Author: Nyxelestia PM
Thanks to his magic, Merlin always knew he had a weird heritage that his mother did not liking talking about. What he didn't expect was to find out she was a princess of the kingdom of Dyfed - making him heir to the throne. This changed...everything.Rated: Fiction T - English - Drama - Merlin - Chapters: 3 - Words: 16,737 - Reviews: 92 - Favs: 177 - Follows: 315 - Updated: 02-11-11 - Published: 09-19-09 - id: 5386609
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
Lineage - Chapter 02: In So Few Words
A/N: It's baaaaaack! :)
1.) This story is still a post-S1 AU, but draws heavily on elements of S2 and S3 (basically all the events of those seasons, minus the evil!Morgana and Arthur/Gwen story archs, and compressed into one year)
2.) In light of Merlin's father's identity being revealed, ignore the references to Merlin's father in the previous two chapters until I go back and edit them. The issues with Merlin's father are basically starting from scratch in this one, with the exception of an incubus being somehow involved, leaving Merlin still a cambion (for no other reason than because it's fun - so if you don't get it, don't worry, it's not all that relevant to the story).
Arthur was sitting at the table examining the latest border reports when he heard it, two people approaching his rooms arguing.
"…sure you're all right?"
"I'm fine, Merlin!"
"You've been jumpy all week, and skittish, and you look nervous-"
Arthur rolled his eyes just – as the door opened and his manservant and his manservant's mother walked in.
As usual, Merlin shut it immediately, and Arthur said, "And you call me overprotective?"
Merlin scowled, as Hunith smiled gratefully. She carried a basket of laundry over to his bed while Merlin set down Arthur's lunch tray as he said, "I'm just being concerned for my mother!"
"Merlin, I used to be the village healer, myself, and I learned under Gaius, as well – I think I can look after my own health!"
"This isn't just about your health, Mother, you've been jumpy all week and pale and you have barely eaten anything-"
Merlin's mouth snapped shut at his mother's particularly firm tone.
Arthur sincerely wished he could do that. This was a strange skill which, as far as he could see, only mothers could possess.
Though it was rather frightening, too – Hunith made it work on him, sometimes, and he was the Crown Prince, damnit! He should be impervious to mothers.
(Though in his own head he could concede that maybe he just didn't want to be impervious to mothers. But only in his own head. And talking to Merlin. Which might as well be in his own head, anyway, and so it didn't count.)
"I am an aging woman, Merlin, having dips in my health is nothing that unusual," she said with a tone of exasperation, and Arthur got the feeling they'd been arguing about this since they retrieved the food and laundry from the service wings of the castle.
"Yes, yes, but that still means that whatever this is, it should be treated, taken care of!"
"I can take care of myself, Merlin," she said. "This is nothing that some yarrow and mint cannot fix."
"Are you even old enough for that?"
Arthur snorted and Hunith shook her head at her son's idiocy.
"I commend you for putting up with him as a servant," she said to Arthur.
"And I feel you should be awarded knighthood for having him as a son!"
Merlin scowled at both of them as the laundry started floating up and folding itself into Arthur's wardrobe of its own accord.
Arthur took a look at Hunith and said, "Though I can't blame him – are you sure you are all right? You may call yourself an aging woman, but you are not that old - he is right to worry."
She nodded with a wan smile. "Like I said, I can look after myself."
Arthur nodded. "Take care of yourself well…Merlin would be insufferable if something untoward were to happen to you."
They shared a grin as Merlin threw his hands up into the air and muttered about 'princes and mothers ganging up on him' and went to go polish the armor sitting on the table by Arthur's door, running his fingers over it while muttering under his breath.
Hunith left soon after, though.
"Really, Merlin, your mother is a strong woman," Arthur said, watching Merlin turn over his armor in midair, inspecting each piece of it as it was polished. "I get the feeling underestimating her is a bad idea."
"You have no idea," Merlin said. "But honestly, I have every right to be concerned for her – she's my mother, I'm supposed to look after her!"
