Title: Just Her Luck
Fandom: Merlin BBC TV
Rating: G, 2,216 words
Warnings: An original female character but one I hope you will enjoy!
Summary: A young woman troubled with bad luck travels to Camelot looking for work and a new start in life. She ends up becoming part of the legend. The myth was never like this.
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Paved With Good Intentions
“Bad luck?” Arthur snorted and turned to Merlin. “There is no such thing as bad luck. What nonsense.”
“I don’t know, Arthur,” replied Merlin, reaching down for the inkwell and the book he dropped when the young woman had rammed into him. “People are often thought to have good luck or bad luck.”
“Yes, but that girl is covered in nothing but bad luck,” said Morgana with a frown. “It’s like it is part of her skin.”
“You have got to be kidding me,” retorted the king.
“I’ve heard of people with bad luck before,” said a knight in Camelot red that was standing near enough to have heard. “Whether it’s true or not, people that are said to have bad luck are outcasts of society.” Kay shrugged at his king’s baffled look. “It’s true, my lord. They often go live alone in the woods somewhere.” There were some more mutterings from the crowd and Arthur glared around at them.
“That poor girl,” said Morgana. “I’ve never seen her before. She must have come here to find some work.”
“Nobody will hire her now,” replied Kay.
“That’s just stupid,” exclaimed Arthur.
“Yes, it is,” agreed Merlin. He shoved the inkwell and book at a familiar servant. “Bordon, take my things back up to my room. I have something I need to take care of.” Then the dark haired sorcerer took off down the hall.
“Hey, what are you doing?” cried Arthur. Merlin disappeared down the stairs without answering. “Idiot,” sighed the king.
Word traveled quickly, especially in a castle. By the time Elaine reached the kitchen, everybody knew about her. The kitchen was quiet and everyone was staring at the young woman as she came down the stairs. Her skin crawled and she warily watched everyone in case they choose to throw something or try to spit on her. “Sorry,” Elaine said to the room at large. Now, all she could do was apologize and leave. She cautiously crossed the kitchen, people edging away from her, and walked out into the little yard. Elaine went around to the woodpile for her pull-cart but it was gone. She paused a moment, staring down at where it had been, before walking back into the yard. The kitchen workers were gathered in the doorway, as if making sure the young woman with the bad luck really left. “Please, where is the pull-cart that was behind the woodpile?” asked Elaine. Nobody answered and Elaine felt tears prick her eyes. “Please, those are all the possessions I have in the world. Where did they go?” Silence.
Then a young boy broke from the group and raced around the corner. He came back pulling the little cart behind him. The blanket was gone but it looked like everything else was still there. The boy dropped the cart and raced back to the group huddled in the doorway. Elaine retrieved her pull-cart and bowed to the group watching her. “Thank you.” Then she left, making her way back around the castle and out into the city.
Elaine sniffed and blinked back her tears as she made her way back toward the gate of Camelot. There was probably two hours left until nightfall. Not enough time to make it back to the last town but hopefully enough to get a good campsite going and fetch some water. There were less people in the street this late in the day and Elaine made good time back to the city gates, grateful that it wasn’t so noisy. There was a new set of guards there and Elaine passed under the gate and out onto the road with ease. She started for the forest.
A dull headache had settled behind Elaine’s eyes and her stomach rumbled, reminding her she hadn’t eaten since breakfast and that only the dry heel of bread she’d had left. The wheel of the little pull-cart stuck in a rut on the road, yanking Elaine’s arm hard and bringing her to a stop. She stood there for a long moment, gathering herself, and then hosted the cart out of the rut and continued on her way. The young woman didn’t notice the running footsteps behind her until the dark haired man overtook her.
“Stop, please stop,” huffed Merlin. Elaine stopped as asked and looked dully at the sorcerer.
“May I make a request, please?” asked Elaine when Merlin had regained his breath.
“Of course,” replied Merlin in surprise.
“Pardon. A what?”
“I’d like to be a frog more than I’d like to be a fly or a flea,” Elaine clarified. She dropped the handle of the pull-cart tiredly. “If you are feeling like giving me a choice, that is.”
Merlin blinked at her and then a look of faint horror fell over his face. “I’m not going to turn you into anything!” he exclaimed.
“Oh.” Elaine glanced over her shoulder but couldn’t see any guards rushing to drag her to the dungeon or her bloody execution. Of course, the most powerful sorcerer in Albion wouldn’t really need a bunch of guards to do anything to her. Annoyance climbed up Elaine’s throat through the fatigue. “Well, then what do you want? I’m already leaving.”
“Where are you going to go?” asked Merlin. He looked very concerned, biting his lip lightly.
“What do you care?” Elaine sighed and tried to call up a respectful tone. “Back to the next town. To see if they need an extra hand for something.” Although, maybe that wasn’t such a good idea. The villagers in her hometown never let her help with the planting and harvest. Tools Elaine touched tended to break or rust and anything she planted didn’t grow. During the harvest the food Elaine gathered rotted in storage. Grandmother had been the one to tend to the small vegetable patch besides their tiny house in the forest. Elaine hadn’t even been able to help.
“Don’t you have any family? A mother and father?” asked Merlin.
“Both dead since I was little,” answered Elaine, reaching down to pick up the pull-cart handle again. “My grandmother died last week.” Had it already been a week? Elaine felt an ache in her chest start up fiercely.
Merlin frowned. “You could stay here. We’ll find you some work.”
