A Chained Heart by SmithsonianGirl
Summary: Every year on September 5th, traders flock to Camelot to get permission to trade. One such trader is Ulric, and deals in slaves. Merlin convinces Arthur to buy the slave girl Adelaide, but it is quickly obvious that she is not all that she seems to be.
Categories: FPF Het Characters: Arthur, Gaius, Gwen, Merlin, Morgana, Uther
Genre: Romance
Pairing: Merlin/OFC
Warnings: non-explicit violence
Challenges:
Series: None
Chapters: 3 Completed: No Word count: 7111 Read: 6055 Published: Aug 25, 2009 Updated: Jan 02, 2010

1. Trading Night by SmithsonianGirl

2. Addie by SmithsonianGirl

3. Mindsets by SmithsonianGirl

Trading Night by SmithsonianGirl
On the fifth night of September, Camelot was alive with celebrations. The market was a bustling center of commerce as stalls offered their wares in incredibly complicated designs and cases, each more daring and pleasing than the next. Fruits and vegetables were artfully arranged on high tiers that stretched above the canvas stall coverings; horses, goats, and sheep were groomed to a healthy glow and were surrounded by both young children, looking for a pet to cuddle with, and older farmers looking to increase their stock. Closer to the castle stood the stalls selling jewelry and cloth, their wares draping over the tables and glittering in the setting sun’s light. Women clustered around these tables, occasionally drawing their husbands near as they pleaded for money for a yard of silk- didn’t they know that their daughter would be married soon and would need it for her gown? And there, by the castle itself, stood guards with smiling faces instead of their usual expressionless mask. This was the happiest night during the entire year, the one time that both commoners and courtiers could gather to discuss the finest items for trade. Tonight, the fifth night of September, was the one chance that the commoners had to present their wares to the king for inspection. If they were lucky, the king would be impressed and pay a fine price. Often this endorsement would increase their sales for the remaining year. And tonight was also the chance for new traders to bring their wares to Camelot. Each item traded had to have the express permission and approval of the king, and tonight’s festivities was the best time to get it.

Tonight, the fifth of September, was Trading Night and therefore a time of celebration.

At the far end of the marketplace stood a short and chubby man with beady eyes. His chin was covered in stubble and his hair was balding, adding to his somewhat unpleasant look. Even from a distance his skin looked grubby, and his clothes were stained from travel. In his hands he held two things- a thick chain, and a short leather whip. The chain led behind him, where a young girl stood with both her feet and hands bound in manacles. Her head hung low, with her matted blonde hair falling in front of her face, because she was worth less than the commoners standing before her. It was clear from both her chains and posture that she was a slave, and that this man was a trader.

The brutish man, who resembled a wild boar in appearance, yanked the chain and stepped forward into the market, earning shocked stares from the other traders as he did so. It had been years since a slave trader had visited Camelot- in fact, the last one had been banished by the king’s father for dishonest work. Didn’t the man realize that he and his wares were unwanted here?

The slave trader kept walking, though, and seemed unaware of the glares he was receiving. He set a brisk pace towards the castle, constantly yanking on the chain. His slave walked on bare feet and periodically stumbled, although that seemed to anger her trader even more. He would simply yank on the chain and drag her forward, occasionally twitching the whip as some sort of threat. The girl would whimper quietly to herself before stepping forward carefully, making sure to keep her balance. It seemed that this was the only weakness she allowed herself to show.

When the slave trader reached the castle doors, he smiled at the guards. His teeth were yellowed and cracked, and the closet guard fought from leaning away from his rancid breath. Instead he stood perfectly still, trying to slow his breathing as much as possible.

“I’m looking for the king,” the slave trader said in a ragged voice. Some words came out broken, and others were practically rasped. It sounded as if he had damaged his throat at some point and his vocal chords hadn’t properly healed.

The guards nodded their head towards the main castle hallway. “Down the corridor and through the third door on the left,” one of the guards intoned. “There might be a line, but I think it’s finally slowed.”

The slave trader nodded and stepped into the castle, pulling the poor slave after him. The girl tripped over the final step, but she managed to catch herself before she fell. The chains around her ankles and wrists had already rubbed her skin raw from today’s traveling, but she didn’t allow herself to cry out as her master yanked her forward yet again. To cry out was to get the whip, and that hurt even more. The one thing she had first learned about her master was that he wasn’t forgiving.

