Part 1: link
Arthur and the knights finish the hunt, during which Arthur felled a magnificent হরিণ and Princess Mithian rather impressively took down a রঙ্গীন পক্ষীবিশেষ in the middle of its short flight.
That evening, all were gathered in the সিংহাসন room as their king, on one knee, publicly and rather hesitantly officially asked for Mithian’s hand in marriage.
There was polite applause from all, some smiles. No cheers অথবা hearty congratulations; all knew that this was a political marriage and all were wise enough to keep their lips firmly sealed about the king’s other
Only Merlin could see the doubt in Arthur’s eyes. The pain still lingering, hiding behind his mask of a smile. Only Merlin was ব্রেভ enough to neither applaud nor smile.
Merlin had nothing against Mithian. She was a lovely person, beautiful, charming, seemed to have both feet on the ground. She even asked him to give her a chance, and he promised he would. But this is not right. This is not how it is supposed to come to pass.
She isn’t Guinevere.
At the celebratory feast following the royal engagement, Merlin is uncharacteristically quiet as he attends his king.
Mithian says something apparently witty, and Arthur laughs, but then sees Merlin’s sullen demeanor.
“Merlin, has some sort of bug crawled up your trousers? This is a happy occasion,” he says, trying to sound আরো cheerful than cross, and almost succeeding.
“No, my lord,” Merlin says dutifully, manages a very weak smile, then walks away to refill his pitcher.
“He doesn’t like me,” Mithian leans over and tells Arthur quietly.
“Has he been rude to you?” Arthur asks, ready to dispense punishment.
“No, no, nothing like that,” she assures him. “I just… get the impression that he doesn’t think I am the correct match for you, my lord.”
“His opinion is of no consequence,” Arthur says dismissively, but she sees the মেঘ that passes across his handsome face.
“Ah, but I disagree, my lord. His opinion is very important to you. It is very obvious that he is আরো than just a servant to you,” she says, gently pressing.
Arthur hesitates a moment. “Yes, he has proven to be a trusted friend and even advisor in some cases. But this matter is none of his business.”
“Even so, it is important to me,” she says quietly, not understanding the servant’s disapproval of her and confused over why it troubles her so.
“I will speak to him,” Arthur says, patting her hand once.
“I have already done so, my lord,” she admits. “I asked him to give me a chance, and he promised he would. But perhaps the engagement being made official is making it difficult for him.” I know exactly what is troubling him, unfortunately.
“Merlin, um, হারিয়ে গেছে a dear friend recently as well. It’s been very hard on him. That could account for some of his mood.”
“Oh, I didn’t realize…” she says, feeling awful now.
“You couldn’t have known, it’s all right. It will be fine, really. I will still talk to him, though. As a friend.”
“Thank you,” she says, smiling and placing her hand over his.
Merlin sees the exchange from across the room and sighs resignedly. This isn’t right,
a nagging voice keeps reminding him.
Arthur walks Mithian back to her chambers after the feast. He is starting to get আরো comfortable with her, he finds. Her company is pleasurable. She is kind and caring. Beautiful. Was even concerned about Merlin’s opinion. I don’t know if I could grow to প্রণয় her totally and completely, but I do like her and she will make a fine queen. And who knows? Perhaps one দিন my হৃদয় will heal enough to accept and possibly return her love.
“Goodnight, Princess,” Arthur says, turning to face her.
“Goodnight, my lord,” she answers, smiling sweetly. Okay. আপনি can do this,
he thinks, steeling his nerve and leaning towards her.
His lips meet hers softly, briefly, but not too quickly. When he pulls away, she is smiling at him, her eyes soft and shining.
“Goodnight,” he mutters hastily, and turns to walk to his own chambers. Nothing. Nothing at all. Like স্নেহ চুম্বন a relative,
he realizes as he strides quickly through the dimly-lit corridor. I did try to put some feeling behind it. But I had none.
I cannot force feelings that do not exist.
He turns the corner and heads to his room, slamming the door behind him. Her lips too thin, her skin too soft. Too pale. Her hair too straight, her eyes the wrong shape. Her body too thin, too straight, lacking soft lush curves at her hip and her breast.
Arthur pinches his eyes shut. Damn him, I hate it when he’s right.
“MERLIN!!” he bellows, suddenly angry that his servant isn’t here when he needs him. He plops down at his table, scowling, and leans অগ্রবর্তী across the table, his head on his arm.
It is in this position Merlin finds him when he arrives two মিনিট later, breathing heavily from running all the way up.
