You had been traveling on your own for more than four moon cycles. Of course, you never spent too long away or out of water. Water was essential for life and its cycles.
That was among the many things you wanted to learn and explore while on land.
It was fun, really, being on your own adventure. One where you made choices on a whim and lived for every moment.
You flicked the end of your aquatic tail. With a smile, you watched how the water rippled and flowed passed. Each droplet gathered with another in their oneness. It was beautiful, natural, magic.
Head abruptly snapping to attention with a straight back, your smile disappeared.
You looked over your shoulder and alarm struck you.
Men. Rugged and alerting more of their people that you did not want to see.
You pulled yourself out of the water, tail shedding and shifting. Hastily, you slipped on a pair of soft shoes, pulled the skirt of your dress further down, grabbed your only bag, stood up, and ran the opposite direction from the shouting men.
You were thankful for traveling light.
Blurs of greens and browns passed the sides of your vision as you ran. Water still dripping down your skin. You were careful and aware of your footing for you could not lose the small lead you had.
Their shouting behind you became more aggravated, tired, and desperate. Hungry for a prize. They were not stopping.
There was always a high price for mermaids, especially during the warmer months. Humans held their own beliefs and ideas of mermaids. You were not about to let any of them find out which beliefs were true. Not the distrustful humans at least.
Tripping a step, you managed to remain upright to continue running. You weren’t sure how much longer you could evade them. Even as you wove around trees, they were still extremely close behind. Any second could change your fate.
The land in front of you dipped down into a slope. Heartbeat pounding in your ears, you slowed your gait just enough to land your footing safely. Again, you had to be quite conscious.
A rush of cold terror and air surrounded you as a heavy body collided against your back. Tumbling and sliding, you landed on flat ground.
Energy of fear and determination fueled you to scramble to your feet. Your bag swinging by your side.
“No!” You cried as the man on the ground lunged at your legs. Catching an ankle in his filthy hands.
The shouting of the men doubled. More than five of them racing down the green slope.
Your throat burned and your stomach felt sickly hot.
This would not be your end.
You kicked and stomped. Heels contacting the man’s wrists.
Cold raced through veins, but it was not your powers. Fear. Sheer terror filled you even as another man managed to take your arm into his vice grip.
“NO!” You shouted. Surely, that was their language.
Your fist collided against a man’s shoulder, there was netting hanging from his back.
The hit, the kicks, and the screaming did no good against them. It was a struggle you were starting to lose as more humans surrounded you with determination and selfish eyes. Hungry for riches.
A grin full of greed was presented in front of you. The same man who had tackled you down. Someone handed him a section of net.
“No,” you urged.
Where was their empathy? Their compassion?
You looked up to the tree canopy.
There laid a large branch atop of the man—on the ground.
Was that luck…or something else?
The large group of dirt-covered men only took a second of silence before tugging to free the net, which laid tangled in the branch.
You took the opportunity to kick the person bruising your arm. He grunted, but did not release his hold.
Shouts came from beside you as three men were pulled through the air before slamming into separate tree trunks.
It was not luck. Definitely not.
You knew magic when you saw it. Tired or not, you knew.
Chaos erupted through the remainder of the group as they bolted. Scattering themselves back into the green foliage like crabs on the shoreline.
Tugging your arm, the man refused to let go.
Selfish, desperate eyes. He yanked you towards him in his need to run. To keep a possible profit.
You dug your heels into the ground, dirt shifting underneath the soles of your shoes.
The man gritted his teeth as he pulled again.
A rock, about the size of your fist, flew against the man’s head.
Expression blank, the man fell.
You were free.
Stumbling back, you put distance between you and the unconscious man. You turned around to survey the area. Trees and other foliage as before. That was—until you eyed a head peering from around a tree trunk. Another human.
The human, a young man by the look of the ease of his walk, emerged from behind the tree in long strides.
“Are you alright?” He asked.
“I am now.” You answered, ears trained for another ambush.
He nodded, “That’s good.”
Dressed in earthy browns, red, and blue, he walked closer. He was not adored with glittering rocks like nobility, but there was a power about him. An earthly power—no…more.
You allowed yourself to smile then.
“Thank you, Emrys.”
The young man stopped short, in midst of offering his hand. Eyes wide and vulnerable. Blue shades of the ocean on a bright afternoon.
“Are…are you a druid? Was that why—?”