The walk to the throne room had seemed incredibly long, but maybe that was simply because she had been focusing her efforts on ignoring the pain. Suddenly, though, she found herself standing in a massive room full of beautiful dressed people. Tables full of rich food flanked her on both sides, and the girl’s mouth watered as she imagined how good they would taste. The only food she ever got to eat was stale bread.

When the slave trader had entered the room, the lively conversation had fallen silent. Each courtier and knight had their eyes trained on the slave trader as he made his way down the center aisle towards the thrones where both the king and his young prince sat. In a slightly smaller chair next to the king’s left sat his ward, the Lady Morgana. Her beautiful hazel eyes narrowed with distaste as he bowed and smiled wolfishly in her direction. “My king, my prince, and my lady,” the slave trader rasped as he directed more bows in their direction. He quickly noticed that both the king and prince were interested in his wares- the lady was definitely displeased. If he wanted to make a sale, he would simply have to win the Pendragon family over.

“You are new to Camelot’s marketplace, I assume?” Uther asked thoughtfully, his gloved fingers tapping his chin. Beside him, the young blonde prince shifted in his throne and crossed his arms. Perhaps he wasn’t as happy about slave trading as he had thought.

“I’ve just traveled here from the outlying villages,” the slave trader explained in his distorted voice. “My name is Ulric, and I trade in slaves. I understand that tonight is Trading Night in Camelot.”

Uther nodded, his face betraying no emotion. He knew how to play new traders- make them fight for the right to trade in the city by showing indifference to their wares. It always helped him get a higher tax on the goods. “Slaves, you say. We have not had a slave trader in Camelot since my father’s reign. Why should we?”

Ulric smiled again and bowed respectfully, although it was obvious to those in the room that he was trying to curry favor. Behind the prince’s chair, a tall and skinny servant with black hair seemed to bristle with anger. Ulric cast a careful eye on him- it seemed that the prince’s manservant also detested slave traders. He would have to be very smooth with his talk. “Why should you pay for servants when you can own them?” he countered Uther’s argument.

The king shared and a look with his son. “Perhaps my son Arthur should make the decision on your offer. He has yet to participate in Trading Night,” he replied carefully, throwing power into his son’s hands. Arthur looked surprised at his father’s decision but covered it well by coughing and gesturing for Ulric to continue.

“Thank you, my lord,” Ulric groveled. “I own many slaves, although this one is my finest. She is fiery in nature but does her work well. Perhaps you would like her for your own service, no? Here, take a closer look.” Ulric yanked hard on the chain and the girl stepped forward, her gaze directed at her feet. She shuffled towards the throne but was slow to curtsy. Ulric hissed at her and pulled once more on the chain, this time bringing the girl to her knees. She simply hung her head, so ashamed of her position in life that she couldn’t even feel shame.

“You idiot girl, bow your head to the prince!” Ulric roared as the girl made no move to bow her head. Perhaps she stayed still because her head was already bowed respectfully to the prince- she always had her head bowed respectfully. Ulric didn’t seem to care, though, as he brandished his whip and smacked her back with it. The girl simply accepted the blow and bit her lip, her teeth slicing her skin and causing blood to well up in the wound. Morgana looked horrified at the girl’s treatment but had no way to intervene, Uther looked interested in his son’s reaction, and Arthur simply sat with a stony expression on his face. Behind him, his servant’s eyes flashed with anger and he leaned forward, filling his master’s cup with wine. As he did so, he whispered something frantically in the blonde prince’s ear.

“Don’t harm her,” Arthur finally said. “If she is to work in the castle, I would like her to be in the best of health. How much will you sell her for?”

Ulric smiled and pulled once more on the chains so that the slave stood on her feet. She did so immediately, keeping her head pointed to the ground. “I would take five hundred crowns, which is a fine price for such a talented slave girl. She can sew, read, write, and even work in the fields. Anything, really. But you would definitely like her?”