Arthur rolled his eyes. "Come on, I have to go hunting with Lord Haul of Rhos."
"…I have to come along, don't I?" Merlin asked, dully.
Arthur just grinned.
The hunting went well, of course, despite Merlin's attempts otherwise. That Haul man was, unsurprisingly, honey-sweet to Arthur, and a twat to Merlin, and the prince and sorcerer shared a few eyerolls and snickers at his blatant arse-kissing, and otherwise focused on the hunt.
During a brief respite, in which the nobles were all waiting leisurely for the hounds to catch the scent of something interesting, Arthur and Merlin managed a moment somewhat-alone, or at least well away from the others.
"I wonder what it says about me that I'm actually bored, now, with hunting for normal animals," Merlin said. "Ones without magic. I think you're a bad influence on me."
"And you say you hate hunting."
"This isn't hunting, this is waiting around for stupid nobles to shoot something besides their own foot," Merlin said. He stuck out his tongue at Arthur, just as Haul came up.
Arthur turned back to Merlin to shoot him a look that conveyed just how much he detested the man, before turning his big, charming smile on. "Ah, Lord Haul! Enjoying the hunt?"
The stuffy lord grinned, slick with false sugar, and said, "Quite, sire, quite."
He pulled Arthur into a conversation about the habits of local game, and Merlin wandered off to where some of the other knights had also managed to escape the visiting nobles.
"The prince getting his ear talked off, then?" Leon asked.
"Yeah," Merlin said, re-shouldering the bag with the supplies in it. "There are very few times where I enjoy being 'just the servant' – this, however, is one of them."
One of the other knights laughed, and Merlin just smiled benignly, before blanking his expression as Lord Haul and Arthur came near.
"Still nothing?" Arthur asked the knights as he gestured vaguely in the direction the hounds were set off.
"No, sire," Leon said.
"Any other tracks?" Arthur asked. He gestured towards Camelot, and all the knights knew the meaning was clear - are enough of the nobles looking tired enough to call it a day and go back?
The knights regretfully shook their heads.
Leon, however, looked at the two other men behind Haul, and said, "Perhaps a lunch break is in order for us all while we wait for the hounds? Sire?"
Before Haul could say anything, Arthur smiled and nodded. "Brilliant idea!"
All the men sat on various stumps and parts of the floor and started bringing out their lunch rations. Merlin frowned when Lord Haul's attendant had only a chunk of bread, and quickly offered him some of his dried fruits. Arthur, in turn, shoved a sweetmeat at him without even looking at him, but with a quick squeeze to his hand before letting go.
"A very excellent day, sire, I must thank you again for bringing us out here," Haul said. Behind all the nobles, Sir Owen made some gagging motions before joining the circle of seated men.
"Our honor and pleasure," Arthur assured him. "Hunting is one of the noblest of sports."
Merlin didn't even bother trying to hide his eye roll. Several of the knights smirked with him. Arthur had made his thoughts on hunting with uninterested nobles very clear when it was just him and his knights (and Merlin). He was prone to ranting rages like that, and the end shot of it was that it could not be called a sport with unsporting nobles involved.
Merlin had smirked at him and asked Arthur if that included him, and Arthur had shoved him off with a swat to the head as the other knights had laughed, and then Haul had come in and off they went.
Even Merlin could empathize. But then, this hunt wasn't for hunting.
They chatted, and Merlin paid attention to when Arthur sharpened, slightly, and then paid attention to what the nobles were saying. Trade routes – Merlin wondered how this was important to Arthur. Taxes? Soldiers? Commoners? Oh, right, something about taxes and soldiers and commoners.
He was so glad that politics weren't his problem.
Soon enough, the hunt started up properly again, and as Merlin wandered alongside Arthur, he smirked and asked, "Having fun?"
Arthur groaned. "Stupid, stupid Haul. He's practically shouting from the rooftops that he's wringing out every last coin from the peasants on his land! He taxes them for everything and barely, if ever, gives them the help they need when they're in distress…and he has the gall to be proud of how much money he can get from them!"
