“Oh, dear,” said King Arthur. “I think I lost something again.”
“Now what?” snapped his High Advisor and the greatest wizard who ever lived, Merlin, in a very irritated voice.
It had been years after the sword-in-the-stone fiasco, and Merlin had come to realize that Arthur Pendragon was not the sharpest knife in the drawer. The king had a habit of forgetting, losing, disregarding, and generally overlooking anything of any importance - something that never failed to give the wizard copious amounts of stress every day. Merlin dearly hoped Arthur hadn’t lost one of his official documents, or anything like that. This could end very badly, he realized with an unpleasant lurch. The last time Arthur had lost something, it had been his sword. Apparently, he’d dropped it in some body of water during one of those dratted hunts he and the nobles liked to go out on. Fortunately, the lake happened to be the abode of the Lady of the Lake, the Maiden of No Determined Name Whose Appearance Relies on an Arm Rising From a Body of Water. The Lady had very graciously returned Excalibur, though only with the extraction of a promise that Arthur would be more careful next time (”Fat chance,” Merlin had thought grimly).
Then again, Merlin told himself, it may as well be a small thing Arthur had lost, like a sock or a spoon. It was probably something trivial. Something not as alarmingly important as the legendary Sword in the Stone. Or, at least, he hoped so.
You never really knew when it came to Arthur.
“What is the object you have lost, my king?” Merlin asked, peering at Arthur wearily through scratched spectacles.
The king put his hands behind the sagging bulk of his hand-knitted sweater, and attempted to look kingly and dignified. This was, of course, unsuccessful, as it is near impossible to look kingly and dignified when one’s sweater is three sizes too big - and the colour of an overcooked cabbage. But Queen Guinevere had made it herself (she was currently in her knitting phase, the saints preserve them all), and everyone knew that Queen Guinevere did not take no for an answer, so there it was.
“Well, Merlin,” began Arthur miserably, with a sort of guilty grimace.
The sound of the throne room’s doors slamming hastily open interrupted him before he could continue.
“Your Majesty!” cried a loudly panting Sir Percival, stumbling inside. “The kitchen’s on fire!”
“Not Gawain again,” groaned Merlin, tugging at his beard in dismay. “I told that ninny not to try anything he knew would end badly, but he must’ve tried to bake something without permission. This must be the third time - ”
The doors slammed open again, much to Merlin’s chagrin. He thought to himself that he really should move to the countryside. Less noise. Less migraines.
“Your Grace!” cried Sir Agravain, sprinting inside. He looked extremely... aggravated, and his eyes were just as big as the saucers Queen Guinevere used for tea. “There’s a dragon in the courtyard!”
“Tell Sirs Gareth and Geraint to take care of it,” moaned Merlin, a vein pulsing in his forehead. He’d heard that there was some sort of town some ways off, a peaceful little town with short inhabitants, plentiful harvest, and no connections whatsoever to the outer world. What had his cousin called it? Hobbiton? “And tell them to – ”
The doors slammed open yet another time. Merlin tried to remember whether or not immigration required a wizard’s birth certificate. Would they let him pass?
““Your Highness!” cried Sir Hector, spiraling inside like a stringy grey ballerina in obnoxiously shiny armour. “Bagdemagus has buttered the floors again!”
“I knew we shouldn’t have trusted a man with a name like Bagdemagus!” sputtered Merlin - then stopped, remembered his own name, and receded, feeling rather like a hypocrite.
The doors slammed open one more time with an ear-splitting bang.
“Saints above, monsters below, and all idiots in between,” Merlin sighed.
“King Arthur!” cried Sir Elyan the White, skidding inside with an audible screech. He nearly lost his balance, the poor man, but righted himself and cleared his throat. “There’s a letter from Lady Morgana asking you to let Young Lord Mordred stay in Camelot for the year!”
“THAT WOMAN NEVER GIVES UP!” roared Merlin, completely giving up on keeping a cool head. Even thinking about Morgana’s smug face made his very blood boil.
“Merlin,” Arthur began hesitantly, as curious knights and servants peeked in from the doorway.
“Not now,” Merlin said, massaging his temples aggressively. “Why I’m still doing this in my old age, I’ll never know. Get me a goblet of water, somebody, anybody.”
