The Changeling

'I think it's time for dinner,' Gwen said.

The sky was darkening early enough that it made it must be winter. Hunith nodded and followed Gwen went into the kitchen to find something to eat for dinner. They came out five minutes later without any food.

'There was a plucked and gutted chicken left out for us,' Gwen said. 'There was note saying it would take an hour and a half to cook.'

Gwen had been lucky that she had been Morgana Pendragon's servant as she often sat in on Morgana's lessons and Morgana was kind enough at that time to take time with her maid to teach her what she knew. Hunith had learnt from Balinor whilst he stayed with her and later taught the skill to her and Balinor's son. This meant unlike most of the poorer classes both women knew how to read the not that was left.

'In a land of myth and a time of magic, the destiny of a great kingdom rests on the shoulders of a young boy. His name: Merlin,' the dragon repeats once again.

In a castle a Sidhe enters the nursery where a baby sleeps peacefully in a cradle.

'That's not Camelot?' frowned Arthur. 'It looks familiar but not any room I've been.'

'Elena,' groaned Merlin.

'Elena?' asked Arthur surprised.

'You'll see,' Merlin replied.

'I hope you don't get into any trouble this time,' begged Hunith.

'Not me,' Merlin grinned at Gaius.

Gaius flushed, 'the things I do for this kingdom.'

'Attrab i n-ingin-seo ocus oentaig lé!' enchanted the sidhe.

'What have they done to the baby?' demanded Hunith.

'She's fine,' Merlin assured his mother.

The baby's face glows blue and she wakes and begins crying.

'She doesn't look fine,' Hunith said.

'Eventually,' Merlin muttered.

Many years later Princess Elena walks about barefoot, picks her teeth, farts, and chews an apple with her mouth open. She comes down drawbridge and greets her father with a kiss.

'Oh, come on, we're going to be late!' the noble says.

'Not if you get rid of that thing,' Elena replied pointing at the carriage.

'I want you to arrive like the princess you are,' the king said.

'Some princess,' grinned Gwaine.

'It wasn't her fault,' Gaius said gently.

'She was the baby,' realised Arthur.

'It's no fun in there,' complained Elena.

Gwen snorted, 'she sounds like a less refined Morgana.'

'Fun?' demanded the woman. 'Who said anything about fun? Certainly no fun chasing after you. I tried, sir,' assured the woman.

Merlin began snickering as Gaius flushed red.

'I'm sure you did, Grunhilda,' the king replied.

Grunhilda places shoes in front of Elena and Elena's jaw drops.

'Go on then,' Grunhilda says.

Lord Godwyn nods to the shoes.

'Ugh,'Elena squeezes her feet into the shoes painfully.

'She doesn't like shoes?' asked Percival raised eyebrows.

'She was being possessed by a sidhe,' pointed out Gaius.

'Perfect, Grunhilda said.

'Perfect for what? Certainly not for walking in,' Elena grimaced.

'Better than getting your foot cut on sharp rocks and stones,' Hunith scolded gently.

'Elena,' Grunhilda reprimanded.

Uther, Arthur, and Merlin approach the dais in the throne room.

'Arthur. It is an exciting day,' Uther said.

'The arrival of Lord Godwyn is always a cause for celebration,' Arthur replied.

'How is it that Godwyn is only a lord but Elena is a princess?' asked Merlin with a frown.

'Her mother was King Lot's sister,' explained Arthur.

'And Princess Elena,' added in Uther.

'Yes,' agreed Arthur seeming not to care.

'I hear she's something of a beauty,' Uther commented.

Gwaine snorted, 'not my type.'

'Really?' asked Arthur not sounding very enthusiastic.

'Oh, yes. Beautiful, charming, witty. Strategic,' Uther said.

'Strange way to describe a potential bride,' commented Hunith.

Arthur snorted, 'he means a strategic marriage.'

'Strategic?' asked Arthur nonplussed.

'I have always thought so. W-we have always thought so. That is, Lord Godwyn and myself. That is, he finds you strategic, not Princess Elena,' Uther said.

'He finds me strategic?' asked Arthur.

'Oh, yes,' Uther replied.

'And beautiful?' asked Arthur.

The whole room bar Arthur burst into laughter at this comment.

The throne Room doors open as Godwyn, Elena, and Grunhilda enter.

'Father, what are you trying to say?' asked Arthur.

'Lord Godwyn is a serious ally. The strength of such a match cannot be underestimated,' Uther replied.

'Please tell me you mean a jousting match,' Arthur said finally understanding what the king was hinting at.

'I mean a love match,' Uther replied.

'Love?!' Arthur didn't sound happy about this.

Merlin snorted, 'if that's love then I'm a goblin.'

'No that's Gaius,' laughed Gwaine.

'Not love. Love has nothing to do with it, but the other bit. You know, a permanent union,' Uther suggested.

'Marriage?!' Arthur asked shock.

'I knew you would understand,' Uther said.

'Hardly,' Arthur muttered darkly.

'Godwyn!'Uther and Godwyn hug.

'Oh, it's been too long,' Godwyn said.

'Princess Elena, you are most welcome,' Uther greets.

Elena walks forward and falls flat on her face. Arthur looks at the blonde girl incredulously.

In the palace corridor Arthur and Gwen walk down the corridor, followed by Merlin with the bags.

'You put them in the best guest quarters?' Arthur asked Gwen.

'Everything's arranged. Princess Elena can't fail to be impressed,' Gwen assured her future husband.

'And Merlin, it would be good if the bags were to arrive before they did,' Arthur ordered.

Merlin pushes past.

'What is it, Arthur?' asked Gwen. 'You seem troubled.'

'My, er, my father had some surprising news for me. He expects me to marry Princess Elena,' Arthur revealed.

