Merlin was exhausted, to be completely honest. His entire body ached and he was three seconds from just curling up on a soft patch of floor and going to sleep. Of course, he couldn't do that, because Arthur was smirking and listing off a whole pack of unnecessary chores as “punishment” for “skiving off at the tavern again”. Merlin hated Gaius a little just now. Honestly, he couldn't come up with a better excuse? Merlin didn't protest, because what could he say?
He was in the middle of brushing the stuffed boar's head when it occurred to his muddled brain that this was not his job. He didn't have to do this. “Screw Arthur,” he mumbled. Goddess, his arms hurt. And his back. And head. “Damn assassins. Why do they always have to shove people?” He slammed the brush down on the table. “Fuck this. I don't have to do this.” Merlin eyed the blankets and pillows on Arthur's bed, an idea taking shape.
George was very confused, to say the least, when Merlin walked past him with a basket full of bedding, stopped, turned back, and asked him to inform the king that he was taking “a single damn day off, fuck's sake.” George's confusion turned into panic as he realized that the rest of the staff would have to deal with the king's moods today, and the king would probably be in a worse temper than yesterday. They were all so very dead.
Merlin was in the middle of arranging the blankets to his liking in an empty bedchamber when Gwen popped her head in. She was wearing one of her old handmaid dresses, her hair unbound, not a single ornament to indicate her station anywhere to be seen. What are you doing? She was getting the hang of mindspeak very quickly, especially considering she hadn't tapped into her magic until recently. Merlin was proud of his best friend.
Making a blanket house. Want to help?
Ooh, yes! I'll get us some snacks, be right back! And she was gone with a swish of yellow skirts, leaving Merlin grinning after her like a fool. He loved Gwen, he really did. She was the best. She also encouraged some of his madder ideas, which was a key component to being one of Merlin's friends.
Gwen returned with wine and soft cheese and hot, fresh bread. He laughed, “I could kiss you right now!” Gwen thrust a cup into his hands and kissed his cheek, giggling.
They were drunk. Well, tipsy. Well, functionally sober. ...Probably drunk. Merlin flopped into Gwen's lap, spilling a bit of the wine. Ah well. The blankets were red anyway. “Did you hear about poor Aerin?”
Gwen's eyes went huge and she grinned. “No! What did he do?”
Merlin crowed, laughing, “he made... a pass... at Leon! Leon! I mean, everyone knows Leon's not interested in anyone!”
“He is very pretty though.”
“Oh, yeah, he is. Fantastic lay, too.”
Gwen tried to swat his ear and hit his shoulder. “Merlin! You trollop! How many is that now?”
Merlin snickered, “well you know what they say about country boys, Gwen.”
“I am scandalized to be in your company, sir!”
“I'm not a sir, I'm a serf!”
Gwen shoved him, “that is a terrible pun. Speaking of lays, though, I think Sefa likes you.”
“Your news is a bit late, lovely Guinevere.”
“Really, Merlin? Really? You're going to just undermine my matchmaking like this! What kind of friend are you?”
“The best ever. You love me.”
“Hmm, maybe a little.”
“Oh, gods, can you imagine Arthur finding out about our old fling from way back?”
“Don't say that, you'll jinx it! He'd go mad! It'd be... insuf... insul... something! Awful, anyway.”
“Yeah. His face would be kinda funny though.”
Merlin sat up and clumsily mashed a piece of cheese on her chin. (He'd tried to get it in her mouth, but things were spinning a bit.) “Noooo! You sshhh!” Gwen wiped the cheese off her face and smeared it in his hair, giggling.
Merlin pouted and tried to slurp the wine off his shirt. Gwen poked his cheek. “Merl'n? Merlin. Show me the butterf'ies 'gain, Mer'in.”
“Why're you with Arth'r anyw'y? He's a... a... mean... p'rson.”
“You tell'im. Stick to the... I f'rgot the res'. Bu'erflies, Mer'in? P'ease?”
“Don' wanna. You do it.”
“Kay.” Gwen's face scrunched up in concentration, her eyes flaring gold as she tripped over the words. Gewyrcan lif became gewyrd lyft. She frowned, “nothin' happened, 'erlin?” Everything in the whole citadel began floating two hands from the ground, unknown to the two people sitting in an abandoned bedchamber in the East Wing.
“Lemme try.” Merlin twisted onto his back, holding his hands up expectantly. “Ummm, blostmá?” He sighed. “Guess it doesn' w'rk when we're... yeah.” The whole castle was carpeted in lilies and poppies and ferns and strange huge flowers no one had seen before, all the floating objects and people returned to the floor. “Le's not try 'gain, yeah?”
Percival shoved an ivy-coated door open, and found the missing Queen and the King's errant servant curled around each other in a little heap of blankets and pillows. He turned to young Mordred, smiling. “Looks like whatever sprites were messing with us didn't hurt them. Small mercies, eh?”
“Sprites, yeah. Good luck, that,” Mordred only just stopped himself from laughing at how ridiculous that was. He could practically taste Emrys' magic in the air, mixed with someone else's that he suspected was the Queen's. Ah well. At least their intoxicated shenanigans hadn't done any real damage. Like raise the dead, for example.
Lancelot crawled out of a lake, and turned to help the next person slog out of the muck. “Lancelot,” he murmured, figuring he should probably introduce himself, all things considered. It was only polite.
The man smiled grimly, “Balinor. And I have a feeling Merlin had something to do with this.”
A huge splash swamped them and they turned to see an angry farmer, yelling, “oi! Not on, you watery tart!”
A girl in a red dress rolled her eyes, “that wasn't me, Will. Quit your whinging.”
Another woman in a red dress scowled at Balinor. “Oh it's you.”
“Nimueh. Nice to see you're as lovely as ever.” Tom the blacksmith offered a hand to a woman who looked eerily like Gwen, who Lancelot knew was her mother. A blonde woman clambered out of the lake, hiking her skirts up to try to save them from the mud, a knight wearing strange colors helping her get over the rocks.
Lancelot frowned, nudging Balinor, “who are they? The others I can guess, but I don't know them.”
Balinor went white as a sheet. “Ygraine?!” The blonde woman turned.
“Bal? Is that you?”
“Tristan?!” The knight grinned.
“You got old, my friend!”
...no real damage, indeed.