“No,” you answered simply, “I am a mermaid. Not a druid.”
You smiled again.
“Er…,” Emrys’ eyes explored your face for a moment. “We should leave—the bandits might come back.”
“No, no—they can not.” You looked over at the unconscious men. “They ran away.”
“They’re thick in the head. I’ll bring you somewhere safe. I promise.”
You swallowed, the hammering of your heart had steadied after the first bandits had ran off.
“I trust you.” You stepped up to the dark-haired sorcerer. If there was one being you knew to trust, it was him.
His smile was soft even as he double checked the bandits before gesturing for you to follow him.
Keeping a pace similar to the beating of a heart, the two of you trekked through the forest.
Emrys kept an eye on you. Probably making sure you did not fall behind.
You were more than grateful for his appearance and even more so that he helped you escape. Additionally, that you were lucky to had hydrated yourself when you did.
“Emrys,” you called, “where are we traveling?”
“Camelot?” You gave him a concerned look, even as a mermaid you knew of the kingdom. “Magic is outlawed in Camelot, Emrys.”
“I know, but there are good people. People I trust.”
“And what of Camelot’s king?”
“He’s a great king—Arthur.”
“King Arthur does not know you have magic?”
“No,” he said quickly. “Definitely not. It’d be best if you didn’t mention it. Not to anyone.”
You placed a hand over your heart.
“I promise to keep your magic a secret, Emrys.”
“Ah—um. Thank you….Also I go by Merlin not Emrys. Emrys is what the druids call me.”
“Merlin,” you tested the name. “I like it.”
The sorcerer sent you a bright smile. Genuine and full of light.
Fields of long grass greeted you as you walked closer to the city’s stone walls. Strategically piled stones rose as high as mature trees in the woods. Like towering corals teeming with life.
Once inside the gates, Merlin lead you along stone paths until you were passing through wooden doorways. Not one human giving you a second glance.
“Here we are.” Merlin announced as he allowed you entrance into a well lived-in area. Bottles, containers, seating, and paper. A single door at the far end. A very human home.
“It’s wonderful.” You smiled. It was only proper to compliment his home.
“It’s home.” He had walked over the right side of the room, at some sort of station.
Water. Many drops spilling as an echo in a small cup.
“Here,” he offered the cup.
You accepted it gratefully. The running and extra traveling was an unexpected exertion on your body. You drank happily. It was exactly what you needed.
Drinking from his own cup, there were questions running through his blue eyes.
You smiled and said, “You may ask.”
His dark eyebrows rose for only a second before he set down his cup.
“How long can you be out of water?”
“As my knowledge serves me, I need to drink water often or enough to remain healthy. It helps i—.”
The front door opened as an older man with white hair stepped inside. Wide-eyed and raised eyebrows at the sight of you before he immediately turned to the young sorcerer.
“Merlin,” said the old man.
You hoped that your presence had not brought trouble to the sorcerer. You would certainly take your leave if it did.
“Ah…Gaius, this is…ah,” Merlin looked to you with widening eyes.
“My name is (Y/N).” You said to the man presumably named Gaius. Smiling, you stepped forward and offered him your hand.
As customary for humans, he grabbed your hand and gave it a short shake.
“I am Gaius, the court physician. It’s good to meet you.” He smiled shortly before eyeing Merlin.
“I saved her from bandits.” The young man announced.
“Yes,” you nodded, “most unfriendly.”
“I see.” Gaius crossed his arms over his chest. “So you didn’t gather the herbs I asked for?”
Merlin cleared his throat and spoke lowly, “Sorry Gaius.”
“Yes, well I needed those herbs for the lord’s eye treatment. At least you two are safe.”
Again, you smiled. You were unsure what to say around the court physician. If Merlin did not give specifics then it was logically unsafe for you to do so.
“Well, I should show (Y/N) around,” Merlin quickly walked over to you and gently took the empty cup out of your hand. “See you later, Gaius.” He moved to set the cup down and returned to the door as he steered you out with him.
Merlin sighed loudly as the pair of you took a route further away from his home and Gaius.
Your bag padded lightly against your side as you walked through the stone structure. The walls were made to last, to shelter, and protect. Yet closed its inhabitants off from the world. You wondered how a sorcerer could live in such an environment, in hiding no less. There must truly be something about Camelot that you were unaware of for him to live safely.