'Marry?' Gwen asked sounding surprised/

'Oh, don't worry, I'm not going to,' Arthur assured her.

'I wasn't worried,' Gwen said quickly.

'Of course not,' snorted Elyan.

'No. No, why would you be?' agreed Arthur.

Merlin snorted, 'you two are hopeless.'

In Arthur's chambers Arthur prepares for bed.

'It's strange, isn't it? Elena couldn't be more different to Lord Godwyn,' Arthur said.

'She is being possessed,' reminded Merlin.

'Yeah. Perhaps she takes after her mother,' suggested Merlin.

'Or the sidhe,' Merlin said grimly.

'I never met her. She died when Elena was born,' Arthur said.

'That can't've been easy. Perhaps you've more in common than you think,' suggested Merlin. 'Augh, bad breath for example.'

'Excuse me?' Arthur asked insulted.

'Appalling table manners,' Merlin went on.

'Er, now, hang on a minute,' Arthur was becoming annoyed.

'Good sense of humour. No, no, you're right, you've nothing in common,' Merlin finished.

Gwaine, Lancelot and Percival snorted at this.

'How do you know Elena has a good sense of humour?' asked Arthur.

'She came in with her father just as I was leaving her things,' Merlin replied.

Arthur tosses pillow at Merlin. Merlin ducks and the pillow lands at Uther's feet as he enters.

'A word. Alone,' Uther said pointedly at the warlock.

Merlin nods, picks up the pillow and leaves.

'I need to talk to you about Elena. I realise that this is a delicate situation,' Uther said.

'That's one word for it,' Hunith shook her head.

'There's nothing delicate about it,' Arthur said.

'Lord Godwyn, as you know, is not only a very good friend of mine, but a longstanding ally of Camelot,' Uther said.

'And will continue to be despite his daughter's relationship with Arthur,' Merlin said.

'I have nothing against Lord Godwyn. I've nothing against Elena. Except marriage,' Arthur said.

'When we talk about your future, Arthur, we're not just talking about your happiness, but the safety and security of the whole of Camelot. You may one day be a husband, but more importantly, you will one day be King,' Uther said.

'But I have no feelings for her whatsoever,' Arthur said.

'Then I would encourage you find some,' Uther said.

Hunith shook her head, 'that's not what marriage should be about,' she sighed clearly think of Balinor.

In Elena's chambers Elena wails in her sleep.

'There, there, my sweet. Soon all this will pass,' Grunhilda reassures the sidhe in Elena.

Grunhilda pulls out pixie dust and sprinkles it on Elena's face, revealing the Sidhe within.

That night Grunhilda heads to forest lake and announces herself.

'A shruith inn Side, is Grunilda messe!' Grunhilda shouts.

'She's a witch?' Arthur scowled.

'There's nothing wrong with being a sorceress,' Merlin frowned, 'depending what you use your powers for.'

'I know,' Arthur rolled his eyes. 'But there is yet another evil sorcerer in my city!'

'She's not a sorceress,' Merlin said.

Arthur groaned, 'a sidhe?'

'Nope,' Merlin grinned. 'She's no sidhe is she Gaius?'

The Sidhe appear and Grunhilda takes her true form.

'I sincerely hope you bring me good news,' the sidhe elder states.

'The fathers are committed to the match,' Grunhilda replies.

'Just not the children,' Arthur muttered.

'We have waited many years for this moment,' the sidhe elder.

'They wanted us to marry too?' asked Arthur.

'Having a sidhe on the throne of Camelot would mean they were free to manipulate the coming events,' Gaius said grimly.

'They knew?' asked Arthur.

'All magical societies do,' Gaius said, 'whether they recognise that the time of prophecy has come or not it depends.'

'It's only a matter of time, your esteemed majesty. You have been most patient, your esteemed majesty,' Grunhilda grovelled.

'And the girl?' asked the Sidhe elder.

'She has no idea that a fairy lives inside her just waiting emerge,' Grunhilda replied.

'Sidhe,' grumbled Merlin.

'But that cannot happen until her marriage to Arthur is complete,' the sidhe elder said.

'It's like father and the troll all over again,' muttered Arthur darkly.

'And it will be soon, I promise. Then you will have what you most desire, one of your own at the heart of Camelot. A Sidhe for queen,' Grunhilda said.

'Is Elena still a Sidhe?' asked Arthur.

'You said it yourself,' Merlin replied, 'that there was something different about Elena.'

'I take it you two got rid of the pixie?' asked Arthur.

'Of course,' Merlin said simply.

In the main square of the king's palace Arthur prepares to go out riding. Elena approaches her horse.

'Here, let me assist you,' Arthur tries.

'Oh, please, this is something I can actually do,' Elena said.

Elena mounts and nudges her horse into a run. Merlin and Arthur watch her take off until Arthur realises he should follow. Arthur mounts his horse and takes off after her, catching up to her in the woods.

'Slow down!' Arthur shouts

'No chance!' Elena called back.

Arthur smiles.

'Horses is something you can understand,' Leon said.

'She reminded me of a less manipulative, and graceful Morgana,' Arthur said, 'before she went evil,' Arthur added.

In the forest by a stream Arthur dismounts where Elena has dismounted by a stream.

'That was very impressive. I'm not easily impressed,' Arthur said.

'Your telling me,' Merlin agreed with the princess.

'Oh. Well, neither am I. And I wasn't!' Elena responded.

'Oh I like this girl,' laughed Merlin.

Elena laughs, snorts, and punches him in the arm. Then there is an awkward silence.

'Why so awkward?' asked Merlin. 'Isn't that how you act with your knights?'

'Yes,' Gwaine rolled his eyes.

