“You know, if you keep frowning at your dinner, it’s going to go cold,” Merlin says, hovering close by with badly concealed concern.
“I just don’t understand how a man as noble as Lancelot could commit forgery,” I say, stabbing a sausage with my fork.
“Don’t worry, Arthur. That was all me, idea, convincing him and the seal.”
I abandon my food. “What?”
Merlin looks as shocked as I do, but must decide that it’s too late now. “Lancelot deserved to be a knight so I made it happen. The man saved my life; it was the least I could do.”
“Forging nobility is an act of treason.”
Merlin shrugs. “Arthur, I commit treason on a daily basis. I doubt you’re going to throw me in the dungeons over a little thing like this.”
“Why did you even say anything? You could’ve let Lancelot take the blame.”
“I convinced him to abandon his code to pursue his dream. I’m not about to let his future king think less of him.”
How can he go from casually talking about committing treason, to the prince all of people, to saying something impossibly noble?
“Future king?” I choose to question.
“Once you’re king, I’m sure you’ll rescind Lancelot’s banishment. And if you’re still worried about him being a commoner, I can always do a better forgery next time.”
I groan. “Be grateful that you weren’t made my father’s manservant or he would’ve had you executed by now.”
“I would’ve banished myself from Camelot before accepting the job.”
“He’s the king, Merlin! You can’t just say things like that.”
“The man was disappointed when I survived lethal poison because it meant he couldn’t teach you a lesson. I’m pretty sure he despises my existence and regrets giving me this job in the first place, but is too proud to go back on his decision and directly fire me.”
I frown at his raw honesty and just how right he is. “Careful who hears you say that.”
“It’s alright. I trust you with my little acts of treason. And if I do anything worse, I promise to keep it from you so you don’t have to keep it from him.” Merlin smiles sadly. “He is your father after all, even if you get your royal pratiness from him.”
Before I can think about what he might mean, Merlin snatches the sausage from my plate and darts out of my chambers with a laugh.
I’ve never met someone with the sheer courage and stupidity to blatantly commit treason and confess to such right in front of me, then continue doing it like it’s the most normal thing in the world. It’s a wonder Merlin hasn’t gotten himself killed yet. Hopefully Father never realises how well Merlin understands him. He may play the idiot, and I may let him, but Merlin’s holding back. And if one day I forget that, he better remind me.