They are cute, they are quite together and now it is time for me to leave this one alone. I feel proud. This was my first epic and I finally got it done.
They had council meetings that included nobles and people of stature, so that the population could be involved as much as possible. Prior to those meetings, the inner circle met to hash out any issues they could see. They didn't always go to the larger meeting agreeing, and they were happy to disagree in public, but some things were best left unsaid.
Morgana stalked round the turret room they used for the personal council meetings, walking in circles around the round table that Arthur had found from somewhere and which they used for these things.
"Do you want to sit My Lady?" Leon asked getting up to hold out a chair for Morgana. She paused walking, one hand rubbing the small of her back the other ran over her belly.
"If I wanted to sit, I'd sit Leon, thank you!"
Knowing went to retreat Leon sat down again. Mordred in the next chair smirked. Arthur looked up from what he was reading, turning his head to stare as his sister's distended belly. It looked very large.
"Are you planning to give birth to an army, or a fully grown person."
"Shut up, Arthur."
"I just wondered how many were in there," he asked as Morgana spun on her heel and walked behind his chair. Merlin, on his right, looked up, holding out his hand as Morgana passed him he said.
"I can hear two heartbeats."
Morgana turned on her heel again, walking back and as she passed Merlin she reached out and smacked his ear.
"Ow!" Merlin howled, jumping in the chair and clamping his hand to his ear. Morgana continued to walk around the table, looking across it to glare at Merlin. The rest of them, Gaius, Leon, Mordred, Arthur, Gwen and Balinor watched her carefully.
"Wicked Step-mother!" Merlin accused her, rubbing his ear.
Morgana paused walking to glare at him. "Stop searching for my babies souls. I know there is two!"
"How big are they?" Arthur asked and then as Morgana circled the table he put a hand over one ear and then the other as she passed him. Her eyes flashed in anger, and she rubbed at her stomach as she moved.
"Perhaps you should try resting a while," Balinor said gently moving to her side, taking her arm as she walked. He took another circuit with her and the tension in her eased since he was the one person she never riled with. He put his own hand on her belly caressed gently. Merlin watched them sadness tingeing the happiness.
"For a while. I may need to get up again soon though," Morgana said.
"We'll keep this brief then," Arthur said shuffling through the papers. "There is nothing much to bring up. There is an improvement in the land in the Western section. Things are starting to grow again; they did question if perhaps using magic to try and improve it would be useful, but all things considered... perhaps not."
"No," Morgana said. "Would it help to send out some more people to work the land. That was the thing, if we put work into it, it seems to respond better."
"No, they have enough there," Leon said. "The Eastern range is doing well, and where we have part of Cenred's land; our land now, which was never affected by magic; we are doing just as well. By the calculations, we can send food across the kingdom to aid the shortfall."
"The less we use magic the better," Balinor said. "We cannot disregard it but it has proven our work to regulate it's use has been fruitful."
"I agree," Arthur said. "We send messages to each area, so we know what we can distribute and how to do it. The only other thing is this, Olaf is trying to hint at a marriage between myself and his daughter Vivian. A direct heir is what the other kingdoms want now."
"Are my children not good enough?" Morgana snapped.
"You will remain heir, I have no intention of getting married and it will pass to your sons, daughters, son, daughter..." Arthur said, looking down at her belly. "We'll work it out. When it comes to Vivian I don't think Camelot will prosper with that vacuous blonde in residence."
"No," Merlin said. "I think one in Camelot is quite enough."
Merlin eyed Arthur with wide-eyed innocence and everyone around the table smirked at the implication. They looked around and then watched Arthur's reaction. For a moment he stayed focused on the letter in front of him, wondering how to phrase a reply politely and also, in no uncertain terms, inform Olaf, he most certainly did not want Vivian in Camelot. All of them watched, smirking as Arthur frowned in concentration and then slowly Merlin's words penetrated through his thoughts. He looked up, glaring at Merlin, who grinned, unrepentant. Arthur put the letter down with a slight thump.
"Do you come to these meetings to contribute usefully, or just make annoying and stupid comments?"
Merlin looked serious for a moment, pretending to debate the question before saying, "the second one."
He leant away as Arthur reached out to try and swat his ear. Merlin giggled. The others laughed, except Morgana, who no one noticed for a moment as she frowned, her face creasing in an expression of mild pain. Her hands went to her belly and she huffed heavily.