'But she's a girl,' Arthur complained, 'and I was expected to marry her,' Arthur said quickly spotting the way Gwen was looking at him.

'I've been riding since I was a child. I don't get to do it as much as I'd like, princesses don't,

'Definitely Morgana,' Gwen shook her head sadly grieving for the young idealistic woman who Morgana had been.

but apparently my mother was an excellent horsewoman. I never met her,' Elena said softly.

'I never met mine either. I...often wonder if I'm like her. I hope I don't take after my father entirely,' Arthur said.

'You don't,' Merlin said sharply.

'Your one of the few people, who sees that as a compliment,' Arthur said softly.

'Not really,' Merlin said, 'and I don't just mean those with magic. Uther was a harsh, unforgiving ruler who didn't inspire trust.'

'Merlin's right, Arthur, the people love you in a way they never could Uther,' Gwen said.

'I would never serve under Uther,' Gwaine said.

'When I realised that you would risk your own life to protect a serving girl and her brother I realised that it was time to return to Camelot,' Elyan said. 'I left after my mother died and I hadn't planned on returning especially after news of father's execution reached me.'

'Oh, you don't!' Elena said surely. 'I don't mean that in, in a bad way.'

Arthur laughs awkwardly, 'er...so, the real reason why you beat me here is because I stopped to smell the roses,' Arthur pulls out a large pink rose.

'Aww, thank you. It, it, it's beautiful,' Elena sniffs the rose and sneezes on Arthur. He smiles/grimaces awkwardly.

'Lovely,' Gwaine laughs, 'you've picked a winner there.'

Arthur grimaces, 'I didn't pick her and I didn't end up with her.'

Then Merlin arrives much to the relief of the young prince.

'I don't think I've ever seen you so relieved to see me,' Merlin said.

'Shall I set up here?' asked Merlin.

'Merlin! What kept you?' demanded Arthur. 'Do not leave me again,' he said in an undertone.

'You were riding so fast. I thought you were eager for some,' Merlin said and then whispered, 'time alone.'

'How did you know?' asked Gwen.

'It was kind of obvious,' shrugged Merlin.

'Nobody likes a clever clogs, Merlin,' Arthur said.

'Are you calling me clever?' grinned Merlin.

Merlin shakes his head, 'no.'

Back in the main square of the palace Arthur and Elena return to the castle and dismount.

'Thank you. I had a lovely time,' Elena says.

'Me too,' Arthur replies.

Elena hugs him awkwardly, 'see you soon I expect.'

'I hope so,' Arthur said.

Elena walks up the stairs and trips. Arthur jerks forward for a moment to help her. Elena smiles sheepishly before tromping up the steps.

'Oh dear,' Merlin said.

'For once, Merlin, I completely agree,' Arthur agreed.

'Arthur agreeing with Merlin it must be the end of the world,' laughs Gwaine.

That night in the Banquet hall Arthur stands behind his chair and waits for Elena to be seated before sitting down at the feast.

'It's a big occasion. The total joining of our two families,' Lord Godwyn says.

'Indeed, this union would cement what has long been an unofficial alliance between our kingdoms,' agrees Uther.

'It would give me great pleasure. I can assure you, my heart lies with yours. As for their hearts, who can say?' sighed Godwyn.

'Not Arthur's,' Merlin grinned.

'No matter. The affairs of state take precedence over feelings. Arthur knows that. I'm sure Elena does too,' Uther said.

Grunhilda sits next to Gaius.

Merlin snickers and Gaius looks more than a little bit awkward. The rest of the table look between the two magic users confused. Merlin had kept snickering at Grunhilda and Gaius had continually looked embarrassed but no one knew why.

'May I? You've been avoiding my gaze,' Grunhilda said.

'No, no. Er...my gaze isn't as sharp as it used to be,' Gaius said quickly.

'That's why I thought I'd move a bit closer. All the better to appreciate me, eh?' the pixie laughs.

'Gaius,' laughs Gwaine. 'I think the pixie has a thing for you.'

'Oh she does,' Merlin grinned.

Gaius laughs uncomfortably, 'are you having a good evening?'

'I intend to. Oh, yeah. A very good evening, indeed,' Grunhilda replies suggestively.

'Urgh,' grimaces Merlin.

'She's certainly very … forward,' Gwen said.

Elena finds food down her dress, picks it out and eats it as Morgana, Arthur, and Gwen look on.

'Interesting queen,' Lancelot said.

Elena starts hiccupping, 'Oh dear. I seem to have, erm...had a little too much … hic … of what is in that glass ... hic … What, erm...what is in that glass?' Elena hiccups again.

Gwen and Arthur share a worried look and Gwen squeezes his shoulder as she leaves.

In Elena's guest chambers Grunhilda brushes Elena's hair before bed.

'I think that went okay, don't you?' asked Elena.

Arthur snorts, 'that's one word for it.'

'Oh, you'll be just fine, Petal,' Grunhilda consoles the young sidhe.

'I mean, I suppose it could've gone better. I'm not the perfect princess, am I?' asked Elena.

'Not her fault,' Gwen said.

'Poppycock. And what does that mean, anyway, "Perfect princess"? Sounds perfectly boring,' the pixie told the child.

'I can see where she gets it,' Merlin said amused.

'You've got spirit, child,' Grunhilda tells the princess.

'Spirit?' asked Arthur raising his eyebrows.

'If Arthur's got half a brain, he'll recognise that. And if he doesn't have a brain, well, you can always him for his brawn,' Grunhilda laughs.

Arthur grimaced at that idea, 'urgh.'

'I want to make this work for Father's sake. I know how important it is to him, and I respect his judgment. Don't tell him I said that,' Elena said quickly.