"Sounds like Cenred's kingdom," Merlin mutters under his breath.
"Cenred, at least, doesn't tax them endlessly, and keeps his nobles somewhat in line. Dyfed, though…King Roderick might as well not even be there – he does nothing, nothing!"
Arthur continued to rant on and on about the nobles, and Merlin, smirking somewhat, thought against how really glad he was that politics weren't his problem.
"Did you learn anything interesting?" Merlin asked instead. That was what these hunts were really for – figure out what was happening among the nobles and see how it could be manipulated for Camelot's advantage.
"The entire kingdom is on the verge of destabilization if their in-fighting and border security is anything to go by," Arthur said. "It's too far from Camelot's borders for us to gain any land, but perhaps we can reap other benefits from it, instead."
"…is it really that bad?" Merlin asked, as he clambered over a long while Arthur ducked under it.
"Yes," Arthur said, and sharply pulled Merlin away from the direction of the rest of the hunt.
Quickly enough, they found a stony, tree-bound niche they regularly stole away to for a few private moments now and again on hunts.
It was a hollowed-out tree right up against a small wall of rock and stone, big enough for the two of them to wrap themselves around each other and share warm bodies and warm lips, as Merlin kissed away Arthur's worries.
"You'll fix it," Merlin promised. "Save all those people."
"It's not even my kingdom," Arthur said, his face pressed into the curve of Merlin's neck, Merlin leaning his cheek against Arthur's hair as Arthur's breath warmed his shoulder. "And it's just…how can any man so easily abuse that kind of power over such helpless people? It can't be human."
Unfortunately, it was, and so Merlin gently stroked Arthur's hair and not-so-gently kissed all his worries away, and for the next few moments, they stayed like that, just the two of them in this hollowed out tree, sheltered by the very earth from the rest of the world, stone at Merlin's back and the wind above them rustling through the leaves, the trees quietly whispering their reassurances to their king.
The frantic pressure of simple touch gave way to Arthur leaning into Merlin, pressing his face into Merlin's neck as their chests pressed together tightly, and Merlin wrapped his arms around Arthur.
"It's a lot of work," Merlin admitted. "But you'll be a great king, and then you can fix all of Albion and keep it all in shape. And besides, you know I'll help you."
Arthur laughed. "That might be what I'm worried about. You have a tendency to cock things up all the time."
Merlin pressed his lips to Arthur's head. "Then you can fix that, too. Give you something else to worry about and take your mind off things."
He felt Arthur nip his neck.
"Yes, I think that will be useful," Merlin said.
"Oh, please, you know it'll help," Merlin added.
"You're welcome," he said wryly.
He could feel Arthur's smile against his neck.
Arthur huffed, warm breath traveling across Merlin's shoulder, under his jacket, and down his spine, soon followed by Arthur returning Merlin's embrace, before regretfully murmuring into Merlin's ear, "We have to go before they come looking for us."
"Leon might keep them away," Merlin said, enjoying the warmth of Arthur's breath and lips across his ear.
"Even he can't keep that arsekisser Haul away from me for long. If he really thinks he stands a chance of being allied to Camelot, then he is as stupid as he is cruel, which is really saying something."
Merlin shook his head with a soft laugh. "Don't worry. He'll have something else coming to him once you're king." A quick press of the lips to Arthur's nose. "Now come on, you can at least hunt like the overgrown puppy you are and make him look like an idiot."
Arthur kissed Merlin, grinning at the thought, before pulling away in assent. "Come on, help me catch dinner."
It was a very good dinner, hence why that night, Merlin found himself standing besides Gwen in the private banquet hall as Arthur, Morgana, Uther, and King Roderick enjoyed their dinner of the buck Arthur had killed before Haul had even arrived at the scene.
Is Arthur still bragging about that stupid stag? Merlin asked Morgana mentally as he poured Uther's wine.