“Where the hell have আপনি been?” Arthur asks.
“Helping clean up the great hall,” Merlin says, thinking it should have been fairly obvious. He looks at his master. “What’s wrong?”
“I kissed her,” Arthur says, his voice flat.
I kissed her, and she was lovely and I could tell it meant something to her, but it meant nothing to me, and all I could do was think about how she wasn’t Guinevere.
He looks up at Merlin. “Stop smiling.”
“Sorry, Sire,” Merlin says, but he does not stop.
“I feel ill.”
Merlin says nothing. He hoists Arthur to his feet to help him dress for bed.
“I’m being completely unfair to Mithian,” he says, pulling away from Merlin, pacing. “I mean, how would আপনি feel marrying someone whose হৃদয় can never be yours?”
“You’d feel deceived. Betrayed. Hurt, that’s how you’d feel. I can’t… I can’t do that to someone, knowing how that feels myself.”
“It’s not quite the same—”
“Well, it’s close enough! That one চুম্বন simply solidified my suspicions.” He stops walking, opens a window, and stares outside.
“What suspicions?” Merlin asks, but he knows.
“That my হৃদয় can only belong to Guinevere and none other.”
“I know that, my lord. And I’m happy আপনি finally realized it.”
“But I just proposed officially a few hours ago.”
” Arthur turns around and gives his servant an incredulous look.
“Talk to her. Explain to her what আপনি just told me. She’s… she’s a kind person, Arthur. Seems forgiving. She will understand.”
“How do I tell someone that I can’t marry them because I don’t প্রণয় them when it is a political marriage?”
“Arthur, আপনি never were interested in a political marriage.”
He sighs. “I know. I just feel like a heel.”
“You’d be a bigger heel if আপনি went through with it,” Merlin says.
“Arthur, আপনি say that it would be unfair to Mithian to enter into this marriage under false pretenses, for lack of a better term.”
“But what about you? Do আপনি think it’s fair to আপনি to plunge অগ্রবর্তী into this when your whole হৃদয় is not in accord?”
Arthur laughs a humorless laugh. “My whole heart,” he says quietly, looking out the window again. “My whole হৃদয় is out there
somewhere, doing only the gods know what.”
“And what of Guinevere?” Merlin asks hesitantly. “I know her well, Arthur, as well as আপনি do. She has only ever wanted for আপনি to be happy. Regardless of what she may have done.”
“I know that,” Arthur says, his voice very soft.
Arthur avoids Mithian all morning, keeping himself shut in his room, claiming to be busy. Not a lie; he is busy with his scribes, drafting up an agreement that he hopes will help ease the sting of the broken engagement.
He sends a note, inviting her to lunch in his chambers. Merlin delivers it to her, and he cannot help but feel a twinge of guilt at her joy.
“Thank you, Merlin, I was beginning to feel that he was avoiding me this morning,” she says cheerfully. He plasters a smile on his face, nods, and leaves. I hope she is as understanding as I assured Arthur she was.
At the appropriate time, Mithian goes to Arthur’s door, and knocks.
“Come,” his voice bids her enter from the other side.
Mithian opens the door to find him standing দ্বারা the table, which has been set for two. The smile on her face quickly fades when she sees his serious expression. Merlin comes around to hold a chair out for her, and she and Arthur both sit.
“Is something troubling you, my lord?” she asks immediately, not wanting to have to wade through endless মিনিট of small talk, waiting for him to get to his point.
Arthur raises his eyebrows in surprise, but answers, “Yes, there is, actually.”
She looks at him as he drops his eyes to his plate, shifting uncomfortably in his seat, and somehow she knows.
“You’re calling off the engagement, aren’t you?”
“Yes,” he says quietly. “You are a wonderful person, Princess, and Camelot would indeed be fortunate to have আপনি as her queen.”
“But I cannot marry you.”
“I don’t think আপনি do,” he looks at her. “If my father were alive, he would be here with a sword to my neck, insisting I do what is right, what is ‘good for the kingdom,’ as he would say. But one of the things my father and I could never agree on was that what may be perceived as good for the kingdom is not always good for the king.”
“Thus making it bad for the kingdom,” she finishes.
“Thank you,” he sighs. “But let me get back to my original point: আপনি have done nothing wrong. My backing out of this contract has nothing to do with আপনি as a person. I like you, Princess, and as I said, আপনি will be a fine কুইন one day. আপনি ভালুক all the qualities that any kingdom would be proud to find in its queen.”
“So…” she ponders his words a moment, and the light dawns. “Your হৃদয় belongs to another, then.”
