Part IV: Epilogue
"Alright, alright!" Merlin laughed, dancing out of the threshold of the door. "Calm down, you crazy mutt."
Mithian stood a few meters away, smart enough to stay out of the hound's way as she jumped around like a drunk grasshopper, and laughed aloud at the sight.
The pup had grown. At eight weeks, she could no longer be carried around in one hand and stood at about mid-calf height. She was a bundle of energy, and Mithian was discovering that there wasn't a thing she wouldn't eat. That included a number of rare ingredients Merlin had collected for his potions and medicines. Her curiosity knew no bounds, and she was always getting into some form of trouble, often to the chagrin of Merlin, who was supposed to be molding her into a perfect little lady.
As Mithian had predicted, it had been tough getting to this point. The last two months blurred together in a haze of exhaustion, nurturing spells, council meetings, and feeding times. Very few of their friends thought the pup would make it, and at some point, even she felt the same. She remembered warning Merlin not to name her until she was past the worst of it.
Merlin had done as he was told, as he knew full well the folly in naming her too soon, but he'd never given up on her. As one could imagine, that puppy doted on him and was always at his heel. In a rather strange turn of events, Arthur was the one telling Merlin he spoiled his dog.
No matter how goofy the dog, there was no doubt Merlin was going to have a very loyal companion shadowing him for years to come.
The moment Merlin managed to get the door open, the pup gawkily surged out, tripping over her paws and skidding along the stone floor. "Come on, Mith!" Merlin exclaimed, laughing brightly as he grabbed her hand. "She's not going to wait for us!"
Oddly enough, their charge did not mind spending time in the castle, but if there was ever a chance for her to go outside…well, there was no stopping her then. The only thing she loved more than rolling in the leaves was splashing about in rain puddles, and Mithian and Merlin could only imagine how she'd react to snow.
And they were soon about to find out.
The hound led them through the silent halls, having easily memorized the route Merlin took her most often whenever they headed out of the castle. She whined and snuffed at the courtyard door until Mithian opened it for her.
A blast of icy air greeted her, and she inhaled deeply, reveling in the fresh, crisp scent of winter. Even in the dead of night, she could see the glistening layer of freshly fallen snow in the courtyard. Tree boughs, long since stripped of their leaves, arched above, and they bent under the weight of the snow and ice adorning them. Everything was still but for the snowflakes drifting down.
It wasn't the first snowfall of the year, but it was certainly the first to stick.
And yes, they most certainly had snuck out of bed to enjoy it before everyone else could.
A single ball of light flared into being and soared to the center of the courtyard, where it burst into hundreds of colored sparks that floated lazily above their heads. The light reflected off the snow, making it sparkle like thousands of tiny gems. It was beautiful, and Mithian interlaced her fingers with Merlin's. He was beautiful, too, with his flushed cheeks and dancing eyes.
Before she could comment on the scene, however, he nodded his head toward their dog. "Mith, look," he whispered, his tone colored with amusement.
The pup raised a tentative paw over the first step leading down into the courtyard. After playfully batting at the fluffy blanket of snow, she buried her face into it, only to draw back with a nose covered in white. She hesitated for only a moment, as though testing to see if it would attack her, and then took off like an arrow from a bow, pouncing, spinning, and bounding up, over, and through snowdrifts.
The warlock and princess laughed at her antics, and somehow, Mithian found herself being yanked out into the snow by Merlin. Her cloak soon became dusted with snow, not only from the snowfall itself but also from the carefully aimed snowball that her childish husband had been stupid enough to throw at her back.
They didn't care that the rest of the castle slept. The moment Mithian caught that smirk of Merlin's, an all out war broke out. Snowballs flew, and laughter erupted as they chased after each other and tripped over their own feet. Whenever Merlin attempted to cheat with magic, she gasped out an admonishment and renewed her efforts. She didn't necessarily play fair either and tackled him to the ground more than once to steal a kiss. A few times, the puppy joined them, gleefully pouncing, nipping, or chasing after the snowballs they tossed for her.
Soon enough, the pair, wet and chilled to the bone, called a truce and lay in the snow beneath a cluster of holly trees, chests heaving with breathless laughter. The pup wiggled to their sides, equally as soaked as her masters.
"Eirwen," Merlin said suddenly.
Mithian turned her head. "What?"
"Eirwen," he repeated, fondling his dog's ears. "I think that is what I'd like to call her."
White snow, Mithian translated. "That is quite fitting."
They fell into silence again, and though she began to shiver with cold, she watched the snow and faery lights dance above her and wanted the moment to last forever.
Merlin heaved himself up, prompting Mithian to do the same. He cuddled against her, and suddenly, warmth spread through her bones. As he hugged her to his side and kissed the top of her head, she looked up to see gold fading from his eyes.
"I've been thinking," Merlin began.
"You're always thinking, Merlin," Mithian murmured.
She felt him smile against her hair. "I've been thinking about this 'test,' this exercise, we did with Eirwen…and I've been thinking about us. I think I've realized something."
The princess' heart fluttered, and now dry and warm, thanks to Merlin's magic, she maneuvered so that she was facing him. "What did you realize?" she whispered.
"I realized…that if we waited until I felt ready…we'd be waiting a lifetime."
Once she understood what he was saying, Mithian's eyes flooded with tears, and choking back a tearful giggle, she reached forward to stroke his face. "Really?"
"Yeah," he said, chuckling and pressing his forehead against hers. "Let's start a family.
AN: Eirwen's prancing about in the snow was inspired by the Buzzfeed article "These 3 Vines Of A Puppy Playing In The Snow For The First Time Are The Only Internet Thing You Need" (and it's no exaggeration. Go look and try not to "aawwww" out loud, I dare you).
I hope you guys enjoyed this! Happy Holidays!