|Merlin Und Freya
Author: Adelina Le Morte March PM
When Freya is brought back to life, mistaken for a noblewoman and close friend of Camelot, pushed by King Uther into a marriage with an also less than willing Arthur, Merlin finds himself being set up to commit the ultimate act of treason. Because of his magic, he's used to committing treason against Uther's rules, but not betraying Arthur. Merlin/Freya/Arthur & some Arthur/Gwen.Rated: Fiction T - English - Fantasy/Romance - Merlin & Freya - Chapters: 20 - Words: 86,923 - Reviews: 43 - Favs: 36 - Follows: 30 - Updated: 08-02-12 - Published: 06-27-12 - Status: Complete - id: 8261562
|A+ A- Full 3/4 1/2 Expand Tighten|
~Chapter four: The Betrothal~
FREYA PAID A return visit to the Great Dragon by herself. If it had been anything else, it would have been Merlin she went to first, without so much as a moment's hesitation; but, somehow, this... Now this was different. She was overwhelmed with emotions: horror, fear, sadness, dismay, even a little well-distilled anger mixed in there.
Too many feelings to fully list and keep account of.
Uther had summoned her to the throne room, and she had been come, alone (for Merlin was not within range at the moment, and she knew it would be thought odd if she asked for him personally to come, stopping whatever he was doing for Arthur, and escort her to the great hall), trembling again, half-sure he had found her out. She was to be beheaded, or imprisoned, or burned, without even the chance or right to beg for her life or to say goodbye to Merlin.
But such was not the case. Uther greeted her with his usual smile and seemed delighted to speak with her. He showed no signs of knowing her to be a monster or a Druid.
She relaxed, if only for a second. Then she discovered what it was he wanted, what he had in mind, and she wished he had hauled her off to the dungeons instead.
He wanted her to marry his son. He wanted her to marry Prince Arthur. And, worse, he seemed to expect her to. There was not even the glimmer of a doubt in his mind that she would be pleased by this order of his. For, regardless of whatever he thought it was or called it in his own mind, it was an order. She had no one else of standing to fall on. Even if she had been the Lady of Shalott it would have been exceedingly difficult to refuse without causing deep offense. And as she was (a Druid impersonating a high-born lady), it was quite impossible.
Uther thought he was doing something good for her. In his mind, informing her of this before basically forcing Arthur to formally propose, was an extra kindness so as not to alarm her.
Did he think, Freya wondered, that I would be so stunned and overtaken with joy that I would faint from happiness if not given proper warning ahead of time? How little he knows me. Well, how little he can know me! He is King Uther, after all.
How could she approach Merlin and tell him, in all seriousness, that she was as good as betrothed to his master?
Morgana didn't know anything about it yet. Freya might have been tempted to confide in her, but she didn't feel comfortable talking about being a Druid (or loving Merlin) to her. Morgana might know she wasn't who she claimed, might know from the mark on her arm what she really was, but they had made such a long show of acting as if it wasn't so. Even in private, Morgana said nothing of it. Freya felt, most of the time, like she was pretending around her as much as anyone else at Camelot.
So there was only one other person who was a creature of the Old Religion; who just might understand. Perhaps he had already known; had foreseen this. He was the one Merlin had taken her to see. The Great Dragon.
Now she sat on the ledge overlooking the dragon's cave-like prison under the castle, her knees pulled close to her, pressed against her chest.
The dragon regarded her with his large, gleaming eyes. "I tried to warn you and Merlin both."
"You knew this would happen," murmured Freya, her chin vibrating lightly against her kneecap.
"Yes," said the dragon, "as did you."
"How could I...?" Then she remembered. "Oh. That's right. The Sidhe."