“Yes. I know now, after… last night, that it shall always remain so. I kissed আপনি last night because I felt I should, I felt it was appropriate প্রদত্ত the circumstances. But it was also a test, of sorts. For me. I do not know if I passed অথবা if I failed that test. All I know is that I do not believe it would be fair to আপনি to make আপনি my wife knowing that I am unable to fully give আপনি every part of me. I would grow to resent আপনি and hate myself, and Camelot would suffer as a result.”
She pokes the chicken on her plate with her fork, but does not eat. Neither of them have taken a single bite yet.
“Nor would it be fair to you, my lord,” she says sadly.
Arthur’s eyes flash to Merlin’s for a second, and they share a moment of recognition, remembering that Merlin had ব্যক্ত the same thing last night.
She sees the look pass between them and has to ask. “Forgive my impertinence, my lord, but… it isn’t Merlin, is it?”
“Isn’t Merlin for what?” he asks, then sees the look of abject horror on Merlin’s face. “Good Lord, no!” he exclaims, making a disgusted face.
“I am sorry, but I had to ask. আপনি see, the two of আপনি are
unusually close, and what with Merlin’s somewhat cool attitude towards me and all, and it isn’t entirely unheard-of…”
Merlin takes two deliberate steps away from Arthur.
“I was only asking because if it was he that had your heart, I might have still been willing to go through with the wedding, knowing that it was আরো a contract than anything.”
“No. Not Merlin,” Arthur says authoritatively, pushing his plate away now.
“Tell me, then… who is it that trumps a princess? What great family is she from?” she asks, curious now about this mysterious woman. She has seen no sign of any lady paying undue attention to the King, has seen no surreptitious glances.
“None. She is… she is no one. And yet she is everyone.”
“She is the daughter of a blacksmith,” he says, slightly embarrassed, not for Guinevere, but he does not know the princess well enough to know whether she would take insult to being thrown over দ্বারা a commoner.
“Interesting,” she says noncommittally. “And for her আপনি would risk everything? This kingdom?”
“That’s just the thing, Princess. Without her, they are nothing to me.”
She pauses a minute, mulling over his touching words. “May I meet her?”
“Ah, um, I’m afraid that won’t be possible at the moment,” Arthur says, looking quite uncomfortable now.
“Why is that?”
“She’s… away right now.”
“Arthur, you’ve shown me respect enough to be honest with me thus far. I would appreciate it if আপনি would continue to do so,” she says, calling him out.
He sighs, his face pained. “You remember me telling আপনি last night that Merlin had recently হারিয়ে গেছে a dear friend?”
Mithian gasps. “She’s dead?” He’s casting me aside for a dead girl?
“No, she’s not dead. She’s just… gone. And she was a dear friend of Merlin’s.”
“Still is,” Merlin chimes in.
“Where has she gone? Does she know আপনি প্রণয় her?” Mithian is very intrigued now.
“I don’t know where she is. And yes, she does know.”
“And she loves him,” Merlin adds, looking hard at Arthur.
“Forgive me, but I am very confused,” she says, leaning back in her chair. “You প্রণয় each other, but she’s ‘gone,’ and even though আপনি don’t know where she is, আপনি sit and pine for her to the point where আপনি cannot even think of anyone else. What happened,
Arthur?” She looks at him levelly.
“It is a very long story, and one that is too painful for me to recount in full right now. But the result of it is that she has been banished from Camelot. দ্বারা me. I banished her,” he admits, looking away.
Mithian has never seen so much pain in one man’s face. “And আপনি will not tell me why?” she asks gently.
“I cannot ভালুক it yet. Though…”
“I am beginning to think that I acted rashly.”
“You did,” Merlin confirms, earning him a glare from Arthur. “We don’t know all the facts yet, only what we saw, and I, for one, am willing to believe that darker forces were at work there. I only don’t know how to prove it…” he trails off.
“Merlin, what are আপনি on about?” Arthur asks crossly.
“Just thinking aloud, my lord,” he says, waving a hand dismissively.
“Curious,” Mithian says, finding, to her surprise, that she feels sympathy for Arthur instead of anger, and is saddened that she cannot meet the woman that has consumed his heart. “I would give up my own kingdom to be so loved,” she says quietly, almost to herself.
“All I ask is that আপনি forgive me, Princess,” Arthur says quietly.
She says nothing, but takes a drink of her wine. Arthur holds out his hand to Merlin, and Merlin places a scroll on his palm.