From across the table Gwen saw Morgana's movement. Gwen got out of her chair to move to Morgana's side. Balinor pushed his chair back, turning to look at his wife and she leant forward, holding her stomach and gasping. She took a couple of deep breaths then looked up, before she could say anything she winced again.
"I think it's started."
Balinor stood up. Everyone else in the room followed.
"We need to get you to your chambers immediately Morgana," Gaius said.
As Morgana nodded, huffing again, Gwen took her arm to steady her, and Balinor carefully wrapped an arm around her, pulling her close. Leon pulled Morgana's chair out of the way so Balinor had enough space to turn Morgana and slowly start to lead her out of the room. The rest of them trailed behind her, all attention on the pregnant woman. Merlin almost followed and then realised Arthur hadn't moved. Turning he noticed that Arthur still stared at the space that Morgana had vacated, Olaf's letter tearing as he hands clenched around his, he face pale and wearing an expression of dread.
Balinor did not want to be anywhere near Arthur. Merlin understood why. The bond told him that Arthur was wracked with panic. Merlin understood that. Arthur had lost his mother to his own birth, due to magic. It was probably why he much preferred doing things without magic, if he could. Sometimes Merlin saw Arthur start an enchantment and then he would stop and draw away from it. He consciously did it, now he could.
"Will she be all right?" Arthur asked, for what seemed like the thousandth time.
"Yes, Gaius knows what he is doing, so does the midwife."
Merlin might have been rude and tactless in meetings but he did not point out to Arthur that his mother had technically conceived by enchantment. Morgana and Balinor had done no such thing to conceive, they just instead spent a good deal of time together doing enough for her to fall pregnant.
"But what if something goes wrong. Magic isn't balanced."
Merlin had to then bring the subject up.
"They didn't use magic, for Morgana to be pregnant. Arthur, it's fine."
"But things could go wrong. What if I lose her?"
Arthur started to sob. At the other end of the corridor Balinor turned to glare at them. Merlin sent his father an apologetic look. Balinor glared further and moved closer to the door behind which Morgana lay in labour. Merlin held onto Arthur, shushing him a little.
"Why don't we go for a walk? Just a little one."
"I'm not leaving!" Arthur hissed, lifting his head and glaring at Merlin. His face now covered in tears, eyes red and cheeks pale. "What if I need to use magic to save her? I can do that!"
Merlin's eyes widened. "You will not!"
Arthur looked just as wide-eyed at the venom in Merlin's voice.
"You will not, interference like that was what started it all in the first place. Morgana is a strong, healthy woman and does not need that. She'd tell you off just as much I am! Now, get up, we are going to walk down the corridor and back again and you can settle down."
Merlin got to his feet, holding his hand out to help Arthur up. Arthur stared up at him, shock evident on his face, and also looking so like the lost child that Merlin had met when he had entered Arthur's nightmares. But Arthur, after a moment reached up and put his hand in Merlin's. Merlin hoisted him up and turned Arthur so they could walk away for a moment. Arthur held onto Merlin's hand tightly letting Merlin lead him along. Merlin thought a full circuit of the castle's upper corridors would be enough to settle him. His father was probably worried enough about Morgana without Arthur's gloom filled panic. Merlin himself felt a bit concerned but Morgana had been fine and healthy throughout the pregnancy. Such a thing was perfectly normal, women did it all the time.
"She'll be all right, won't she?"
"Perfectly," Merlin said. "And so will the babies. Now come on."
Arthur followed him obediently, his hand tight on Merlin's. Merlin had started to find that, over the last year, as things had settled down. Arthur followed him, listening to Merlin's advice. He took advice from everyone in the inner circle, but Merlin knew he was listened to more than anyone else. If people did want to enforce a point they often brought it up with Merlin first, knowing that Arthur would always listen to Merlin.
There was only so long they could be away but Merlin made sure it took them at least ten minutes to walk round, and they came back. Balinor had been pacing up and down the corridor, but he paused as Merlin and Arthur returned. Arthur stared at the door anxiously, but he said nothing further about his fears.
"Nothing yet?" Merlin asked.
Balinor shook his head, and all three of them jumped out of their skins as, from behind the door, came a loud shout. Merlin thought Arthur was going to break his hand as his fingers clenched, the king not realising his own strength. The sound drew out, most definitely Morgana's voice, the tone sounding as if she was putting all her effort into what she was doing.
Whatever that was appeared to be rewarded, as Morgana's voice ceased another one picked up the refrain as a baby started to cry. Morgana joined in, yelling out again and after a few tense minutes the crying started to double, then slowly it faded away.
