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Into the Forest

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The first of the snow fell in the early hours of a cold November night; the air was crisp and the ground glistened from a thin coating of ice as the temperatures dropped lower as the hours passed; the winter skies cast a darkness over the land and the heavy snow filled clouds gave no light from the moon, Merlin knew she should be sleeping but her mind was far too busy for sleep to take hold so she stood leaning on the cold stones beneath her hands and feet and gazed out at the night. It was so dark outside, she couldn't make out the forest just on the border of the castle walls, she could only see the odd flake of snow drift down from the sky before it dropped to the ground below her as it passed close enough to her window

The princess wasn't sure on the current hour but she knew it was too early for any sane human to be awake but her brain just wouldn't switch off, it was November which meant the hunting season was to begin within a few days. Her trunks were already packed neatly in one corner of her chambers ready for their journey to the Kingdom of Camelot tomorrow and she just wished she could get at least a few hours of sleep before she had to endure the boring two days ride in the carriage with her mother

She had been lucky to get away from attending the previous few hunt seasons with her father, but now she was eighteen both her Mother and Father saw it fit for her to attend her first hunt season and meet potential husbands. Merlin on the other hand wished to say in her rooms and see winter pass in the comfort and warmth of her own chambers like the years that has passed before, she did not wish to be out in this weather or meet a Prince her parents deemed fit to be a husband. But she wouldn't be that luckily this year and she would be dragged from her rooms into the cold winter months to watch men run around yelling and laughing as they galloped through the forests hunting wildlife. How did men's brains work? how did they find being out from dawn to dusk in mud, snow and biting cold winds fun? or the fact they killed deer, boar, pheasant and rabbit until no life was to be found in the forest's till spring? she didn't see the appeal at all but if she voiced this view people would scoff and mutter 'Silly girl'  under their breath before moving forward into a conversation more suited to their one sided minds

 

The church bell sounded in the distance as Merlin day dreamed about staying here all winter and away from any sort of future marriage to a man she would barely know, she didn't catch the number of rings the the bell sounded but it disturbed her day dreaming enough for her to move away from the cold window and back to her waiting bed. She quickly pulled the drapes shut so the morning light wouldn't blind her in the morning and moved on her tiptoes over to her large bed, she dove under the thick winter blankets when she reached the bed and hurriedly pulled them up past her chin to her nose and allowed the steady heat to comfort her body, her collection of pillows sank under the weight of her head and she let her body and mind relax into the comfort of the bedding

 

 

 

She must have fallen to sleep soon after she jumped back into her bed as she was woken with a start a few hours later by her chamber doors opening and someone entering, the sun was up and small slithers of light crept thought gaps left in the fabrics covering the windows showing the hour to be later in the morning now than when she climbed back into bed earlier. She could hear the wind howling outside as she blinked her eyes a few times to adjust to now being awake! it wasn't until her eyes were fully open did she fully realise the reason for her to now be awake. Her mother Queen Hunith was stood at the bottom of her bed, her painted red lips were moving quickly but Merlin was still not fully awake enough to hear the words form a sentence 

Her mother seemed to notice the vacant look on her daughters face as her lips snapped shut and her eyes seemed to take over with the communication as she bore down on her sleep deprived daughter

 

"Good Morning, Mother" Merlin thought it best to say something now, even if her voice was dry and hoarse from sleep "What time is it?" 

"way past the time for you to still be in bed, Merlin" Her mother scolded as she moved around the bed to stand by the princesses head, she grabbed at the blankets and ripped them away from Merlin before she could think to hold them down, a cold gust wrapped around her making her shriek "come on Merlin, up up, up we leave with in the hour" she grabbed at the groaning princess and dragged her unwilling body up right forcing her to leave all thoughts of sleep and warmth behind 

"Why do i need to go Mother? why can't we stay and let Father go alone like normal?" Merlin groaned as she moved from the bed and stood on ice cold stone flooring "it is far too cold for this Mother, i'll perish from frost bite" 

"You know why Merlin and do stop with the dramatic act, you will not perish from the cold, we have spoke about this for the past two months and we all know the details by heart" Hunith stepped away from Merlin once the girl was up and away from the bed and easily holding herself upright and awake, she called to the maid servant about a bath and clothes before she moved around searching for the prepared travel clothes "You will have your bath, you will allow Grace to ready you for the day and then you will meet us down in the court yard" she paused to face Merlin "Am i understood Merlin?" she left no room for argument so Merlin agreed 

"Yes Mother" Merlin wished she could argue against it still but knew it was no good, it was a battle she could not win so she muttered under her breath as her mother moved towards the chamber doors to leave and moved into the smaller room adjoined to her sleeping chambers and watched as the young serving girls prepared her bath, she ignored her mothers parting words as the queen left the room and wished again to return to the warmth of her bed 

 

 

It wasn't too long after she was woken and forced to bathe and dress that Merlin was stepping into the waiting carriage in the snow covered courtyard, the snow was just a dusting that melted under the boots of the many people but it was still a good reminder on the coldness surrounding them all now they were outside and away from the comforts of the castle, her hand was gently held by her father the King as he helped her safely inside; she noticed before climbing into the closed off carriage that her trunks and cases were already packed on and ready. when she got into the carriage she noticed the thick fabrics that were draped all over the insides to prevent the worst of the chill, after a moment of observing the decoration of fabrics she settled onto the seat which sat her behind the horses facing backwards and away from the pending destination with a huff, once she was seated her mother climbed in helped again by the king. Once her mother was comfortably seated a maid servant climbed in quietly and covered both the Princess and Queen's knees with heavy woollen blankets and left two small wicker baskets at their feet before she left them alone again and hurried off out of sight to jump into another waiting carriage behind them

The King and Queen spoke quietly for a few moments, a loving expression present on both their faces which warmed Merlin's heart, but Merlin was too cold and tired to listen in on the conversation before the king dismissed them with a quick happy goodbye and closed the door shutting out most of the cold winter wind

Merlin settled back into her seat pulling the rich heavy blanket up her body and looked at her mother who was sitting contently looking at her Daughter, they both smiled but said nothing. They ignored the wicker baskets at their feet as they settled more comfortably into their seats knowing they would contain food and wine for the days journey, Hunith gave a happy sign before the noise outside seemed to dull down and the carriage moved forward and out of Ealdors court yard and towards Camelot. Merlin wished she could feel what her mother was obviously feeling but all she felt was dread, what would happen in Camelot? would she return to her home once the hunting season was over?

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The journey was long, too long for Merlin's liking and despite the heavy curtains covering the windows of the carriage and the thick woollen blankets wrapped around their bodies it was still ice cold and uncomfortable, either Hunith muttered on the odd occasion as they passed along the winding country lanes! 

Merlin didn’t know how the knights and her father were fairing outside on horse back. And the horses they too must be suffering from the icy wind that was relentless as the pushed on through the open country side  

“how much longer” Merlin whinnied before her mother answered that it was still at least half a days ride away, with all the carriages and the heavy set muddy tracks they were travelling slowly, much slower than any of the men outside liked. they only stopped when the horses needed to rest and drink, and even then it was a quick break before they pushed on again! 

Hunith hummed under her breath and looked out the curtain which covered the window to her left “half a day at least” she let go of the fabric and it fell back in place making the carriage a lot darker to see her facial expression “the nights closing in, we should rest soon and get there by sunrise?” The small I Hope was whispered but Merlin heard it all the same in the confined space 

the carriage continued along the thick boggy track a while longer, the push and pull motion unsettling to Merlin and Hunith as the horses struggled on parts to drag the carriage through the mud, they tried for a while to sleep a while but the motion made it impossible

  

“It’s a silly time to travel” Merlin mumbled under her breath as she heard the driver click on the horses, his voice was muffled but he sounded tired too!  a few cracks of the whip could be heard and Merlin cringed she hated the thought of the whip making contact with the poor creatures, the carriage jolted a few times making both woman grip their seats to stay balanced before it came to a complete and sudden stop

“lets stop here for a moment” Merlin heard her fathers voice “the horses are exhausted and I’m sure both my ladies in that carriage need a break so let’s set camp for a while” Merlin thanked her father in her mind and got ready to jump out the carriage and walk around for a while. Her legs were numb and she needed to relieve herself. She was dreading that part but soon the door opened and a hand came into view

”come one” Hunith ushered Merlin out the carriage first, helped by her father before Hunith too stepped outside. The path was boggy in places but Merlin didn’t care, she itched up her royal blue skirts and made her way into the dense trees finding a small amount of cover from the falling snow ”and where are you going?” her mother asked when she saw Merlin wonder off into the tree line

“Mother” Merlin whined and made a vague hand signal which her mother understood “oh, well give me a moment” Hunith muttered to Balinor before making her way to Merlin helping the young girl find a secluded part of the forest 

 

when they made it back the camp fire was crackling away and an orange glow shone on the small amounts of snow covering the ground, the snow nearest the fire had melted not long after the flames took light

“we will rest here for a few hours, the carriage is stuck so we need to work on getting it out but the horses need time too, we can't push them much more or we will be stranded” Balinor came up to the two woman after he spoke to his men and sat on the damp log with them, he spoke softly with Hunith after that for a while and both discussed their next cause of action, Merlin sat watching her parents for a while before she let her mind wonder off ignoring how cold she was 

 

 

Before too long the horses were back attached to the carriage, Merlin and Hunith waited outside until the carriage wheels were free of the mud patch, the driver quickly hope on board as soon as the last horse was hooked up and he began pushing the beasts forward, it took a while and he poor creatures where steaming and puffing by the time the carriage was free but they didn’t have long to recover as Balinor helped the woman back into the carriage and they were off, the pace quicker now so they didn’t get stuck again 

The ride wasn’t smooth at all and Merlin hated every second of it and her mother didn’t look all that impressed either but before long they slowed and the men outside could be heard 

“there they are” one man said “the white towers” another replied - just snippets Merlin caught of the guards talking “finally we made it” another mumbled making Merlin giggle slightly, he sounded more relieved than Merlin herself, and she couldn't blame him after being stuck outside for the past two days on horseback

 

 

 

The towers of Camelot’s castle were Snow White, the bricks seemed to shimmer like diamonds; it was completely different to Ealdor's plain grey bricks and Merlin couldn’t stop staring at the architecture on the walls as they passed, the place was beautiful and magical looking and Merlin couldn't stop staring 

Once the carriages rolled to a stop Merlin let the fabrics fall away from her hand to cover the windows and she sat back and composted herself ready for the royal introductions

Her mother was the first to exit the carriage, her hand gently held by Balinor. Hunith stood tall once she was fully out and bowed to someone Merlin couldn’t see, soon her fathers hand can came back into the carriage, the simple signal for her to exit too and she did so without any mistakes. She signed in relief once she was stood on solid ground, she turned to the steps leading up to the castle and bowed not really looking at who was stood up there but the direction was the same her mother had bowed in so she followed her mothers actions and hoped it was current 

Once she had bowed she took the time to look and saw five people on the top of the steps

King Uther was easy to spot, his red cloak and golden crown stood out against the white of the castle walls, next to him stood a tall thin woman with hair that looked like gold, she had a beautiful red dress on and a matching cape with a white fur trim, that had to be Queen Ygraine, the stories did not lie of her beauty. A smaller woman stood to her side and was the complete opposite to her. The young ladies hair was as black as the night sky and her dress an emerald green with a black cape draped over her shoulders, Princess Morgana, known to be fierce yet loyal to those loyal to her! Both woman were stunning and Merlin was in awe at their beautiful from even this distance! It wasn’t until she scanned back to the king that she saw another two men standing there at his side, the one was tall and stood back a little from the rest, his hair was red and curled and his face sported a finely kept bearded, he was dressed in more armour than clothes but looked just as royal as the others, Merlin wasn't sure but she thought that could be Sir Leon, Morgana's husband and the Princes body guard, her father spoke of him a few times but Merlin could be wrong?