The sorcerer’s words caused a small smile to flutter across Elaine’s face but she shook her head. “I can’t stay in Camelot now. The whole castle knows about my bad luck. They wouldn’t…I mean…I just can’t.” Elaine tugged the pull-cart over another rut and continued down the road. “This is all very nice of you but it is better if I just go.”
“Can you read and write?”
Elaine paused and frowned back at Merlin’s serious face, wondering what the question had to do with anything. “Why? Heavens,” she muttered and rubbed her forehead. Was there some reason for this conversation or did the sorcerer have a point? It was getting late! “Some,” Elaine said to Merlin. “Grandmother taught me all she knew but it wasn’t much.”
“Work for me then.”
The sorcerer’s announcement froze Elaine on the road. “You can’t be serious,” she said faintly. “I’m bad luck. I can’t work for you. Imagine what would happen!” The young woman had a vision of magical spells and powerful artifacts clashing with her bad luck and winced.
“I am serious,” insisted Merlin. He reached forward and grabbed her hand, ignoring the slimy slick feeling of her skin. “I could use some help keeping track of my books and notes. I’m sure it will be fine.” Elaine hesitated, trying to pull her hand from Merlin’s grip. “At least stay the night.”
The young woman looked up at the sliver of sunlight left in the western sky and dropped her shoulders in defeat. A night in some corner of the stables would be better than a hastily made campsite. “Alright, just for tonight.” Merlin smiled and guided Elaine back through the city gates, where the guards bowed to him, and up to the castle.
In the main courtyard Merlin turned and said he would have someone store her things. Elaine tightened her hand around the pull-cart handle. “If it’s all the same to you, my lord, I’d like to keep my things with me. I’ve nearly lost them once and I have no desire to give my bad luck a chance to lose them for good.”
“Alright,” Merlin replied soothingly to Elaine’s stubborn look. “We’ll just take the cart with us.” Merlin and the young woman approached the main stairway into the castle proper and Elaine prepared to haul the little pull-cart up the steps by herself when the weight tugging on her hand suddenly disappeared. She looked down quickly to find the cart floating about a foot off the ground. Elaine caught the fading glow of gold in Merlin’s eyes.
“Thanks,” said Elaine softly. Merlin merely nodded and they both walked up the stairs, Elaine gently pulling the floating cart behind her. The sorcerer led Elaine through the castle. She could feel the stares of the people they walked past, mostly from the servants. Disapproval radiated from everyone with Elaine’s reappearance in the castle. The young woman resolutely kept her eyes on her feet and followed Merlin.
At the top of some stairs, Elaine felt a sharp sting in the palm of her hand and the cart crashed to the floor with a loud bang. Merlin whirled around and stared at the cart that had just wiggled its way out of his spell. Elaine gave the sorcerer a flat look. She had warned him, after all. The young woman just hoped the thump hadn’t broken a wheel. She hadn’t the money or resources to repair or replace it. A door opened nearby and King Arthur came into the hall. “What was that?” he demanded.
A woman with dark hair and dusky skin appeared in the doorway behind him. “Oh, this must be the young woman Arthur and Morgana were speaking about.” The woman crossed the hallway, the skirt of her gown whispering across the stone, and grabbed Elaine’s hand in a comforting grip. “I’m so glad Merlin was able to catch up to you.” She glanced down at where they touched and frowned. “I don’t feel anything. Her skin is quite dry,” she said to the sorcerer.
Elaine bowed as much as the woman’s hold on her would allow. There was only one person this woman could be, coming from the King’s chambers. “You would not, your majesty,” she greeted the queen. “It is my understanding that only magic users feel my bad luck on my skin. Only my Grandmother ever felt the slime before now.”
“Elaine will be staying with us from now on,” announced Merlin.
“I will stay the night,” corrected Elaine. “But I shall still leave in the morning.”
“This isn’t about that bad luck thing, is it? I still say that is utter nonsense,” declared Arthur.
“Nonsense or not, your majesty, everyone in your castle knows about myself and my bad luck now,” said Elaine. “I cannot stay.”
Guinevere winced and let go of the young woman’s hand. “I hate to say it, but she’s right. None of the servants will accept having her work among them when they think she has bad luck.”
“Which is why she will be working for me,” replied Merlin.
“Bad idea,” muttered Elaine. She was standing in the middle of the greatest people of her age. They told stories around tavern fires about these people. Elaine just wanted them to go away. All she wanted right now was to be shown to the corner she would be allowed to sleep in and to get some rest. It had been a long day.
“I’m sure it will be fine,” said Guinevere soothingly.
“Alright Merlin,” said Arthur briskly. “You’re responsible for her then.”
“Leaving in the morning,” repeated Elaine vainly. They ignored her. Merlin finally showed her to a room and Elaine looked around at the plush bed and carved furniture. The young woman opened her mouth in confusion, took one look at Merlin’s guileless smile, and just thanked the sorcerer with a sigh. When she was alone, Elaine pulled her little cart over in front of the fireplace and lay down on the rug, forgoing the bed. Even when she’d lived with her grandmother, her bed had been a pile of straw with a blanket thrown over it. She and her grandmother had once shared a bed but bugs had eaten through the legs and it had collapsed when Elaine was seven years old. As far as the young woman was concerned, sleeping in the bed now would only invite more bad luck. She didn’t want to give it a chance.
Notes: There will be another chapter tomorrow, I need to match up my posting.