"You knew why they had made you the Lady of Shalott," the Great Dragon reminded her, sticking his neck out a bit farther. "You've as good as told me so yourself. They did not count on the fairy inside of you dying. Of you overcoming its power. They were too proud and it made them careless. Their interest in you may have died then, along with their kin, but not that of Uther. They knew Uther would wish Arthur to marry the daughter of his dead ally, his fallen friend, as did you. And yet, you still played into their hands, spending your time in Arthur's company. That was all the seed in Uther's mind that needed planting. Even without one of them inside you, you played into their game."
"It wasn't Arthur I wanted to be with," Freya said softly, her voice growing almost teary.
The Great Dragon lifted up his wings as if he might be shrugging. "Uther will never believe that."
"But," whimpered Freya, "I cannot marry Arthur Pendragon."
Calmly, the dragon repeated what her own common sense would already be telling her. "But you cannot ignore the law of the land and its king without grave insult. If you wish to keep up this ruse of yours..."
"Then I have to obey and marry the prince," Freya knew. "I can't refuse the king."
"But," said the Great Dragon, understanding, and switching to the other argument in her mind, "you cannot marry Arthur."
Freya nodded and reached up with the back of her wrist to wipe a tear away. "But everyone will expect me to say yes, when Uther has him ask me."
The dragon bobbed its head up and down, as if to say, yes, she'd finally gotten it.
Freya wept more freely. There was no way out. This was another curse, on top of the first one. "I can't marry him. I don't love him."
"I am sorry, small accursed Druid," said the Great Dragon, in a gruff, but lower, voice that was meant to be kindly. "Truly I am." His chain sounded like little silver and brass wedding bells as he flew up, away from her.
GAIUS WATCHED MERLIN staring blankly out the window, his expression distressed and distant, his chin in his hand. He hadn't even touched the food he'd put out for him at supper.
"Merlin," asked Gaius, "do you want to talk about it?"
"What is there to talk about?" he said quietly, not taking his eyes off the windowpane. "Uther is never going to back down. He never has. From anything."
"I'm sorry, Merlin."
"You should have told me, Gaius," he said brokenly. "Finding out from Arthur like that..."
"I didn't tell you," Gaius explained, "because I had hoped I was mistaken. Unfortunately, the Sidhe know their work too well. Their plan was nothing short of brilliant. They don't care what happens with it now, but it's still going the way they intended."
"At least she's safe," Merlin tried to comfort himself with. "This way, I mean. Uther wouldn't execute his own daughter-in-law."
"I wouldn't put it past him. I think he'd kill Arthur if he turned out to have magic," Gaius said. "That's how deep his hatred runs now. It blinds him. But, yes, this would seem to ensure her continued safety. I wouldn't go around announcing that she's really a Druid after the wedding, but for a time she might be all right. Of course, who knows how long that will last?"
"Gaius, this really isn't making me feel any better," Merlin mumbled. He closed his eyes and rubbed the space between his eyebrows with his thumb, as though he had a migraine.
"It's nearly a quarter till midnight," Gaius reminded him. "She'll be here any minute."
Merlin opened his eyes and turned his head. "She's not going to marry Arthur."
"And what makes you so sure?" Gaius raised an eyebrow, surprised at his sudden conviction.
Merlin wouldn't answer.
But Gaius suddenly realized he knew what he meant. "Merlin, don't you dare think of running away with her."
"I wasn't," he blurted, lying. And very poorly, at that.
"Merlin, you are absolutely the worst liar I've ever seen in my life." Gaius folded his arms and stared him down.
"What am I supposed to do, Gaius?" Merlin protested. "Just sit back, do nothing-say nothing-and deal with the fact that, as soon as Uther can put a sword's point to Arthur's back and force him say 'I do', Freya will be the wife of my master and I'll be bringing them both breakfast in bed?"
"The solution to all of your life's problems cannot be to simply run away from them!" snapped Gaius. "You're better than that."
"And have you thought about what will happen if you're caught?" He raised his voice. "You think Uther would be understanding? Knowing him, he'd probably get it into his head that you kidnapped her and you'd find yourself in the stocks faster than you could exhale. And that's if you were lucky!"