“Princess, as a sign of my… remorse, of my fervent wish to remain allies with your kingdom and its people, I would like to offer আপনি and your descendants the disputed lands of Gedref.”
“You would give up your ancient claims?” she asks.
“I have no desire for war,” he says, “or to grieve আপনি any আরো than I already have.”
“Such an offer cannot be rushed into,” she says reasonably.
“I’ve had my scribes draw up an agreement. If you’re happy with the terms, I’ll sign forthwith.”
“And if I refuse?” she asks, taking the scroll from him.
He hesitates, not really having an answer for her. “It’s all I can offer. I do so most humbly.”
“You are asking me to accept land as a consolation prize.” She looks him in the eye.
“I realize that, Princess. If I could offer more, I would.”
She looks over the parchment a minute. “I will sign on two conditions, my lord,” Mithian says, looking up.
“Anything,” he says.
“When আপনি bring her back and make her your queen, invite me back so that I can meet the woman who has banished your হৃদয় from Camelot.”
“Agreed,” he nods. If I can find her again; if she will return to me.
“And the second?”
“Tell me her name.”
He looks puzzled at this strange request.
“If I hear it, I will send word,” she explains.
“Guinevere,” Arthur says.
Mithian cannot contain the small gasp at the sound of him saying his beloved’s name. It sounds like music; it sounds like a kiss, a caress. Would that someone speak my name in such a way one day.
“Arthur, what the bloody hell is going on?” Agravaine blusters, storming into Arthur’s chambers later that afternoon.
“What are আপনি talking about, Uncle?” Arthur says, not looking up from the parchment he is reading, idly spinning a quill between two fingers.
“I just saw the knights of Nemeth preparing to leave.”
“That is because they are leaving.”
“They have Princess Mithian’s things and have her horse prepared!”
“I called off the wedding,” he says calmly, still not looking at his uncle.
“What on earth for?”
“Because it was the wrong thing to do, Uncle,” Arthur says, setting his quill aside.
“Oh, good grief, this isn’t because of that… servant,
“Her name is Guinevere, and my reasons are mine.”
“You should have heeded my উপদেশ and ended it with her. None of this would have happened then.”
“Agravaine,” Arthur says, standing now. “I’ve come to realize that much of the উপদেশ you’ve প্রদত্ত me has turned out poorly. Sometimes almost disastrously, like the near-war with Caerleon. So you’ll understand when I tell আপনি that I’ll be keeping my own counsel for a while.”
“You may go.”
Uncle.” Arthur sits back down and pointedly returns his attention to his parchment.
Agravaine strides from the room just as Merlin enters. Merlin glances at the older man, and sees that his face is like thunder.
“What’s his problem?” Merlin asks, uneasy. He hasn’t trusted Agravaine for weeks.
“He’s angry about my canceling the wedding. Thinks it’s Guinevere’s fault,” Arthur says, leaning back in his chair, relaxing now.
“He troubles me, Arthur,” Merlin says, glancing at the doors, wondering if Agravaine was heading off to visit Morgana.
“Yes, he’s… not turning out to be the wisest advisor, is he?”
“Indeed,” Merlin says noncommittally. He’s also a traitorous piece of pig dung.
“You don’t think…”
“You don’t think he’s… after your সিংহাসন at all? That he may be giving আপনি bad উপদেশ on purpose?”
Arthur laughs. “No, I don’t think that. I think he maybe doesn’t know as much as he thinks he does about running a kingdom.”
“Not that I know any আরো than he does, really, but at least if I make a bad decision on my own, I can properly take the blame for it, knowing it was my
mistake, not someone else’s poor counsel that I just followed.”
“I don’t trust him,” Merlin says plainly.
“What makes আপনি say that?”
“Just… a feeling I have,” he shrugs, wishing he could say more. Every time I try, Agravaine out-cunnings me and I end up looking a fool.
“I came to tell আপনি that the princess is preparing to leave, my lord.”
“Thank you, Merlin. I’ll go see her off, then.” He stands and heads for the door, pausing near his servant. “About Agravaine,” he says.
“Keep an eye on him. You’re making me nervous about him now, and if I’m going to be paranoid, you’re going to get আরো work,” he says, poking his servant in the chest.
“Arthur? What are আপনি doing out here?” Merlin asks, finding Arthur wandering the gardens under the moonlight.
“Looks to me like you’re standing and staring.”
“Have আপনি come out here to pick nits অথবা do আপনি have a purpose?”
“I was just wondering where আপনি were. Normally you’re preparing for বিছানা now. অথবা table, as the case has been lately.”
