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“It is a matter of life or death."

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Newly knighted Sir Mabon really didn’t know what to make of the King’s manservant. His first impression of the young man was that he was very friendly, and definitely easy on the eyes with his stark black hair, high cheekbones, heart-shaped lips, and lanky yet muscular body.

And yet, there was something about him that didn’t make sense. Perhaps it was how he spoke back to his King constantly, having no respect for nobles. Or maybe it was how everyone seemed to take his disrespect in stride, letting the boy get away with almost everything.

Sir Mabon kept a close eye on him, especially after he saw Merlin cuff the King, the bloody King of Camelot, behind his ear, and Arthur only grinned wildly, pulling the young man into a headlock, and rubbing his knuckles on his head. It was a strange relationship they had, but it rubbed Mabon up the wrong way.

So one fine afternoon, he decided to teach the little whelp a lesson. However, it does not go as planned.

Merlin had accidentally spilled a little wine down his robes, and Sir Mabon had merely glared at him, not that it fazed the young man when a hand gripped his shoulder tight. Suddenly, there seemed to be a tension in the air, so tight he could slice it with his sword. He looked up to find the normally cheery face of Sir Gwaine glowering at him. It was enough to send a shiver down his spine.

Before he could respond, the knight had dipped his head low and whispered right in his ear, “The Rising Sun at midnight. Don’t be late.”

And just like that, he was gone, a smile back on his face. Mabon almost got whiplash from the sudden change in the atmosphere. He gulped and shook it off. It was probably nothing.

---

It was not nothing.

The Rising Sun at midnight was usually brimming with customers from far and wide with no sober customers.

Tonight, however, it was close to empty, except for Lucan, the man behind the counters who gave the Knights drinks, and the Knights themselves. There were 5 of them; Sir Lancelot, Sir Gwaine, Sir Leon, Sir Percival, Sir Elyan. The most respected, the most tightly knit group he had ever seen if Mabon had to say.

This was enough for him to wonder if he should’ve brought his sword. The Knights seemed to be huddled across the middle tables which were pushed together, with a piece of parchment at the center of the wood.

Sir Leon caught him staring from the door and beckoned him over.

“Come, Mabon. Here, we are but friends.”

Mabon nodded, not trusting himself to say anything. He sensed an underlying rile at the First Knight’s tone and did not want to find out the reason for it. But it seems that the fates had another idea.

Once he had settled himself between Sir Percival and Sir Elyan, who at that moment seemed to be the most peace-loving people at the table, Sir Gwaine waved his hand at Lucan who immediately supplied the six knights with a tumbler of ale.  After the initial round of drinking was over, Gwaine slammed his cup on the table with a loud bang, causing Mabon to jump.

“So, Mabon, you’re here because we failed to teach you the Knight’s Code.”

Mabon’s head swirled in confusion. He tilted his head slightly, and asked, “The Knight’s Code? I already learned it, though. That’s the first thing-”

“No, not the official Knight’s Code, Mabon. This is the unofficial official Knight’s Code,” Lancelot interrupted his query. “This code is even more important than the official Knight’s code.”

The Knight nodded solemnly, for Lancelot was speaking so gravely that Mabon thought it was a matter of life or death.

“It is a matter of life or death,” Leon confirmed, as though he had read his thoughts.

Elyan asked, “Who’s going to read the code to him tonight?”

There was a moment of an uproar when Gwaine snatched the parchment from the table, clutching it to his chest, while the rest of the Knights fell over the table trying to get it from him.

“It’s MY turn!” Gwaine roared.

“No, it’s not! It’s mine!” Lancelot, who was usually calm, snarled, halfway across the table, making grabby hands at Gwaine.

The chaos was shut down when Percival stood up and simply took the paper from Gwaine’s hands, the other man gaping at him.

“It’s my turn, so sit down. Both of you.”

Everybody returned to their places scowling. Leon looked like he was pouting, to Mabon’s utmost shock.

He turned to Percival, who seemed to be lit up in the dim light of the tavern. Percival looked at him with a firm look on his face as Mabon tried to make sense of what was happening.

Then, Percival opened his mouth and began to read the code.

 

“The following are the 10 commandments of the unofficial official Knight’s Code of Honour. Failure to abide by any of the directives will lead to death and dishonor.

COMMANDMENT 1: You MUST protect King Arthur and Camelot, at all times. There are no exceptions to this rule. Almost. As a Knight, your first and foremost loyalty is to King Arthur and King Arthur only. Technically it's Merlin but shut up Gwaine.

COMMANDMENT 2: Never, ever, hurt Merlin –”

“Merlin?!” Mabon exclaimed, his nose turning up at even the thought of protecting the little wretch, and immediately the other Knights glared at him. That shut him up quickly.

“Yes, Merlin. Now shut up and listen,” Elyan scowled at him.

COMMANDMENT 2: Never, ever, hurt Merlin. If Merlin is hurt, the Knights, The King, and the whole of Camelot will have you so deep in the ground that even magic ironic won’t be able to find you.