Arthur’s face blanched at the ridiculously high price. Because the trader knew that he wanted this particular slave, he would drive a hard bargain. He could also name high prices because it was the monarchy he was trading with. Squaring his shoulders, Arthur shook his head. “I refuse to pay five hundred crowns for this girl. What would you say to one hundred?” The price was still high, but Arthur knew he wouldn’t be able to get any lower. If he had been a commoner, this would have been the starting price and he would’ve been able to get it down to maybe sixty.

“For the amount of time I’ve spent on training her, she’s worth more than that. It’s one hundred and fifty crowns or nothing,” Ulric bargained. He also knew that Arthur was trying to get a commoner’s price, but he wouldn’t allow it.

Arthur didn’t allow himself to look at his father as he finished the trade. He knew that Uther was furious right now- he had just proved what an idiot he was at haggling- but there was one way he could regain his father’s favor. This trader wanted permission to set up a stall in Camelot- he would simply make this extremely expensive. “I accept at one hundred and fifty crowns,” Arthur said loudly, gesturing for a servant to count the money into Ulric’s money pouch. “Now we must decide your tax for trading in the marketplace. I think forty percent of your sales is generous, don’t you think?”

Now it was Ulric’s turn to blanch at the high price. But unlike Arthur, he wasn’t in a position to barter for lower. “Forty percent is generous indeed, my lord. I am glad to be trading in Camelot. Here’s your slave,” he said as he shoved the girl forward. Reaching into his pocket, he withdrew a key and pressed it into Arthur’s open palm. “I hope you are happy with her. She should behave as she knows how lucky she is to be working for your family.” And with that, Ulric, left the chain and whip in Arthur’s hands and strode out of the throne room. He had very few hours left of selling time to set up his stall and arrange his other slaves.

Arthur watched in satisfaction as Ulric left the room. Then he turned to Uther, who actually smiled in return. Arthur had just gotten the highest tax in Camelot’s history, although it was partially balanced by the amount of money he had spent on buying the slave girl. “Let’s begin the feast,” Uther announced to everyone assembled in the throne room. “I think we’ve all had enough bartering for a day. Now, Arthur,” he said, turning to his son, “Why don’t you send your slave to the kitchens. I’m sure they could put her to work.”

The prince shook his head and gestured for Merlin, his manservant, to step forward. “With all due respect, Father,” he said, “I bought the girl to assist Merlin with his duties. That way when Merlin is in the stocks I’ll still be able to have someone serve me.”

“Very well, Arthur. As she is your slave you may do with her as you wish. Now, if you would excuse me I would like to speak with Sir Pellinor…” Uther drifted off across the room to speak with his knights, and Arthur finally turned his attention to the slave girl. She was still standing in front of him, her hands clasped and her head bowed.

“Miss,” Arthur said softly, trying to get her to acknowledge him. The slave girl simply stood straighter but did not look up.

“What are my orders, my lord?” she asked in a hushed tone. Her voice sounded incredibly distant, as if this was simply routine for her.

Arthur threw a glance at Merlin. “Look at up at me, will you?” he finally asked, fed up with the slave girl’s fascination with the floor. She slowly tilted her head up, finally meeting Arthur’s eyes with her own. Arthur was shocked by what he saw- the girl’s skin was deathly white, and her eyes were sunken and surrounded by puffy, black shadows. He could see a few bruises on her throat, and one by her left ear suggested that she had been hit by a fist.

“How may I serve you, my lord?” the girl once again repeated, still searching for her orders. Arthur shook his head at her.

“I have no orders for you. In fact, I don’t even own you. Merlin does.”

The slave girl looked surprised at this statement and shot a worried glance at Merlin, who tried to smile encouragingly. The slave girl simply saw this as a threat, though, and took a step back. Merlin’s startlingly blue eyes clouded as he realized how badly the girl had been treated for her to be afraid of a smile.

“I don’t understand,” she said carefully. “It was you who paid for me. Therefore you own me. My life is to serve you in any way you wish.”

“No, I bought you for Merlin. Think of yourself as a present for him. He owns you, not I, and he’ll be a good master. Merlin actually works for me, so you’ll be helping him with his own chores,” Arthur tried to explain. The slave girl seemed to understand the deal Arthur had made with Merlin as she immediately threw herself at the lanky boy’s feet. Merlin’s face whitened with surprise and he hastily pulled the girl back to her feet.