Yes, she said, taking a dainty, lady-like bite of the venison. I can feel his smugness rolling off him in waves. The moment dinner is over, he's your problem.
Merlin smiled at her from behind Roderick as he poured the visiting king's wine.
When he was standing besides Gwen, well away from the two kings and facing Morgana and Arthur, he smirked at the lady and, focusing his magic and mind carefully, sent her the mental image of him and Arthur feeding each other bits of venison, showing her the night that he had carefully planned since that afternoon.
Morgana showed no outward reacting, but did obligingly send back a similar vision of her feeding Gwen, except with not just venison but a whole dinner, including sauces and wine, with hopes of messing up Gwen enough to make her take off the dress and lick her clean with her tongue.
"I hope you're not too attached to that dress," Merlin muttered to Gwen, who only shook her head in amusement as Merlin, winking at Arthur, started another round of his competing with Morgana to see who could come up with the filthiest fantasy without ever showing an outward reaction.
Gwen and Arthur usually found their recounts of it amusing, and seemed to enjoy the more amorous results all the same, come nighttime.
Arthur, seeing Merlin and Morgana's faces of careful blankness and subtle concentration, gestured Merlin over for more wine.
"During a state dinner, Merlin?" Arthur whispered into Merlin's ear, barely audible over the two kings loudly discussing the merits of the new trade relationship between Cenred and Bayard.
"She started it," Merlin whispered. "Besides, I think you will enjoy it tonight. Venison. Wine. Sauce. Mess, lots of mess, in places only a tongue can reach."
"Don't steal my ideas, Merlin," Morgana said quietly, gesturing to her own goblet.
Merlin poured her wine as he sent back a fantasy including a hot bath, oils, two scarves, and Arthur begging. Especially the bath and the begging.
Gwen nearly glared at Morgana when she saw Merlin's blush on his way back to her side.
"I really hope you're not attached to that dress," he said, as Morgana finished off her shot. "Or that flower in your hair."
Bewildered, Gwen touched the large wildflower in her hair that Morgana had given her, before asking, "Do I want to know?"
"You'll find out," Merlin said cheerfully, as he took his turn and sent Morgana a dream with the hilt of a knife, some thin leather cords, and a half-dozen rings involved.
Morgana had nearly choked on her venison and had to quickly drain half her goblet of wine, instead, and Merlin grinned at both the nobles smugly in victory.
"You won, then?" Gwen said, to Merlin's quick, cheerful nod.
He went a few moments later to apparently pour her more wine as she muttered, "I will win next time."
"Of course, milady," he muttered.
"You're both incorrigible," Arthur muttered, not bothering to hide the innuendo from his voice.
Before Merlin could retort, he heard a loud coughing sound from Roderick across from him.
"Are you all right, milord?" Morgana asked politely, as Roderick continued coughing into some napkin of his.
"Yes, yes, Lady Morgana," the man said, setting down the napkin as the coughs subsided. "One of the follies of old age, I assure you."
"Come, now, you aren't that old," Morgana offered in perfect lady-like reassurance.
Roderick laughed. "Thank you, Lady Morgana, but there is no need for such white lies when we are in private company. It is an illness common in my family – it is what my brother died of."
"King Rhodri?" Arthur asked. "The same illness?"
"Yes," Roderick said sadly, taking another bite of the venison.
"This boy here, Merlin-" Uther said, gesturing at Merlin. "-Is apprenticed to the Court Physician, Gaius. Perhaps they can see if there are any cures?"
Roderick laughed. "Gaius already treated my brother two decades ago – and prolonged his life quite a bit, the same treatment which I use now. He has our House's gratitude and is always welcome in Dyfed for his service."
Merlin smiled proudly as he said, "I'm sure he'd be willing to take another look, sire."
He felt a tap at this side that felt alarmingly like Morgana's elbow at the same time that Uther gave him a sharp, exasperated look. Oh, right, don't talk directly to nobility unless directly spoken to, and especially don't make promises – they could use it against you.