And then there was the man that stood just behind Uther's shoulders, he was a touch taller than the king and his body was muscular and tense. His hair was as golden as the Queens and his red cape and royal shirt seemed to even outshine the king himself! How had Merlin missed him when she first glanced up the steps? her eyes focused on the man who seemed to now be looking right at her, she quickly bowed her head and looked at the hem of her dress!  Her mother always told her not to stare, taught her early on how rude and unladylike like it was, especially for a Princess and future Queen!  

 

Merlin didn't have much time to scold herself, she soon found herself moving as her party made their way up the steps; each step brought them closer to the Pendragon family. And their beauty became even more breath taking the closer they got. Merlin felt so plain against them and she found herself staring again as she took the last few steps, and it didn't miss her attention either than the crown prince was staring too. At her! She felt faint as she made it to the top

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Merlin felt faint as soon as she took the final step, she stood and wobbled for a second as she stood in front of the royal Pendragon family. Her Father was already speaking to King Uther on her one side and her mother seemed to be speaking to the Pendragon ladies on the other, neither parent noticing the apparent loss of colour in her face as she tried to shake off the uneasiness of what ever was passing over her body

All the royals seemed to be greeting one another and Merlin couldn't hear a single sound, the only noise was a faint annoying hum that accompanied the blurring vision that dotted in and out of focus, she tried hard to look as normal and confident as possible but her body was disobeying her at the worst time 

 

Merlin couldn't really remember what happened next but she did hear a faint gasp before her legs gave out and she seemed to fall in slow motion towards the ground, but before she met the cold, hard stone arms were wrapped around her tiny frame! she blacked out for a moment after that but she seemed to come round rather quickly or so she thoughts

But obviously not because she was moving now in a way she never had before, and she was moving rather quickly too? She tried to blink the spots from her eyes but they wouldn't fully leave her vision but she could see partly. A pair of unfamiliar arms were holding her up and a muscular body was pressed against her own as they moved through what was obviously the castle. The arms were tightly wrapped around her so she couldn't move much and in all honestly she didn't want to move either? she felt safe right now so she let her body relax as the person made their was through unfamiliar halls. she closed her eyes not long after and let the motion of the persons movements relax her tired body, her head was still spinning slightly and her stomach felt like butterflies had taken residence but she just closed her eyes and ignored the sickly feeling

She only opened them again when voices were growing louder in her ears and she was gently being moved onto a very large bed, the blankets a rich Camelot red that hurt her aching eyes. it was only when her head was gently placed on the pillows did she see the person who had caught her and carried her here to what must be her chambers for the visit. Prince Arthur was hovering over her as he pulled his hand from under her head letting it rest fully on the pillow, his face was concerned as he looked down at her. His other hand was still on her side but it quickly pulled away when her mother came into sight. Prince Arthur hurried away to allow her parents to her side and soon she lost sight of him 

 

"Merlin, oh Merlin" Her mother cooed over her as she hovered over the bed close to her daughters face, Hunith pushed the hair from her brow and tucked it behind her ear before she stroked her cheek and moved away a little to allow her father to hover over her too, his face grim and concerned 

"Gaius is on his way" A males voice sounded somewhere in the background making all three of the Emry's jump

"Oh thank you, the journey must have tired her out" Hunith fussed over her as she spoke to who ever had told her a guy named Gaius was coming 

 

Merlin felt so tired as she lay there being examined that she could hardly shake her head to answer the questions the elder man was asking, Gaius was the official Court Physician and was a very kind and gentle man who showed great concern over her as he looked over her to see what had caused her to collapse so suddenly 

He asked many questions which luckily her mother could answer for her in actual words, like how much she'd slept, eaten and moved around on their journey here. There were a few others that caused a blush to grow on her cheeks and a few awkward coughs could be heard in the back ground but Hunith seemed to carry on answering as if it was all normal talk ignoring Merlin's blushed face as her mother spoke of female problems and the men in the room who must be as red as Merlin right now 

Before long Gaius passed over a small vial of clear liquid and explained to Hunith what to do with it before explaining how travel exhaustion and hunger do not mix well, his scolding was ended with a loose friendly smile before he deemed her fit and healthy and in need of a bath, change of clothes and nutritious food

 

Merlin lay there and watched as her mother ordered their maid servants to go fetch a bath and hot water and another for a change of clothes, Gaius seemed to leave quickly and Her father left with a quick peck to her cheek allowing his wife to do what she was best at and Merlin was pretty sure she noticed Arthur speak to a servant that wore the Pendragon royal crest before he glanced her way smiled and left in a flash of red 

 

Merlin felt much more human after bathing and changing into a different dress which had less layers thanks to the healthy fire crackling away in the stone fire place and her dizziness was now thankfully long gone, her hearing was clear and her eyes too! and she sat at the table with her mother and ate from a platter of rich foods that lay in front of them 

"the prince himself ordered this for you" her mother mentioned out of the blue breaking the silence, she popped a red grape in her mouth and chewed slowly giving Merlin a very odd look, Merlin didn't like that look! that look always brought trouble

"i'm sure he was just worried for his royal guests" Merlin looked Hunith dead in eye "i'm sure he does this to any young girl who faints at his feet" she ignored the butterflies in her stomach as she said it and tried hard to hide the feelings so her mother wouldn't think too much on the matter, Or any more on it as it seemed the Queen was already too deep into thinking things that were not real 

 

Hunith didn't speak much more after that but the look never left her face! Merlin really didn't like that look at all! she knew she was here to find a future husband but she hoped she'd get to see the grounds before her mother started match making! 

 

 

 

 

 

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Merlin didn’t leave her new rooms until the next morning. Hunith came in regularly to check up on her daughter 

“Ygraine and Uther send their best regards and hope you are feeling better soon. They can’t wait to meet you” Hunith spoke as she inspected the rooms Merlin was given for their stay 

“that’s nice of them. I could go now if they feel me rude?” Merlin was worried they would see her as rude or ignorant for what had happened 

“nonsense” Hunith almost yelled from the room adjoining the bed chamber to the dining area, she walked back into the bed area and smiled “they understand, you’re young and this is your first royal visit and it’s not the happiest of weather”

this didn’t really put Merlins mind at rest but she smiled anyway and snuggled into the the sheets, she’d changed into her bed clothes not long ago and she was looking forward to a night of sleep in a real bed 

Hunith carried on through the room, she lit a candle away from the bed on a nice little table which gave the room a nice soft glow before she moved over to pull the sheets further up Merlins body tucking her in for the night. Even at eighteen Merlin couldn’t argue against this, it was a feeling of familiarity and comfort and she clung onto it whilst she could 

 

 

The next morning saw Merlin sat at a very long impressive table; King Uther and King Balinor both sat as the heads on each end, the two queens sat on the right sides of their husbands and their child or children to their left 

Arthur sat closest to the king and Morgana next to Arthur, Sir Leon was sat next to Queen Ygraine 

the seat next to Merlin was empty but she didn’t mind, she was much more relaxed today and listened to her father and Uther as they spoke of the plans for the hunt, a few more royal parties were to join them after breakfast and tonight a big banquet would happen to welcome them all

 

The royal parties started arriving quickly after breakfast. Prince Gwaine and his party arrived first and with it his wife Princess Elena 

Then Princess Freya arrived with her Father who was a king from over sea’s or so Merlin believes from the idol chatter happening around the castle 

Prince Percival arrived with two other royal males and they quickly got talking to Prince Gwaine and his party after a quick introduction, they all seemed to know of each other and even Princess Freya seemed to join in on their conversation easily. And if Merlin was not mistaken something was up between her and Percival! They stood too close or cosy in the big hall 

A very lively Prince and Princess arrived making Merlin feel even more left out, Prince Lancelot and Princess Guinevere were the life of the room, as soon as they entered the hall seemed to glow and everyone became more lively and happy! Merlin learnt quickly they were recently married and had just come back from their hunny moon time so they were full of happiness and light 

a few more parties arrived and the room quickly filled with voices and movement and Merlin felt so lost and alone 

a King Alfric and a king Harold had arrived with their sons but Merlin didn’t catch their names or their parties kingdoms 

 

she wasn't sure either where her parents had gone or even the Pendragons, she couldn’t see a single face she knew in the hall right now and it made her shrink back into a corner; it was too much! 

 

“Are you okay” the voice made her jump, she spun around a shocked look on her face and was met with a concerned yet joyful face of the Camelot Prince “you look like you’re about to pass out again” he smiled and stepped a little closer 

“oh” Merlin couldn’t help but clutch her chest for a second  “you startled me” she laughed and some joe stepped closer to the Prince “no I’m fine, just this is all very new and quite scary and I know no one” she huffed and looked back up at Prince Arthur 

“you know me” his smile was charming and bright and it made her relax “how about I introduce you to some people” he raised a brow and held out his arm which Merlin took, looping hers through his and walked away with him before she could really think about what she was doing /p>

 

Prince Arthur did exactly what he promised, he introduced her to Prince Gwaine and Lancelot and they then introduced their wives, Elena and Guinevere were so inviting and friendly and Merlin began to relax more and more as the day went on, soon she was introduced to all the princes and princesses here and some she forgot their names but the first group she remembered fondly and kept their company for the remainder of the day

Prince Arthur she found didn’t leave her side once and happily stood talking to the princes whilst Merlin spoke to the princesses. And having his company by her side relaxed her some what that she couldn’t quite explain it

 

she wasn’t sure how long they all spoke for. But soon enough King Uthers voice echoed through the hall and everyone’s conversations dulled and their attention was now on him

he spoke of bringing together kingdoms and the time of joy and celebration before he spoke to the men in the room

after around twenty minutes the men all moved from the hall leaving the females alone, Arthur had bid her goodbye and hovered a moment longer before he bowed and left her and the other ladies in favour of joining his father and the men in arranging the first days hunt tomorrow morning, Merlin didn’t notice him look back at her smiling before he turned the corner

Hunith quickly found Merlin once the hall had emptied quite dramatically since the men had left and some of the woman had left too to go change and freshen up 

“I see you made some friends” she smiled over at the other ladies standing around talking with Merlin, and Merlin then quickly introduced everyone to her mother 

everyone greeted one another before moving back to previous conversations so Merlin was pulled away by her mother, she threw a quick farewell over her shoulder and left the hall with her mother hearing the echoes of goodbyes behind her  

 

“I see you spent a while in Prince Arthur’s company today, I even saw you holding his arm as you made your rounds” the Queen was grinning as they walked slowly through the castle 

“he was very helpful, I felt so lost and I couldn’t find you or father” Merlin couldn’t help her smile as she spoke of Arthur and his help today

 

Hunith did her usual thinking humm as they made their way around the corridors and Merlin knew what that meant, her mother was over thinking something 

“what are you thinking?” Merlin asked sending her mother a questioning gaze  

“Prince Arthur, he seems so different from when I last met him” she paused when Merlin looked at her “in a good way” she smiled at her daughter “he seems so gentle and quite....but only around you?” Her face was relaxed and happy as she spoke to Merlin about Arthur

Merlin didn’t know what to take from that but she just looked away blushing and carried on walking side by side with her mother 

“it would be a very fruitful match” the words startled Merlin 

“Mother” she was shocked “we have not even known one another for a day, and I stupidly fainted onto the floor when I first met him, I hardly think it’s a match, he’s probably just looking out for a royal guest” 

“Merlin. Sweet heart you fainted towards your father but Arthur moved so quickly to catch you that he almost knocked poor Uther and your father to the ground to get to you” she laughed at how red her daughters face was “he protested against any servant carrying you to Gaius’ room and then he rushed off and nearly left us behind yelling about taking you to your rooms” Merlin was now bright red and a little hot, she was finding it hard to find words to question her mother, was it true? Or was Hunith making it out to be more than what is really was? 