Turning a corner, your eyes were given their first view of the inner workings of a castle. Many people walking upon their two feet progressing through the available space.
“Em—,” you caught the rest of the name in your throat. “Merlin? I am grateful for your help and do not wish to offend…, but are you certain safety is here? Your court physician….you did not tell him what you had done.”
“Right,” Merlin looked to you as you both joined the flow of people. “He knows who I am. You can trust him.”
“Then why did you not tell him how you had helped me?”
His eyes trained forward, watching as he lead you through halls that were lit by large open sections where sunlight was free to enter.
“I thought—…I thought that he might have overreacted or…might have asked too many questions,” he glanced over to you. “You need to be protected.”
“I can handle questions, Merlin. Even the concerned ones. I promise I will not dry up at the too many questions.” You laughed lightly. There was no need for him to suffer twice through worrying.
Small smiles were shared. Quiet and trying to assure the other of security.
“I greatly appreciate what you have done for me, truly.” You offered your hand to formally introduce yourself. “It is great to meet you, Merlin.”
“It’s good to meet you, (Y/N).” He shook your hand lightly.
“I had forgotten to tell you my name. I apologize.”
“There were bandits. You don’t have to apologize for anything.”
Still walking, he released your hand. A brightness returning to him after sharing words.
He has a good heart, you thought. Certainly grows attachments quickly.
Though you had no idea what section of the castle you were in, you were quietly enjoying Merlin’s company.
The young sorcerer turned down another hall and soon was murmuring something under his breath.
You followed his line of sight to three men with long drapes of red fabric behind them walking over to the pair of you. Three sets of eyes held you in their sights of interest.
“Hello, Merlin,” the man with skin of dark earthly tones greeted.
“Merlin.” The tallest one smiled.
“Ah, Merlin,” a third man smiled sweetly to you after nodding at the young man beside you. “Would you do the honor of introducing the lovely lady.” There was a curiosity and heavy glint of playfulness in his eyes.
“Gwaine.” Merlin took a step closer to you, “this is (Y/N). (Y/N), meet Gwaine, Elyan, and Percival.”
“Hello, it is an honor to meet you three.” You said, extending a hand.
“A pleasure,” Gwaine said as he took your hand and lent down to place his lips over your knuckles.
That is a new greeting, you thought with a tilt of your head.
Beside you, Merlin cleared his throat audibly.
You looked to Merlin briefly as Gwaine released your hand.
The three men in front of you were sharing looks between one another and Merlin. Amusement and questions in their eyes. The sorcerer on the other hand was seemingly disapproving the man’s actions.
Perhaps the greeting was inappropriate? I hope not. Gwaine seems to be friendly. Merlin seems to know them well, based on their behavior. It would also seem safe to start conversation. I hope.
“Merlin was showing me through the castle,” you said, breaking their silent talk. “Camelot is very lovely.”
“Are you new to Camelot, then?” Asked Elyan, kindly.
“What brought you to Camelot?”
The men looked to said man.
“I was being chased by bandits.”
Their gazes snapped back to you.
“Merlin helped me get away from them. I am very grateful to him.”
“That was brave of you, Merlin.” Said Percival, “You are both unhurt, I hope.”
“We’re fine, thank you.” Merlin nodded.
“What were you doing out there, Merlin?”
“Collecting herbs for Gaius.”
“You forgot the herbs, Merlin?” Elyan asked with a smirk.
“He did,” Percival said.
“I would too and I don’t blame him.” Gwaine sent you a smile. “It would happen to the best of us, Merlin.“
Merlin gave a pointed look to the man as the others chuckled.
They have similar attire, I wonder if they are of important status in the kingdom. They are wearing a great number of metal.
“Arthur has been looking for you.” Elyan added after his laughter subsided.
Merlin made a noise in his throat.
You looked to him.
“Why would the king be looking for you?” You asked in a hushed tone. “Are you in trouble?”
“I’m not in trouble,” Merlin reassured you quickly. “I’m the king’s manservant.”
Oh my. That wasn’t anything that I imagined. He sure is full of surprises.
“Better see what he wants.” Merlin said, placing a hand on the small of your back and leading you around the three men.
“It was lovely to meet you three,” you said, bowing your head shortly.
“The pleasure was ours, my lady.” Gwaine bowed.
The sorcerer kept his pace with your beside him.
“We need to find Gwen.”
