Disclaimer: "Merlin" is a series based on the varying legends of King Arthur, and is an original series belonging to BBC and all characters contained herein are under copyright to the previously named. They are used here at the author's interpretation and for entertainment purposes only.
Greetings From the Author: Lord but those disclaimers sometimes make me feel like I'm preparing a legal missive. I had this short story floating in my head, which is rare in and of itself as I am most certainly NOT the short-story type. Be that as it may, I had to post it because my brain wouldn't let me sleep until it was done. It takes place very soon after the series/season 1 finale. So if anyone hasn't watched it you might want to, or avoid the fic if you don't want to be spoiled. The title seemed apt for the content and once I looked up some information on the flowers I found that they indeed made their way into some early English literature and myth. At least I picked blooms that could have been around back in the day. So that was a pleasant surprise. It is also says they are the county flower of Westmorland if anyone wanted to know. ;) If one were to look on WikiPedia about the myths surrounding them, it says something about a knight and his lady walking along a river bank , when the weight of the knight's armor pulled him into the rapids. Before he drowned he managed to toss some flowers to his lady, begging her 'forget me not!' While romantic a myth as it is, it is also mildly distressing. I can promise you the flowers serve a much gentler purpose in this ficlet.
Keep the magic secret, but not your reviews. I value ALL opinions. I do hope you like this short story and with spring soon upon us don't forget to take a moment out of your day to 'smell the roses' or the forget-me-nots as it were. Enjoy!
Forget Me Not
"Been picking flowers for your girlfriend ?" Prince Arthur teased, walking in even stride with his man-servant, Merlin. The thin black haired lad was carrying a small stack of tomes. Atop them sat a small bunch of little five-petalled flowers, possessing the pale shade of periwinkle blue.
"Gwen is not my girlfriend." Merlin scrunched his face up into a vaguely irritated expression. He had a small headache. Something that been occurring with consistency since his battle with Nimueh. Looking up at the grinning blonde beside him, he could not keep the smile from his face. If only Arthur knew that his survival had hinged on Merlin, but the young wizard could not tell him until he was more certain of the reaction it would garner. "Why does everyone think that? She gave me flowers and I tucked them into my neckerchief once, once, and that makes her my girlfriend?"
Arthur's pale blue eyes peered back at Merlin's darker blue ones and he shrugged. Then a wicked gleam flared in his irises. "Getting testy are we? I have half a mind to make you scrub down the floor in my chambers. Can't have my room dirty, being prone to fever as I am." The prince making a reference to the two weeks past where he had been almost on his death bed. Being attacked by a large ill-tempered questing beast does that to a person. He'd recovered, but King Uther had kept insisting his son be careful. The young noble was getting tired of it, to be honest.
"You told me you were feeling better." Merlin frowned, dipping as he rearranged his hands around the tomes to get a firmer grip.
"Did I?" Arthur intoned playfully, but then he seemed to grow bored, looking at the flowers again. "What are they for then, if not for Guinevere?"
A dark brow was raised on the wizard's face. Ever since the incident in Ealdor, anytime the prince said the maid-servant's name it was always 'Guinevere' never 'Gwen' He half wondered why, but the thought had little room in his already crowded mind and it was quickly misplaced. "Gaius wanted them. He said something about wanting to use them as an attractant for some beetles that are fond of them. I think they are called 'myosotis' or some other such thing."
"No, the flowers."
"An ugly name, where'd you get them from anyway? I hope you didn't go nosing about in the castle gardens." Arthur admonished, continuing to keep pace with his man-servant. He was anxious to get out to the practice fields, but was willing to let Merlin drop off the tomes at Gaius' quarters before the servant attended him. The prince thought himself very magnanimous for that.
"No, Lady Pelinore gave me some from her garden. She called them 'forget-me-nots', though I think that is a pretty silly name. These books are heavy!" Merlin whined, fumbling with his grip again.
"Well don't expect me to help you do your job." Arthur sniffed, but then stopped as he spied someone heading up the long hallway towards them. A wide smile graced his features. "Good morning . . . Guinevere." He trilled, purposely drawing out the name, enjoying the sound of it.
Merlin looked up as the owner of that name was stood before them, a large pile of linens stacked in a wicker basket she was holding. Her dark brown curls were gathered on her head in a bun, as usual, a few curls left to dangle against her temples. Rich brown eyes looked back at Merlin and she smiled and the wizard felt himself smiling back. Then her gaze turned to Arthur and she nodded stiffly, looking altogether uncomfortable. Merlin watched her and Arthur with a curious interest. Ever since he had returned from the Isle of Blessed he had noticed a strange tenseness to the air between the two, though the moments they were in proximity to one another seemed few and far between.
