. "Nope. You decided to drink too much last night. You get to reap the rewards." He patted the blond on the shoulder as he passed by on his way to clean up and get ready for the day. "Better get a move on, though. Master Louis will be up soon and you know he'll want everything ready."
By the time Elyan was washed up and dressed, Erik had restarted the fire he'd banked the night before, getting the forge prepped for the day's work. They had a standing order for blades for Cenred's army that Master Louis wanted to start that morning. The blades would be nothing to write home about, which Elyan hadn't been doing anyway, just simple soldiers' swords, but they were honest labor in a forge. Elyan had spent too much time these last few years just knocking around, working when he needed to eat, and not quite staying out of trouble.
Forging swords was familiar, and the sound of hammers striking the metal was comforting. Drawing the metal out to the proper length was a soothing task, even with Master Louis looking over his shoulder the entire way. By the end of the day his arms were tired and he was ready to relax. He carefully put away the three swords he'd been working on throughout the day and stretched.
"Good work today, Elyan." Master Louis was parsimonious with praise, so Elyan's surprise was justified as he mumbled his thanks and felt a flush cover his cheeks. It had been a long time since he'd heard that tone of pride in someone's voice when they spoke to him. Before he'd left home, he and his father fought more than anything else. It was why he'd left, and, even though he missed Camelot with every fiber of his being, why he stayed away. Too many words had been spoken between father and son for forgiveness to be easy on either side.
A few days later Elyan wrapped up swords to be brought to the cutler for their hilts. This was generally Erik's job, but the boy had come down with some sort of ague and was being doted on by Master Louis' daughter. If Elyan wasn't mistaken, there was more than simple charity going on there. He wouldn't be surprised if Erik ended up becoming Master Louis' son-in-law. He was chuckling at the thought when the door to the shop opened and a player of some sorts walked in.
"Excuse me, I'm looking for a smith called Elyan." Master Louis pointed his way and the young man nodded his thanks. "You Elyan?"
"I am." He cast back in his memory for any clue who this might be. He couldn't remember him.
The young man dipped his hand into his purse and pulled out a small letter. "I was asked to give you this if I found you. By a maid at the court of Camelot." He shrugged. "I've been asking at every smithy we came across. Glad I finally found you."
Elyan took the letter gingerly, as if it would bite him. A maid at Camelot. It could only be Gwen. "Thank you. Did she pay you?"
He shrugged again. "Her Ladyship gave me some coin. It was nearly a year ago. Truth to tell, I'd nearly given up hope of finding you. It's habit that I still look, I guess." The player grinned. "We're actually on our way back to Camelot after this. I can tell them I found you. Should I wait for a response?"
Elyan nodded. "Yes, please. Let me just read this."
"Surely." Master Louis clapped a hand on the player's shoulder and pulled him to the other side of the room where he had cider to give Elyan a bit of privacy.
His sister's neat hand addressed the letter. He didn't know why he was so afraid to open it. He thought of the angry words he and his father had exchanged in the days before Elyan left, and the looks of disappointment and sadness Gwen gave both of them. Taking a deep breath, he broke the wax seal, some of the Lady Morgana's stock, no doubt.
Elyan didn't remember slipping to the ground next to the anvil. He didn't recall the tears slipping down his cheeks. He barely registered Master Louis rushing to his side as he limply held the letter, harsh sobs tearing out of him. His father was dead. Dead because he'd wanted to make a little extra money and had gotten caught up in something over his head. Dead thanks to King Uther's obsession with magic.
Tom was dead before he and Elyan could figure out how to reconcile. The world of possibilities Elyan had lived in five minutes ago had been shattered. Now there was no way he could return to Camelot having become a Master smith in his own right and show his father he could be proud of him. He couldn't find a wife and introduce her to her father-in-law and show off any babies they had to a doting grandfather. Now all he had left was a sister who must be angry with him because he'd left her when she absolutely needed him.
Elyan looked up at Master Louis, shaking his head. "I don't know what to do."