'I wouldn't dream of it. And you'd be best keep your doubts to yourself. These are dangerous times. Marrying a Pendragon will secure your future,' she tells her ward.

'Or yours,' muttered Arthur darkly.

'You're right,' agrees Elena.

'Here. This'll cheer you up!' Grunhilda says.

'Please no more drink,' begged Arthur.

Grunhilda presents Elena a box with a frog inside.

'Our little secret!' Grunhilda says.

Elena eats the live frog.

'That is disgusting,' Gwen grimaces.

'Sidhe have different diets from us,' explained Gaius.

'You're very special. Believe me, I know,' Grunhilda assures the girl.

The next day in the forest Merlin sees Grunhilda walking off while he's gathering herbs.

'Why did you follow her?' asked Arthur.

'She had no reason to be out in the forest,' Merlin said, 'I thought she might be up to no good as she was.'

He follows her and uses magic to slow time so he can see her catching flies with her frog tongue.

'I take it that pixie have a different diet too,' Gwaine said.

'No we regularly eat flies,' Merlin replied.

Merlin drops the herbs and runs away.

In the physician's chambers Merlin and Gaius are talking.

'I've seen some strange tongues in my time. Maybe she was suffering from an infection. Was it discoloured?' asked Gaius.

Arthur snorted, 'that's putting it mildly Gaius.'

'Discoloured?' asked Merlin. 'Yes.'

'Brown?' asked Gaius.

'That tongue wasn't brown,' Arthur said.

'Purple. And...long. Like...' Merlin glances around looking for something to demonstrate his point with and picks up large stick from the table, '...this long.'

'That's not an infection,' Gaius said.

'You don't say,' Arthur said dryly.

'No. It's magic. Some sort of magical creature has infiltrated Lord Godwyn's household. The question is: why?' Merlin questioned.

'I don't know. But I have a feeling we should probably find out,' Gaius said.

'Really, Gaius?' Gwen shook her head, 'it was just a little bit important after all a sidhe could have been queen of Camelot.'

'I know,' Gaius said.

Gaius snoops around outside Elena's chamber and discovers Grunhilda's pixie dust. Then Grunhilda enters.

Hunith groaned, 'Gaius, if it's not Merlin it's you in trouble.'

'Can I help you?' asked Grunhilda.

'I, erm...' Gaius trails off.

'Something you need, perhaps?' asked Grunhilda.

'I wanted to inquire whether Princess Elena would like a perfume concocting. Essence of lavender, perhaps?' asked Gaius.

'Gaius,' Merlin said, 'since when were you an apothecary owner.;

'That is a very bad excuse,' Grunhilda said.

'Yeah, well this is Gaius who repeatedly tells Arthur that I'm in the tavern when ever something turns up,' Merlin said. 'And he says I'm a bad liar.'

'Really?' asked Gaius.

'You don't fool me for one minute. You were looking for me,' Grunhilda said.

'I was?' Gaius says in surprise.

'I understand. It's alright,' Grunhilda said.

'I think probably I should be going,' Gaius said quickly.

'You wish,' snickers Merlin.

'Elena won't be back for ages. Why don't we make sweet perfume together?' suggested Grunhilda.

Merlin gags, 'she did not just say that.'

Later when Gaius has managed to escape Grunhilda's clutches the two of them are discussing the pixie dust.

'Pixie dust?' asked Merlin.

'There's no mistaking it. Grunhilda is a pixie. It would explain a thing or two. Pixies have one weakness, which is for...more...distinguished gentlemen,' Gaius said awkwardly.

'Distinguished, Uncle, really?' asked Hunith amused.

'What are you trying to say?' demanded Merlin.

'Grunhilda has shown a certain interest toward me,' Gaius said embarassed.

'She likes you?' asked Merlin shocked.

'No need to sound so shocked,' Gaius said.

Gaius nods.

'Oh, that is disgusting. Imagine...imagine if she kissed you. Ugh,' grimaced Merlin.

'What would she do with the tongue?' asked Gwaine.

'I don't want to know,' Gwen grimaced.

'Merlin! Pixies are the servants of the Sidhe. To them Elena could be very valuable. I think Elena may be a changeling,' Gaius said grimly.

'Changeling?' asked Merlin.

'Inhabited by a fairy at birth. It would explain the clumsiness,' Gaius explained.

'And Elena has no idea this thing's inside of her?' asked Merlin.

Gaius shakes his head, 'and when the time comes, it will possess her entirely.'

'That's horrible,' Gwen grimaced.

'I know,' agreed Merlin.

'And I was expected to marry her,' grumbled Arthur. 'Why didn't you tell me?' asked Arthur. 'I could have got out of marrying her.'

'We aren't nobles,' Merlin said, 'Elena's a princess we couldn't accuse her of being a sidhe without any proof. Plus I wanted you to get out of the marriage to Elena because you realised that an arranged marriage was not the way to a strong kingdom not because there was an excuse!'

'You think that time is now?' asked Merlin.

'The Sidhe live for more than a thousand years. They're a patient people. It may be that they have created this changeling knowing that Lord Godwyn and the House of Pendragon would one day seek unity through marriage. That would give the Sidhe something they want more than anything,' Gaius said grimly.

'A Sidhe queen,' Merlin said.

That night Gwen serves the Pendragons at dinner.

'Father, there is a delicate matter I wish to discuss with you,' Arthur said.

'Your proposal. Excellent! We must make a fuss. Women like that kind of thing, isn't that right, Morgana?' Uther asked.

'Men,' Gwen shook her head. 'You are hopeless.'

'Oi!' Merlin said insulted.

Morgana laughs, 'I have no idea. I'm delighted to hear the news, though.'

'I couldn't be more thrilled,' Uther said.