The three men outside stayed as still as statues listening to the sounds from behind the door. It seemed like time halted as they remained unmoving. Then the door slowly opened, Gwen peeped out and smiled as she saw them.
"It's two, two girls."
"Are they well?" Balinor asked.
Merlin whimpered and shook his hand to get Arthur to release. Gwen disappeared for a moment before returning with a bundle of material held gently in her arms.
"All fine. Here is your first daughter."
Balinor took the child and held her gently in his arms. Gaius opened the door further, holding another bundle. Arthur didn't move so Merlin went forward and took the other.
"She came out a moment later. They didn't want to be separated for a second."
"Hello," Merlin said tentatively as he looked at the tiny face so deftly wrapped up. "Oh," he added as the baby opened it's mouth, gaping.
"They need their mother," Gaius said sternly taking the baby off Merlin. Gwen reclaimed the child from Balinor.
"Is Morgana all right?" Arthur asked.
"Tired, but well, and happy. Balinor, she wants to see you. You two," Gaius glared at Merlin and Arthur. "Can see her in the morning."
And with that Gaius firmly closed the door on them.
"You don't mind, do you son?"
"What?" Merlin asked.
"Not naming one of the girls after your mother. I want to remember her as she was. Maybe we could have picked different names but, it seemed right."
"Arthur asked me. And you are right, I know my mother, I knew her. I don't want other people having preconceptions. You're right, the names you chose are right. There are bound to be other children, and as long as Arthur doesn't want to name one Uther we will be fine."
"If we ever have a boy," Balinor said. "We will never name him that."
Merlin smiled. "Arthur will agree with you there. If you ever have a son he will take the throne but that won't ever disregard Vivienne and Igraine. Arthur wants them to be equal."
"It will cause controversy."
"I think we are used to that," Merlin said as he straightened his father's cloak. They turned to look at the door opened and Arthur stepped through.
"We have to get in position," he said.
"It's the naming day for Vivienne and Igraine, not a military manoeuvre!" Merlin snapped.
"Merlin! Have you seen Morgana today! It's both!" Arthur snapped back.
"They are the heirs to your throne, you were going to announce that too."
"Yes. Unless you suddenly perform some kind of miracle, I am not having a child of my own."
"You could use a surrogate," Merlin sniped.
Merlin wilted as both Arthur and Balinor yelled at him.
"Sorry," Merlin said.
Arthur turned to Balinor.
"Morgana is waiting for you."
"Thank you, Sire."
"Merlin, what is the matter? I thought Balinor talked to you about the names."
"It's not that Arthur," Merlin announced as Balinor left to wait with his wife and daughters. "I just think what will happen if they disagree, it would be a war."
"Merlin, they are five days old. I will decree that for now, they are written as heirs after Morgana. They will be brought up to do as such, and if Balinor and Morgana have a son, then he will take prominence, but I won't remove them from power. They will work together. We did, and it worked."
"I know, and I'm really bad," Merlin said, rubbing his hands over his face. "I just worry."
"Too much sometimes I think, and you need to get me ready for this. Morgana is feeding the babies so they won't cry during, please tell me that you are not about to do so instead."
"I just feel happy," Merlin said picking up Arthur's crown, feeling his eyes water.
"So do I," Arthur said as Merlin placed the crown on his head and then proceeded to fiddle around.
"I'm making sure it's straight."
"It's on my head! How far wrong can you go?"
"I could place it at a jaunty angle," Merlin warned. Arthur's hands shot up to grab Merlin's wrists.
"No, now stop it. Come on, we have to be ready. They are all waiting for us!"
Merlin muttered under his breath as Arthur dragged him to the double doors. At a nod from the king the attendants threw them open. The hall was packed with people, all of them waiting to see the king name Morgana's children and declare their lineage towards the throne. At the end of the room Morgana stood, holding one of her daughters, Balinor held the other, and Gaius stood to the side, so did Gwen. The throne in the centre stood in line of sight of Arthur and Merlin, sunlight drifting through the windows to light the dais. Arthur looked to the end and the banners he had put around the throne room. Arthur's hand tensed on Merlin's as a unicorn appeared behind the throne, giving a huge snort.
"How did Apples get in there?!" Arthur snapped.
"I don't know, she just does," Merlin said, having long ago given up on trying to fathom the unicorn that refused to leave him. Arthur tightened his grip on Merlin's hand, turning to look at him. Merlin swivelled his head to look at Arthur.
"Are you ready?" Arthur asked.
Merlin responded with a smile. "Yes, we are."