"Good morning, sire." She dipped her head courteously, knowing that if she were to bow with her arms all full it would be very inelegant. The last thing she wanted to do was look like a clumsy oaf. Slowly she tried to veer around the pair but Arthur moved and blocked her way.
"And where might you be headed this morning?" The grin on his face had persisted, and though Merlin was scrutinizing him he barely noticed; intent on the girl before him.
"To the washrooms, sire. I have to drop off these dirty linens and collect new ones for Lady Morgana." Once again Gwen tried to get around him, but he kept moving so she was forced to stay where she was. She looked around nervously, wondering if there were any other servants or courtiers about, and feeling embarrassed that they might think she was getting chastised. It almost felt like. The look the prince sent her not far from scathing, though there was a glint in his eyes that suggested otherwise.
"Do you remember where the wash-rooms are then?" He was enjoying watching her get more and more flustered as she tried to evade him. Ever since that morning of his recovery, when she'd dashed from his chambers, she had been doing nothing but avoiding him. Even going out of her way to accomplish tasks that would have taken far shorter a time if she'd gone her normal route to get there. She had not always succeeded and when she'd come across the prince the girl behaved about the same as she was now.
"Of course, your highness. I go there often enough." She blew hot breath up through her lips, moving a stray curl that was tickling her face.
"Hmm, I might wonder, considering your poor abilities of recollection." He snipped, thin lips pulled up into a devilish smile.
"Sorry?" Gwen asked, both offering an apology and inquiring as to the meaning of his words.
"Well, I mean as you were 'tending to my fever' as you said, you did speak to me then. Yet somehow you claimed not to remember your own words. Though little time had passed since you'd spoken them." The look on her face was well worth standing in the overly warm hallway, and Arthur was having quite the good time. "One would naturally be drawn to the conclusion that you have a poor memory."
"I - I apologize, my lord." She nodded her head at him again, feeling her cheeks warm with embarrassment. Why oh why had she felt the need to comfort him then? She had thought him unconscious, but the rapscallion had remembered some of what she said. Enough to torment her with her own speech, surely knowing how discomfited it made her feel. Though when he had asked her that morning to repeat her words, and she had not, it was not caused by a lack of memory. In fact, Gwen had come to think she might not ever forget them.
Kneeling on the bed beside him, Gwen had felt her heart go out to him. The man she had once thought was little more than a bully of a prince. Since then she had seen him endanger himself for Merlin's welfare, to aid the villagers of Ealdor when King Uther would not. She had seen him torn about by grief when Camelot had been struck with famine, worrying himself sick thinking that it was his fault. Merlin had told her of how Arthur pleaded Lancelot's case to the king, to let a commoner become a knight for his noble deeds. The look on his face when he came to offer his condolences on her father's death and even his aid of the druid boy that needed to escape Camelot to avoid execution, were easily remembered. In all those things Gwen had glimpsed who Arthur really was. A better man than his father, and more than just a bully . . . So much more.
Gaius had left the room and she was sure if the court physician had not been so tired he would not have agreed to let Gwen attend the prince. But he had and there she was, looking down at the pale face of the gravely ill Arthur. His head had been hot with fever and she'd re-wetted the rag that was lain across his forehead, pressing the cool cloth to his skin. Leaning over she patted gently at the wound to his torso; the mark left by the beast that attacked him.
"You're not going to die, Arthur. I'm telling you." Her voice had a brief tinge of the commanding tone she'd heard him sometimes speak with, but then it had grown softer, as light as her touch. "Because I know that one day, you will be king. A greater king than your father could ever be."
A brief smile was on her face and she looked down, as if dredging all her feelings up from the bottom of the earth where she'd buried them. She thought of how there were those endless days, where the world seemed utterly dark and the maiden herself felt intensely alone. Then she would look up at the castle from the window of her home. There, she knew, lived a prince that would one day change Camelot and Albion. People would not have to be alone as she was. Gwen looked forward to that day more than anything in the world.
"It's what keeps me going." Her tone had dropped low, but then she found her strength again. "You are going to be the man I've seen inside you, Arthur." The maiden's face was intense with feeling, though she was more than sure he could not hear her. "I can see a Camelot that is fair and just. I can see a king that the people will love and be proud to call their sovereign." She could feel a desperation pulling inside her chest. "For the love of Camelot, you have to live!"
As the prince lay there, bandaged and unconscious, Gwen felt the urge to cry, but she suppressed it. Instead she took Arthur's hand in her own. It felt cool as she held it and brought it to her warm lips, looking at the man with sorrowful eyes. She'd stayed with him until Gaius returned, finding the girl asleep with her head resting against Arthur's hip.
