Part 27: link My Dear Queen Annis,
As I’m sure آپ are aware, my reasons for sending escorts ہوم with our young friend and his party were actually twofold. Yes, it was a gesture of good faith and extra protection for them, but I was also keen to gather information about his demeanor and how he interacts with his people.
The information my knights have brought back to me has been fascinating, and I wish to share it with you.
First and foremost, my men were much impressed with the king and queen. They found them to be gracious, regal, and kind. However, they were quite surprised at how familiar the king is with his knights. He often allows them to call him سے طرف کی his دیا name and speak freely to him as if he were their peer. He chats freely with them, even joking and laughing with them. He is very involved with them, personally overseeing their training; not afraid to get his hands dirty.
This familiarity does not in any way detract from the respect his knights have for him and his queen. One of my knights talked at length with one of his, and he learned a great deal about their loyalty to their sovereigns. This particular knight claims that he would serve no other king, and that he and any of the knights would gladly lay down their life for either of their rulers. Such is the level of love and respect the young king has of his people.
I will admit that much of the information my men received was at a local tavern, but both men corroborated the information I received. They claimed that there was nothing but positive words and good cheer from nobles and commoners alike.
Even that line is blurring; the line between noble and commoner. Many of his knights, his closest knights, were common-born, and word has it that he’s just accepted three مزید into training that are the sons of a farmer.
Now, I tell آپ all this because, as one of the Old Guard to the other, I am much interested in your opinion. Is this the way the world is turning? Where a king can be a man of the people rather than above the people? What will become of the kingdom with this kind of hand, a hand that reaches out to the people? Time will out, I am sure, and I know we both will be watching with interest. It is very clear that he is not his father; should we be setting the young king and his kingdom as a model for the futures of our own kingdoms? Should we be guiding our heirs to follow this example?
I am actually inclined to think so. The alliance of our three kingdoms will be strong indeed, and I thank آپ again for helping to repair the rift between us.
I am very curious about your opinion on this matter, and trust that آپ will, as always, be direct with your reply.
“Please, wait here for the reply and آپ may return with it presently,” Annis says to Odin’s messenger.
“Yes, my lady.”
“Norah, please دکھائیں him to the kitchens. I am sure he has an appetite.”
“Thank you, my lady,” the messenger bows, smiling as he follows the maid. Dearest King Odin,
When I first met our young king, after I forgave him and got to know him, I recognized an indefinable quality in him. I told him that there was something about him that gave me hope for the future.
That being said, the information آپ have imparted to me does not surprise me. I am very interested in the future of their kingdom, and have already told them that I will be watching with interest.
My opinion of both the king and queen is very high indeed. I do feel that his methods and demeanor, though unconventional to our old eyes, are promising. The young king has much to offer this land, and we are wise to ally ourselves with them. He is young, he is charismatic, and he is strong. So, my direct answer is yes, I think we should look to his kingdom as a model and encourage our heirs to learn from his example. I have no doubt that there is truly a prosperous and fascinating time ahead for us all.
“Arthur, I don’t need a big celebration,” Gwen protests the اگلے morning over breakfast.
“Well, you’re getting one, and you’re not changing my mind.”
“I don’t think you’re going to win this one, Gwen,” Merlin says.
“Don’t help, Merlin,” Gwen says.
“Really, did آپ need to announce it to the council, though?”
“Of course I did. How else would we let everyone know? I’ve got big plans going on, آپ know.”
“Why does that worry me?”
“I’m helping, too,” Merlin chimes in again.
“Doesn’t make me feel any better.”
Arthur turns to Gwen. “Guinevere. Don’t worry. It’ll be wonderful. I promise.” He lifts her hand and kisses it.
“I don’t need big and wonderful, Arthur,” she tries again, but her voice is admitting defeat already.
“You’re the queen. آپ deserve nothing less. Even if آپ were still a servant, you’d deserve nothing less, my love.”
“I can’t change your mind?”
She stands and goes to her vanity, picking up her brush. Faintly Arthur hears her muttering something about “stubborn men” and “control issues.”
Arthur stands and goes to get his sword. Gwen waves Merlin over to her.
“Merlin,” she says quietly to him, “I need your help with something. A surprise for Arthur. Find me later when he’s training the knights.”
“Sure. What is it?”
“What are آپ two ladies gossiping about back there?” Arthur calls. “Merlin, help me with this, will you? I’m supposed be on the training field.”
“Drake, مزید finesse, not so stompy! You’re not harvesting grain یا dodging cowpats,” Arthur corrects the recruit, striding amongst the men, who are paired off with swords.
“Gwaine, stop دکھانا off,” he says, slapping him on the back of his head as he passes.