"I'm not just going to stand aside and let this happen." He clenched his jaw stubbornly.
"It's not even your decision to make," Gaius pointed out. "What about Freya?"
"Are you saying you think she wants to marry Arthur?"
"No, Merlin, I'm saying I don't think she would let you throw your life away like that."
"I'm not throwing it away!"
"Use your head! You know what I'm saying is the truth. What happened last time?"
Merlin's eyes filled with tears. Because, of course, he didn't think Freya had ever had any intention of going away with him; that was why she'd tried to leave on her own, sending him off to get supplies, leaving behind the dress he had stolen for her. And that was how she'd been killed: trying to escape on her own, so as to spare him. Gaius didn't even know all the details of this, but his words brought every last one of them back to Merlin's mind. Freya hadn't gone with him then, and she wouldn't go with him now. He knew better even than to bother asking.
"I'm sorry," said Gaius, gently, seeing the pain coming in Merlin's previously unreachable and overly-determined expression. "All I want is for you to use your head for once and keep it on your shoulders."
Merlin swallowed hard and blinked. "Don't worry, Gaius. I'm not going anywhere."
The door opened and Freya walked in. Bastet-turning time again.
Gaius left them alone, going into Merlin's room.
Before she changed, Merlin turned his back while Freya carefully removed Morgana's nightgown, slipping it over her head and hanging it over the back of a chair. Then she pulled a blanket around herself until the transformation took hold.
When it was over, and she was her human self again, exhausted, slipping the nightgown back over her body, cold now from lack of the Bastet's glossy black coat, she finally spoke to him.
In a quivering voice, barely over a whisper, she said, "You know, don't you?"
"Yes," said Merlin, a little stiffly.
"Arthur told me."
"What about Gwen? He has feelings for her."
Merlin sighed. "Yes, but she's a blacksmith's daughter."
"And you're a princess."
"Soon you won't be able to say that."
Freya reached for his hand. "What about you?"
"I don't matter." Ever so sadly, he pulled his hand away from her desperate, fumbling fingers. "I'm so sorry, Freya."
"You have nothing to apologize for." She meant that, believed it with all her heart. None of this was his fault. All he had ever done was try to protect her and make her feel loved. She hoped, deep down inside him, he knew that. She closed her eyes and turned to leave.
"Freya, I-" His voice cracked.
"No, Merlin. Please don't say anything else." Freya looked back at him over her shoulder. "I don't have the strength to cry anymore."
ARTHUR WAS IN misery. A small assembly of Camelot's castle-folk had congregated in the throne room at Uther's request. Most of them already knew what was going to happen; they were there out of duty, not curiosity. But, of all their faces, there was only one that mattered to the young prince of Camelot.
And that lovely, dark face belonged to Guinevere.
He had spoken to Gwen, the day before, and asked her what she would do if he did as his father asked: if he married Lady Freya of Astolat. Her reply, so sincerely meant, had very nearly broken his heart in two. She said she would watch him grow into the king that Camelot deserved.
When he pressed her, asking if it was really so insane, what he truly wanted, not to be with Freya, but her, she told him flat-out that, yes, to anyone save themselves, it was. Better insane than miserable, perhaps, was his final argument. But his sweet Gwen had an answer for that, too. She did not think Freya would make him miserable. She had seen Freya, so quiet and good-tempered visiting in Morgana's chambers, maybe even a bit too quiet at times, as if she were afraid the walls around her would close in and trap her... Her heart was good. If there was anything to be said for Uther's choice, even if it was not someone Arthur wanted, it was someone who would be good to him. Moreover, she would be good for Camelot.
Even Arthur couldn't refute that fact. Freya's round table idea... That really had been something! She wouldn't make a bad queen, or wife.