COMMANDMENT 3: Merlin and Arthur have a friendship *cough* which cannot be understood by any of us. They do not hate each other, even though it may seem so. When the King is in a foul mood, it would be best to have Merlin nearby because he can make Arthur happy no longer angry fine again.

COMMANDMENT 4: Emphasising Rule 2. Do not hurt Merlin, in any way. Emotionally, mentally, or physically. Be nice to him, he does a lot for everyone. Thank him whenever you can and help him out sometimes. Seriously, the boy is so hardworking it makes me cry. His efforts are completely not recognized Lancelot, go away. NO

COMMANDMENT 5: DO NOT ATTEMPT TO FLIRT, COURT, OR WOO MERLIN! DO THIS AT THE RISK OF YOUR LIFE! If you so much as look at him in that way, you’ll find yourself at the mercy of a raging King who will not hesitate to make you wish you were dead. Merlin is an innocent little fawn who needs to be looked after. Gwaine found out the hard way.

Mabon could understand the emphasis on that point. Merlin was definitely a looker, with all his pretty attributes. The thought of courting Merlin passed briefly through his mind, and he flushed, the heat crawling up his neck. The glare sent towards him by Gwaine quickly had any thoughts of wooing Merlin fly out of his head.

Percival coughed, getting his attention back.

COMMANDMENT 6: Merlin is very small. And skinny. He’s a twig, you idiot. A small breeze might blow him over. So, after Arthur, not really though, you must protect Merlin. With your life. If he’s missing on your watch? Well, may the Triple Goddesses help you. Hint: They won’t. No one will. No one can save you from the wrath of okay Leon, let go of the paper slowly.

COMMANDMENT 7: Merlin sneaks off a lot. Don’t bother following him or asking him. He’s terrible at lying. He gets sweaty and woozy and if he faints, you’ll have my sword through you. The point is, there’s no need to question him. Whatever he may be off doing, just know that it’s for the best for King Arthur, and/or for Camelot. Sometimes, if he runs into you by mistake, offer an excuse on his behalf. Give him a way out.”

“But” Mabon interrupted, and a collective groan went up from the knights, “if he’s sneaking off, shouldn’t he be questioned? That’s our job, technically. What if he’s a spy?”

This brought forth another round of glares, and at some point, Mabon is sure Lancelot held a knife at him, but that could just be the tension in the air.

COMMANDMENT 8: If Merlin acts weird, like, appears to be trying to murder Arthur, immediately inform the rest of the Knights and Gaius. DO NOT ATTEMPT TO STOP HIM YOURSELF. Just take it to Gaius and all will be well. He’s probably under a spell or enchantment. He’s too good to actually kill anyone, let alone Arthur.

Mabon raised an eyebrow at that but knew better by now than to say anything. He took another sip from his tankard as Percival continued.

COMMANDMENT 9: Refer to Rule 6. Protect Merlin, even from Arthur if need be. Our King has quite the rage, so let it be known to him that if Merlin is harmed by him, even the slightest, you will renounce your loyalty to him.”

The new knight choked on his drink at this. Elyan thumped his back, sighing empathetically. This was bordering close to treason, Mabon thought. Percival glared at Gwaine and began to write something on the parchment. Once he was done, he reread the rule.

COMMANDMENT 9: Refer to Rule 6. Protect Merlin, even from Arthur if need be. Our King has quite the rage, so let it be known to him that if Merlin is harmed by him, even the slightest, you will renounce your loyalty to him you will be very upset. Emphasis on very.

COMMANDMENT 10: Merlin has… special talents and secrets. If you discover them and attempt to threaten him or speak about them to anyone other than the knights, your body will be cast in the deepest trench in the oceans. Merlin’s secrets are his and his alone. Just know, that Merlin is as good and loyal as they come. He has unwavering faith in King Arthur, and everything he does is for the good of Arthur and Camelot. Never question his loyalty. And wait for him to speak to you about his secret. Respect him enough for that.

These 10 commandments are the base of your knighthood in Camelot. Learn them, abide by them, and swear unto them.”

Mabon gulped. The Knights had rounded upon him by now, as they stared him down. Suddenly, he felt way too small and unprotected in his clothes and in the tavern. Even Lucan seemed to glare at him from behind his counter.

“Do you understand the rules now, Mabon?” Leon asked, not unkindly and yet not kindly either. Mabon nodded, his heart thudding in his chest. Clearly, he had mistaken the King’s manservant and the love the city held for him.

The next day when he saw Merlin, he sent a beaming smile towards the young man, clearing the air of animosity between them. Lancelot, who was trailing behind Merlin, gave him a pat on the back as they passed him by, reassuring him that he did right this time. Slowly, but steadily, Mabon grew into a good friendship with Merlin. As much as Merlin protected them, they returned it back tenfold. The knights would often take turns watching over him, ensuring that Merlin was never alone. 

Over the course of time, the commandments changed a little, but the message was clear. Merlin, now Prince Consort, was to be protected at all times. 

Then one fine day, a new lad was knighted by the King – Sir Mordred. And there was an atmosphere of hostility surrounding him and Merlin. When one particular glaring match ended with Merlin storming out of the throne room, Mabon exchanged a look with the rest of the knights.

It was time to teach the commandments to Sir Mordred.