“Don’t bow to me like that,” he corrected the girl. She immediately muttered an apology and Merlin shot Arthur a frantic look. “Um, why don’t you tell me your name? And then… you can help me keep Arthur’s plate and goblet filled.”

The girl studied Merlin’s face, wondering if he was being serious. “I’m Adelaide, but my sister used to call me Addie,” she said haltingly. Merlin nodded and took the key from Arthur, using it to unlock the manacles binding her wrists and ankles. Soon the chain fell away to the floor, and Merlin placed the whip on top.

“You won’t be bound by chains again,” he promised her as he looked over the wounds the metal had left behind. “After dinner I’d like to have my guardian, Gaius, look over these. He’s the court physician here, and he’ll take good care of you.”

Addie nodded, her face still void of any expression. She quickly took her place behind Arthur, holding a tray of food that she occasionally refilled the prince’s plate with. Merlin shook his head with exasperation when he noticed how quickly she began working but took a stance beside her, holding a pitcher of wine that he used to fill Arthur’s goblet.

“Thank you,” Addie said softly to both Merlin and Arthur. The two boys shared a look and shook their heads.

“Whatever for?” Arthur asked.

“You’ve bought my freedom, even though I’m still a slave. I don’t care what happens to me, as long as I’m away from him.”

Arthur nodded, thinking over her words. “Well,” he said, his voice somewhat brusque, “You really have Merlin to thank. It was his idea, not mine. I just had the money.”

Addie turned to Merlin, who simply blushed and nodded. “I knew that Arthur didn’t like Ulric, but it was me who was ready to tackle him for chaining you up. I’d like to free you, but if Uther finds out he’ll be furious. But I promise that I’ll treat you as if you’re free. We can talk more about it in detail when we go see Gaius. Right now we’re supposed to be working,” he gave as an explanation.

“Thank you,” she whispered again to Merlin. Her voice sounded happy to the manservant’s ears, but the truth was that she was still very miserable. While the chains on her body had been removed, Merlin had yet to find the key to remove the chains from her heart.
Addie by SmithsonianGirl
Addie looked over her shoulder nervously as Merlin led her down yet another corridor. She had no idea where they were, and she had even less of an idea of where they were headed. Before setting off from the throne room Merlin had said that he would take her to the chambers he shared with Gaius, but Addie didn’t hold much truth to his words. It wasn’t as if anyone had made her promises before and kept them. In the end, no matter how hard the person tried, they always failed to keep their word. By now Addie had given up believing them in the first place. She had believed in Timothy, she had thought that he would help her during That Dark Day, but instead he had turned traitor. His betrayal still shocked Addie, rattling her to her core, even though it was nearly six years later. Timothy was the last person she would expect to betray her, but it just went to show that in the grand scheme of things, you can’t trust anyone.

Like this Merlin fellow. He was a perfect example, Addie found herself thinking to herself somewhat nastily. But Addie didn’t feel any guilt for secretly hating Merlin. If hating Merlin kept her safe, alive, and unhurt, then she would do it without a second thought. He’s probably a twisted fellow, Addie continued in her internal rampage. No matter what the prince says about him, he’s probably got some cruel plan for me.

Merlin seemed to notice Addie’s nervousness as he halted and turned back towards her, smiling again in a way that he must have thought reassuring. Addie fought to keep from shuddering- she hated smiles. Some were lovely, of course, like Timothy’s, but underneath there was always something darker lurking. And Merlin’s smile was wider than most, meaning that he had a bigger secret.

It all made sense to Addie, anyway. She had learned so much of the world from That Dark Day and her life as a slave. If anyone could understand people and their actions, it was Addie.

“Addie, there’s no reason to be afraid,” Merlin gently said, stretching his hand out towards her.

Addie froze, unable to move as Merlin’s hand reached towards her own. Please don’t hit me, please, I’ve been beaten already today, I thought I had done a good job at the banquet, please don’t hit me.

Addie blinked slowly, finding herself no longer frozen like a deer torn between observing and fleeing. Merlin’s hand was now back by his side. He wasn’t going to hurt her.