'She's a wonderful woman,' Morgana smiled falsely.

'She'll make a wonderful wife,' Uther assured his son.

'No, she won't. Not for me, anyway. Father, I have tried to get to know Elena, but the truth is, I have no feelings for her. I'm, I'm sure she's a wonderful person, but I cannot marry someone I don't love,' Arthur said.

'And I won't,' Arthur said looking at Gwen causing Lancelot to flinch and Elyan to look away embarrassed.

'You can, and you will,' Uther said sharply.

Arthur looks up at Gwen who is pouring him a drink. Gwen looks away, upset that the man she loves is being forced into marriage. Morgana catches the exchange and watches the two of them suspiciously.

'That's how she found out,' murmured Merlin.

In Elena's guest chambers Merlin spies on Princess Elena as she wails in her sleep.

'Be glad no one caught you,' Arthur said grimly. 'I'm not sure who would be worse my father of Lord Godwyn.'

'Almost as bad as Arthur and Catrina,' Merlin said causing Arthur to grimace.

'Honestly Merlin if I didn't know better I'd say you were a peeping Tom,' Gwaine said.

Grunhilda sprinkles pixie dust on her face and the Sidhe appears. Merlin knocks over the table he's standing on. Grunhilda sees Merlin as he runs off.

In the physician's chamber Merlin and Gaius are talking.

'You were right. Poor girl, no wonder she's got a wind problem. You should see what she's got trapped inside her. We have to tell the King,' Merlin said.

'It won't do any good,' sighed Arthur. 'Father would never listen to the words of commoners over a princess.'

'Merlin, Lord Godwyn is one of Uther's dearest friends. Accusing him of having a Sidhe for a daughter and a pixie for a nurse is not something that can be undertaken lightly,' Gaius warned.

'But Uther wants Arthur to marry her,' Merlin said warily.

Arthur grimaced, 'wish you had come to me with evidence and I could have said I found out by myself and got out of the marriage.'

'You got out of the marriage on your own though,' Lancelot said in a voice empty of any emotion.

'Then we don't have much time. We have to find a spell that will force the fairy out of her,' Gaius said.

'So that's why she changed so much,' muttered Arthur.

'I don't know anything about Sidhe magic,' Merlin said.

'Then it's time we learned, 'Gaius says and hands Merlin a book.

The next day in Morgana's chambers Morgana watches Merlin and Arthur in the Square. She smirks when Gwen come in to make the bed.

'I wouldn't like to be in Arthur's shoes,' Morgana says.

'What do you mean?' asked Gwen.

'Forced to marry someone against his will,' Morgana replied.

'I don't think he'll marry her if he feels that way,' Gwen said.

'I know it's hard to believe, but he may not have a choice. Even if it isn't what he wants. Even if his heart belongs to another? Even if she feels the same way. Gwen, we've known each other for too long, I can see it in your eyes. You like him, don't you?' Morgana said.

Arthur groaned, 'now she has that over us.'

'No,' Gwen denied. 'Don't be silly.'

'And he likes you,' Morgana pushed.

'It can never come to anything,' Gwen sighed.

'I'd like to think it was possible. But Arthur can't change 200 years of history no matter how much he may want to,' Morgana said gently.

'Yes he can,' Merlin said.

'I know,' Gwen sighed and leaves a smirking Morgana behind.

In the physician's chamber Merlin and Gaius read through large books.]

'I think my brain is going to burst, and my eyes just pop out of their sockets,' Merlin said.

'Now, don't make a mess over this one,' Gaius said.

'Why? Is it any more useful than any of the others?' asked Merlin.

'It's the last one we looked at, and by the ancient law of Sod, it must provide the answer,' Gaius said.

Hunith shook her head, 'Sod's law really, uncle?'

'What?' asked Merlin confused.

'There is this potion, created long ago by the witches of Marador, which if I am right, will force the fairy out of the girl,' Gaius sighed. 'I've no idea how to make it. I've no idea what a lot of these ingredients are.'

Merlin sighs.

In Arthur's chambers Arthur opens his door to find Gwen standing there.

'Guinevere,' Arthur says surprised.

'I'm sorry. I know I shouldn't just turn up like this,' Gwen said.

'I honestly don't think Arthur minds,' Leon said.

Arthur walks to the window as Gwen enters.

'Everyone's talking about your marriage to Elena. I know you said that it isn't what you wanted, but I also know that you can't always have what you want. I know that very well,' Gwen said softly.

'Is what I want really that insane?' asked Arthur.

'Yes, Arthur. From anyone's perspective, apart from yours and mine, it's completely insane,' Gwen said sadly.

'Not mine,' Merlin said. 'You two love each other that's all that matters at the end of the day.'

'Then I'm happy being insane. Surely it's better than being miserable,' Arthur said.

'I don't think she will make you miserable. She has a good heart,' Gwen said.

'Even if she is possessed by a pixie,' muttered Merlin.

'As do you,' Arthur said.

'We both know it can't be,' Gwen said.

'But if I do it. If I marry her, what will you do?' asked Arthur.

'I will watch you grow into the King that Camelot deserves. It is as it should be,' Gwen said.

'Not without you as queen,' Merlin said stubbornly.

That day in the council meets.

'Please tell me you fixed the potion, I have a very bad feeling about this,' Merlin said.

'As did I,' agreed Gaius.

'Witches of Marador are the worst recipe writers I've known,' Gaius replied.

'Gaius!' hissed Merlin.

'I'm working on it. But we need to find the stamen of the Dropwort flower. They're rarer than a four leaf clover,' Gaius sighed.

Grunhilda pushes Elena down the aisle towards the throne where Arthur is waiting.