But that didn't change the fact that he didn't want her. Arthur did not love her. She was nice enough, of course. He had nothing against her; he simply had no romantic feelings where she was concerned.
And, still, somehow they had both known, known beyond shadow of doubt, that this would be the outcome; for here he was now, about to ask Lady Freya for her hand in marriage.
"I would like to thank you all," Arthur began, "for being here today."
Freya tried to force a smile; the corners of her lips did finally go up, slightly, but it looked rather more akin to flinching in pain than grinning for pleasure.
No one noticed that Merlin, standing by Gaius, looked like he was relying rather hard on a nearby pillar to hold himself up, nor that his eyes were rimmed with red. Not a single person in the room suspected him of being in pain, or cared, if they did; he might as well have been invisible. Freya would have noticed, and cared, but she couldn't bear to look at him. Besides, everyone expected her to be looking at Arthur.
Gaius knew it was hard for him, but he was busy trying to appear happy (or at least indifferent) for Uther's sake. The king wouldn't look twice at a serving boy who seemed discontented, but he might take note of someone as highly regarded as the court physician appearing dour.
"I'm honoured to be standing before each of you," continued Arthur, in what was only a few cracks of emotion off from being a complete monotone, "in the presence of the sole survivor of one of Camelot's dearest Allies, the House of Shalott, the Lady Freya, Lily Maid of Astolat."
In spite of her time at Camelot, it took a moment for Freya not to automatically want to look over her shoulder when someone called her that, and said it so grandly, with the full title. A noblewoman? Where? Oh, right, her. Well, sort of, anyway.
"The people of this kingdom are very dear to me." Arthur was able to smile at that, at least. "This place is my life. I hope one day to continue the good work of my father." He gestured over at the beaming King Uther, then turned his attention back to those he was addressing. "And to make Camelot a place of peace and happiness."
There was polite applause.
Now Arthur looked to Freya. "It is my sincerest hope that you, Lady Freya, share these dreams."
Perhaps a real noblewoman from Astolat would have, but Freya did not. These were not her dreams. A good idea every once in a while and a mild nature did not make her power-hungry for the throne of Camelot. Why on earth would she wish to be the queen?
She did have one dream, and no chance of it ever coming true. What she wanted was impossible. She wanted to live a simple, good life, in a little-known place, with a few fields and a couple of cows. And a lake. That dream did have a lover in it, but the embodiment of that ideal lover wasn't Arthur Pendragon. It was his manservant, the boy who had rescued her from Halig's chains and cages and made her feel loved, Merlin.
"With this in mind..." Arthur got down on one knee. "I would like to ask you to do me the honour of being my wife."
Freya's broken squeak of a 'yes' came out so quietly Arthur and then, more enthusiastically, Uther, had to repeat to the assembly that she had, indeed, given her consent.
Never had Merlin before longed for anything that was rightly Arthur's. He did everything for him, for the world he would bring, for Albion. There hadn't been anything that was his master's which he wanted for himself. The throne of Camelot? Nah, not really his style. He preferred scarfs to crowns and comfortable trousers to hot, velvet ceremonial robes. His father? Goodness, no! Merlin had never known his own father, for his mother had never mentioned him, and if he was half so difficult as Uther could sometimes be, he was probably all the better off for that.
Now, though, for the first time, Merlin felt what it was to be truly envious of his master.
Arthur could marry any noblewoman, just about, any of which would be thrilled beyond reason at the prospect, and Uther simply had to choose his special friend Freya, the Druid girl pretending to be the Lady of Shalott, for his clodpole of a son to wed.
It was horrid through and through, being nearly eaten alive by envy. From nothing more and nothing less than wanting something you knew you couldn't have. The novelty of it wore off quickly, as the feelings lingered. These feelings hurt as keenly as a bad fall from a horse did; worse, even, because they didn't go numb as easily as a bruise did and the pain came from the inside out.
Merlin was convinced that, one way or another, he'd be losing his mind before this was over and done with.