Merlin was confused  she needed time to think!

“Maybe it was instinct? He is a Prince after all, they have a duty” she tried so hard to reason with her thoughts

“My love, Uther was so baffled by his behaviour he questioned me and your father earlier, asking if this was normal behaviour? Which neither me or you father could answer as we have no idea either. But you two seemed to have a really strong connection already”

They made it to the corridor which held their rooms and they both stood silently for a moment before they made their way to their rooms

“Don’t over think things Merlin, if something becomes of you two then know me and your father as well as The Pendragons would be very happy” Hunith didn’t wait around for Merlin to speak and left her daughter standing in The hall way as Hunith disappeared behind her own set of doors.

 

 

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Merlin wasn’t sure the time but the sun hadn’t fully risen, the sky outside was a mixture of blues and oranges and it made her more upset about hearing the recognisable sound of men yelling and cheering outside

Their voices carried through the castle grounds and up into the rooms of the castle making sure no one got a nice sleep in or a well deserved rest after arriving here, damn the men for their enjoyment of blood sport  

Merlin groaned and pulled the pillow from under her head before smacking it down over her face holding it tight over her ears trying to block just a bit of the noise out even until she could fall back to sleep. But no the sound didn’t leave her ears at all and she hated this place right now 

no one should sound this exited at such an hour. Yet the men out side in the winter wind and possible snow sounded as if it was a celebration of a new royal male heir 

she could still hear their exited yelling from under the pillow a good ten minutes later and now dogs had joined in barking and yapping and the horses seemed to stomp their stupid hooves down on the ground harder than normal, shouldn’t the snow covered ground dull that sound?

 

Merlin wasn’t sure when she gave up on sleep but she didn’t give up on staying under the covers, even when the hunting party descended from the court yard below and into the forest which covered a large part of the border line of the castle wall and silence finally fell on the castle grounds again allowing the woman and remaining people in the castle to lay in bed in peaceful bliss 

 

at lunch time Merlin was up, dressed and dining with a few of the ladies which she befriended the night before. Her mother was with them but she was busy talking to Ygraine extended her arms out every now and then as the two queens laughed, Merlin spoke to Guinevere who by now had suggested calling her Gwen as she watched her mother laughing with Arthur’s mother

after lunch Merlin took the time to be by herself for a while dismissing the invitation to join the other ladies in the gardens, the gardens for heavens sake in winter, were people here mad? She was sure they were. She’d much prefer to say inside on her own and take in the home of the Pendragon family and at least inside she was protected from the never ended flurry of snow that fell constantly. the halls were still chilly though and she was thankful for the new cloak her parents had gifted her for her birthday a few weeks ago, it also matched her blue dresses perfectly no matter the colour tone and it made it very easy to match outfits each day in the winter months and still have the joy of wearing the expensive cloak each time

Merlin walked alone in her own world for a long while just taking in the art and decor around the castle, she pasted a few tapestries rich in colour as well as statues and suits of armour which stood on guard in odd corners of the castle and she took in all the detail, the etchings and carvings that decorated the mental pieces  

she didn’t realise just how late it was until she bumped into a man excusing herself before he could speak himself

“that was my mistake my lady” the man bowed before looking back at Merlin who was just straightening from her curtsy 

“no no. I’m terribly clumsy when in my own head” she laughed 

“aren’t we all” the man laughed back “Lancelot” he suddenly said and held his hand out to Merlin  

“Merlin” she smiled back as he kissed her hand before letting go “you’re Gwens Prince Charming?” She giggled as she said it knowing how silly it sounded but the way Gwen spoke of him was as if he was the Prince Charming from the children books she’d grew up reading 

“Prince Charming May be a stretch. But yes I am the very lucky man who calls Gwen his own” his smile beamed as he spoke of his wife and for a second it made Merlin wish for a love like theirs 

“it was lovely to meet you Merlin, unfortunately the hunt party is waiting on me to grab a few things and head back out so I must make my leave” he bowed again before walking off out of sight 

 

Merlin stood still even after Lancelot has long gone and her head replayed how he spoke of Gwen, the love and devotion in his voice was such a change to hear and it now made her think of her own life and the possibility of a husband. Would she find one like Lancelot who loved her more than words could fully express? She doubted it but she now wished for it more than she had before   Her parents were kind of like Gwen and Lancelot, fully devoted to each other and still madly in love. Now it was Merlins goal to find that for herself, and she would find it even if it took her a while and drove her poor mother mad from the wait

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A few days passed quickly and Merlin soon got used to the noisy morning rituals of the hunting party and by the third day she slept right through it and woke refreshed and delighted to see the sun in the sky, she walked to the window and noticed for the first time in a long time that the sky was clear and no snow fell from heavy grey clouds 

she called on her maid servant as she made her way to the privy chambers and after dressed for the outdoors adding a layer of two extra, she wore a pretty dark blue dress in a simple fashion but detailed enough to class as royalty, under she wore layer and layer of heavy winter under garments to protect her when she was outside

her beloved cloak was pulled over top of the dress and her maid Grace helped her with her gloves, bonnet and boots which laced up high on her thighs keeping her feet and legs warm 

 

before long she was fully dressed and ready to explore the outside of the castle. She felt a few pounds heavier being weighed down with all the winter clothing but she was glad for it once she stepped out into the day old snow still on the ground, she had given her maid servant a message to pass on to her mother before she walked out the castle gates and into the small area of forest to the right

 

she felt so refreshed being outside, the sun was shining giving a fake warm feeling, her feet crunched through the snow and she stepped over the dead branches laying half covered on the ground. She caught her dress hem a few times but she didn’t hear a tearing sound so she carried on, she walked for what felt like hours but she could still see the high tops of the Castle towers so she was still close to the castle 

she heard nothing as she walked on, she saw no movement either but a few winter flowers bloomed around tree trunks which gave winter a small amount of life, she was so busy taking in the flowers that she was startled when an arrow hit the tree just above her head making her yell out a small scared scream 

 

“stop stop” a mans voice came thundering through the trees just then and hooves moved with it approaching Merlin 

“Merlin, lords above what are you doing” the voice belonged to Arthur. Of course it had to be Arthur “you could have been killed” 

merlin spun on her heels to fully face Arthur who was dismounting from his horse 

“well I’m not the idiot who mistook a girl for a deer” she half yelled and half stuttered as she realised half way who she was yelling at 

“it wasn’t my arrow, if it had been i wouldn’t have missed” he smirked as he made his way over and Merlin wanted to smack him for that remark, but instead she scooped up a ball of snow and threw it at the princes face

“ouch” Merlin grinned in glee when the snow hit its target making the Prince yell out in shock 

“you’re not the only one who doesn’t miss their target. My lord” she bowed before she made to walk away still smirking  

“you are something else” she heard the Prince mutter making her pause her step m, her smirk falling away from shock

“excuse me?” She raised a brow as she looked round at a blushing? Prince, was he blushing? or did the snow cause the red look on his cheeks? She wasn’t sure which she wanted it to be!

“nothing... let me take you back to the castle, it’s not the weather or the time to be walking in the forest” he held his hand out as if from the distance it would stop Merlin from moving and in a way it did

“what about the others out here? Won’t they miss you?” She only just noticed then a few shadows in the back ground. Far enough away that they were just shapes

“I’m sure they will survive without me for half an hour, let me just tell my servant so they know I’m not missing” he moved for a moment walking past his horse and past a few trees speaking to someone in the distance before he made his way back and this time closer to where Merlin was standing, she was observing the arrow in the tree trying not to over think why it was there  

“come let me take you back” he held out his hand and Merlin didn’t really think before she reached out for it allowing herself to be dragged over to the horse, her mind jumped a few times glancing at her hand captured in the princes larger gloved one

The horse was a big thing and it stood still whilst the prince mounted it, he then held his hand out again to Merlin and motioned for her to jump which made her laugh. Was he mad?

“you can not be serious” she looked from the horses face watching its breath fog in the air “I can’t ride a horse, I’ve not ridden a horse in my life” she blushed knowing how ridiculous that sounded and for a Royal even female it was ridiculous but Arthur didn’t mention it or express anything towards her lack of experience riding horses

“well today’s a perfect day to try isn’t it” he shook his hand making Merlin look at it again before she bit her lip and grabbed hold of it again scolding herself for this mad idea  

“right jump up on three and sit here” he motioned to the front of the saddle “sit side on and I’ll hold you” he smiled softly as if he was trying to relieve her nerves /p>

“right” she moved to the horses shoulder not letting go of Arthur’s hand, she was sure the grip was close to bone crushing by now

“Do NOT drop me” she pointed a finger on her free hand at Arthur raising her voice slightly “or I swear to god I will make you suffer” as she said it she counted in her head to three and jumped 

Arthur whilst laughing caught her carefully and helped her settle on the front of the saddle 

“oh Lord” she muttered clinging to Arthur when the horse stepped forward slightly 

“easy” Arthur spoke and the horse stopped moving “relax Merlin you’re safe” his one hand wrapped itself tightly around her waist making her blush at the contact and his other hand stayed on the reins, once she agreed that she was in fact comfy he let the horse move on and they made their way through the trees slowly, her grip tight on the Prince

she was terrified, absolutely terrified as the horse took step after step, it stumbled once and Merlin actually squeaked, she had never had such a noise leave her mouth before and she found herself blushing again as Arthur let out a gentle laugh, she’d never blushed so much in her life

“Relax” his fingers flexed covering more of her side and he gently pulled her closer to his chest making it easy to feel the rocking motion of the horses movements, her arms were wrapped around him even tighter now they were closer and she was sure her grip was not as pleasurable as his to her

 

they rode slowly, Arthur making sure the horse didn’t go faster than a walk! Merlin was pretty sure his fingers moved in a stroking motion a few times she tensed but the layers made it hard to tell, but she was pretty sure and she couldn’t help but admit to herself how much she injured the feeing. Even the slight feel of it

 

once they rode into the court yard Arthur pulled the horse to a stand and some servants rushed over, one held the horse while another waiting for permission to help Merlin down from the horse, Arthur though seemed reluctant to let go but he seemed to shake himself and helped the servant gently lower Merlin to the ground 

“stay safe Merlin, i would hate for you to get harmed in your first few days here” he smiled down to her finally letting go of her hand before he nodding his head and bid her fare well and rode back out into the forest even if it was with a slight reluctance

Merlin was in to much shock to really talk but she had returned the smile before watching him ride off again it wasn’t until she turned around to return into the castle that she noticed a few people standing at the top of the steps 

Queen Hunith and Queen Ygraine stood with Gwen, Freya and Elena on the stairs watching Merlin and they’d obviously just witnessed her ride in practically in the princes lap before they stood staring at each other holding hands like star crossed lovers from a novel. Oh she was not going to hear the end of this and she truly regretted leaving the castle this morning. But she made her way up to steps growing closer to the smirking woman as she walked

 

oh how she wished that arrow to hit her now 

Chapter Text

Arthur woke that day bright and early, he made sure that George had prepared his best red shirt and that his cape was spotless and shining in the buckles 

the Emry’s were arriving today and he needed to look his best for the first of the royals arrivals this week, he needed to impress the other royals and make his father proud 

 

Arthur had met the King and Queen of Ealdor before; they were lovely people who ruled as his parents did in many ways and Arthur respected them for their loyal ways to their people and the treaties with their fellow kingdoms. But Arthur had never met their daughter Princess Merlin but he’d seen paintings, his mother had a few from the families previous visits and he couldn’t wait to see if the painting were a likeness to the young princess in the flesh 

 

it wasn’t too long after George had fastened the last of the clasps on his cape making sure it fit perfectly when his fathers servant called on him to join his parents and sister on the steps and so he left with the elder man and walked out into the winter air joining his family 

 

King Balinor and Queen Hunith were as he remembered, elegant yet simple in fashion unlike his parents, Balinor was a tall thick man with greying hair, his body still as muscular as when he was a young king ruling close with Uther before Arthur’s birth and Queen Hunith was still as beautiful and motherly as before, her face was so soft and warm and as a boy it had always made Arthur feel safe when ever he was in her presence

 

It wasn’t long until the third visitor left the carriage and it took a while for Arthur to get a look at her face and when he did he couldn’t seem to look away

it was only when the royal family were standing in front of them at the top of the steps that he saw the girl up close and arthur realised that Merlin’s painting did nothing for her, the girl in real life was more beautiful than paint could capture, so warm and natural!