'I am honoured to be standing before you today in the presence of our dear friend, Lord Godwyn, and his wonderful daughter, Elena. The people of this kingdom are very dear to me. This place is my life. I hope one day to continue the good work of my father, and to make Camelot a place of peace and happiness,' Arthur said.

'For all the people of Camelot?' asked Merlin.

'For them all,' Arthur agreed.

The court applauds Arthur's speech.

'It is my sincerest hope that you, Princess Elena, share these dreams. With this in mind...'Arthur goes down on one knee, 'I would like to ask you to do me the honour of being my...wife.'

That night in the physician's chambers Gaius brews a potion as Merlin enters.

'I got it!'Merlin holds up a flower.

'The Dropwort flower?' asks Leon.

'Indeed,' agreed Gaius.

'Grown in boggy and marshy terrain?' asked Gaius.

'In the middle of boggy, marshy terrain. Right in the middle,' Merlin said as it is shown that Merlin is covered in mud.

'You did a good job. This'll sort things out. Hopefully before tomorrow's wedding,' Gaius said.

'Will it hurt her when the fairy leaves?' asked Merlin.

'I hope not,' Gwen said.

'Nah, didn't you see how much more … together she was when she left?' merlin asked.

Arthur nodded, 'yeah she was.'

'She'll feel like a new person. She probably doesn't realise how much trouble it's been causing her,' Gaius said.

That night in the forest Grunhilda once again seeks an audience with the Sidhe Elder at the Lake of Avalon.

'Oh, master, I am sorry, but I fear we may have a problem. I may be wrong, but you know how things are,' Grunhilda said.

'Out with it!' ordered the Elder.

'The serving boy, Merlin, knows Elena is a changeling,' Grunhilda said.

'Did they know who you were?' asked Arthur.

'They know the prophecies and those who are empaths or telepaths like Mordred can recognise me on sight,' Merlin explained.

'So? What can a serving boy do?' demanded the sidhe elder.

'You'd be surprised,' Lancelot said knowing Merlin better than most.

'He is Arthur's serving boy, and you won't expect he will stay quiet for long,' Grunhilda explained.

'Do you know how long I have waited for this moment?' demanded the elder.

'Yes, Sire! And I have been there with you every second of the way,' Grunhilda agreed.

'You have been there because we have chosen to keep you there! If the changeling is discovered, you will not be so useful anymore,' warned the elder.

'No, Sire,' Grunhilda said.

'As to this Merlin, soon he will regret the day I ever heard his name. Let him learn who he's angered. Let him feel the power of the mighty Sidhe!' warned the sidhe elder.

'And you'll feel the power of the mighty Emrys!' Gwaine grinned.

'Gwaine shut up,' Arthur snapped.

'Yes, sir, princess,' Gwaine grinned.

That night in Merlin's chambers the Sidhe Elder enters while Merlin's asleep. Merlin wakes before the Sidhe Elder attacks him. Merlin pulls out the Tír-Mòr staff and destroys the Sidhe Elder.

'Where you expecting him?' asked Arthur.

'No, I was unaware that Grunhilda knew that I knew but the magic of a sidhe is one I recognise,' Merlin said, 'and I reacted instinctively.'

The bottle of anti-changeling potion is broken in the process.

'Please tell me that wasn't all of it,' merlin groaned.

On the morning of the wedding, Elena lies in bed, belching.

'Lovely,' grimaced Gwen.

'It's not her fault,' Hunith said gently.

'I know,' Gwen agreed.

'I don't think I've ever been so happy. I'm almost as excited as if it was my wedding day. In fact, given half a chance, I'd definitely marry him myself,' Grunhilda said.

'Not my type,' grimaced Arthur.

'Especially as she'd probably kill you and Uther and take your throne,' Gaius said.

'Maybe that's not such a bad idea,' Elena said.

'Or not,' Arthur said.

'What?' asked Grunhilda.

'I'm serious. I don't love him,' Elena said.

'Neither does he,' Merlin grinned, 'Gwen is the only girl for him.'

'Merlin,' began Arthur.

'Shut up,' Merlin completed.

'He doesn't understand me. He certainly doesn't love me either,' Elena finished.

'He respects you,' Grunhilda said.

Arthur nodded, 'that's true she's a brilliant rider and strategist reminds me of Morgana before...'

'Yes, and I him. But is that enough?' asked Elena.

'Most noble marriages are based on less,' Arthur said grimly.

'Well, yes, definitely. I, I would say it was enough. I mean, what is love anyway? Here today and gone tomorrow. Respect, that's what lasts. Aw, it's just nerves. Understandable, but not to be listened to. Silly girl,' Grunhilda said.

In the physician's chambers Gaius finishes remaking the anti-changeling potion.

'That's it?' asked merlin.

Gaius nods.

Merlin sighs, 'thank goodness for that.'

'Well, there's one more thing. How are we going to get Elena to drink this with Grunhilda around?' asked Gaius.

Gaius scowled and Merlin burst out laughing.

'I think I might know a way,' Merlin said.

Grunhilda is in Elena's guest chambers when Gaius knocks on the door.

'Well, hello there,' Grunhilda seemed very happy to see him.

'Hello, indeed. I wonder, could you spare me a moment?' asked Gaius

'But of course,' Grunhilda said.

'Er, not here. Alone. The vaults beneath Camelot,' Gaius suggested.

'The vaults?' asked Grunhilda.

'It's a very private place,' Gaius said suggestively.

'I can't walk in these shoes,' complained Elena.

'I have a wedding to prepare,' Grunhilda said.

'No one will disturb us. There may not be another opportunity,' warned Gaius.

'You surprise me, Gaius. But, oh, what a lovely surprise! I'll be right there,' Grunhilda said.

Down in the vaults Merlin and Gaius wait.