But Rhodri seemed like a nice enough man. And all he had promised was for Gaius to take another look, which he knew his uncle would.
"I am not one to deny my age," Roderick said. A brief glance at Uther had Arthur tensing, and Merlin fought the urge to roll his eyes. Most old people didn't want to think they were old – Roderick was the exception, not the norm. Uther was the extreme of the norm.
His mother popped into his mind, and vanished just as fast as he paid attention again to what Roderick was saying while walking back to Gwen's side, behind Uther.
"…that point in life where everyone reminds you of someone else," he said.
"Oh?" Morgana asked. "Who do we remind you of, then?"
Roderick smiled, apparently ignoring Uther's calculative glare. An old man admitting he's old must mean something to another old man, but Merlin wouldn't know. He liked his youth and vitality, thanks!
"You, Prince Arthur, remind me of my brother, actually – a good leader, warrior, and an honorable man." Roderick sighed a little sadly at that. "Lady Morgana, well…you rather remind me of my niece."
That perked up their attentions.
"The Lost Princess?" Morgana asked curiously.
Roderick nodded. "She, too, had a tendency for flaunting the rules and court protocols – she spent a better part of her youth putting gray hairs on her father's head by sneaking about the kingdom dressed as a commoner!"
Morgana grinned. She did the same, now and then, after all.
Roderick shook his head fondly, reminiscently. "Even that manservant of yours, Prince Arthur, brings back memories."
Merlin stared in surprised, before looking down himself, then at Gwen, in confusion, who was looking at him, along with everyone else, in similar sentiment.
"Merlin?" Arthur asked.
"Not exactly," Roderick said. Merlin blinked in surprise when he realized the man was staring at his neck. "Those neckerchiefs of his are nearly identical to ones my brother used to wear."
Merlin grinned at Arthur, who, unseen by anyone else, rolled his eyes. Someone saw how fashionable and useful these were – and a king, no less!
Uther was just shaking his head amusedly as he turned back to his meal.
Morgana asked King Roderick, "I have been meaning to ask about…The Lost Princess? Princess Hunith?"
As always, it was rather odd to hear his mother's name like this. But maybe it would be better gossip on the legend. If mother ever went back to Ealdor they would have new versions of the theatrics to play around with. He smiled at the thought.
"I'm sure you've heard all the stories about her," Morgana continued. "We have all been hoping to learn a little more."
"Ah, yes…I always am asked of that," Roderick said, with a mournful sigh.
"If the memories are too painful-"
"No, no, Lady, though thank you," Roderick said. "It has been a long time." A pause. "Well…there was a night of passion with a lord, from another kingdom I believe. And there was a child."
Uther, especially, perked up at this, but Roderick shook his head. "The child is likely not alive – my brother did not share too many details, but I know there was something wrong with the child at birth, very sickly. Some servants report the princess was being seen by the physician every day leading up to her disappearance – I have no doubt it was the child being seen."
"Poor princess," Gwen said whispered in Merlin's ear. "Her lover and child dying so soon."
"Is that why she fled?" Arthur asked at the table.
Roderick shook his head.
"That was at her father's bequest – the nobles around her would have killed her, one way or another. She would not have lasted long as queen, especially with an heir of her own, with the climate as it was. She wanted to stay, but her father convinced her to leave. Had the father of the child lived – I am not entirely sure who that was, either – then it may not have happened. As it was, he was a knight and died in battle at some point, I know that much."
"They were quite secretive about all this, weren't they?" Arthur asked.
"Of course they were," Merlin muttered to Gwen, leaning in so he could keep his voice low. "What do they expect her to do, parade her son around the streets with a target on his head?"
"Merlin, that's morbid!" Gwen with a reluctant giggle.
"Yes," Roderick said. "My brother was very intent on protecting my niece…he didn't even tell me much of this when I returned from my own travels when he grew ill." He seemed rather sad about that. Merlin didn't blame him.
"Rhodri seems a bit of a prick," Merlin murmured to Gwen. "Sent his brother away, then his daughter, and left his people at the mercy of a cruel nobility."