Arthur looked her over as she was greeting his mother, father and sister. Her skin was so pale with a small tint on her cheeks which seemed to be from the freezing air, her eyes from what he’d seen reminded him of ice they were blue and clear and seemed to be in chanting that Arthur wanted to stare into them for the remaining future; her hair unlike her mother’s was dark but not like Morgana’s black it had strips of browns in there if the light caught it right 

 

it was only because his eyes hadn’t left the princess that he noticed her wobble slightly a few times as the kings and queens spoke and it seemed no one else picked it up either but when she wobbled a third time and the small amount of colour on her face disappeared that he moved forward a step and it was the right move as not a minute later her body was laying unconscious in his arms 

he knew that he’d knocked his poor father backwards slightly as he jumped forward to catch the girl but he didn’t care right now as he looked down 

he could hear the panicked voices of Hunith and Balinor above him and he looked away from the princess to see what he should do now and it was only when Hunith cried out about getting Gaius that his legs took over and he dashed into the castle leaving the other members behind for a few seconds, they’d figure out where he was going soon and follow him 

he moved quickly towards the chambers set up for the Emrys family not really caring to wait for her family. he could hear fast foot steps following behind anyway so he carried on watching to make sure the girl was still breathing, he called for Gaius as he moved past a few servants sweeping and one raced off obeying his demand for medical help  

he kicked open the chamber doors when he reached the room and raced to the bed, Arthur was careful to place her down on the freshly made bed, his hand supporting her head until she was fully laying down, her ebony hair was wrapped around his fingers when he moved it from under her head but before he could really think too much Hunith and the others rushed through the door with Gaius and he was jolted away from Merlin

he didn’t leave the room but he gave the family a little privacy as they spoke, and soon Merlin was waking and nodding at Gaius and Arthur couldn’t help but sigh out and relax seeing the girl awake again 

 

Whilst the families spoke with merlin and Gaius he ordered the girl a platter of food and bid them all good night, taking in the girls grateful smile and thankful look, those icy eyes staring at him for a brief moment before Hunith blocked the view 

 

 

the next day brought fresh snow and colder winds and Arthur was glad today was an indoor day, the rest of the royal parties were arriving and Arthur was happy to see close friends again, but even with his friends here his eyes sort out the Ealdor Princess, Gwaine seemed to notice and motioned over to a corner in the room before giving Arthur the knowing smirk and moved away to be with his wife 

Merlin was stood where Gwaine had pointed and she looked so young, much younger than eighteen! He himself was twenty one so their age gap wasn’t huge yet she looked so much younger than him, youth still clear on her face 

he found his feet moving before he could agree and soon he was stood with Merlin again, his voice clear as he spoke to her and she jumped slightly but smiled and spoke back when she recognised Arthur, then time seemed to fly and he found half the day had been spent in the princesses company and he was only leaving now on order of his king to plan the hunt.

And all he could think for the first time in his life as he bid farewell to Merlin was damn the hunt let me stay here, let me stay with Merlin! And it scared him slightly yet excitement was present too  

 

 

 

Days later found Arthur and Merlin together again, and Arthur took the only option he could to be in her company again when he saw her alone in the forest, so he released the arrow from his cross bow and listened with a cringe at the startled Yelp 

the guys he was with rolled their eyes at his plan but Gwaine and Lancelot told him to go for it and that’s how he found himself with the Ealdor Princesses on his lap riding through dead trees and snowy grounds, how had those two men know of his feelings right now for this strange girl 

 

As they rode on slowly her grip was around his waist and for her size her grip was strong and consent but he didn’t mind, their closeness was welcome and he happily pulled her fully into him as they rode on, she she gasped as the horse tripped slightly and clung to the prince as if he alone was her lifeline 

he’d have to remember to reward his mount for that movement as now every part of their bodies that could touch at this angle were touching and even with the winter clothing it was still magical and welcome and he was sure she felt the same too as she didn’t try to move away once 

 

he was reluctant to release her into the servants care when they returned to the castle, his attention so focused on her that he held her a little tighter when the servant came forward to help but soon he found her gone from his lap and on the floor, their hands were still attached though and it took a while for them both to realise and release their hold and when her hand left his it felt so much colder despite the gloves he was wearing 

he was so busy watching Merlin even when he rode away that he missed the five pairs of eyes watching from the Castle 

once he returned to the hunt party his mind wandered and he got no real hits out in the forest that day; a first since he was a small lad learning to shoot from the front of his fathers saddle 

 

whilst riding the remainder of that day his brain wondered to Merlin and one thought that played over and over 

he needed to have more time with Merlin before the hunt season was over and the royal family would return home. He needed to know the girl more, find out about her in a way only she could do and he wanted her to know him too!

 

 

He needed Merlin and it didn’t scare him half as much as he thought it would! 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

As Merlin predicted she didn’t hear the end of the Arthur thing. Her mother was the first to question her, reminding her who her father was and that she didn’t want the kings biggest kill of the season to be the crowned prince of Camelot but other wise she smiled at Merlin and listened as Merlin told her about how it all came around, surprisingly she listened without judgement and even laughed along with Merlin was she mentioned nearly screaming then Arthur’s horse had tripped, she could help but fondly smile at that because Arthur had held her extra tight to protect her from falling, but she kept that part from her mother!

After her mother Queen Ygraine cornered Merlin in the hall, her face was soft and happy and Merlin told her exactly what she told her own mother not an hour ago with a few areas left out, some things were for Merlin only right now. The queen looked pleased as Merlin told her about her morning with Arthur and glee was clearly written on her face but Ygraine didn’t really say too much either but what do you say when a girl comes to your kingdom and catches your sons eye?

Gwen, Elena and Freya were like giggling children when they saw her later that day, Merlin told them the same story as the two queens but didn’t leave out some of the little bits, she needed to tell someone about his touch. She just wanted one or three people to know and help her understand her feelings, and who better than three other princes and future queens; two of which who were married to genuinely kind princes like Arthur! after talking to the girls and getting more advice than she knew what to do with she swore she’d never tell anyone else about this day, her mind hurt from repeating words and trying not to give away too much to certain people

Once she was alone in her chambers tucked into her bed she allowed herself to really look back on that morning. Arthur really went above and beyond helping her that morning but in many ways he’d caused issues they could have avoided if he had just walk along side the horse as merlin rode it back home. But with that thought she shuck her head, no way would she have ridden that animal without him there with her. There was definitely no way she would have jumped up into the saddle with out Arthur up there with her

Another thing that played on her mind was the arrow, if they really did think her a deer then why had the arrow hit so far from where she was bending over to inspect the flower? She couldn’t get her mind around that one but she wouldn’t let it keep her awake tonight, she would ask Arthur eventually but right now she focused on Arthur’s touch. She could still feel the princes fingers on her side, the stroking sensation and holding her close as they rode slowly in peace and quite, they didn’t talk much but she didn’t have much to say she just took in the feeling floating around them as they made their way to the castle. And even hours after it all she could still feel the same feelings!

Merlin watched the sky turn black outside and let her heavy eyes fall closed, for a while darkness took over but soon the images of Arthur holding her made themselves known more vividly in her dreams, his one hand clinging to her side just a inch from her hip. His grip was so strong and she swore she could feel the heat of his skin but she couldn’t have? They had too many layers between then but she could imagine it now if they hadn’t had layers between them

She couldn’t help but repeatedly dream that night of being that close to Arthur again, couldn’t hate herself for the joy of the images that danced behind her eyelids as she slept, how could she be mad at dreaming about the prince? How could she be mad about how they had that moment that together and was it so wrong to dream for more?

Merlin didn’t see Arthur the next day, the men had left early again and by the time the hunt party returned with a wagon full of meat for the butchers and cooks the winter sun was setting low behind the trees and out of sight so people had respectively moved to their chambers to eat in their own company or small gatherings and settled into their own comfort

Merlin wished for an excuse to walk the halls but she knew she wouldn’t be able to think of one so she settled at the large dinning table in her parents chambers and ate from the small feast set out on the table, her mother and father were talking about a moment earlier out on the hunt and Hunith was laughing along as Balinor roared with laughter and continued to talk. Merlin smiled at the image in from of her as she picked at her pheasant, would she ever find this? The magical connection her parents had, even after all these years of marriage and ruling together side by side

Before coming to Camelot Merlin never thought about it, not once! But now she was here it’s all she could think off! Ideas of a large royal wedding, ruling away from her home with a man who loved and respected her like her father did her mother!

Maybe coming to Camelot wasn’t so bad after all, and may the prospect of a husband wasn’t either?

Chapter Text

The weather had changed in the past few days making life a little easier, gone was the wind and snow and here was the clear sky’s and frosty grounds. There were still some snow piles across the ground but mostly it rested in drifts against the castle walls leaving clear icy paths visible

It was the perfect day for a walk outside, the ground crushed underfoot from the ice but it was much easier to walk on than through thick layers of snow, it also left your feet feeling warmer than snow and Merlin couldn’t complain at all about that feeling. The princess was fed up with being indoors now so Merlin stood and waited whilst Grace dressed her for the day, the young servant pulling and pushing against her to tighten the corset so It was hard to breath and held her posture up right and proper for a royal!