'You look very handsome. Perfect bait,' Merlin said.

'You're enjoying this,' accused Lancelot trying hard not to sound amused.

'Of course,' Merlin said.

'Merlin, if this doesn't work, if it seems she is overpowering me,' Gaius said.

'I will just watch and wait,' Merlin replied.

'And laugh,' Merlin said.

'Merlin,' Gwen shook her head repressing her laughter.

'I'm kidding of course I'd save you,' Merlin said eyes twinkling.

'You will rescue me. And if it does work, let us never speak of it again,' Gaius said.

'Until today,' Merlin said.

'Hello my lover! Oh, what a romantic place. I've been dreaming of this moment,' Grunhilda said.

'I have nightmares of that moment,' Gaius muttered.

'Me too,' Gaius lied.

'Longing for this time,' Grunhilda continued.

'They only met two days ago,' Percival pointed out.

'Longing,' Gaius lied.

'At last, we two will be as one,' Grunhilda said.

Grunhilda puckers her lips. Gaius runs out and Merlin magically locks the gate.

'I've never you seen you so scared,' Gwen said.

'Ne un clyse,' Merlin said.

Grunhilda lashes out her frog tongue and licks Gaius.

'Urgh,' Gwaine grimaced, 'I wouldn't want that to kiss me.'

'You'll never know what you've missed,' Grunhilda warns.

'I don't want to know,' Gaius muttered.

'I'll take your word for it,' Gaius said.

'Atot-oilg, a chomlae!'Grunhilda fails to magically unlock the gate.

'Why can't she unlock the gate?' asked Arthur.

'I put a locking spell on the gate,' explained Merlin. 'As long as the gate exists it cannot be opened by anyone more powerful than I.'

'That could be useful,' muttered Arthur thinking about how many of Camelot's enemies escaped prison.

In the corridor Merlin seems amused.

'Never speak of it, Merlin. That's what we agreed,' Gaius said.

'Ar-focraim uait, asndot-roilce!' Grunhilda tries to escape again.

Uther greets guests at the wedding, 'welcome, welcome, welcome. It's good to have you here.'

'Lasa n-uile fil ocum ar-focraim atot-oilg!'Grunhilda blasts the gate off its hinges.

'Ah damn,' Arthur said. 'I don't suppose you could make breaking out impossible.'

'With the correct wards yes but I'd have to research the right ward that would allow the guards to take them out of the cell,' Merlin said.

Merlin and Gaius are outside Elena's chambers. Merlin has his staff on hand.

'You got your staff. When the Sidhe is released, it might not be very happy,' warned Gaius.

'It wasn't,' agreed Merlin.

'Don't worry, I'll be ready for it,' Merlin said.

'You better be ready for me first!' Grunhilda said.

Merlin hits Grunhilda with staff energy beam, but she gets up.

'Why didn't it work?' asked Gwaine.

'It's a sidhe staff,' Merlin explained. 'Although it can harm and kill other species it takes more power than I was using to do so.'

'I'll see how long I can hold her off, you better be quick,' Merlin warned.

Gaius enters Elena's chambers.

'Grunhilda?' asksElena peeking around the curtain of her bed.

'It's only me,' replied Gaius.

'Where has she gone? I'm getting married in less than an hour,' Elena said.

'Or not,' Merlin muttered.

Elena hears electric popping noises and screams in the corridor.

'What was that?' asked Elena.

'Your nursemaid being killed by your fiancé's manservant,' Percival said perfectly straight faced.

'Er...preparation for the wedding,' Gaius said.

'What kind of weddings have you been to, uncle?' asked Hunith.

'Everybody's very excited. But you must be nervous,' Gaius said.

'I'm a little flustered,' admitted Elena.

'Only to be expected, and just as I thought. I brought you a tonic to calm your nerves,' Gaius said.

'You are very kind,' Elena says and opens the bottle and takes a tiny sip.

'I cannot believe this is actually my wedding day,' Elena said.

'Best to drink it all for the full effect,' Gaius suggested.

'Oh,' Elena said taking another tiny sip.

'I really wish my mother was here,' Elena said.

'Try another sip,' Gaius sits down next to her.

Merlin finally kills the pixie with a huge blast of energy.

'I see what you mean taking more power to kill a non-sidhe,' whistle Gwaine.

Grunhilda turns into dust. Merlin charges into Elena's room ready to fight the Sidhe. He gives Gaius a look when he realised Elena hadn't drugged her yet.

'I'm trying,' Gaius whispers.

'Elena, this is gonna make you feel a whole lot better!' Merlin said.

Merlin takes the bottle, pinches Elena's nose, and pours the potion into her mouth. Elena passes out and writhes while the Sidhe is forced out. Merlin kills it with the staff energy. Elena wakes and sits up primly.

'Not to worry, my dear. I think you must've fainted. Such excitement!' Gaius said.

'Fainted? I feel...amazing. I haven't felt this good in years! Where is Grunhilda?' asked Elena.

'We'll look into it,' Merlin and Gaius say together.

In the throne room antechamber Arthur stands there looking petrified.

'I've never seen you so scared,' Lancelot said.

'Try getting married to a woman you don't love,' Arthur muttered looking at Gwen.

'I brought you your ceremonial sword,' Merlin said.

'Is that for me to fall on?' asked Arthur.

Gwen laughed, 'it's not that bad.'

'Hopefully not. What's wrong?' asked Merlin.

Gwaine snorted, 'like you don't know.'

'You wouldn't understand, Merlin. You have no idea what it's like to have a destiny you can't escape,' Arthur said.

'Oh really,' Merlin said drily.

'I didn't know about your destiny then,' reminded Arthur.

'Destinies are troublesome things,' Merlin said.

Arthur takes the sword and sheaths it.