"He cared about his family," Gwen quietly argued.
"Too much," Merlin muttered.
"Do you have any knowledge about the Princess's whereabouts?" Uther asked.
"I wish," Roderick said. "Things have changed – the crown would fit her well, now. But she has not returned. I still hold hope, though, however feeble it may be."
We've noticed, Morgana thought at him dryly. He's still technically the regent, idiot. He probably could have saved himself a lot of trouble by just taking the crown fully. By now no one would have stopped him.
He needs hope, something to hold on to, Merlin thought back. People will take what they can get.
Not at the cost of his people.
And that, Merlin couldn't argue against, so he didn't.
Hunith took a deep breath as she left the relative safety of Gaius's chambers that afternoon. She wondered if this was how Merlin and Morgana felt after practicing magic in there.
Clutching her laundry close to her chest, she counted on every skill wrought from being the daughter of a great king and the mother of a great warlock to keep up her appearance of calm as she walked through the corridors.
Just a few more days. A few more days, and her guilt would leave her, her uncle's abominably aged features and sad eyes would stop haunting her, and she could go back to the relative peace of her daily life in Camelot.
…though with Merlin for a son, she supposed it wasn't particularly peaceful. Especially since somewhere along the way, Arthur, Guinevere, and even Morgana had all fallen under her wing, looking up to her as a mother to replace the loss of their own. Out of the four of them, Merlin was the one opposite to them – where they all lost their mothers early and knew only their fathers, he was the other way around.
She almost wished Merlin could have found a father figure in Uther, the only one left alive besides her.
But then she would remember – as much as she could admire Uther for the way he cared for even the lower people, the simple peasants and townspeople that most kings ignored, that didn't change the fact he was just as favoring towards the rich and the higher classes as the most pretentious nobles of Dyfed had been, and that he would butcher innocent people, innocent children, for being born with magic.
It was a wonder how Merlin could defend the man. She remembered a jarring memory of coming to the king's chambers to collect the linens for laundry, and sharing a few jokes with the king while watching the mayhem their sons were causing together down in the stables, only to have to leave hastily moments later as Uther commented on the execution of an old woman later the next day, caught using magic to help the crops in her village.
Luckily for Hunith, the old woman was gone by that night. Arthur and Merlin had seemed particularly pleased with themselves about this one.
She shook her head, chasing away these maudlin thoughts. She needed to focus – just a few more days. She could go back to her un-royal, un-noble, much simpler life, if she could go a few more days without anyone finding her out.
It wasn't exactly a comforting thought, but while she was no longer royalty, she was still the daughter of King Rhodri the Great, and she's fared much better when she had tasks to focus on and things to do. It was how her father had attained the throne, and that was how she'd been raised to bear the crown, and that was how she had raised a magical child.
That in mind, she chastised the part of her mind still worrying, and went on walking, feeling confidence seep back into her stride-
-and promptly walked into someone upon rounding the corner, falling over and dropping everything in the process.
"Oh," she said as she bent down to quickly and efficiently retrieve the sheets. A lifetime of Merlin running around underfoot has left her rather used to this sort of thing. "I'm terribly sorry, please forgive…me…sire…"
Her heart started pounding, her lungs froze up, and she could feel the blood draining from her face when she looked up to see her uncle Roderick staring back at her in shock.
She immediately ducked her head down, playing the frightened, submissive servant, stammering, "I'm s-sorry, sire, I-"
But it was too late.
Painfully familiar hands pressed against her cheeks and made her left her head to face him.
"Hunith!" he cried out in shock and recognition.
There were several noblemen behind, mostly from Camelot, who were staring at the foreign king in confusion.
And then there was one from the Dyfed delegation whose eyes widened in stunned bewilderment when he looked at her. She remembered him – Lord Dion.
"Princess," he breathed out in shock.