“I’m sorry, Addie,” the manservant quickly apologized. Addie’s face paled and she quickly curtsied. Her master shouldn’t be apologizing to her, it just wasn’t right! Now he really would hurt her…

“There’s no need to apologize, my lord, I acted foolishly,” Addie quickly mumbled, focusing her gaze on the toes of Merlin’s boots. She was taking note of mud on the left boot- she would have to clean it as soon as she found supplies- when Merlin spoke again. His voice sounded surprised, but Addie didn’t understand of what.

“Don’t call me ‘my lord’, Addie. I told you that you’re as good as free. Call me Merlin,” the dark-haired boy instructed. Addie sank into a curtsy again. She didn’t like the idea of calling her master by his name, but if he ordered it, then she must obey. That was the first rule of being a slave. Live to obey, die to obey, exist to obey. Or at least, that’s the first thing that Ulric had told her after That Dark Day.

“As you wish… Merlin,” Addie quietly said, her voice faint and only able to be heard because the stone walls amplified it somewhat. And as quickly as it had started, the conversation was over. Addie stood in front of Merlin in silence, her gaze still directed at his boots. It would be improper for her to look any higher, so Addie simply studied the floor. It was dirty, she would have to fetch a mop and clean it later. If she could find her way back here, of course. The castle was a giant maze, and there was no telling what hid in the alcoves. Addie had no intention of finding out what.

As if Merlin had read her mind, the boy coughed and gestured down the hall. “We only have to walk down a few more corridors to get to the tower where I live with Gaius. Tomorrow I can give you a proper tour of the castle, as well as see about your lodgings. Unfortunately Gaius has only two beds, so we’ll have to see if you can use one of the rooms designated for castle staff… Well, come along. It’s getting late, and I want Gaius to check your wounds before we go to bed,” Merlin said while setting off down the hall once again. Addie followed, making sure to keep several paces between them. She had gotten the whip after she had done what Ulric termed as ‘hovering’.

Before long, Merlin was standing in front of a tall and beaten oak door. Without knocking, he shoved it open and entered the room. Addie remained in the hall- she was not to enter rooms unless on orders- and Merlin returned, looking at her quizzically. “Aren’t you coming, Addie? I know I said that you’ll have to get lodgings elsewhere, but you can stay here for tonight.”

Ducking her head once again, Addie timidly stepped forward into what she now realized was the court physician’s chambers. Tables upon tables cluttered the room, and the tables themselves were cluttered. There were flasks of multiple colors arranged, vials and flagons, a scale for measuring, and even a mortar and pestle. Above the tables and hanging from the rafters, while also filling several pouches that also littered the tables, were dried herbs. Hundreds of herbs. Their smell gave the room an earthy feel, and Addie immediately felt calmed. This room, as threatening as Addie knew it to be, felt warm and inviting. If she hadn’t learned her Lessons of Life, she had the feeling that she would dearly love this room.

Turning around the close the door, Addie suddenly found herself facing a wall of shelves and books. The shelf reached the ceiling, and a rickety ladder was balanced so that one might reach the top shelves. Addie sighed, although not loud enough to be heard. She had loved books and reading, but after That Dark Day she hadn’t been allowed to touch any. If only she could get her hands on these… but she never would. She was a slave, and she had duties that didn’t involve reading. If only, if only.

Merlin must have noticed a slightly wistful look on Addie’s face, because he smiled and said happily, “Those are Gaius’ books. He’s collected them over several years, and he’ll probably let you borrow some if you ask.”

Addie blushed and dipped her head, looking back towards the floor. “It’s not in my place to ask for books,” she automatically responded, while she was actually yearning to delve into a few. She had caught sight of a story that she had grown up reading, La Cendrillon. It was her favorite fairy tale as it was about a poor girl who was tormented by her stepsisters and made to work as a servant until she met the handsome prince and fell in love. Wouldn’t it be nice if something like that happened to me? Of course, it never will, Addie thought to herself.

“Addie…” Merlin said in a hushed tone. Addie hesitantly looked up from beneath her lashes and was startled to see Merlin looking… sad? Pained? The appropriate word was so close, just on the tip of her tongue, but she couldn’t come up with it. “Addie, don’t think like that. I know you’ve been brought up as a slave, but you aren’t one anymore. Well, you’re one legally but that’s just paperwork. In truth, you are as free as I am. Don’t ever forget that.”