He approaches Elyan, sparring with Winthrop beside Leon and Winston. Arthur stops between the two pairs and watches. “Stop, stop, stop,” he says, waving his hands, and both pairs stop. “Twins: you’re mirroring each other. Again. Cut it out; it’s creepy.”
“Sorry, Sire, we can’t help it,” Winston says.
Arthur sighs. “Winthrop, آپ and Elyan اقدام down there,” he points. “Maybe some distance will help.”
Winthrop looks at Arthur, surprised. “You can tell us apart, my lord?” he asks.
“Well, yes. You’re left handed. Move,” he shoves him on the shoulder in a friendly way.
“Merlin, where are آپ going?” he sees Merlin walking away from the training field and turns toward him.
“Gwen wanted to see me!” he shouts back.
“Oh. Okay. Don’t take long.”
“No, no, like this.
Here…” Arthur says, walking towards another pair, drawing his sword.
“Not going to be easy, Gwen,” Merlin says, twisting his mouth to one side.
“I know. But I’ve been thinking about it a lot. We need to do this. He’ll appreciate it مزید than he realizes,” she says.
“We’ll need to find a way to get him out of here for at least half a day.”
“Obviously. We can put Gwaine on that detail. He’ll come up with something,” Gwen smiles.
“Probably. Can’t do anything real big like a hunting trip, because we’ll need a fair amount of men here.”
“I know. Of course…” she pauses, thinking. “No. That wouldn’t do. Can’t abuse آپ like that.”
Merlin laughs. “Oho, now you’re thinking of using my magic for your own ends, is that it?”
“Perhaps. But no.”
“I could do it, آپ know.”
“No. I can’t. It wouldn’t be right.”
“Okay. So: when?”
“We’ll wait till after my birthday. That way he won’t have a fit about my trying to divert attention away from my celebration.”
“Which آپ would love to do,” Merlin says. He knows his friend well.
“Which I would indeed love to do,” she agrees.
Gwen stands and walks to the window. Merlin’s eyes open wide. Oh no!
He mutters a hasty word under his breath, and with a flash of his eyes, the window is frozen in place.
She reaches for the handle and tries to open the window. “Hmm. Seems to be stuck. Merlin, can آپ help me with this, please?”
Merlin stands and joins her. He reaches for the handle and pulls. Stuck tight. Biting back a smile, he says, “I guess it is stuck, sorry.” He shrugs helplessly.
Guinevere turns and fixes him in her stare. “Merlin. I know آپ can open this window.” Shoot.
He sighs. She is too smart.
“Can, but won’t. Just… leave it be for now, Gwen.”
“What are آپ two up to?”
“Not telling. All I will say is that window must remain closed for a short while.”
short?” she glares at him.
“Again, not telling. Open a different window if you’re warm,” he says dismissively, waving his hand at the many other windows in the room.
She stomps over to another window and flings it open. “I don’t think I like the two of آپ conspiring against me,” she pouts.
“We’re not conspiring against you, Gwen,” he laughs. “Okay, we’re definitely conspiring, but it’s not against you. آپ know normally I would be on your side every time.” He crosses to her and puts his hands on her shoulders.
“Yes, I know that, Merlin. Thank you, آپ are always such a good friend to me, and I don’t say it enough,” she says, leaning up to kiss his cheek.
“Well, آپ say it مزید than Arthur does,” he jokes, laughing.
She laughs with him, then stretches her neck and sits back down.
“A little. Probably could do with a rest.”
“Trouble sleeping last night?” Merlin asks, concerned.
“Um, something like that, yes,” she says, avoiding his gaze.
“Ah…” Merlin says, blushing, and Gwen laughs.
“You asked,” she says. “Oh – here, I’ll change the subject.”
“Thank you,” Merlin says.
“Arthur’s new servant. Any ideas?”
“Well, he specified ‘not George.’ And he also specified someone he won’t want to throttle. So that leaves out just about everyone in Camelot, including me. Heh,” he chuckles, “I think آپ would be the only one who accurately fits that description, Gwen.”
“I would not be his servant even if I were paid handsomely,” she laughs again, harder this time. “I don’t envy آپ this task, Merlin.”
“Yeah, it’s a toss up as to which will be worse: finding Arthur a new servant یا having to dispense justice on my first practitioner of dark magic,” he says wryly.
“So do آپ know of anyone outside
Camelot, then? Worked out for you.”
“Hmm. Maybe… There was a young man back in Ealdor. I worked with him on rebuilding part of his family’s house while I was back there. Haylan. Good lad, hard working. Restless. I got the impression that he wants out of Ealdor. He hung on my every word when I was telling him about Camelot.”
“Sounds promising. Shall we send word to him?”
Merlin thinks. “Yes, I think so. I’ll draft something up and send a messenger.”