“Merlin,” Arthur said, tugging on the corner of Merlin’s robe.
“Just a minute,” Merlin replied, waving hurriedly at the gathering bystanders. “Do not fret, good people, there is nothing to worry about. Go on, walk along. Shoo. Git.”
“Merlin,” Arthur persisted insistently.
“What do you want?” Merlin sank back into his chair, turning to the king in a resigned manner. “Guinevere’s knitting in her room, Lancelot got fired for flirting with every single scullery maid in this blasted castle, and Morgana is still poking at us from afar, but all’s right in the world, so what’s wrong now?”
“I can’t find my crown,” said Arthur.
At that very moment, the universe decided that Merlin had not suffered as much as he should, and everything that could possibly go wrong went wrong.
“Your crown?” said Merlin incredulously, crumpling his hat in shaking hands and throwing it onto the ground. “The sword was understandable - the armour was passably logical - the banners didn’t really make sense - the throne room hinges were questionable, but this - how could you have possibly lost your crown?”
“The kitchen’s on fire!” Percival shouted shrilly, racing back inside.
“Have some cake,” a sooty but proud Gawain offered, producing a what looked like a black rock from behind his back.
“Dragon in the courtyard!” Agravain, Gareth, and Geraint yelled, dashing into the throne room in terror.
“Come back here, Bagdemagus!” Hector hissed.
“Here’s another letter here from the Lady Morgana!” Elyan the White waved a large envelope with an imperious red seal on it in front of Merlin’s face.
“Dearest, I’ve found myself a new knitting pattern for your newest sleeping frock!” Queen Guinevere declared, stepping in.
“I’VE GOT YOU NOW, ARTHUR!” Morgana said, appearing out of nowhere with a wild cackle. Her curlers waved feebly in protest as sudden dramatic gusts of wind swirled about her, announcing her arrival.
“Mercy!” the knights yelped, dropping their swords.
“Lower your voices! Look for the crown!” Merlin ordered, face ruddy with exertion.
“Fire! Fire! Someone fetch water!”
“Anybody want cake? Cake? Free cake? I made it myself! Anybody?”
“At arms! Dragon in the courtyard! We’ll hold the filthy beast off!”
“Bagdemagus, wait until I get my hands on your filthy neck, you maggot-infested, potato-nosed, slimy-haired – ”
“Letter! There’s a letter! Letter from Morgana!”
In the midst of the ever-growing commotion, King Arthur reached into his pocket and to his surprise, felt a cold, round item bulging inside its woolly prison.
“Found it!” he said triumphantly, pulling it out with unnecessary gusto. “I found my crown!”
“Ha!” Morgana crowed, snatching it away with a yank. She stepped back, admiring the crown’s gleaming jewels, and bumped into Gawain, whose ‘cake’ went flying. It hit the dragon who had been peering in from the window, in the eye, causing it to flail around and howl in pain. Its arm hit Gareth, whose dagger went clattering on the ground, its tip smacking Lancelot’s ankle. Lancelot shrieked in pain and hopped around, clutching his foot, and knocked both Bagdemagus and Hector over, which made the servant boy behind Hector drop Merlin’s goblet of water, which splashed onto the ground, which caused Percival to slip, which made his leg kick Elyan the White in the face…
While this was all happening, the crown in Morgana le Fay’s triumphant hands slipped out of her grasp, soaring in an exquisite arc of exactly ninety degrees over their heads, and landing directly in the dragon’s outstretched jaws.
“I’M RETIRING,” Merlin said, stone-faced, to nobody in particular and promptly vanished with a flash of light.
The witless dragon swallowed in reflex and made a very uncomfortable face, and Sir Elyan, who’d assumed that Percival had kicked him in the face on purpose, ran towards the poor man, brandishing a blunt training sword. Percival brought up his shield, which smacked Geraint’s arm in the process, causing Geraint to shout in protest. Before they knew it, it was an all-out brawl, every knight for himself, with limbs, cake crumbs, weapons, and loud curses flying in every possible direction. And in the center of the ring of furious knights, there stood King Arthur, looking quite lost and unsure of himself.
“Oh, dear,” he said to himself, as the dragon, looking green around the gills, lifted its trembling wings, and flapped away into the distance. “I think I lost something again.”