“Gwen. She’s a friend of mine.” Merlin explained shortly, “you need somewhere to stay. I’m hoping she can help us—you.”
I had not thought of that. Shelter, and shelter for a mermaid. This seems worrying. You thought as you hurried along with Merlin’s steps. There must not be room where Merlin sleeps.
“You are not going to find the king?”
Guinevere was a woman with a bright smile and intelligent eyes. She was in-between duties when Merlin found her and introduced you two.
Merlin was much more careful with his words when explaining how he helped you and had even asked her if you could stay with her. He had asked on your behalf.
Ever since he had rescued you, Merlin had been taking full responsibility without a second thought. How selfless could someone be?
Though you were a complete stranger to her, Gwen agreed.
Your palms became clammy. You needed to trust Merlin’s judgement.
In a matter of days, you learned how to entrust Merlin and Gwen completely. They were no strangers to living and working in Camelot. The pair had managed to help you set up selling your craft items in the market. You had to reassure Merlin that you could craft more than just shell-adored items.
You wondered if they had done the same for another before you.
Living with Gwen was a test in unknown waters at first. She had lived alone with a space of her own. She did not have to take you in, but she did. She gave you shelter and a place to sleep. It was only right that you kept it clean and tidy for her in return between bringing in coin from your sales.
Your first night might have been lacking of sleep, but you had got on well with Gwen. She seemed to get on well with most people in the city. For kindness alone, you were grateful.
As far as friends, Gwen was an excellent friend to have. Although, she was more observant and aware than most humans you had encountered. That made hiding your tail and abilities more stressful at moments than you would had liked. She at least did not question the amount of water you drank each day.
The day had been profitable and fun. Having sold a great deal of your items, you were in a light-spirited mood. You were more confident in knowing that citizens liked your products enough to purchase them. The trinkets were new for the people of Camelot. You were glad to share your creativity.
Finding your way back to where Merlin and Gaius resided, you knocked lightly on the wooden door.
It was around time for a noon meal. You had already eaten and hoped that the pair would not mind your company. Even after seeing many people walking around the market, you were wanting to see your favorite sorcerer.
“(Y/N).” Merlin’s smile greeted you as he opened the door and let you inside.
“Hello,” you beamed and quickly reached up to place a corded necklace around his neck before walking into the room. “Hello, Gaius.”
“Hello, my dear.” Gaius greeted from his place at the table. “Have you eaten?”
“I have, thank you.”
An empty bowl sat across from the older man’s.
“How are you today, Gaius?” You asked, standing beside the table.
“I’m well. Busy as every day. How did your sales go this morning?”
To your right, Merlin stood with a hand plucking at the necklace. A small, cleaned fossil hung from it.
“Is there anything you need, Merlin?”
“Ah…what is this? Thank you—for the necklace, but…but what is this little…?” The rock-like charm fumbled between his fingers.
“It’s a fossil fr—…I found it some time ago.”
“Er..thank you. Again,” Merlin’s feet soon took him to gather the dirty dishes and hastily clean them.
It was quiet inside other than the scrubbing and clanking from where Merlin was cleaning. That was not the only time you had almost given too much information about yourself away to the wind. You figured that it was still alright regardless.
“Are there any chores you still need to complete, Merlin?” You asked the first question you could think of. It was safe to believe that the young man was always busy.
“Cleaning and polishing Arthur’s armor.” He answered from over his shoulder.
You hummed as you started towards the sorcerer’s room.
“The armor is most likely filthy,” you mused.
Hurried steps followed behind you as you entered the small bedroom. As soon as you walked in you had to stop because of the mess of metal littering the floor. With careful steps, you managed to sit on the edge of the bed without any mishaps.
Merlin slowly shut the door behind him as he came into the room.
“I can help you if you’d like.”
“I can handle it.” He assured you.
Stepping around the arranged pieces, he made himself comfortable in the middle of all of the armor. Immediately he began picking up the necessary supplies and got started with cleaning and polishing the metals.
Without a word, you sat down onto the floor with him. Being that you were usually occupied with your own business ventures, you scarcely got to watch Merlin’s daily activities. And from the looks of it, it involved a lot of cleaning up after the king.
Later, Gaius walked into the room with a cup. Rather than giving it to Merlin, who was hard at work, he handed it to you.
“Here, you need to stay hydrated, my dear.” Gaius stated as he handed you a cup of water.
