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Author's Note: Yay! I've posted a new chapter! Let me know what you think! And thank you to everyone that has continued to read this story and post reviews. I know it's been a long, often frustrating wait for each chapter. Thank you all!
Morgaine sat at her husband's bedside, using a cloth to bathe cool water over his overly heated flesh. Gawain was dressing for the coronation, even as he complained softly about having to be the one to go. Galahad had fallen into the first real sleep he'd had in days, and neither of his spouses was particularly interested in waking him. The Youngest of the Dark Child's husbands lay on his uninjured side, curled up into a position of recovery that allowed him to breathe despite his damaged ribcage and imperiled lungs. "I still don't see why I have to be the one to go. I'm just a Knight . . . you're a Woad Princess and the Dark Child of Britain. Surely that puts your presence at a higher level of priority than mine."
Morgaine smiled up at her blond haired husband, one hand absent against Galahad's flesh as she teased, "But you're so pretty, no one'll even know that I wasn't there. I'm counting on you to dazzle them with your good looks."
"Lady . . .," Gawain admonished, the look in his eyes seeing right through her ploy to distract him and cutting straight through to the heart of the matter.
"I already left him for the Council of Clans this morning; with all due respect to Connor and Molly, I will not do so again today. I'm counting on you to represent the three of us, so that even if we're not there our presence is felt."
"And what should I tell them if someone should question your absence?"
"Who says they'll notice? I doubt anyone will see anything outside of your prettiness."
"Lady," he scolded fondly unable to resist a smile, as he enjoyed the first moment of brief playfulness his wife had exhibited all day.
"Instead of telling them anything, ask them this instead; if Galahad should slip away while I'm not here to save him, do they really want to be the ones to have to face my rage?"
Gawain gave her a soft smile. "At which point, I'll bet everyone will concede that this is where you should be. All right. I'll be your eyes and ears, and recount everything I can remember once I return. Agreed?"
Morgaine looked up at him with a winning smile, eyes sparkling as she breathed, "Thank you, my love."
Gawain nodded, one calloused hand coming up to caress her cheek as he nuzzled his nose against the smooth flesh just to the right of her nose. "Keep good watch, and I'll be back before you know it."
Their lips fused tenderly, Morgaine's hands coming up to tangle in the lengthy strands of his blond hair. "Once my Sarmatian is well again, and I can have you all to myself, remind me to fuck you senseless."
Gawain nearly roared with laughter, only just reigning in the impulse before he could wake their slumbering partner. Capturing her lips with his fiercely and holding her tightly within the embrace, he forced every inch of his passion upon her. Breaking away only long enough to breathe, he rasped, "As my Lady wishes, so shall it be done." His next kiss was brief but just as piercing, before he reminded her, "And he's our Sarmatian, Lady, not just yours."
Morgaine's fingers were brutal in his hair, as she fought to keep up with his embraces, before the two were forced apart by the constraints of propriety and lack of oxygen. Midnight eyes stared deeply into sky blue, before she finally pushed him away, the married couple struggling to catch their breaths. "I love you, Gawain . . . now go, before I forget all about propriety and demand your attentions right here, right now."
Hesitating for a moment, as he contemplated whether or not that qualified as a good thing or a bad thing, Gawain glanced at the window carved from stone and sighed. The sun was going down and time was running short. Kissing her once more, he twisted the midnight tresses around his fingers as he ravaged her mouth for a brief, ardent moment, before he released her and stormed from the infirmary with all the discipline and restraint he could manage.
Arriving at the waterfall, Gawain took a moment to look about his surroundings and take in the stances of his fellow Knights, scattered throughout the room with seemingly random placement. Gawain immediately discerned the strategic motivations behind their positions, nodding once in Lancelot's direction as the First Knight gestured with his head toward the blond's own position for the coronation. Hobbling slowly on a still healing leg, Gawain nevertheless took up his post with poise and aplomb. There was an obvious hole where Galahad should have been, but the Knights refused to dwell on it. The health and fate of their Youngest weighed heavily on all of their minds, but their King was relying on them. They would not fail him then as they had not failed him before.
He was at his post for only a brief moment, before Tristan joined him at his station. "How's the leg?" the older Knight inquired, watching the blond carefully for any hint of a lie.
Gawain gave a leery half grin as he conceded, "Hurts like hell. But I'll live."
"Where is your lady?"
Chuckling, he remained silent, wondering how long it would take for the Sarmatian scout to answer his own question. Tristan's next question was asked with quiet reserve, "How is he?"
"Alive. At least he was when I left the infirmary."
"I wouldn't worry too much, mate. That one's a fighter, he is. You watch; he'll be up and around, and fucking your wife, before you know it."