Addie looked away again, because as much as she tried to understand, she couldn’t. She was a slave. Her whole purpose in life was to serve others. Now she was suddenly ‘free’; it just didn’t seem possible. What if she woke up and found this all to be a dream? No, she couldn’t let herself be crushed like that. Better to be a slave forever than to be free for a day.

“Okay, then,” Merlin said, clapping his hands together from the awkward silence. Internally, Addie cringed. He had expected her to say something, and she hadn’t. Now she would be punished.

“I’m sorry,” she mumbled quietly before bending down, her back towards Merlin.

“Er, what are you doing?” Merlin said from behind her, his voice quizzical.

“You wanted me to say something, and I was silent. I am to be punished.”

No sound came from Merlin. Suddenly Addie felt a gentle hand on her arm, pulling her up and turning her around. She found herself once again staring at Merlin’s feet. Yes, she would definitely have to clean his left boot. It looked like horse manure was smeared across it.

“Addie-”

“Are there any brushes and soap lying around this room? I must clean your boots, they are filthy,” Addie interrupted. Merde! Now you’ve gotten yourself in trouble, she scolded herself. A slave never interrupts their master; to do so means whipping, starvation, or any other horrible punishment that the master felt like doling.

“Addie, I don’t want you to clean my boots!” Merlin sounded exasperated, although why he did was unclear. If he wasn’t happy with how Addie was acting, it was his own fault. He wasn’t being very clear with his orders. But if he wasn’t happy, regardless of whose fault, she would be punished. Addie hung her head even lower, hoping that her scrawny master wouldn’t hit as hard as Ulric. That man was a bear.

Suddenly Addie felt Merlin’s fingers touching her chin. He gently pulled up, moving her head so that she was staring straight into his eyes. Addie was surprised to see that they were blue, and as she looked she saw flecks of gold. His eyes were beautiful… but then again, maybe all eyes were. Addie hadn’t seen them for so long.

“Don’t ever lower your gaze around me, or anyone else for that matter. You’re equal, now. Avoid their gaze if you wish, but promise me that you won’t look at the ground,” Merlin said in a manner that suggested he was trying to be encouraging. Instead he simply sounded desperate. Addie wanted to pull her head away from Merlin’s fingers, but she couldn’t. The master was the master for a reason, and he ruled the slave.

“Yes, Merlin.”

Merlin closed his eyes tightly, breathing deeply before opening them. When he did, he shook his head sadly and dropped his hand back to his side. Perhaps he knew how uncomfortable Addie was feeling and was being generous. If so, Addie was grateful. Maybe Merlin was a nice master. “Promise me, Addie. Saying yes isn’t enough,” he finally said.

“Yes, Merlin.” Addie knew that she was being irritating, but what was she to do? She didn’t trust promises, at least not anymore. Not ever since Timothy and That Dark Day. There was no way she would ever promise anything after all that had happened.

“Gaius should be here soon. He’s just been administering some medicine to Uther, I believe,” Merlin then said, trying to find something to break the silence with. But Addie preferred silence, so she remained quiet. Pretty soon her master caught on, and they simply stood in the center of the room. Neither one paid attention to how much time had passed before Gaius had entered the room.

“Merlin!” Gaius called out as he strode towards both his ward and Addie. His voice was gruff, but Addie immediately could tell that this was simply from age and not personality. It was clear from both Gaius himself and his room that he was learned man, and for that Addie couldn’t help but like him. She didn’t trust him, of course, but he wasn’t necessarily bad. “I see that you have brought your new… assistant to spend the night with us,” the physician continued.

Merlin nodded and smiled once again, his expression goofy and idiotic. Addie could understand why Arthur yelled at him so much. She would too, if she had met Merlin before That Dark Day. “Gaius, this is Addie. Addie, this is Gaius. Now, could you maybe check her over? I just want to make sure she isn’t hurt too badly,” Merlin said, directing the majority of his words towards Gaius.