“Thank you.” You said, carefully taking the cup from him.
He walked away, out into the open area after closing the bedroom door.
“How did Gaius find out that I am a mermaid?”
“Er…this is not his first time around magical beings.”
“I use too many shells in the jewelry?”
“What? No! I mean…Gaius figured that was it and,” Merlin’s lips pressed together tightly. “He asked. I told him about the bandits and he figured the rest out. I’m sorry. I should have asked.”
“Do you trust him? Fully?”
“Then so do I.” You took a sip of the water.
“You have a lot of faith in me.”
“Of course I do.”
He set down the rag. Taking a deep breath, he looked to you.
“Because I’m Emrys?”
“Yes, but more than that. Just as I know that you are Emrys, I know that there is great good in you and a great capacity for love and empathy. I trust that as well.”
“You’ve hardly known me.”
“Does that matter?”
“I guess not?” Merlin shrugged, a smile on his lips as he picked up the rag again.
As quiet settled down between the pair of you, you took on studying how the dark hair on his head seemed to want to curl in odd places, however lacked the length.
“Do you only speak with me because I am a mermaid?” You asked.
“What? No. No, I—you…” Merlin turned to you completely, “it doesn’t matter to me. You are a kind person. Whether you have magic or not doesn’t matter. I still like you.”
“What?” His voice was low, softer.
“Your eyes say much more than your words, Merlin.”
He ducked his head.
“I appreciate you.” You whispered.
As more days followed, you and Merlin were getting along very well. Even little misunderstandings couldn’t hold you a part after it was resolved. His company was most welcome.
Even as Merlin was sitting down on a bench while the knights did some training, you sat beside him as he sharpened a sword.
The Knights would begin their teasing of Merlin when he was with you. It was light and often lead to Merlin’s eyebrows raising. The teasing did not bother you—you used it against them some of the time. This often resulted in surprising Merlin and the knights.
On one occasion however, With a hand on his shoulder, you kissed Merlin’s cheek in front of the sparring knights.
A new change was brought about.
Merlin’s eyes widened for a brief moment.
You, on the other hand, turned your attention back to watch the knights as your smirk was visible for all to see.
It was in that moment, that the knights knew that you could just as easily counter their teasing. And you were sure that they approved of you even more that day.
Birds chirped and water danced between the trees. A secluded area of the woods near an abandoned village was deemed the perfect location for both you and Merlin to practice using magic. Credit of finding the spot went solely to Merlin. You had no idea where he found the time.
Taking a much needed break, you had submerged your lower half into the water of a small river as Merlin continued to practice a spell.
Being able to use your natural abilities was like breathing had become easier. Not using them often was equal to Sir Gwaine ignoring his ability to walk or Gwen ignoring her ability to speak her mind.
It seemed so long since the last time you were able to relax in natural waters. Allowing the energies to seep into your skin and curve around you. Learning about the world on land had its share of disadvantages.
Splashing the water with the end of your tail, you returned your gaze to the sorcerer. Focused and self-trained. You loved watching him use magic. How his cerulean eyes sparked golden and he shone in his true self. Magic.
Gently dropping the stones to the ground, Merlin walked over to you. The moist ground lightly giving way under each step. He sat down along the edge of the river beside you, keeping himself as dry as possible. Most of which was impossible given that you had sent a bobble of water to his side earlier.
You smiled at him. Meeting his eyes again, you found them soft, vulnerable, and deeply loving. Traits that you valued in beings. Leaning over, you kissed his cheek. You were soon greeted by his bright and soft grin.
With a long intake of air, you rested your head on his shoulder, sighing to yourself.
“You have a strong heart, Merlin.” You whispered.
He pressed a kiss to the top of your head.
Though you were there to learn, Merlin was exactly what you needed.
(I know this insert reader was requested some time in January and I do wish that I was able to finish it sooner, however it probably would not have turned out the same at all. A lot has been going on since February…, but hey! I hope you enjoyed it and that you are doing well. I wrote a big chuck of the beginning after I got the request and made a little background information about the kind of mermaids there might have been there, which was really fun. Again, thank you. I’m sorry Gwen didn’t really have a scene… :/
If you love my writings and want to support me, I have a Ko-Fi where you can buy me a coffee. I would be eternally grateful.
Best wishes and happy reading.
DreamerDragon Tags: @cubedtriangle @pilindielofgondor )