A light blue dress was fastened up tight over top of the corset, the bodice detailed with dark blues and silver embroidery, flowers, leaves and vines clear to see against the pale silk material of the dress. Her usual cape was thrown over her shoulders and she pulled on her black leather gloves so they covered her pale slender hands
She wore her usual black lace up boots with a double pair of stockings underneath

She pulled the hood of the cape over her head as she headed out into the gardens, first looking in the mirror to make sure her appearance was suitable and then she left her rooms and headed outside, the sky was clear and the wind less violent today making to much more enjoyable to be outside, it was still cold and her extra layers a welcome treat against the winter chill but it didn’t leave her shaking and fed up after five minutes outside unlike the other day

the fur hood kept her ears and half her face warm and the leather gloves she wore had a thin fur lining to keep them warm too and her extra stockings did work wonders

 

In the garden itself there wasn’t much to see. The flower beds were empty leaving plain soil on show with patches of muddied snow and the scrubs were. browner than usual making it look half dead and the odd tree’s in the gardens hung lifeless in its roots waiting for the worth of spring to come around to revive them all again with its growing warmth

Merlin didn’t care though that the views weren’t bright and vibrant like in summer, she imagined how it’d look in the summer months as she walked, she could see the fresh colourful flowers in full blossom and the bees buzzing around them, the greens of the shrubs would be rich and the trees would have heavy branches rich and colourful with leaves providing shade to the people outside! Would she get to see this garden again in full bloom? She hoped so! She wanted to see if her imagination matched the reality

Merlin enjoyed her time outside, it felt good to walk somewhere other than the halls of the castle and she enjoyed letting her mind wounded away with itself for a while. She did wish it was summer time though so she could enjoy the garden more, maybe read a book under the shade of the large oak tree in the middle, a small picnic spread out around her so she wouldn’t need to leave until the sun cast its last light late in the evening. But she enjoyed herself anyway and she wasn’t that cold either which was a welcomed feeling

She was just about to make her way back inside when a young servant ran up to her and replayed a message quickly, almost worried at the words

“Excuse me my lady, but the king wishes to see you” the servant went to run back inside but Merlin stopped the girl mid stride before she could get too far

“which king wishes to see me?” Merlin smiled gently at the girl “my father or the king of Camelot? Just so I know where to go” she laughed when the girl looked on confused then clicked what Merlin was asking. It must be odd having more than one king in the kingdom right now and there a few more than her father and Uther here too but Merlin was pretty sure non of the others wished for her to see them!

“Oh apologises my lady, King Uther wishes to see you in the great hall” she looks at her feet bowing low and Merlin dismissed the girl laughing quietly as she bolted off like a hound after a hare back into the castle

Merlin headed inside the opposite way to the servant and came to a sudden stop when she stepped inside finally realising where she was heading! Why did the King of Camelot wish to speak to her?

 


She carried on walking a few seconds later knowing not to leave a king waiting but nerves were starting to bubble up in her stomach; her mind was replaying any single thing she may have done to upset the hosting king but nothing came to mind?

Other than riding on Arthur’s horse but she was pretty sure no one other than the royal ladies knew so what else could it be about?

If it was a family concern her father would have called her in to see him.

Soon her mind went blank when the doors to the hall came into view and two guards looked her way as her foot steps echoed on the stones. They have been informed on her arrival as they bowed and opened the doors for her leaving her no time to breath before stepping inside

Uther was stood at the large empty oak table that took up a large portion of the room, the seats were all stacked up against the wall apart from one large one that was sat at the head of the table, it left the table open on the other three sides and Merlin was unsure on what to do?

 

She quickly curtsied when King Uther looked up at her arrival but then she just stood there, did she go to him as he stood on the right side of the table or did she approach the left side? Uther must have seen her internal struggle as he motioned her forward and smiled relieving a few of her nerves

 

“I’m so glad you could join me Merlin” she made her way over and curtsied again keeping quite as the king spoke “your father speak of you often, with such pride and I just wanted to have a better meeting” he smiled at her again and pulled a seat forward, Merlin wasn’t sure where he’d grabbed it from but she didn’t ask she just sat when he told her to take a seat and he walked and sat on the larger one sitting at an angle so he could see her clearly

“It’s an honour my lord” she kept to her education when speaking to a king and kept her chin and eyes lowered slightly, still able to see the king but respecting him

“Your paintings do you no justice” that wasn’t what Merlin was expecting but she listened in silence only showing the shock on her pale face “and my son seems taken with your company” she looked up at that comment making eye contact for a brief second

“My lord your son has been very kind to me, he is a very honourable prince” she smiled slightly seeing the pride flash on the kings face “but I can’t say he’s taken with me, we’ve hardly spoken”

 

“I may be a king Merlin, but I am a man too” he laughed “ he looks at you the way I look at my wife, and don’t think I haven’t noticed your looks too” now Merlin was blushing

“he looks for you too, when we return after a day hunt I see him looking for you and he’s been in a real grump the past few days as he has not seen you” She went to protest but Uther held a hand up “the other day I saw you two in the forest” Merlin stuttered making the king laugh again “he did me proud that day helping you the way he did, even if it wasn’t exactly proper for a Prince and visiting princess, but he was taught to be kind and honourable prince and knight of this kingdom so I know nothing other than a helping hand would happen so I rode on and left you two to make your own way back” he looked at Merlin then smiling gently

“he was like a whole new man that afternoon once he returned, full of life and happier than I’ve ever seen my son, then the past few days that’s disappeared gradually and I know it’s because you’ve not seen each other”

Merlin honestly was shocked as she sat there listening, was the king speaking the truth? Was Arthur really happier when he’d been around her? Surely not. They hardly knew each other! How can you feel so strongly about a person you met less than a week ago and for a short period of time?

“Can I ask you a question” the king snapped her from her thoughts and she almost squeaked a reply

“Of course my lord” her voice was so weak but Uther did not mention it

“Do you like my son?” Their eyes met at that and Merlin did not look away from they kings greyish blue eyes this time

her reply was simple and quick “yes. Very much my lord” It was if her voice spoke without her permission but it was the truth wasn’t it, she did like Arthur.

Since that day in the woods his image haunted her dreams in the best ways, and his face was every where in the castle, even when she knew him to be in the forest she saw him in passing guards or royal men passing her in he halls

She liked the prince in a new and terrifyingly way she’d never felt before and she just admitted it to not just the king but the mans father!

There was no going back now. And the way the king looked at her made her feel like that was okay. Maybe something good would come from this talk? Maybe a future she hadn’t really thought off would begin 

Chapter Text

Merlin spoke for a while longer with the King, he was a lot kinder than he looked and he soon put the princess at ease, he went away from talk of Arthur and asked genuine questions about her stay here in Camelot and Merlin happily spoke about the kingdoms beauty and all the hospitality she’d received so far!

He finally granted her permission to leave just before the bell tolled to introduce the eve of the day, she curtsied before leaving the room and sighed out loudly once the doors closed behind her, one of the guards gave her a small smile when she looked up at them and she happily returned a smile back before she moved away and headed back towards her rooms, but as she turned the corner at the end of the long hall heading away from the great hall and towards the spiral staircase she bumped into a very solid figure which nearly knocked her backwards

“Oh my apolog.....” her words were cut off when bright blue eyes met hers and she stuttered to a stop. It was Arthur and his hands had found themselves against her waist holding on tight not allowing her to fall backwards or against a wall He didn’t say anything at first but neither did she as they just stood staring at each other, her hands she noticed were on his chest half griping the thick padded jacket and his hands were tight against her waist but soon they seemed to shake themselves out of the daze between them and Arthur let go and took a step back letting her go, her hands fell away from his jacket and landed back at her sides, they felt empty and wrong now she hadn’t got hold of Arthur

His voice broke the final barrier and she blinked to clear her vision and her mind. His face showed a clear sign of happiness and she was sure hers mirrored the same look

“Merlin” his smile was so bright “what’s the rush” he looked behind her as if he expected some monster or threat to be there and then his gaze landed back on to her face and she couldn’t take her eyes off his

“Oh nothing, I’m sorry I was just leaving the grand hall and I never seem to look where I’m going” his eyebrows shot up at the burst of words but Merlin just carried on rambling “your father wanted a meeting and well it didn’t go as I expected but it went well, better even” she wasn’t even sure what she was saying but she wanted to thanks the prince when he stopped her rambling and she could finally snap her lips shut

“You were in a meeting with my father?” He looked concerned now “is everything ok?” Concern and worried it would seem by the sound in his voice

“Everything is fine” she tried to show off her best smile to try and make it sound one hundred percent true but something must have shown on her face and the prince didn’t look convinced

“The king wanted a formal introduction after I promptly fainted on arrival missing the opportunity to greet him” she knew it was half truth and Arthur seemed to relax a little

“Oh well. Good” he signed “I was worried for a moment because....” he snapped his mouth shut then and when Merlin went to speak to ask what that meant he changed the subject quickly, and after such a weird day already Merlin allowed it. She let the subject move on and she found herself walking then, Arthur had at some point started walking and Merlin followed on instinct

“Shall we go for a walk?” Arthur sounded unsure but motioned towards the outside world

“I think we already are?” She looked up smirking at the prince who was looking at her with a weird look and the whole air around them seemed to collapse and a new relaxed air grew

“Such a smart arse aren’t you” he laughed and dodged the slap easily. Not that Merlin was fully trying

“Rude, maybe I should go find someone else to spend my time with” she went to spin around and walk off fully playing along but Arthur’s grip stopped her and he didn’t let go

“Oh no” he spun her around to fully face him “you’re mine now for the evening. Our meals won’t be ready for at least another two hours” he started walking again and Merlin found herself willingly being moved by his hold down the steps

The words ‘you’re mine now’ replaying over and over again in her mind!

They walked down the steps and into the courtyard in silence. Arthur’s hold guiding her as he moved outside, the ice had grown thicker on the path making the crunching noise louder as they made their way around

“Let me know if you get cold” he looked around at her and all she could do was nod, oh that look, how could someone steal a heart so quickly? Was it real or was it in her head? Maybe Uther wanted to make her believe it was real so their families could unite? But somehow that thoughts felt wrong and sour, she’d never felt like this before but surely it couldn’t be fake?

The sky was darker out now but night still hadn’t fallen, the sky was still a light blue but oranges and purples painted the sky as well making it look darker than the mornings yellowish pink It was the odd hour when the sun had disappeared but the sky was still too bright for the moon or stars to appear and Merlin always found this time of day relaxing

“I love this time of day” Arthur was looking at her when she looked away from the multi coloured sky and focused back on the prince, she didn’t realise it had been her voice to break the silence but she continued talking “the colours and the quite peacefulness of the hour” she closed her eyes “everything has stopped for the day, the farmers at home eating with their families, traders packed up and settled in for the night ready to start all over again in the morning, even the animals have settled down knowing the day is coming to an end and it is time to relax” she opened her eyes and all she could see was Arthur. His blue eyes shining with something she couldn’t quite name, his smile small yet there. Relaxed and happy!

“You have a way of words, you see normal every day things which normal people over look and yet you word them like it’s a fairy tale” the prince looked so relaxed as he spoke and Merlin blushed at the compliment.

She really needed to get a hold on the blushing! It was getting silly now but Arthur just seemed to make her hot and bothered every time he spoke or looked at her and yet she felt so comfortable and relaxed around him at the same time! It was all very confusing

 

They walked together for a while longer, their conversation varying from subject to subject, at some point they had made their way to the garden and his hold had loosened and Merlin found herself looping her arm through his as they made their way around the castle grounds ignoring the cold for a while longer

It was growing dark by the time they went inside, the darkness brought with it a coldness that was uncomfortable and unbearable for long. Arthur seemed to notice her discomfort as he made his way inside without a word about it. Their conversation on the gardens summer look never faltering and Arthur explained it how she had seen it in her mind earlier

Arthur happily explained how the garden looked in the months of summer, wild flowers grew and the trees would hold more leaves than a person could count, he explained his favourite place in the garden where he spent his free time writing or reading and it was under the same oak tree Merlin had earlier visioned herself sitting under reading a novel or two

Merlin wasn’t sure when it happened but she soon found herself at her chamber doors. Arthur must have walked them here and she had been too busy looking at him as he spoke of the summer months here, she had someone missed walking to her own borrowed chambers?