Arthur turns around, a single sprig of lavender in his hand, spinning back and forth between his thumb and forefinger.
“What have I done, Merlin?” Arthur asks, walking to a bench and sitting, contemplating the tiny purple ফুলেরডালি clustered around the long gray-green stem.
“You did the right thing, my lord. As I knew আপনি would.”
“I sent away a perfectly lovely woman and gave away quite a large tract of land because I still প্রণয় Guinevere. But how is it that I still do? How can I প্রণয় someone who has betrayed me? How can I প্রণয় her that much?
” His voice breaks.
“I knew আপনি were going to say that,” he mutters darkly.
“Ah, but it is the truth. Gwen is destined to be your queen, just as আপনি are destined to be a great king.”
“I fear I will not be able to be that great king without her as my queen. Without Guinevere here, I feel like a হারিয়ে গেছে traveler. I walk and I walk, but I have no direction, no destination.”
He lifts the ফুল to his nose and inhales the scent, closing his eyes. “We don’t even know where she is, Merlin. Even if I was one hundred percent certain that I wanted her to return, and I’m not, we do not know where she’s gone.”
“You do want her back. And আপনি will find each other.”
“How can আপনি be sure?”
They look at each other. “Destiny,” they both say. Merlin smiles.
“Merlin, what was that আপনি were saying at lunch about ‘darker forces at work?’”
“Just a thought that occurred to me,” he shrugs.
“You think there was an enchantment?”
“It would not be entirely unheard of around here, Arthur,” Merlin says archly.
“Ha,” Arthur laughs once, without much humor. He smells the lavender again.
“Arthur, I watched Lancelot walk into the veil. I saw his suicide to save us all. There is no way he could have come back.”
“What are আপনি saying?”
“I am saying that either this সাম্প্রতিক Lancelot was an impostor, অথবা someone used some pretty powerful magic to bring him back from the dead.”
“I’m willing to hear any explanation that would make any sense out of this whole affair. But even if Lancelot was false, that still doesn’t explain why Guinevere ki— did what she did.”
“I know.” Merlin kicks at some stones at his feet and picks up a stick sitting nearby. He traces patterns in the dirt.
“I miss her, Merlin.”
“I miss her, too, Arthur. She is one of my closest friends, আপনি know. The sister I never had.” He leans over and smells the lavender now himself, smiling sadly.
“I know, and I am sorry.”
Merlin draws a বৃত্ত in the dirt with his stick. He stares at it, and something clicks far back in his brain.
“What?” he asks glumly.
“What if Gwen was এনচ্যান্টেড as well?”
Just over a week later, Merlin is walking through the lower town, heading back from the marketplace where he has gotten some supplies for Gaius. He nods and smiles at a few of the townspeople, humming to himself.
He doesn’t realize he is being watched. Followed. Tall and thin, with pale skin and black hair,
she had said. Bright blue eyes. Large ears. Always wears either a red অথবা a blue neck scarf. Brown boots. Usually cheerful.
Merlin feels a tug at his elbow. He turns to see a boy he’s never seen before trying to get his attention. He looks nervous and underfed, but he has intelligent eyes and a serious demeanor.
“Yes?” Merlin asks. Matthias pulls out his identification and hands it to Merlin. My name is Matthias. I cannot speak.
“Matthias? How can I help you?”
He pulls out the slip of paper that says Merlin.
He holds it up, points to the name, then points to Merlin.
Is this you?
“Um, yes, I’m Merlin,” he says, peering at the note. The handwriting is familiar somehow.
Matthias gestures wildly, patting his chest, opening his vest to প্রদর্শনী him an end of the parchment hidden there, pointing to it and then to him.
“You have a message for me?”
He nods furiously, then places a finger in front of his lips: Shh.
“Secret?” he says quietly.
Matthias nods again.
Matthias thinks. He bites his lip, unsure how to answer, if he should even try.
“You don’t know?”
“You don’t know how to tell me?”
Matthias makes the shh
gesture again, then clasps his hands together.
“Come with me,” Merlin says, motioning that the boy should follow.
They reach Gaius’ chambers, which are thankfully empty. Matthias hands him the parchment, and Merlin takes it.
“Are আপনি hungry?”
Matthias nods, and Merlin hands him an আপেল and a বড় দলা of cheese. He sinks his teeth gratefully into the আপেল as Merlin opens the note. M,
MP meeting with warlord H to discuss invasion of C. Do not trust Ag, he is working for MP. H is waiting for some plans, don’t know what for. Try to convince A to be on guard.