Now as he stood there, healthy, lively and completely smug she almost wished he had remembered everything she said to him that night. Instead of just bits and pieces. Then he wouldn't be so keen on teasing her, but then sense returned and Gwen realized why she hadn't spoken those words a second time. He would think she was like those other girls, servants and courtiers alike, all sighing at him. They would say how handsome and strong he was. Those women were right, but those were just the smallest and most unimportant features of the prince. Gwen could not stand him thinking her some vapid maiden, ready to throw herself at him with but a crook of his finger. If she told him what she'd said, something so complimentary would make him think she was sweet on him. She most certainly was not, but then why could the hand-maiden not stop the terrible blush that was coloring her cheeks as he gazed at her?
"You wouldn't have to apologize if you just told me." Arthur came right out and said it. He knew damn well she remembered, but why she would not speak of it again he did not know. At first it amused him, but lately he'd been feeling a bit vexed. Especially since her recent avoidance of his person. She would spot him at the end of some hall or in the courtyard and take off in the other direction. The girl didn't even try to hide that she was evading him. Arthur sighed. He knew that deception was not in the maiden's nature, unless . . . It is because she is shy, he thought.
"I told you, sire, I do not recall. Truly, I was merely checking up on you to relieve Gaius so he might rest, and I was weary myself. When one is tired, they could say almost anything. I'm certain it was to comfort you, whatever I said . . . And that is all that matters." Pressing with a streak of bravado, Gwen straightened her neck and held her head high, looking right in the prince's face.
Taken aback by the challenging look to her eyes, the brief scowl on Arthur's mouth had been replaced by a wry grin. "Why, Guinevere, are you being petulant with me?"
Merlin still stood there, the weight of the books almost forgotten as he stared in stunned silence at the exchange. What in the devil was going on here?
The hand-maiden dropped her head, suddenly sheepish as her brave streak departed as quickly as it had arrived. "I . . . I forget myself, my lord. I am truly sorry." Her eyes looking down at the ground she did not see the warmth in Arthur's gaze.
He wished she wouldn't apologize all the time. "It is fine." Then she tried to move past him again and he placed an arm out to press against her basket of linens and the girl almost bounced back at the restriction. "Scampering off again? You've a habit of doing that, but no matter, I suppose I've kept you long enough." He reached over to the top of Merlin's pile of tomes, ignoring his servant's protest. With the little blue flowers in hand he deposited them at the top of Gwen's linen pile. "Merlin says these are called 'forget-me-nots' and if their name is true to form, then you might consider growing some yourself. For your memory." The prince added with a playful lilt, grinning at the pinkness in the maiden's cheeks.
"Ah . . . Th-thank you, sire. May I pass?" She looked up at him inquiringly and he finally yielded, moving out of the way. With one last shy glance at him she was off, at a quicker pace then she'd had been traveling before, he noted.
When Arthur swung his gaze to the gawking Merlin he frowned at him. "What?"
"What did you give her those for? Now I'll be needing to get more." The wizard's own frown was palpable, but tinged with a bit of confusion. "What was that all about anyway? For a moment there I almost thought you were . . ." He trailed off. Flirting, he considered, but didn't say it.
Arthur's brows came together in that near comically consternated way of his. "Thought I was what, Merlin?" When the servant only shrugged, nearly dropping the books in the movement, Arthur glowered at him. "Besides what I say to Guinevere isn't any of your business, since she isn't your girlfriend." His voice had gone to a teasing tone towards the end and he laughed outright at the glare Merlin sent him. "Your little flowers? You can find some in the castle gardens. If anyone says anything just tell them I said it was fine. They won't question you."
Merlin was shocked at the hospitality and he nearly said so, but you should never look a gift horse in the mouth. It soon became apparent why.
"Besides, you could use the jog down there, bulk up those scrawny legs. I intend on having you run for my target practice later." Arthur smirked.
"Oh, I can hardly wait, sire." Merlin snipped back, rolling his eyes as the two resumed their walk. "She likes flowers you know." He added, out of the blue.
The prince looked perplexed. "What?"
"Gwen, she likes flowers a lot, but her favorites are lilies." Merlin smiled at the idea of his fine friend and her hobby of flower picking. He half expected Arthur to rail at him. Say something like 'why would I give a fig about something like that?!' but he didn't.
Instead the prince pressed one long finger against his mouth in contemplation. "White or yellow ones?" He asked, seeming genuinely interested in the answer.
"Ah, white I think." Merlin offered. "Though she'll like the forget-me-nots." He knew he was fishing for a reaction, but Arthur wasn't giving him what he expected. Which was very curious.
"Good, now pick up the pace, the day is not going to get any longer just because you have the walking speed of a snail." Arthur barked.
"Actually, snails don't walk."
"Shut up, Merlin."
The wizard only laughed. There was a mystery to Gwen and Arthur but Merlin had not even the faintest clue how to explain it. At least not yet.