She was just about to bid Arthur good night when the doors flew open and Her mother was stood there looking shocked

“Merlin” she looked between them both, noting their linked arms before smiling and looking away “your dinner is ready, I was just about to come looking for you, but now you’re hear and I can finally go join your father and indulge in my own meal” she hurried off after that not leaving time for much of a goodnight but Merlin called after her mother as she trotted away ignoring the butterflies in her stomach at being caught arm in arm with the prince

“I had fun tonight” Arthur broke the moment of silence then “we should do it again?” He paused biting his lip “tomorrow evening? A small meal together maybe?” She could hear the uncertainty in the princes voice. He sounded unsure and nervous and it was something she never imagined the Prince sounding like that. He always had a sure and confident act about him

She smiled softly to try and relax the poor man at her side “i had fun tonight too, and I would love to meet again tomorrow” she let go of his arm then using all her will power to pull away from the prince “the same time?”

“Yes the same time tomorrow sounds perfect, I’ll meet you here and we can find a nice place to sit and eat, maybe not outside seen as winter is ripe outside. But I know of a little place which will grant us shelter and comfort yet let us see the stars” he bit his lip again when he finished talking showing just how nervous he was too, Merlin was glad she wasn’t the only one feeling something here

“That sounds wonderful” she beamed a genuine happy smile his way and wished him a good night; she grew up a quick amount of courage and pecked a small kiss to his cheek before she spun around and rushed through the chamber doors then leaving the prince outside shocked

Arthur stood outside the doors for a good minute before the shock wore off and he could move his limbs again, his cheeks took a good while to loose the colour but even when his face returned back to itself after that mad rush of heat hit his cheeks he still felt Merlins lips against his skin.

The kiss had been a second long. Yet it had imprinted itself onto his skin leaving it tingling and warm under touch!

It was then that Arthur realised his feeling had grown stronger for the visiting princess; stronger than he ever saw himself feeling for any woman and yet he didn’t mind this feeling at all. He just hoped the princess felt the same way!!

Chapter Text

Merlin gasped as she walked through the doors at the top of one of the towers, Arthur was right behind her holding the door open so it didn’t close on her whilst she took in the view in front of her
Candles were sat in the windows and on the floor around a simple collection of blankets and pillows, the candles were casting enough light in the small round room to see comfortably, the golden light was flickering as the wind caught the flames casting shadows and a relaxing atmosphere around the two people

Food was set to one side next to the arrangement of blankets and pillows and it looked like Arthur and the servants had been busy for a while setting this up and Merlin couldn’t help the smile that stretched across her face, she never imagined any of this when Arthur invited her to dine with him tonight. It was like something out a romance novel she’d read

“Do you like it” Arthur’s voice was so close to her ear it made her shudder

“It’s perfect” she turned away from the picnic set up and faced Arthur who was stood extremely close, he was already watching her and his blue eyes were a lot darker in the candle light “it’s beyond anything I could ever dream off” she smiled widely at the prince and Arthur had a matching smile on his face Arthur moved then and pulled her into the room towards the little nest letting the door close behind them cutting off the draught from the spiral stair case

He helped her sit comfortably making sure she had enough pillows and blankets to keep her warm and she happily sat down arranging her skirts before pulling a rich soft red blanket over her lap and Arthur quickly sat next her, he started passing around food once they were both settled. Arthur had arranged a large variety of foods, pheasant and venison as well as honeyed desserts and winter berry pies

They indulged on fine foods as they spoke about different interests they had, laughter and words bounced of the stone walls as the evening passed on

Arthur spoke of his life in Camelot, what was involved with being a knight as well as being the crown prince and Merlin listened with interest
He spoke of his adored hunting hounds and his fine mare down in the stables. They same horse Merlin had sat on a few days prior
He also spoke of his love for literature which surprised Merlin, she found out too that they even shared a love for a few novels and they jumped into a exited conversation about them

Merlin happily told Arthur of her home kingdom later on, she told him of her people and their way of life in Ealdor. She also brought up her beloved collection of novels in her private library. she spoke of her interest in falconry which didn’t really surprise the prince seeing as she’d been named after a bird of prey, she’d never handled the birds but she always watching in awe when her father handled his finest hunting birds, she laughed as she told Arthur about hiding behind hedges or walls as she watched in fascinated awe as the birds swooped around the sky

Arthur promised if they met in the summer that he would show her his own hunting birds, he spoke of teaching her about them and learning her how to handle one, he even had a small Merlin bird she could hold whilst she was visiting now if she wished and Merlin agreed so quickly it made the Prince laugh

“Tomorrow I shall show you then” he nodded his head as if that finalised everything and he carried on picking at the remaining food

The room grew darker as the hours passed and the candles melted down small and smaller leaving melted wax on all the surfaces they rested on

After they had their fill of food Arthur stood up and held a hand out to Merlin which she quickly took and stood up with the help of the prince. Arthur quickly grabbed the blanket before it fell to the floor and wrapped it around Merlin before she could feel a chill and guided her over to the windows which took up half of the one side of the tower, their legs ached a bit but they both ignored the tingly pain, it quickly faded once they were stood at the window!

Looking out the window the princess noticed the winter sky was filled with stars, so many stars Merlin was lost at which to focus on as she gazed up at them, she was unaware of the prince’s focus on her as she studied the stars

Arthur couldn’t focus on the stars out side though. He was in awe at the beauty of the princess. The golden light of the candles cast shadows on her porcelain features making them stand out more than in the day light hours, he wasn’t sure how long he stood studying her but soon Merlin turned to look at him, she seemed to have said something and he hadn’t heard her or replied

Merlin caught him looking at her when she finally looked away from the sky to see why he wasn’t replying to her and she was pretty sure her heart had stopped beating in her chest as she focused on him, her words died in her throat and she was almost nose to nose with the prince

She wasn’t sure if either of them could find words right now but they seemed to be communicating with out them

Her eyes were wide and shining and Arthur’s seemed to be growing darker but the candle light wasn’t giving her much detail, he was so close to her that she felt almost crowded against the window but she didn’t mind. She felt safe here with the prince, she’d never felt this safe and natural around another person before

 

Arthur on the other hand felt far too many emotions to know what to do, the only thing he wanted to do was kiss the princess but would she allow it? How does he ask? He wasn’t sure what to do, it had never been this hard before with other woman? Things normally came naturally to Arthur but his confidence was gone right now

The question he wished to ask was obviously clear on his face but Merlin seemed to whispered a small yes, he was sure it was her and not the howling wind outside

Arthur took the final tiny step forward then, his body completely against the princesses and his arms looped around her waist holding her tightly before he moved one arm up so his hand was free to touch her check-bone making the girl shudder under his touch, her eyes closed for a second and Arthur watched as her eyelashes fanned across her skin

Her eyes didn’t open again until he whispered a gentle “Let me kiss you” then her eyes fluttered open gently and she did whisper a small “Yes” this time, it was all Merlin could say and it seemed to be enough for Arthur

He moved forward in a quick pace as if he was scared she would change her mind, but not too quickly that the kiss was spoilt, in fact it was perfect.

His lips were so warm and soft against Merlins! She wasn’t sure what to do but Arthur’s hand held her head still, his fingers almost twisted in her ebony hair, he seemed to realise her inexperience and he helped guide her and she quickly caught on, her arms quickly moved wrapping around his neck now clinging to him almost as if she was scared he would vanish if she didn’t hold on, but he didn’t seem to be letting go either and she smiled against his lips as they continued kissing.

Merlin hummed into the kiss at one point and her mind drifted away from everything other than Arthur. It was better than any of her dreams and she didn’t want it to end

Neither of them wanted this night to end! But soon Arthur pulled away from the kiss, Merlin didn’t want to open her eyes but when she did the look on Arthur’s face was breath taking!

It was the look she’d seen her father give her mother when they didn’t think anyone was looking

Arthur may have pulled away from the kiss but his hands remained one on Merlins waist and his other on her face stroking her cheek so softly

“I should get you back” he sounded so reluctant to say the words and Merlin wanting to fall forward and cling to him. She didn’t want this to end “if any of our parents notice us missing. Especially at the same time we both know the trouble it’ll cause” and Merlin understood that. She really did but still couldn’t they run away for the night and just let this night live forever

Reluctant and sad they both left the room, the candles had been blown out apart from the two they held and they closed the door behind their little fairy tale paradise!

“This night was perfect” Merlin had that wide blissed out smile on her face and it would not leave. Not that she wanted

“I’m glad you enjoyed yourself. I did too” Arthur held her hand as they walked, once they exited the stair well they blew out their candles leaving them sitting on a step and walked into the hall, the lanterns gave them the light to get back to their rooms and enough shadows to walk hand in hand for a while longer

Only a few guards saw them and Merlin was reassured by Arthur that they wouldn’t speak a word of this to anyone Arthur walked her to her chamber doors and kissed her hand gently before he slid away into the shadows before anyone else could see them and left her to return to her rooms.

Her servant was there luckily turning down the bed and she quickly helped the princess out of her dress and into her night clothes and helped her settle in the bed.

Grace helpfully took the clothes down to wash and slipped Arthur’s red blanket out with her without saying a word. Merlin would reward the girl tomorrow but right now she wanted to slip under her think blankets and dream of the night she just had.

 

Arthur crawled through the halls with the happiest smile on his face. He wouldn’t believe how well tonight went, it was like a dream; Merlin was a dream. He was so happy George his servant gave him a confused look but went about his work and helped the prince ready for bed. Arthur would be dreaming of this night for a while!

Chapter Text

Merlin couldn’t loose the smile on her face, she was sitting outside under the oak tree which now had a thick coverage of green leaves. The sunshine above was shimmering through the moving leaves casting shadows on the ground working her. The breeze was gentle and warm, hitting her face and moving the loose stands of ebony hair around

Merlin looked around her and she could see the flowers in full bloom now. All rich in colour and fragrances! Bees and butterfly’s were  flying around too making a perfect summer picture as she sat relaxing in this picturesque garden 

 

the Gardens of Camelot were picture perfect, each detail magnificent and royal, there was no better place to sit and read but her book was closed and forgotten on her lap; she didn’t have a care in the world right now, not even for her beloved stories, nature was giving her a perfect show right here in front of her own eye so she didn’t need a book to entertain herself 

it was only when a voice echoed through the garden that she snapped out of her day dream and looked around looking for the source of the voice, butterfly’s and flowers forgotten!

Arthur came into view not a moment later; looking left and right as he called her name. His face was bright and light of worries as he wondered around the tall hedges and finally saw her sitting there, her red silk dress spread out like a flower itself under the giant old oak tree 

 

Merlin got up as the prince approached her, brushing herself from the grass and dust sticking to her skirts, but some still stayed firmly attached to the fabric of her dress

Arthur smile was blinding when he finally stopped in front of her, he held freshly picked flowers in his hand making her smile grow wider as she took them from him and smelt the soft delicate colourful petals.

Then as she moved away from the fresh summer bouquet his lips were on hers and the world seemed to just melt away, nothing else right now was important and she let herself melt into his touch. 

 

It was heavenly. Perfect. A dream! 