I miss you, G.
“Oh, no.” Merlin says aloud. He’s not sure who ‘H’ is, but the label of warlord concerns him.
He sits and stares, letting this information sink in. Confirmation that Agravaine is a traitor. Morgana in league with someone to try and take Camelot. Again. Plans for what?
“Matthias, Gwen gave আপনি this?”
Matthias nods, smiling broadly.
“Do আপনি know who ‘H’ is, the warlord? She didn’t use names, only first letters.” He points to the ‘H’ on the parchment, প্রদর্শিত হচ্ছে the boy.
He nods, but frowns.
“You don’t know how to tell me,” Merlin guesses. “And I’m guessing আপনি can neither read nor write.”
He shakes his head sadly.
“That is inconvenient. Do আপনি know what is in this note, though?”
Matthias nods, then shapes his hand into a half-circle, tilting his wrist, a প্রশ্ন in his eyes.
“Something to drink?”
Merlin fills a metal mug with water and hands it to him along with a piece of bread, since it looks like the boy hasn’t eaten in a while.
“Gwen is with this ‘H’ person?”
Matthias gives a sad nod.
“She is a servant for him?”
Yes. He doesn’t have the হৃদয় অথবা the ability to give the whole truth.
“I think I need to tell Arthur.”
Matthias shakes his head no fervently.
“She told আপনি not to, didn’t she? Well, I am overruling that, because I know Arthur wants her to come back প্রথমপাতা to him.”
“Yes, really. আপনি have a very expressive face. That is helpful.”
“But who is ‘H?’” he ponders. “Is he someone we should worry about?”
Gaius comes back in, and sees Merlin and his guest.
“Merlin, who is this, and why is he eating my lunch?” Gaius asks.
“This is Matthias. Sorry about your lunch, but it looked as though he hasn’t eaten in days, and it was just kind of there…
“It’s all right, Merlin,” he chuckles. “Matthias, then? I’m Gaius, the court physician. Where are আপনি from?”
“He cannot speak, Gaius,” Merlin says.
“Mute, eh?” he asks, heading over to the boy, looking at him. “Fascinating. Open,” he says, and Matthias opens his mouth.
Gaius peers inside, his eyes studying, looking for any sign of defect.
“Gaius, আপনি can probe him later. He’s brought a message from Gwen.”
“What? Let me see,” he holds his hand out. Merlin passes it over.
“It’s all right, she would allow it,” Merlin reassures Matthias when he sees his troubled expression.
“Do আপনি have any idea who the ‘H’ she refers to is? Matthias knows, but he cannot read অথবা write, so apart from what would surely be a very long and frustrating game of charades, we have no way of knowing. Unless আপনি know of any warlords in the vicinity.”
“Matthias, how long did it take আপনি to get here?” Gaius asks, sitting opposite him. “How many days?”
Matthias holds up two fingers.
“You walked, আপনি didn’t ride?”
“Two days’ walk from here…” Gaius ponders. “From what direction did আপনি come?”
Matthias looks around, and goes to a window. He points.
“From the east,” he says, standing again and walking, thinking.
Suddenly he stops. “Surely not,” he whispers. “Helios?” he turns and asks Matthias.
“This is bad news. Not only that Morgana is in league with Helios, but that Gwen is working in his দুর্গ as well.”
Matthias waves his hands.
“Yes, lad?” Gaius asks.
Matthias scrunches up his face a moment, thinking. He points to the letter.
“What of Gwen?”
Matthias looks at the parchment, looking for the ‘H’ that Merlin had pointed to earlier. He finds it, and pokes it.
Matthias points to the ‘G’ at the bottom, guessing.
The boy makes a disgusted face, sticking his tongue out and shaking his head no. Then he points to the ‘H’ again.
“Gwen does not like Helios,” Gaius guesses.
Yes! Matthias nods quite emphatically.
“Will আপনি be returning there?” Merlin asks suddenly, not wanting to throw this ব্রেভ lad back to the wolves.
Matthias shakes his head no, then pulls out another parchment. Merlin reads it and gives it back to him.
“Aland will find work for you, especially if Gwen sends her recommendation,” Merlin smiles. Matthias puts his hands over his heart.
“Yes, I know, everyone loves Gwen,” Merlin says. “Even Arthur,” he adds, looking at Gaius.
“He needs to know,” Gaius says.
“I know. Come on, Matthias. I’ll take আপনি to Aland. Then I’ll go see Arthur.”