"No," she said, slowly, shaking her head, even as she knew it was too late. "I-I'm not who you think I am-"
"You are!" Roderick cried out, before his voice lowered to his gentle tones. "I'd know your face anywhere, Hunith, but…here…what are you…"
He looked her up and down, taking in her worn hands and commoner's garb, clearly trying and failing to understand.
When his thumb swiped over her cheek, she realized she was crying.
This couldn't be happening. After more than twenty years of successful hiding, and now this…she was so close, only a few more days and she would have been safe-!
Footsteps came down the hall, and Uther and his usual small retinue were walking down the corridor.
The king – kind to his servants, when they did no wrong – took one look at the face of his physician's (adoptive) sister and son's (most loyal) servant's mother, and asked calmly but coldly of Roderick, "What, exactly, is going on here?"
He certainly wouldn't cause a diplomatic incident over her, but he would at least be willing to warn away Roderick to give her enough time to leave the castle until the visiting king was gone.
But she knew that wouldn't happen, not this time.
"This," Roderick said, turning around while still gesturing towards her. "Is my long-lost niece…Princess Hunith."
This couldn't be happening. She hasn't been Princess Hunith in two decades – she was just Hunith, healer from Ealdor. Not…not…
Uther's eyes widened in confusion and surprise, before turning to her in confrontation.
What followed was a long, tense moment of silence.
"I think," Uther said, after a moment, sweeping his own arm in the general direction of the council chambers. "That explanations are in order."
Merlin and Arthur turned around from where they were headed towards the hunting pups' pen, and Merlin's laughter died off as Gwen came running with panic on her face.
"Guinevere," Arthur said, sternly, catching her shoulder before she could bowl over Merlin. "Breathe – in, out. Now, tell us – what's wrong?"
"I-I don't know," she said, looking at Merlin. "It's your mother – she dropped some things in a hall and King Roderick saw her and he said recognized her or something. They ushered her into the Council Room – and she was in tears and she kept trying to deny whatever they were saying, but-"
Merlin was off like a shot, and thankfully, Arthur was right beside him. Oh, god, was it his magic? Or something else- but what?
They raced up the steps and through the halls of the castle, and just as they rounded the corner, Arthur grabbed Merlin's shoulder and forced him into a brisk, urgent walk, as they headed for the council chambers.
"Sire," the guards greeted, stepping aside to let them in.
At first, Merlin only saw the crowd of nobles and royals. But as they stepped aside to let Arthur through, Merlin saw his mother – seated, the only one, and tears trailing down from red, puffy eyes as she looked down into her lap where her hands were folded.
"What's going on?" Merlin yelled, leaping forward towards her.
They all stared at him, and Haul caught him by the scruff of the neck. "What's he doing here? Get-"
They all turned at his mother's plea, and she swallowed carefully, shutting her eyes a moment, before opening them and turning to the nobles from Dyfed.
"This…this is Merlin…my son."
Merlin frowned in confusion, as all the nobles and the king from Dyfed gasped, staring at him in shock, the king's eyes wide as one of the nobles muttered, "Heaven above!"
Haul released him, looking stunned, and Merlin, ignoring all else for now, ran forward to his mother's side, bending and wiping away her tears with his thumb, before standing upright and asking again, "What's going on?"
She took both her hands in his and said, "Oh, Merlin, please, forgive me…"
Merlin frowned, looking around the stunned hall.
"Can…can someone please tell me what's going on?"
At his mother's squeeze on his hand, he turned back, and she said, "Merlin…King Roderick…he's my uncle."
For a moment, nothing, then realization washed over Merlin.
Cold realization. Ice cold realization.
She swallowed. "Merlin…Rhodri is…was my father. I'm so sorry I lied to you, but please, understand, I had no choice – I had to protect you, protect both of us, like this."
"But…but…" Merlin's eyes widened. "That would…make you…the…"
Hunith slowly nodded. "I'm the Lost Princess of Dyfed."
A/N: Because I'm a total nerd:
Yarrow was an herb used to help treat menopause during medieval times, alongside mint and lavender for helping with the symptoms that come with menopause.
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