Caught off guard by the uncharacteristic vulgarity from the usually witty, but sanguine scout, Gawain burst into a torrent of loud laughter. Glancing at each other with small smiles on their lips, the Knights took very little notice of the interaction between the two. The Druids, however, were visibly startled by the sudden noise. A few of the more experienced and better trained priests and priestesses resolutely ignored the interruption to their chants; however, the newer recruits into their order all lost their places and turned to face the almost wheezing Knight to discover the cause of his mirth.
Just then a herald mounted the dais situated at the front of the hall. "Rise all, to honor the Heir Apparent to the Eirean throne, Prince Connor mac Derek, the Liberator of Ireland, and his lady wife, Princess Molly inin Fergus!"
As everyone stood, the crown prince and his princess entered the hall from a small entryway at the back. Dressed in complimentary attire, Molly's hand atop Connor's as they strode confidently into the hall, they were quite the pair. Molly's dark hair had been braided back from her face, the ends falling in chaotic curls about her shoulders and down her back. Connor's long blond hair had been brushed back, the sides held back with a gold clip etched with his family's insignia.
Arthur and Guinevere made a much quieter entrance after them, knowing that all eyes would be on the soon-to-be crowned pair as they moved gracefully toward the dais. The four moved slowly toward the dais, where the Druid King stood waiting, his child's face very solemn. Once they had joined him, Arthur and Guinevere stayed back while Connor and Molly moved forward to kneel before the young Father. The Father's high, childlike voice pierced through the silence as he spoke, "Connor mac Derek and Molly inin Fergus, you have been endorsed by the Irish Clans and have hereby presented yourselves to be crowned High King and High Queen of all Ireland. This is a weighty responsibility you both undertake, manifested by the crowns soon to be placed upon your brows. Care for your people well and rule them fairly, and they will love you. They are your children, as this land is your mother. Learn from them, as they learn from you and your reign shall be long and prosperous."
Turning to face the herald, the boy king used the fingertips of both hands to lift the heavy golden crown from its pillow. Designed to be worn by only the High King, it was a solid piece and almost too heavy for a child so young. "Connor mac Derek, you have proven yourself strong and devout in the protection of your own people. You have led them through battle and into a time of great peace. Do you accept the responsibility of High King? Do you vow to use your power to better the lives of even the lowliest among your people? Do you swear to treat each and every one of your council with the respect and honor their titles demand? And do you undertake the duty of protecting this great kingdom from any who seek to conquer her once more?"
"I do so avow, Father," Connor agreed, voice strong and unwavering as he bowed his head before the Druid King.
The Father nodded once and stepped forward, placing the crown securely on Connor's head, the gold glinting noticeably against the sungilt sheen of his hair. Turning, he lifted an ornately woven silver coronet and turned once again, this time to face Connor's princess. "Molly inin Fergus, you have married into power and responsibility, and because of this, your task is greater than your husband's can ever dream to be. You have followed your husband into glory and greatness, but were led by the strength of your own convictions and your heart. Do you accept the responsibility of High Queen? Do you vow to strengthen your husband's word with your own, offering service to all those who have need of it? Do you swear to be your husband's strong right hand, his aid and helpmate with all of the difficult choices and daunting tasks his new title requires of him? And do you undertake the duty of protecting your High King, to keep him safe from both temptation and undue harm?"
"I do so avow, Father," Molly vowed, her voice hitching as she fought to keep her tears at bay.
Connor glanced over at her for a moment, squeezing her hand lightly as he sought to comfort her. The coronet settled comfortably onto her forehead, the metal warming against her skin. Raising his hands, he looked out over the assembly. "All those gathered here, witness this day the coronation of your new High King and High Queen. Let word of these proceedings spread like wildfire through heather throughout the land, carrying these tidings of great joy to even the lowest among the low. For with today has come a tender peace, and a monarchy that has vowed to protect it. Your Majesties . . . rise and face your people."
Connor stood first, assisting Molly tenderly from her knees beside him. The two turned to face the Celts assembled, barely flinching as the herald behind them cried out, "All hail the High King, Connor! All hail the High Queen, Molly! Long live the King and Queen!"
From the crowd came a loud cheer, "Long live the King and Queen!"
Turning to face the cheering crowd, Connor held up one hand to call for silence. "I pray you, peace! Tonight, all are princes of Eire! Join my lady and myself in the Grand Hall to celebrate this momentous occasion and to help us usher in a time of peace and prosperity for our kingdom!"
Kissing his wife's hand, he urged her gently back the way they had come. All of Ireland cheered their king's generosity, as they followed him from the hall. No one noticed a single silhouette, hobbling slowly as it disappeared once more toward the infirmary where his own lady and best friend awaited him.