Aland welcomes Matthias without প্রশ্ন into the stables, clapping him warmly on the shoulders after he read Gwen’s quickly scribbled note.
“We all miss her ’round here, Merlin, it is good to hear she is well,” Aland remarks, and Matthias and Merlin exchange a look. I don’t know if “well” is the appropriate term.
“Yes, it was very good to hear from her,” Merlin উত্তর carefully. “Um, Aland, I do need to borrow Matthias for a while, but I’ll bring him back as soon as I can,” he adds.
“Oh, certainly, Merlin, I’ll take that time to see about getting him a bunk and maybe a new pair of boots,” he says, noting that Matthias’ seem to be full of holes and nearly falling from his feet.
Matthias beams brightly at the notion, and Aland chuckles. “Well, when I say ‘new,’ that may actually mean ‘gently used,’ son. But they’ll still be in better shape than those.”
Matthias continues to smile broadly. He doesn’t care if they’re used; he’s getting new boots!
They walk back to the castle, and Matthias tugs Merlin’s elbow and gives him a questioning look.
Where are we going?
“I’m taking আপনি with me to see Arthur,” Merlin explains.
Matthias stops walking.
“It will be fine, I promise. Any yelling he does will be directed at me, I assure you,” he laughs, pulling the boy along again.
“And I’m quite accustomed to it দ্বারা now,” he mutters somewhat darkly as they climb the stairs to the castle.
“Come,” Arthur bids them enter.
“Ah, Merlin, finally learning to knock, then?” he asks. “Who is this?”
“Sire, this is Matthias. He… he brings an important message to us.”
“Oh really? From whom?” he asks Matthias.
“Um, he cannot speak, Arthur. Just… read this,” he thrusts the parchment at him.
Arthur sighs, taking the note.
He reads it. He reads it again. Then a third time, sinking slowly into his chair.
“This is from Guinevere,” he whispers hoarsely.
“I know,” Merlin says.
“She is at Helios’ fortress.”
“How did you…?”
“He is the only warlord in the vicinity with a name beginning with ‘H’ that would be slimy enough to যোগদান forces with Morgana. If what this note says is true.”
“Matthias,” Arthur turns to the very overwhelmed-looking boy. “Please, sit.”
“I just wish to ask him a few questions, Merlin.”
“Matthias. আপনি know what this note says?” He holds it up.
“Did আপনি hear this supposed conversation between Helios and Morgana?”
“Did আপনি see
the Lady Morgana?”
“What did she look like? Was she blonde, like me?”
No. Matthias points to Merlin, to his head. Black hair. Then he grabs Merlin’s hand and points to his arm. Pale skin.
“Yes, black hair and pale skin,” Arthur allows. “Was she plain অথবা beautiful.”
Matthias’ eyes grow wide and he অনুরাগী himself with his hand.
Merlin laughs as Arthur makes a mildly disgusted face. “She is beautiful, Sire, even if her হৃদয় is ugly.”
“She’s my sister,
Merlin,” he complains.
“Half-sister,” Merlin corrects.
“Well, that makes her half
disgusting, then. Matthias, did she mention the name of her ally in Camelot?”
“Hmm. ‘Ag’ can only be…” he hesitates to say it.
“Agravaine,” Merlin supplies.
“Thank you, Merlin, I know,” Arthur says sarcastically. “I’m still struggling with that concept. I know we’re keeping an eye on him, but to label him an out-and-out traitor
“So Gwen’s word is not good enough for you, Arthur?” Merlin says, snapping finally, his voice growing cold.
Arthur says nothing, merely looking away guiltily.
“How dare you,” Merlin says, walking closer to Arthur. “She risks this boy’s life as well as her own to send আপনি vital information about a planned attack on Camelot, and আপনি cannot get past your own personal hurt to take her words for complete truth?”
Arthur looks down at the table, picking at the wood.
“She did not have to do anything, আপনি know. She could have turned a blind eye, a deaf ear, and let your precious kingdom be taken unawares,” Merlin leans forward, his palms on the table, closer still to Arthur.
“She could have chosen to crawl inside her own hurt, her own anger, and let this kingdom fall. Let আপনি be overthrown and possibly killed দ্বারা Helios and Morgana. And Agravaine,” Merlin’s voice is low, deadly.
“But she didn’t, Arthur. She looked past her hurt and risked two lives to bring আপনি this information. So that আপনি could be prepared. So that আপনি could act.
” Merlin pushes away from the টেবিল with a disgusted sigh and walks to the window.
Matthias stares. I have never seen a servant talk to his master this way before. Especially not when his master is the king.