 


Merlin was woken from her dream by hands shaking her shoulders, the images of Arthur kissing her under the oak tree falling away quickly into nothing as she blinked her eyes open groaning at the light 

“Merlin will you wake up” her mother was stood over her, a scolding look fixed on Merlin “it’s nine in the morning, you missed breakfast and the hunting party leaving” once Hunith saw her daughter was finally ‘awake’ she moved away grunting about something else but Merlin ignored her and flopped down into the pillows moaning to herself that she was back in reality and her perfect dream was shattered 

 

Last night with Arthur had been perfect, it had been better than perfect really. But Merlin couldn’t quite pick a word to describe it, she smiled to herself as she was dragged up from the bed and forced to wash and change, her mind was set on Arthur as her mother and grace hurried around her making sure her dress was on right and her hair was curled and presentable for the day, each tug on the corset or pull of a comb to her hair was phased out by Arthur’s blue eyes and magical smile 

 

 

That day Merlin wondered around talking with Gwen and Elena, Gwen was laughing about some innocent with a stag and deer that her husband Lancelot had told her about last night and both Merlin and Elena were in fits of laughter as Gwen spoke!

all three woman were clutching their sides cursing their corsets as they gasped for breath, the story stopping and starting over and over when they needed a break to laugh loudly 

They giggled and spoke for a while longer, sides sore and energies high on happiness before a shadow fell over them making them stop mid conversation to look round at the person who’d crept up on them

it was Arthur and all three woman relaxed and Curtsied to the prince who in returned offered a small bow, a smile was plastered on his face and his posture was relaxed and happy  

“what’s so funny ladies” he moved up and stood with them, his shoulders lightly brushing against Merlins but no one else’s 

“I was just telling them about that deer from yesterday” Gwen was giggling as she spoke, and Arthur burst out laughing at the mention of yesterday’s hunting activities 

”don’t” he paused holding a hand up laughing “my poor friend had to go see Gaius about an antler in a very private area” he laughed again when Merlin burst out in a fit of laughter, it was very un-princess like but neither her or Arthur seemed to care 

 

Soon it all died down again and they all stood in silence for a moment but Arthur soon broke it when he excused himself holding an arm out for Merlin asking to borrow her for a short time. Merlin on instinct moved and took hold of his arm and smiled up at the prince, both were so busy smiling at each other that neither of them seemed to notice the little grins the other woman gave them before they moved away and left them to themselves, gossip already on their tongues as they walked away 

 

”I thought you were on a hunt today?” Merlin praised what ever was up for allowing her this extra time with Arthur  

“weather conditions are quite awful today” Merlin looked outside and for the first time noticed the weather  “so we cut our little outing short, we had a successful morning though so nothing is lost” his face even in the dull light seemed to glow as he spoke to her 

 

They moved onto easy conversion after that, just walking slowly and exchanging stories from their day so far!

 

The wind outside was rough and gusty and the rain pelted into the glass making it at times hard to hear each other. But it didn’t stop them, they just walking in silence as the rain rushed down from the grey clouds and when it settled for a moment they would pick up from where they left, happily in their own space that the outside world didn’t exist 

 

 

 

Hunith and Ygraine saw the young couple walking together later on that afternoon. Both woman smiled at each other as they watched their children laugh and joke around. Merlin was throwing her arms around as she told a story and Arthur was laughing so hard his head was tilted back 

“they seem to get on rather well” Ygraine picked her goblet up and took a sip, happy her son was for once relaxed and enjoying himself 

“I think we should start planning a wedding my dear” Hunith copied her friend drinking from her goblet as she watched her daughter laugh and jump around. So unlady like that it was perfectly Merlin. Her Merlin  

“you may be right Hunith, I have never seen Arthur like this before! 21 summers and never have I seen him laugh or act the way he does around your daughter” Ygraine smiled as she watched the young couple walk out of view “he seems... no they both seem enchanted with one another” 

“yes Balinor said the same thing last night, he’s not as happy as I about it but he’s happy in his own way, neither of us want our girl to grow up but the fact is Ygraine she has” Hunith paused looking sad “she’s grown into a fine young princess who will one day make a fine Queen” 

“I think together those two would rule a kingdom unlike any other! Better than me and Uther, or you and Balinor” Ygraine looked across to her friend a few happy tears in her eyes

“Our babies have grown up” sighing Hunith walked away from the table to refill their goblets “I wonder how they’ll react when they have to part ways? We leave in two days time and we won’t see each other until Spring has blossomed fully and the days grow a little longer!”

“Time will tell my dear Hunith. Time will tell” The queens sat together the rest of the day planning for a future that wasn’t fully set in stone!

 

 

But destiny is a funny thing!

Chapter Text

Merlin and Arthur spent the last few days together when they could, the weather outside was horrendous so the last few days hunting had been called off making a few of the elder men moan, but most were happy they got to stay in the dry castle by the freshly lite fires eating and drinking wine as they laughed and joked about the time they’d had so far  

 

When they could get away from their groups both Merlin and Arthur would walk around together, her arm looped though his and their pace slow and peaceful, nothing exiting really happened and nothing really made sense to them but they laughed a lot and at night they would slowly leave each other to join their families or bed depending on the late hour 

Arthur showed her around more of the castle on the last day, she hadn’t really explored these past two weeks, unsure where she was welcome and enjoying the time she had in the gardens on the better days!

They went up to the library in the afternoon leaving everyone to their own devices. Merlin gasped as the doors opened and she saw the walls upon walls of books; she wanted nothing more than to scan the lot, gliding her fingertips over the leather bound pages, imaging the stories hidden on the paper, but Arthur dragged her over to the fire place in the room where they sat and embraced the warmth! Their conversation was near whispered but they sat close so it wasn’t hard to hear each other, but after a while though Merlin couldn’t sit still and Arthur laughed before motioning to the books in the room, she all but launched from the seat tripping on her royal blue skirt, Arthur luckily caught her before righting her and letting go again slowly. Once free from his grip she bounced off with a happy “thank you” which seemed to echo around Arthur 

 

Arthur watched the dark haired Princess as she almost skipped around the large room, hands brushing against the leather bound books gently as she moved from shelf to shelf, he knew she would be leaving a few fingerprints in the dust when she reached up to look at the higher shelves! Most the books were abandoned up there collecting dust and cob webs but Merlin didn’t seemed to mind. She hummed and carried on scanning the endless collection 

 

“are you always this exited about books?” Arthur questioned making the girl pause for a moment looking round at the prince still sat comfortably by the fire place 

“always” her smile was so bright as she all but beamed at the prince “each one is a new adventure, a new life for a short while” she turned away for a moment tapping at her chin before she pulled a red leather book free from the shelf with a puff of dust making her cough for a moment 

“like this one” she held the book out to Arthur, he couldn’t see it from his seat so he got up and walked over to her looking at her face before the book

 “it’s about this princess from a far away foreign kingdom, she’s trapped in a marriage of convenience her father forced upon her and she’s sad, lonely and trapped in a life she never wanted, but then one day a knight arrives and they spark a new romance almost at first sight and well I don’t want to give too much away” she looked up through her eye lashes at Arthur who was staring back 

“tell me” he whispered the words for some reason, it was like his voice wasn’t there “what happens?” 

“Well..” she paused taking a deep breath “The knight and the princess get caught by her husband and father one night, and a fight between the husband and knight happens” she sighs “the husband seems to have the upper hand for a while, fuelled in anger and humiliation but then the knight sees his princess standing to the side crying and fearful, and it was like magic hit him” she closed her eyes whispering the worlds as if she could see the images behind her eyes and Arthur leant in as if he could see the images too if he was close enough to her 

“does he win? Do they get their happy ever after?” Arthur was so committed to this story now, even without reading the book, he needed to know! 

“maybe you should read the book?” Merlin laughed at Arthur’s groan feeling giddy when the prince looked at her, his eyes as blue as the sky on a hot clear summers day! They pierced into her as they just stood for a minute in silence 

 

“tell me! Don’t leave me wondering” he was almost begging her now, he could read the book but that would take an age and he couldn’t wait now  

“yes! True love always wins in the end” she closed her eyes again when the prince leant forward resting their foreheads together, noses bumping as they moved their heads “true love is the magic of the world” ..... “the knight wins and they flee the kingdom to a life of love and happiness, never to be seen by her tyrant father and husband again!” they both sigh at the image they could see behind closed eyes, heads still pressed together 

 

“It sounds perfect” Arthur had never felt this way, he’d always been the rough tough knight and prince, a future king with a duty to his kingdom. But with Merlin he felt like a boy again, in a good way, he felt free and happy wanting everything this book offered, but he wanted it to live on once the book was closed, and he was sure he could have that with Merlin! Only Merlin. 

 

“It is perfect” Merlin moves away slightly so with opened eyes she could gaze at the prince who’s eyes fluttered open at the loss of contact “true love is always perfect” she smiled again, eyes half mooned from happiness as she looked at him 

Arthur couldn’t help himself after that comment, her face a picture perfect mixture of mischief and love, so he moved all the way forward until his lips meant Merlins! He kissed her with every emotion he could express without words and the way the princes returned the kiss it was obvious she understood him and returned the feelings full force!  

He was terrified and happy all at once, but it felt right, being here kissing Merlin felt perfect! 

 

 

They didn't leave the library for a while that day. Happy and content in their own space surrounded by books, adventures and longing! 

 

 

 

 

Chapter Text

<p>Merlin woke up before the sun, the sky outside dark and colourless; her servant was waiting by the closet, half closed eyes watching her and messier than usual hair stuck out all over, but Merlin didn’t mention it as she helped Her dress for the day, even before the day had truly begun 

 

<p>”go back to bed Grace, I won’t need you Until this evening for the banquet” she dismissed the girl after a small argument by that it was okay for her to have the day off and relax, she watched grace leave after the final touches were done and Merlin was ready for the day!

The last day in Camelot </p>

<p> </p>

<p>she made sure to wear a fancier dress today, not as pretty as tonight’s gown but still a little more detailed than her usual dresses. The colour a rich royal blue which shone in the light making the colour tones differ in areas; the bodice was covered in tiny blue Jews which sparkled and shimmered as she moved, there was no real pattern or stitch work visible but it was pretty enough without it </p>

<p>the cloak she had wrapped around her shoulders matched the dress perfectly, dark blue with a whitish grey fur trim! She had matching leather gloves and hood to protect her ears and face from the elements </p>

<p>Merlin wore her hair in a simple yet elegant up due with a few loose curls that hid her ears, her less favoured feature! And like most days her face was powdered lightly and some colour was put on her lips to enhance her appearance, but it was plain and simple compared to some of the other woman in the castle. But Merlin preferred simple most days especially in the winter </p>

<p>By the time she was ready to go the sun was peaking above the tree tops turning the sky a kaleidoscope of colours, yellows and blues mixed with a tint of orange and pink, it was beautiful</p>

<p>A few other guests were already out and walking around when Merlin left her rooms, she didn’t really recognise them well enough to stop and speak but she shared a quick smile before moving on, no real destination in mind today! </p>

<p> </p>

<p>Her mother and father were already out too when Merlin made it to the main entrance door to make it outside into the courtyard, she greeted her parents with a wide smile and they both greeted her back with confused he happy smiles </p>

  

<p>“What are you doing up so early?” her mothers eyebrow raised with the question her father just asked, a knowing look was plastered on her mother’s pale kind face and her father still looked confused!

“Oh, hmm” she looked at her mother before she looked back at her father “I just thought I’d enjoy our last day here, enjoy the sun rise and take one last wonder around” she cleared her throat trying not to look nervous, why was she nervous? 

“Right?” Her father didn’t look or sound convinced but it seemed to work as they moved on with their conversations which changed from one subject to another quickly until they said a simple goodbye 

But before Merlin got too far away from her parents her father called her name making her spin around

“Arthur’s out at the falconers hut” he smirked “I’m sure he’ll appreciate the dress” smirk not leaving his face he moved on with Hunith in tow out of sight. laughter echoing around the corner from them both 

 

 Merlin knew right now that the colour painting her cheeks a rosé red wasn’t any sort of make up</p>

 

 

She made her way outside, shivering slightly from the strong bitter north wind that was blowing up a storm, her breath small puffs of smoke in front of her face! 