'You feel trapped, like your whole life is being planned out for you and you've got no control over anything, and sometimes you don't even know if what destiny decided is really the best thing at all,' Merlin said.

'How come you're so knowledgeable?' asked Arthur.

'Hmm? Oh, I read a book,' Merlin said.

'What would this book tell you? Should I marry her?' asked Arthur.

'That's not really my place to say so,' Merlin said quickly.

'I'm asking you, it's your job to answer,' Arthur retorted.

'The King wouldn't be pleased,' Merlin muttered, 'as my opinions rarely coincide with his plans.'

'If you really want to know what I think...' Merlin trailed off.

'It must be bad,' Percival said.

Arthur gestures for Merlin to go on which he does, 'I think you're mad, I think you're all mad. People should marry for love, not convenience. And if Uther thinks an unhappy king makes for a stronger kingdom, then he's wrong. 'Cause you may be destined to rule Camelot, but you have a choice...as to how you do it.'

The Throne Room doors open and the trumpets sound. Arthur walks to the altar.

In Elena's chambers a now thanks to Gaius' potion Normal Elena turns to her father.

'What do you think?' asked Elena.

'Beautiful. No other word for it. Beautiful,' Godwyn says that.

'Well of course your going to say that all father's say that about their daughters,' Elyan said.

'What's that supposed to mean!?' demanded Gwen.

'Nothing your beautiful,' Lancelot and Arthur said together leaving a very awkward pause where everyone watched the strange box in silence.

Elena takes her father's arm.

In the Throne Room Godwyn leads Elena down the aisle where Arthur takes her hands.

'My lords, ladies, and gentlemen of Camelot, we are gathered here today to celebrate the ancient rite of hand-fasting, the union of Arthur Pendragon and Princess Elena of Gawant. Is it your wish, Arthur, to become one with this woman?' asked Geoffrey.

'Or not,' grinned Merlin.

'It is,' Arthur said heavily.

'Is it your wish, Elena, to become one with this man?' asked Geoffrey.

Elena looks at her father and then at the floor, 'it is,' she finally says.

'Do any say nay? Then as we gather here today, we are all witness to this rite...'began Geoffrey.

'Wait,' Arthur interrupted.

'There's something you would like to say, Arthur?' asked Geoffrey.

'Something I should've said a long time ago. Something from the heart I dare not speak. Elena, you are a wonderful woman, and a beautiful bride, but I cannot deny my feelings,' Arthur said.

'You do not love me,' Elena surmises.

Arthur shakes his head, 'and I think, if you are honest, you do not love me either.'

'No,' agreed Elena.

'Then we are both here out of duty. Can you forgive me?' asked Arthur.

'I agree with all you have said. Thank you, Arthur,' Elena said.

Gwen holds back tears of joy.

In Arthur's chambers Arthur takes off his crown as he enters. Uther storms in after his disobedient son.

'Uther's not going to be happy,' Merlin said grimly.

'What did you think you were doing?' demanded Uther.

'The right thing, Father,' Arthur replied stubbornly.

'This is going to be fun,' Gaius said, 'both of you are just as stubborn as one another.'

'For who? For Camelot, or for yourself?' demanded Uther.

'The two things aren't entirely separate,' Arthur replied.

'Until you put duty before your feelings, you are clearly not ready to be King,' Uther said.

'When I am ready to be King, I'll be a much better king for the support and strength of a woman I love,' Arthur said.

The next day Godwyn and Elena's party are preparing to leave. Godwyn and Uther walk down the main steps to the main square where the horses are waiting.

'Can't imagine what's happened to Grunhilda,' Lord Godwyn says.

'No. I'm sure she'll turn up,' Uther reassures his friend.

'Or not,' Arthur said.

'I hope so. It's most unlike her,' Godwyn says.

'Because you know her so well,' muttered Merlin.

Arthur and Merlin watch Elena descend the steps into the Square.

'There's something different about her,' Arthur said.

'She no longer has a Sidhe messing with her mind,' Gaius said.

'You're not changing your mind, are you?' Merlin asked jokingly.

'Good way to stop Arthur questioning it too much,' grinned Gwaine.

'Goodness,' Arthur shakes his head as he considers Elena as she walks down the steps, and shakes his head again. 'No.'

'I respect her but she has never been the woman for me,' Arthur said looking at Gwen causing her to blush, Gwaine and Merlin to laugh, Lancelot and Elyan to scowl for very different reasons.

'I wish you well, Arthur Pendragon. I hope one day we both find the love we deserve,' Elena offers Arthur her hand and he kisses it.

'As he has,' Percival nodded.

'In the meantime, if you ever want to be beaten in a horserace, you know where to find me,' Elena said.

'He did the right thing, you know. You mustn't punish him. They were neither of them in love,' Godwyn said.

'That's not the point. It's not the way things are done,' Uther said.

'Maybe it's time things changed. I think he has the makings of a great king. You should be proud of him,' Godwyn said.

Uther and Godwyn embrace.

On the Griffin Staircase Arthur catches sight of Gwen descending the stairs and walks up to her. Merlin takes off in another direction to leave the two of them to it.

'So...I'm still a single man,' Arthur said.

'Indeed. I don't think you deserve her, actually. She's really very lovely,' Gwen said.

'Mmm. Well, I had hoped to have forsaken her for one equally as lovely. Who knows, perhaps even more so,' Arthur replied.

'I do not know of such a person,' Gwen said.

'Sure you don't,' laughed Merlin.

#Me neither. But I guess only time will tell,' Arthur said.

Gwen descends the rest of the stairs, Arthur skips to the top.

There was a very pregnant pause, 'Arthur did you just skip?' asked Merlin.

Arthur just glared.