“Is she well?” Arthur quietly asks Matthias. “Guinevere, is she well?”
Matthias tilts his head to one side his face a slight grimace.
“She is healthy?”
“Just… unhappy, then.”
“Thank you, Matthias, আপনি have been most helpful and very brave. Merlin will see to it that আপনি have a room for the night and anything আপনি desire, within reason.”
“Um,” Merlin says, turning back.
“Matthias is to be staying in Camelot. Gwen told him not to return to Helios. He’d surely be punished, probably beaten severely for being missing for this long.”
“He has experience as a stablehand, and Aland has agreed to take him under his wing.”
“Gwen sent a note for him as well.”
“I see. In that case, Matthias, আপনি may return to the stables.”
Matthias nods, stands, bows, and scurries out.
“I am sorry. আপনি are right. I should take her at her word. She took a great risk for Camelot.”
“No, she took the risk for you.”
“Find Agravaine for me.”
It is after ডিনার দ্বারা the time Merlin finds Agravaine, skulking into the দুর্গ via an entrance near the kitchens.
“My lord,” Merlin calls, secretly enjoying it when Agravaine jumps.
“Oh! Merlin, আপনি startled me.”
“The king wishes to see you. He’s been looking for আপনি all day.”
“Um, yes. I just need to pop দ্বারা my quarters, and…” he hedges, and Merlin leaps.
“I do not recommend আপনি keep the king waiting, sir. It is most urgent.”
Agravaine regards Merlin a moment, studying him. He knows the boy knows something. He knows he’s suspicious of him. But he’s trapped now, and must go see Arthur.
“Very well,” he sighs, trying to shove something into his tunic.
“That had better be my uncle.”
Biting back his smirk, Merlin opens the door and steps aside for Agravaine to enter.
“Sire, I apologize for my absence, I was just…”
“I don’t really care where আপনি were, Agravaine.”
Arthur turns to face him. “Our conversation yesterday. Do আপনি recall it?”
“Of… of course. আপনি informed me that my counsel will not be sought out for an undetermined period of time.”
“Yes, that’s the one.”
“What of it?”
“Convince me that I should keep আপনি in my service as an advisor,” Arthur says, leaning back against the টেবিল and crossing his arms over his chest.
“I’m not convinced that আপনি are actually here to help me, Agravaine,” he says plainly.
“Whatever gives আপনি this impression, my lord?” Agravaine says, struggling to keep his cool.
Merlin hangs in the background, ever at the ready to spring if he is needed. He finds he is rather enjoying Agravaine’s discomfort.
“That is none of your concern. Start convincing.”
“Arthur, I…” he starts, then straightens his back, refusing to appear subservient to his twerp
of a nephew. “I promised your mother I would always look out for you,” he tries.
“By advising me to kill Caerleon and almost start a war? দ্বারা dragging Gaius’ good name through the mud? দ্বারা suggesting I break my own হৃদয় and end things with Guinevere?” He ticks off the list, walking slowly towards Agravaine now. “By shutting the doors to the citadel while I was gone, leaving the people of the kingdom to fend for themselves against the dorocha?”
“Yes, I know about that. Guinevere
told me all about it. How আপনি acted cowardly in my absence, turning your back on my
people. How she had to shame আপনি into doing the correct thing in front of the council. How আপনি seemed certain that I would fail in my quest.”
“You did,” Arthur says crossly, turning away again, muttering, “That
is the kind of counsel I need as king. ব্রেভ words from a wise queen.”
Agravaine steps forward. “Sire, I only ever had your best interests at heart, the best interests of the kingdom…” he spreads his arms apologetically, and there is a metallic clunk as something slips out of his tunic to dangle from his belt. He drops his arms quickly to try and conceal the item.
“What is that?” Arthur asks, stepping quickly forward, yanking his uncle’s arm away from his body.
Arthur looks at Merlin and nods. Merlin understands and exits the chambers, leaving the doors open.
“Agravaine,” Arthur says, removing the ring of keys from his uncle’s belt, “why do আপনি have my keys? The keys to the vaults?”
Agravaine opens and closes his mouth, searching.
“Trying to think of a lie? Did my sister not provide আপনি with an alibi? Was she really so arrogant to think that আপনি wouldn’t be caught?”
“Save it,” Arthur says, his face and his grasp both as hard as stone. He looks up as Merlin returns with Gwaine and Percival.
“Take him to the dungeons,” Arthur pushes Agravaine at the two knights. Gwaine seems only too happy to comply.
Part 3: link