It’s absolutely rubbish. Rubbish and stupid and ridiculous and all manner of completely unsurprising, really. What else should a King of Camelot expect but to find himself in all manner saddled with a warlock, his moody dragon, and its adopted pet cat?
It had started with a Very Bad Day. Capital V, capital B, capital D. All manner of things had gone wrong in all the smallest of ways. Final straw to tip the horse, as it were.
Merlin had failed to wake to the dawn bells, having stayed awake into the morning’s small hours illicitly studying healing magic. Over the years, he’d found need to use those spells far too often for his own liking and it wouldn’t do to fail for lack of practice. So he’d been sneaking off with various excuses nightly. Unfortunately, the lack of rest had caught up with him.
So he’d been late. He’d also tripped on the way from the kitchens and had finally made it to Arthur’s chambers with a rather plentiful collection of stains and bruises to match them. Naturally, since it was just one of those days, Arthur was already awake, semi-dressed, fuming, and with an arsenal of insults prepared for fire.
So the morning had gone, insults giving way to “training” - or, rather, what Arthur called it when he pummeled Merlin with a blunt sword in the name of training him to defend himself. Merlin’s retorts and excuses fell on deaf ears. Perhaps they really were deaf ears. Arthur certainly spent enough time with the knights knocking each other about. The rattling from his helmet probably had made the git half deaf. Merlin carefully made it a point to say so.
In retaliation, Arthur had promptly decided that it was time for an afternoon hunting trip and won’t you ready the horses, Merlin?
Of course, as their luck had it, they were then ambushed when Merlin’s back was turned, and the bandits, of course, outnumbered them. Arthur, once captured, had demanded that they let his useless servant go.
Leave it to Arthur to make kingly demands while trussed like a prize pig. Naturally, the rogues had other plans, and the leader grinned, baring overly diseased teeth - why were they always unwashed, these bandits? Were there no well maintained criminals?
Anyway. The man had grinned and grabbed at Arthur’s jaw, saying something about forcibly removing his tongue.
Well, at least he was original. But Merlin liked Arthur’s tongue right where it was, thank you, so he made certain no one was watching him when his eyes turned golden and a nice heavy branch broke from the tree above and landed squarely on the offending ruffian's head, producing an absolutely sickening crack.
While the rest of them looked appropriately stunned and revolted, Arthur made short work of freeing himself. Merlin helpfully tripped two men and liberated the horses.
Of course, the day was still young, and there was plenty more to go wrong. It culminated in the night's feast celebrating something or the other, during which a traveling troupe had come to perform. All six of them weren’t performers at all but angry rogue sorcerers who subscribed to Morgana’s particularly violent strain of protest.
Events occurred, and Merlin found himself in the unfortunate position of having to use his magic in front of the entire court to protect Arthur.
As it turns out, even sorcerers panic when their breeches have caught fire.
As it also turns out, so does Arthur.
Which is how it came to be that Merlin was locked beneath the castle in a supposedly magic-proof cave with old dragon droppings for company. For the simple task of having saved the life of the King of Camelot.
After a week, he’d grown bored of talking into thin air and had magicked himself out.
He’d heard the bells clanging around lunch time, but he walked sedately out of the citadel, cloaked in a glamour that made him look like Arthur.
Somehow, it took another few days for the shock of what he'd done to catch up to him. After that, Merlin sat huddled, cold and feeling both bereft and not a little heartbroken, in the cave in which his father had lived.
It took Arthur bloody Pendragon a further four weeks, six days, and several near-death experiences to get his head out of his own arse and track down the wayward manservant who also happened to be the most powerful warlock to have ever existed. He'd emerged from the waterfall, dripping wet and hoping he wouldn't find himself rusted into his armour to be faced with the sight of Merlin in a fighting stance with eyes ablaze and palm outstretched.
Before Arthur had the chance to be surprised, however, Merlin seemed to recognize him, and the hand dropped to hang limply at Merlin's side, the power he'd been radiating dissipating immediately. What was left was just Merlin, shoulders hunched inward, eyes huge and sad, and great ugly purple bruises under his eyes. "Arthur."
The careful speech Arthur had prepared died on his tongue at the sight, and he grabbed at Merlin's shoulders, ignoring the way Merlin flinched, and pulled him into a hug.
In place of demanding to know why Merlin had lied to him for nearly ten years, Arthur said into Merlin's shoulder, "You look terrible, Merlin." In place of the apology he'd crafted that acknowledged Merlin's sempiternal importance to him, he said, "I got you a cat."
It seemed, apparently, that these utterly non sequitur statements were exactly what Merlin needed to hear, because he huffed a weak laugh and returned, "I have a dragon."