Ceremonies and arrivals
Merlin had been the King's Chamberlain for a month and he still didn't like the title. He had got the King's personal servants and he his own duties sorted out and Arthur seemed to be happy with the way things worked. Cian was almost the opposite of Merlin with his very measured words, but Arthur had quite soon learned to interpret his silences (especially the disapproving ones); Farrin was very much on the same wavelength with the King when it came to armour and weapons – and completely in awe of Excalibur, treating it like a living, beloved creature. Fionann had already become a favourite with everyone – and it turned out that he did have some magic; not much and it was all connected to horses - and dogs as it turned out, but since the King's horses and dogs were his responsibility, that was only a good thing. Trahaearn, who was remaining in Camelot for the winter, had helped him find and hone his magic. Merlin had also got his secretary, a young Druid woman – nineteen or so – who had been fairly seriously ill that summer and Iseldir wanted to be sure she would be well taken care of during the winter. Luan was able to read and write the Old Tongue as well as Latin (and English, of course), so she was able to help Gaius, too, when necessary. Merlin didn't expect to keep her past the winter since she was already showing great interest, and also ability, in medicine and when Merlin didn't need her, she was working with Gaius.
The repairs on Dinas Emrys were under way and many Druids and people of Camelot had already moved in there to work. The garrison in the Fort wasn't quite permanent yet; it had turned out that many men wanted to be stationed there at least for a time, (it seemed that the knights and men at arms of Camelot were much more accepting of magic than anyone could have expected – or Uther would have wanted, had he been alive), so Arthur was rotating the men and knights for now.
Gwen had got her schools and her orphanage organised – so far the school was in the Castle and the children were living with families and widows and widowers in the town, but she had her eyes on a suitable spot just outside the town where Arthur had promised to build her a separate school/orphanage. That was for next year. This year, or more precisely today, Merlin had something much more important to do. Tristan and Isolde were getting married.
Of course, the laws of Camelot already acknowledged them as a married couple, but Isolde's Mother wanted a proper handfasting and that was happening today. Tristan and Isolde wanted to have the ceremony in the presence of just Queen Isolde and the King and Queen of Camelot. They didn't want to make a big deal of it, as it was – in their eyes – just a renewal of their commitment. They had talked about inviting all their friends to be there, but as they couldn't decide where to draw the line since they had made so many friends in the town as well as the Castle, they had finally decided to have just the royals. They both felt the irony of having only royal witnesses as the main reason why they had wanted to keep it small was because they didn't feel 'royal' themselves anymore; though both came from a long line of kings.
However, the reason Merlin was so busy now was because nobody was going to honour their wishes: the wedding was going to be a big celebration with all their friends both from the town and the Castle. Merlin and George were in charge – well, mainly George because he really didn't need any help, but Merlin's duty was to see to it that neither Tristan nor Isolde suspected anything – and to make sure all their friends from the town were present. All their friends who lived in the Castle had been easy enough to invite; the town was a bit more difficult as Isolde especially had made a lot of friends there. Fortunately their neighbour Enid was a fountain of information and Merlin was sure he had got to them all. Tristan and Isolde had wanted to have the ceremony in the afternoon and then go back to work, but Arthur had convinced them that he didn't have time to attend until later, so the ceremony would take place just before supper. Unbeknownst to Tristan and Isolde the wedding conspirators had agreed that the ceremony would take place on the castle stairs and all the people would stand in the yard. Once Geoffrey had performed the handfasting there would be food and entertainment – like a fair – in the courtyard.
There would be time to set the fair up because Isolde's mother had agreed to keep Isolde occupied with the dress (she had five dresses ready and was going to make Isolde try them all before deciding what she wanted to see her daughter wear to be married) and Gwaine, Leon and the rest of the knights had agreed to keep Tristan occupied with a small 'bachelor' party. Of course, Tristan wasn't really a bachelor, but he had agreed to sit with them to toast his marriage – though he had made it very clear that he wasn't going to get drunk; no way, not now that he was finally truly getting into the good graces of Queen Isolde. Leon had reassured him that they weren't going to let Gwaine set the space for drinking and nobody was going to infuriate Gwen by getting the groom drunk. They just wanted to celebrate the marriage a little, too, as Tristan and Isolde weren't having a real party. Gwaine had not been allowed to be present for that discussion, as nobody was willing to trust in his ability to keep the secret. Leon had reported to Merlin that all was settled and Tristan wasn't suspecting anything. He still believed that there was just going to be a private handfasting with the royals only as the witnesses.
