“Time.” Merlin said instantly. “Time to dissect the bracelet, for a start.”
The prince fixed him with a hard, assessing look, which Merlin steadily returned.
“Fine.” Arthur said finally. “But I want to be there to watch.”
Merlin blinked. “Sire?”
“I want to be there when you’re unraveling the spells.” Arthur repeated. “Oh come now Merlin, you didn’t really think that I would just believe the word of a dragon, did you? That you have magic, I have no doubt, but to hear him tell it, you’re the most powerful warlock ever to be born, which just doesn’t make any sense. Why would magical, mystical Merlin willingly demote himself to a mere manservant, in a city that despises magic and all it symbolizes?”
“I thought that you weren’t going to ask why.” Merlin responded coolly after a moment.
“This is me not asking. You figure out Morgause’s plans, and no more ‘why’ questions.”
So this was a test. Arthur wanted to see a demonstration. So be it, Merlin thought with a hint of gleeful maliciousness.
“Very well. You have a council meeting with your father tomorrow, as well as training the knights. I was going to take the bracelet down to the goldsmith to see if he can replicate it. I will then put a variation of the healing spell on the new bracelet, so that Morgana will have some form of protection. That will give me some breathing room and time to concentrate on studying the original more closely.” He bowed slightly, although he kept his eyes on his liege lord. “After the exchange has been made, you are welcome to observe, sire.”
The formality of tone and address meant that Merlin had accepted the challenge and was ceding to the prince’s command. Of course, Merlin being Merlin, he had phrased it so that the whole thing was his idea and offer.
“Have Guinevere take it; she can be discreet.” Arthur ordered, although his lips twitched at the audacity of his friend and servant. “The council meeting is tomorrow afternoon. You and I are going to start your first lessons in staff fighting and shooting a crossbow first thing tomorrow morning.”
When Merlin opened his mouth, Arthur added pointedly, “You promised, Merlin.”
The warlock subsided with a grunt. “Until the ‘morrow, then?” he grumbled, heading for the door. Never one to willingly let his friend and liege have the last word, he tossed over his shoulder, “I trust that you will be awake on your own tomorrow. Since this chamber is shielded and you know about it, I can be far more…inventive in my methods to wake you up now, especially since I know that it is all an act and you are perfectly capable of doing so on your own.” He ducked out of the door, a large boot narrowly missing him. “Sweet dreams!”