She wrapped her cape around her clinging onto it trapping the warm air inside, she took a few steps into the freshly fallen snow, it was ankle deep so it was hard to walk in and under it ice had formed leaving it slippery under foot, but she carried on outside anyway!

 

despite the cold feeling that seemed to nip and snap at any exposed skin it was a beautiful picture outside, the snow was pure white and glistening and fresh, crunching and cracking under foot with each step

The houses below the castle were covered, the thatch rooftops hidden under a blanket of snow! The castle itself she guessed look similar but it was harder to see being in the courtyard and with how cold it was she didn’t feel like adventuring into the forest to see 

 

 

she walked into the royal stable block a few moments later and it wasn’t much warmer in their but the biting wind was cut off suddenly when the door closed behind her with a thud, she stomped her feet a few times watching the snow fall from her boots leaving the straw wet under her

The horses she could see were all inside their stables, munching happily at the hay inside, their coats thick and warm protecting them from the cold 

she made her way through the building, nodding and smiling at the grooms and stable servants as she went along until she got to the other end, she prepared herself this time and opened the door stepping back out into the cold wind. The falconers hut wasn’t far from the stables, may 10-15 steps away so she only had to venture in the cold weather for a few seconds before she could get back inside 

 

She knocked and waiting for a reply before she entered the hut, the deep voice from inside belonged to the head falconer, he was a short man with a big gut and balding head under his winter hat but he seemed nice enough! He seemed confused to see a lady there until Merlin asked for Arthur and the man smiled and directed her to the second hut attached to this one and she made her way there! His smile seemed to know something but it was also kind, so she ignored the question it held and smiled a thank you back and moved on 

 

Opening the small wooden door she could hear Arthur before she saw him, she closed the door gently behind her making little noise and moved so he was in sight; he was stood in a long barn type building that was attached to the hut, this building was the same height but was longer and seemed a lot like the stables she’d just walked through but this one was filled with birds in small yet spacious pens and not horses in big airy stables 

the prince seemed to be fully focused on the bird that was sat perched on the glove he wore, a small hood covering its eyes so it couldn’t see! Merlin stood and watched for a moment whilst Arthur spoke in a hushed voice to the bird, his words mumbled so Merlin couldn’t hear what he was saying. the bird seems to be listening though; it’s head twitching up, down and to the side in quick sharp movements, a small bell sound filled the barn was the only other sound when the bird moved 

 

“that’s a lovely bird” Merlin didn’t speak too loudly but Arthur spun around anyway a little shocked someone was there behind him, the poor birds wings flapped frantically at the sudden movement before it steadily settled back down 

“Lord above, Merlin” he looked at her, a little shock written on his face “warn a man next time” a small laugh escaped this lips

“sorry, didn’t mean to startle you” she huffed a small laugh holding her hands up in a small sorry gesture “or your friend there” she pointed to the small bird of prey that was now fully settled again

“i always dropped her” he apologised softly to the bird “and then I’d be in trouble, she may be a small Merlin bird but she has a temper on her” he looked from the Merlin bird to Merlin herself “she reminds me of you actually, small and cute yet stubborn, and I’m sure you have the same type of temper” 

Merlin gasped smacking on hand on her chest and played being offended “I do not have a temper” she dropped her hand “no matter that my parents say, I’m a saint” she huffed at Arthur’s laugh and gave him a look that if she had magic could turn him to ash 

“You’re rude and I will not miss you when I leave tomorrow” she muttered trying not to smile at the prince 

 

“Of course you will” Arthur seemed to have a flash of sadness pass his face but it left quickly and the playful look returned “i’m Arthur Pendragon, I’m hard not to miss once you know me”

They both burst out laughing and Merlin finally moved away from the door and over to Arthur

being closer now she could see the detail of the Bird on his arm! It’s wings a steel grey whilst it’s back was a mixture of browns, its Breast was white and cream with a freckled effect splattered over the feathers, she couldn’t see the face well due to the hood but it seemed to be quite dark brown like it’s back

“who’s this” she pointed at the bird in question. Longing to touch but knowing it’s best not too, unless the falconer says it’s ok

“chasseuse” he stroked the birds breast as he spoke

“Is that French?” Merlin questioned, liking the name

“Yes” he smiled at Merlin “would you like to hold her? She’s friendly” he paused “as friendly as a hunting bird can be that is”

“Of course if that’s okay?” Merlin was beaming, this was a dream come true, her father never allowed her near the birds. Afraid she’d get injuries from handing them or being too close! 

“Grab the glove over there and put it on” Merlin did as she was told, the old yellowing leather glove stiff and too big for her small hands but it was a good enough fit for this! 

Arthur checked it was fitted well enough before he slowly moved the bird over to her arm, the bird happily hopping from one handler to the other

 

The weight of the bird shocked Merlin. For such a small bird it was heavy on the held out arm! And despite the leather glove she could still feel the small imprint of its talons 

“She’s so heavy” she didn’t take her eyes off the bird. Mesmerised by it

“Yes she gets heavy after a while, especially carrying her out on horse back for hours on end, she’s a lazy thing” Arthur smiled at his bird “prefers to perch on me or the horse than fly and hunt” he rolled his eyes and Merlin smiled “despite her name she would rather sit and be served than work for her dinner”

“Don’t we all” Merlin laughed “besides she’s a lady she shouldn’t have to work for her food, she should be carried around and pampered” the bird seemed to agree as it flapped it’s wings gently giving a small squark 

“Don’t tell her that, or she’ll never fly again” groaning Arthur helped take the bird back, merlins arm already aching from holding her unexpected weight. He carried her over to a small pen, he secured the bird to the branch and closed the door locking it behind him

He took his glove and merlins borrowed one and placed them to the side before he motioned to Merlin to follow. She did without question as usual but not before taking one last glance at the birds 

 

Five minutes later she found herself back in the castle, Arthur guided her to the library and she groaned happily at the large fire crackling away in the fire place!

Arthur helped her remove her thick cape, the bottom a little wet from the snow making it feel heavier than usual and hung it up by the door where it could dry

“Thank you” she moved to the chairs sitting slowing “Now this is a better idea” Merlin sat arms held out running her hands together in front of the flames “It’s much warmer inside”

Arthur agreed and took the seat opposite her, copying her movements trying to warm himself from the fire after being outside for so long! He rarely felt the cold until he was back inside 

 

They both stayed there in the library for hours, neither had a book in hand but they spoke and laughed as the hours ticked by and the sky outside grew darker. Once a servant had come in stoking the fire and leaving them a warm winter wine, rich and spicy and it went down a treat as they exchanged more stories whilst they drank

It was only when Merlins mother entered the room that she realised the time

“It’s time to change Merlin, the banquet starts soon” she bowed to Arthur as Merlin got up and Arthur nodded smiling at Merlins mother and the queen of Ealdor

They said their goodbyes, a little sad their time had been cut. But they went their separate ways after spending all day together to ready for tonight’s grand fair well 

Both Merlin and Arthur felt a sadness cling to them as they readied for the banquet. It was a final reminder that this time tomorrow Merlin would be in a carriage on her way back to her home kingdom and Arthur would go back to normal duties with no Merlin to sneak him away

 

 

                    **********

 

neither of them wanted the banquet to end when it was in full swing 

They’d found each other as soon as they entered the hall again, the hall was loud and full of people dancing, singing and laughing whilst others ate and spoke loudly over the music playing from the band in the corner 

it was a sea of colour when Merlin looked around. Each royal dressed to impress tonight 

Merlin herself wore a bright shiny silver and blue dress! It’s skirts deep navy and the bodice navy with rich silver detail and Jewels! It was so detailed you’d think the bodice silver with navy detail. Her dark ebony hair was loose and lightly curled, and a thin silver flower crown sat on her brow, her hair curled around the shaped metal at the sides keeping it in place!

Her crown was simple unlike her parents, it was simple and elegant which matched her small petite frame. The metal had been shaped into small flowers and leaves; each flower had a small blue stone in the middle which shone as she moved her head! 

Her pale porcelain face was powdered and her cheeks had a healthy natural pink to them! Her lips were red from a dyed bee’s wax and her mother had applied a very small amount of Kohl to her eyes and lashes to enhance the blinding blue of her eyes 

 

her new look left Arthur breathless when he saw her again! And it made a few other members of the party turn and look for a moment admiring her beauty. But they didn’t have long to stare as Arthur dressed in royal Camelot red and gold circular crown snatched her up for himself and she happily floated on air to the dance area with him 

they spent all night together, dancing away with the other royals but not changing partners or allowing others to split them apart! They danced and danced until their feet hurt and their bellies tumbled, when they left the dance floor they ate together and drank a rich herbal wine before moving back to dance again! 

 

Both of their parents watched on with smiles on their faces, talks of engagements and treaties whispered between them as the younger people danced and laughed the night away! 

Hunith and ygraine beaming as their husbands spoke of uniting their kingdoms finally! 

 

“We should wait until summer” Balinor spoke “next summer we shall return and prepare for a royal engagement” Uther agreed and so did the queens knowing it would be best for both Merlin and Arthur to have time away to allow their feelings to truly surface 

“let them part ways and let their feeling bloom from the distance, that way we know if this is what the fates have decided” Uther spoke as he watched his only son “let’s make sure they truly do want to be together and this isn’t just a winter romance” all four elders agreed happily and the plans for their summer return were discussed all night. Merlin and Arthur unaware of their parents plans 

 

when it came time for bed everyone left with a happy mood in place, the food had been eaten and the wine drunk! The hall was a mess from the activities and the festive feeling was rich in the air 

 

by morning the air had changed to a sadder note, people hugged and cried a little as they bid each other good bye! 

Merlin hugged each lady she’d made friends with, plans of letters and keeping in touch firmly in place as carriages and horses trotted out the courtyard and ventured back to their kingdoms 

 

it took a long while for Arthur and Merlin to release one another, but no one said anything and left them both to say their goodbyes with a little privacy, too soon in their eyes they broke apart and Arthur walked Merlin to bid goodbye to King Uther and Queen Ygraine fair well before he helped her into the waiting carriage. Hunith was already sat waiting inside and she bid Arthur goodbye with a soft smile before he closed the door

 

Merlin sat motionless, Hunith covered her with a blanket as the carriage started to move and the princess watched it roll past the royal family

Uther and Ygraine passed before a tired looking Morgana passed by too, then Arthur’s face appeared and he gave one last smile which she returned and then he was gone from view. Merlin just watched the castle grow smaller as they moved away before she closed the curtains blocking the view 

 

Arthur watched the carriage roll out of view before he made his way inside, eyes a little foggy and mind a mix of emotions. He made his way to his chambers and stayed there for the rest of the day! Luckily he knew both his mother and father understood and they left him to himself for a while, sending in foods and wine every other hour which he appreciated greatly. But he couldn’t eat and he drank little and often before he fell asleep!  

 

“Get some rest love” Hunith spoke gently after an hour travelling, Merlin hadn’t moved at all since leaving Camelot “it’ll make you feel a little better”

merlin didn’t argue. To upset and tired she moved to lay down as best as she could in the carriage. she allowed the tears to flow as she closed her eyes letting the rocking motion of the carriage movements relax her into a restless sleep

 

 

 

Summer couldn’t come too soon!!!!