His master nodded. "Sleep. Sleep before you decide to do anything." He helped Elyan stand and guided him to the small room Elyan slept in, ignoring the shocked question Erik croaked as he helped the young man into his cot.
Elyan never would have guessed he could sleep, but his body must have decided otherwise and just shut down once his head hit the rolled up old shirt he used as a pillow. His mind raced around one thought, 'My father's dead.', until it finally listened to his body and Elyan fell into a blessedly dreamless sleep.
The next morning he woke before Erik and was out of his bed before the boy could pester him with questions. He saw Master Louis sitting at the table with his breakfast. "Master, thank you for helping me last night. I-I-" Elyan stopped talking, unable to put his thoughts into words.
Master Louis nodded. "I know. I remember losing my own father. It hits hard, no matter what terms you're on."
"Yes, sir, do you know where the player went? I need to send a message back to my sister."
"He'll be back here tonight. They leave tomorrow morning. I asked him to give you some time. He had no idea what was in the letter and wasn't expecting-"
Elyan snorted, "Wasn't expecting a grown man to fall to pieces." Master Louis shrugged, not a hint of judgment on his face, only sympathy. "I'm honestly not sure what to do now. I could return to Camelot, but it's been a year. Surely Gwen has already landed on her feet, especially with Lady Morgana as her friend. I have a good life here right now."
"Your father's forge and the house will belong to you now, though, won't it? Not your younger sister?"
"True, but I don't know if I want to return to Camelot yet. Not without getting my Mastery. I promised myself that's how it would be. I'd return a Master and have proved myself to my family." Elyan fiddled with the cup of cider in front of him. He wasn't up to eating food just yet.
"That's your choice, of course. You're a fine smith and well on your way to Mastery. I'd hate to lose you, but wouldn't think badly of you if you went home."
Elyan couldn't read what Master Louis was thinking. Hell, he couldn't tell what he was thinking himself. Too much was going on in his head. He wanted to be back with Gwen. He wanted to be back in Camelot. He wanted to be as far away from Camelot and King Uther as possible. He wanted to stay here and achieve his Mastery. He wanted to use the forge he grew up with. Elyan groaned and laid his head on the table. "I think I need to get to work. Maybe that will help me clear my head."
Master Louis nodded. "Fine, but you're on simple things today. I don't want you near the more intricate work with your distraction. Sorry to put it that way."
"Nails, and the hinges for Carl that Erik was supposed to be working on before he got sick."
The day went surprisingly well. Elyan worked and worked until Master Louis ordered him to stop. The orders that had been put on hold with Erik's illness were all caught up, along with extra nails that they could always sell. The swords he had been wrapping up provided an excuse to get away from the smoky smell of the forge and get some fresh air. It was a beautiful day, bright and sunny, with not a cloud in sight even this close to sundown. Shouldn't days with monumental decisions be gloomy and overcast to match one's mood?
Elyan chuckled as he thought of how Gwen would react to that thought. She was usually so cheerful. Sometimes almost disgustingly so. He could just imagine the look she'd give him if he told her that. Gwen was so like their mother. He knew that if he went home, she'd start mothering him, especially now that their father wasn't around for her to take care of.
That thought decided him. He wasn't going to return to Camelot yet. He knew precisely what to do, though.
The letter the player delivered in Camelot was for the eyes of the Lady Morgana alone.
My Lady Morgana, please forgive my presumption for both writing to you and asking a favor of you. Thank you for sending the messenger to inform me of my father's death. Your kindness is most appreciated. I have decided to remain in Essetir with Master Louis until I achieve my Mastery. After that I will return home, but if Gwen needs me before that, I beg of you to let me know and I will return immediately. I am grateful she has a mistress who cares as much as you do. Thank you for watching over my sister when I cannot.
I haven't written to her because I know what her response will be. She'll demand that I return home before I'm ready to. To be honest, I don't know if I'd be able to deny her. When I return I'll try to make it up to her.
My deepest thanks,