Gaius looked at Addie and studied her for a moment before nodding and gesturing for her to step towards him. “Come here, child,” he said warmly. Addie blushed at the endearment but stepped forward nonetheless. Gently, Gaius reached forward and lifted her chin up so he could study her bruises. He also checked her breathing, heartbeat, joints, and teeth before pronouncing her healthy. “I just want you to put this balm on your bruises twice a day, once in the morning and once before going to bed. It will speed up the healing process and also sooth the pain,” he instructed before pressing a jar into her hand. Addie looked down at the jar and immediately opened it, applying its contents to her bruises. The effect was instantaneous as she felt the pain ebb away.

“Thank you very much, Sir. I’ll be sure to find a way to pay you back,” Addie said respectfully.

“That won’t be necessary, child. Healing people is my job. Now, you are completely fine? Nothing else that I should be aware of?” Gaius asked, his eyes deep and penetrating. At first Addie was unsure to what he was referring, but she quickly realized and shook her head.

“No, definitely not! Ulric wasn’t… like that,” she immediately answered. Gaius’ demeanor seemed to brighten once that matter was cleared up.

“Now, I’m sure that Merlin wants to talk you and ask questions, but it’s been a long day for all of us and therefore I think we should all head to bed. For tonight you can use the cot by the window. Usually I save it for patients, but it will suffice until we can find you a room of your own. And if you wake up and need anything, be sure to fetch either Merlin or I. I’ll be in the bed at the other side of the room, and Merlin will be in the room up those stairs,” Gaius said while pointing to somewhere behind Addie. She followed his finger and saw a set of narrow stairs leading to another door, which she hadn’t noticed earlier.

“Well, good night, Addie. We can talk more in the morning,” Merlin said with his dopey grin. Addie curtsied to him as he turned to go up the stairs, and then she curtsied again to Gaius.

“Thank you very much for the balm and the lodging, Sir. And I do swear to repay you. I’m not worthy of such attention,” she said as she came back up from her respectful gesture.

Gaius shook his head and smiled- although why he did, Addie didn’t understand. “Firstly, call me Gaius. I am not a sir nor ever will be, Addie. And secondly, you are as worthy of attention as anyone else. You may not see that now, but I promise that within time, you will see everything differently. And thirdly, I do not wish nor need you to pay be back as no debt has been created. But please, go to sleep. You’ll need to be well-rested for tomorrow, as Camelot is a very busy place.”

And with that, Gaius walked away towards his own bed. Addie carefully slithered into hers and reveled in its comfort. There were a few lumps, yes, but the ground was a lot worse. At least she was warm and covered.

In one day I’m sold and promised freedom. But that cancels out to me being just sold, Addie thought to herself as she reflected on the day. Hopefully Merlin will be a good master. It’s all I can do to hope. Anyone who is better than Ulric is a hero in my eyes.
Mindsets by SmithsonianGirl
When Merlin woke in the morning, it was very early. Merlin blinked sleepily and stumbled out of bed. He didn’t know why he had woken so early; usually he slept until Gaius came into his room yelling for him to get up because Arthur was looking for him. Or Arthur was hungry, or Arthur wanted to go hunting, or Arthur had to get ready for a meeting, or Arthur was just tormenting him by requesting his presence so early.

But this morning, Merlin had woken before even Gaius. He crept downstairs into the main room of Gaius’ tower and saw that the old man was still sleeping in his cot, his blankets pulled up to his chin and rising and falling as he breathed. Puzzled by what had woken him- perhaps it was a bad dream- Merlin turned around to back upstairs. And that was when he noticed it.

Addie’s cot was empty. The sheets were pulled up neatly, and the pillow fluffed. Resting on the cot was a washed set of his clothes, complete with a laundered neckerchief. Next to the cot, Merlin could see his boots cleaned and standing neatly. Tucked underneath one of them was a slip of parchment. Merlin walked over to the cot and groaned, because he knew that Addie was responsible for this. Sure enough, the note was from her.

“Good morning, Merlin,” he read aloud in a whisper. “I cleaned your clothes and boots for today and have gone to work around the castle. I’ve begun by preparing the breakfast for your master, and after I see to him I’ll return with breakfast for yourself. With all the respect and duty I possess, Addie.”

“My God, Addie,” Merlin groaned. “I didn’t want you to do this!”