“Well, one problem solved, hopefully,” she moves to stand, and Merlin does so as well, offering his hand.
“Get some rest, Gwen,” he says, and she nods. Merlin turns to walk out the door, and the banner on the دیوار bearing the Pendragon crest catches his eye. “Gwen?” he says, turning back.
“I think I may have thought of a way to distract Arthur for a while when the time comes.”
Arthur returns from training to find Guinevere fast asleep on their bed. He knows lunch will be arriving soon, and while he doesn’t want to wake her, he knows she needs to eat.
He walks to the bedside, gazing down at her sleeping form. I don’t deserve her. She was born a servant, I a prince, but somehow she is too good for me. And she doesn’t even realize it.
He sits carefully on the bed, gently sweeping a curl from her forehead. My lovely wife. Wife. It’s been months now and I still can’t believe it. All the trials, all the pain, all the obstacles trying to keep us apart are nothing but dust now. Faint memories. I would still give up everything if she asked me.
“How long are آپ going to sit there staring at me?” Gwen mutters, her voice sleepy.
“For the rest of my life, if I have my way,” Arthur answers, lying down beside her and pulling her into his arms.
“And آپ usually do,” she answers, smiling at his sweet face اگلے to her on the pillow.
“Hmm. Seems to me that آپ are the one who usually wins around here,” he says, smirking.
“Only because you’re a pushover,” she tucks her face into his neck, snuggling closer.
“Just for you, my love. No one else.” His hand drops down to her stomach. “When are آپ going to start showing?” He sounds like he wants to see my belly grow large,
she thinks. “Not until about the fourth month. But Fira says I may دکھائیں a little before, due to my small size.”
He smiles and rubs his hand on her still-flat stomach. “I can’t wait. I’m sure it sounds awful to you, but I really want to see your belly grow large and round with my child.”
“I know. You’re twisted, آپ are,” she teases.
“And آپ love me anyway,” he reminds her, pulling her face towards his gently for a few soft kisses. “It’s just… I don’t know what I’m trying to say. I’m looking آگے to it because…”
“Because you’re a proud man who is very pleased with himself to have planted an heir in his wife and being able to see my big fat belly—”
“It’s not fat, it’s a baby,” he corrects her.
“Regardless. Seeing it is just confirmation that you’ve really done it. It’ll be out there for everyone to see. You’re just proud of your accomplishment and can’t wait for our son to get here.”
“It’s killing me that we’re keeping it a secret,” he admits, burying his face in her hair.
“Your idea,” she reminds him. “And soon enough. Fira says that the first three months are the most perilous; it’s when the most problems happen. After that if anything happens, the baby is usually strong enough to cope with… most anything, I guess.”
“And don’t forget, our son has been protected. So he’s already got a head start.”
“Why have آپ summoned me, young warlock?” Kilgarrah the Great Dragon asks, his massive head angling down towards Merlin, waiting in the familiar clearing in the forest outside Camelot.
“I have news.”
“Is this about Queen Guinevere being with child یا King Arthur lifting the ban on magic?” I should have known.
“Well, I was going
to tell آپ about Arthur lifting the ban on magic, but apparently there isn’t much that escapes your attention.”
The dragon laughs, his familiar throaty chuckle bringing a small smile to Merlin’s face.
“This is good news indeed, Merlin. However, your new responsibilities are not to be taken lightly at all.”
“Yes, I know,” he says, the smile slipping from his face. “He’s basically appointed me not only his personal advisor, but head of magical law enforcement as well.”
“A small price to pay for getting to share your considerable gifts with the world,” Kilgarrah says wisely.
“And how did our young king take the news?”
“Not bad. For him.”
“How long did he avoid you?” the dragon asks. I think he’s smirking. Can dragons smirk?
“Almost two days. And then I hunted him down, even though I was supposed to wait for him to summon me.”
Kilgarrah chuckles again. “Only آپ would be able to get away with such behavior, Merlin. آپ and the queen, of course. Arthur is wise enough to not let those whom he loves and trusts slip through his fingers.”
“I’d like for him to meet you.”
“Do آپ think he is ready?”
“Not right now. In a few weeks. He doesn’t yet know that I’m a dragonlord. And that you’re still alive. I’ll have to break that to him first,” he says, smiling sheepishly.
“So آپ did not divulge everything, then,” the dragon says.
“No, I didn’t think he could handle everything
yet. He doesn’t know about my 80-year-old disguise, either,” Merlin laughs.
Kilgarrah smiles. “I’m not sure which bit of information is مزید dangerous for آپ to tell him. That I live, یا that the old man is you.”
“I guess I’ll be finding that out,” Merlin says with a sigh.
“So, young warlock. When will this meeting take place?”
“Not entirely sure yet. I’ll be in touch.”
Part 29: link