Gaius snored and rolled over in his sleep, and Merlin bit his lip to keep from saying anything else. Grabbing the clothes and boots, Merlin slipped back into his room to get dressed. Then he crept out of his chambers and headed straight to the kitchen, where he hoped to find Addie. He wanted to send her back to bed since he didn’t need her help today. In fact, he would never need her help. Merlin had been hoping to get Addie to spend the day with Gaius, who was sure to loosen her up. Of all people, Gaius was the best with timid children who’d seen terrible things. He would be the first person to get Addie to stop thinking like slave and instead like a normal person.

But when Merlin got to the kitchen, he learned that Addie wasn’t there. He asked the cook if someone had already fetched Arthur’s breakfast, and the cook informed that a girl with blond hair had stopped by an hour earlier.

“Thank you very much,” Merlin said before leaving. He then went straight to Arthur’s chambers. When he knocked on the door, it was immediately opened by Addie. She dropped into a curtsy despite Merlin’s protests. Behind Addie, Arthur was sitting at his table eating. He looked over at Merlin and gestured for him to enter his room.

“Thank goodness you’re here,” he said to his manservant. Merlin raised his eyebrows. “As much as I love Addie’s skills at servitude, she’s driving me nuts. I’m too used to your lateness, cold food, and backhanded comments.”

Beside Merlin, Addie blushed. “I’m sorry, Sir. If you wish me to make backhand comments, I will do so,” she said.

Merlin lifted a hand to scratch the back of his head. “Addie, you don’t have to do this. In fact, don’t do it. I’m Arthur’s servant, not you, and you’re… not a servant. I wanted you to stay with Gaius today and just take the day off. You deserve it after all you’ve been through,” Merlin said to his charge.

Addie’s eyes widened. “I apologize, Merlin, for going against your wishes. But since you were not waking, I had to bring Arthur his food and clean his room for you. I see that you found the clothes and boots that I washed for you?”

Merlin nodded. “About that. I’m capable of taking care of my clothes, Addie, and I don’t want to delegate those chores to you. I just want you to live without serving anyone else. You are not a slave anymore. Why don’t you go back to my chambers?”

Arthur watched the scene with amusement, but when Addie didn’t make any signs of movement he stepped in. “Addie, thank you very much for the service you’ve done me this morning. But I’ve grown used to Merlin, and I agree in that you should take the day off. If you won’t go to Gaius of your own accord, I will order you to.”

That did the trick. Addie curtsied to both men and left the room in a hurry, quickly disappearing as she rounded the turn in the hallway. Merlin looked back at Arthur and sighed, throwing himself into Arthur’s second chair. The blond prince raised his eyebrows. “A handful, is she?” he asked.

Merlin leaned back in the chair and closed his eyes. “You have no idea,” he replied. He honestly didn’t know what to do about Addie. No matter how many times he told her that she wasn’t a slave anymore, she acted like one. And she was still looking at the ground, too. It was like she was stuck in this mindset that he couldn’t break through, even though he wanted to more than anything.

“What are you going to do about her?” Arthur asked.

Merlin shrugged. “I have no idea. She won’t listen to me unless I’m telling her to do something. It’s like talking to a wall.”

“Do you think her spending time with Gaius will help?”

“I hope so,” Merlin replied. “Or maybe if she spends time with his books. She looked at them pretty hungrily when she first saw them.”

Arthur nodded thoughtfully. “If she likes reading, maybe you could ask Geoffrey of Monmouth if he’d like to have her assistance in keeping the records,” he suggested.

Merlin shrugged again. “I could, but I don’t want to just give her a job. She deserves a chance to live a little.”

“You could send her to spend a day with Gwen and Morgana. I remember how timid Gwen was when she first started working here. She wasn’t quite as bad as Addie, but it was close. But Morgana managed to get her to open up.”

“That’s a valuable idea,” he said. “I’ll try that after Addie spends some time with Gaius.”

The two men drifted into silence, but after a moment the prince broke it by saying, “I wonder what happened to her.”

Merlin opened his eyes and sat up. “I don’t know, but it must have been something bad for her to wind up in Ulric’s hands. I don’t trust that man as far as I’d throw him.”

Arthur’s eyes lit up. “Maybe we should pay him a visit, ask about Addie. We could also give him a bit of trouble,” he said mischievously.

“Let’s do it,” Merlin agreed.
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