So Merlin had been running ragged all day and now it was time to start the party. Geoffrey was standing half way down the stairs with Arthur and – now fairly heavily pregnant – Gwen. Queen Isolde would be escorting her daughter to them soon and Leon and Elyan would bring Tristan to the right place. All the guests were standing in the courtyard waiting and ready. Soon Queen Isolde got to the top of the stairs with her daughter (who had been under the impression that they were going to the library where Geoffrey would perform the ceremony in one of the reading rooms). Both Isoldes stood still; Queen Isolde was smiling broadly and Isolde the Fair was staring nearly open-mouthed at the people and the King and Queen of Camelot. Almost as soon as the ladies had stopped at the top of the stairs Leon and Elyan brought Tristan to the same spot. Tristan's reaction was very similar to his wife's.
"What is going on?" Tristan asked flabbergasted.
"Mother!" Isolde nearly yelled – once she got her breath back. "What have you done?"
"This is not me," Queen Isolde denied. "This is all your friends. They were not going to let you leave them out of such an important occasion. Family, you see, celebrates these things together."
"Precisely," Elyan confirmed. "Did you really think my sister would let your marriage go without a proper celebration – even if it is only a confirmation of your vows?"
"Apparently we were that optimistic," Tristan sighed. "Well, Isolde, shall we? It seems this is completely out of our hands now."
"Might as well," Isolde resigned herself to the royal treatment. "They have gone to a lot of trouble and I rather suspect that even if we would refuse to have the handfasting now they would still celebrate our marriage."
"You got that right," Leon laughed as he extended his arm to Queen Isolde to escort her down to where Arthur and Gwen were standing. Once she had taken her place Leon and Elyan joined the people in the courtyard.
Tristan and Isolde joined hands and looked down at all the people who had made Camelot a home for them. This was not what they had planned. They had been so sure that a small ceremony was all they needed but now that they saw all their friends together, smiling and cheering, they knew that this was right. There hadn't been that many celebrations since Morgana and her men had been defeated - yes, there had been Gwen and Arthur's marriage and then her coronation, but those were sort of official celebrations; not just fun. And this was going to be just fun! Tristan looked at Isolde and they exchanged big smiles and then walked down to face Geoffrey and get married properly (as Queen Isolde insisted on saying).
Later that night Merlin met Tristan and Isolde outside their room in the Castle. Tristan looked at him questioningly. The celebration had been a success and all had had fun, eaten all kinds of goodies until they felt ready to burst and drunk quite enough (some more than enough). Tristan couldn't think of a reason why Merlin was waiting for them. Merlin grinned mischievously.
"What is it?" Isolde voiced the question Tristan had in his mind.
"Gwaine," Merlin said, like it explained everything. As indeed it did.
"What is he up to now?" Tristan sighed.
"I think he is planning to surprise you tonight," Merlin stated. "You know, in the traditional way."
"O Lord," Tristan groaned. "Where can we hide?"
"You don't need to hide," Merlin said. "That's why I'm here. You go in, and I will enchant the door so that nobody can come in without your permission or without you opening the door first. Once you have opened the door or given the permission, though, the enchantment will disappear. So I need to know if you are planning to come out before morning or if this is it?"
"This is it," Isolde nodded. "I'm definitely done for the night."
"We're staying in," Tristan agreed. "Don't worry. Enchant away."
"Good," Merlin accepted the permission. "Go in and I'll make sure Gwaine will stay outside no matter what. That is, if he hasn't drunk himself incapable anyway."
"I'd much rather be safe than sorry," Isolde stated closing the door with a smile.
Merlin laughed out loud and then did his magic to ensure the couple a peaceful night. It turned out that the spell was indeed needed. About an hour after Merlin had left, Tristan could hear some kind of commotion take place in the corridor and Gwaine's frustrated voice cursing the door. Next day they found out that Gwaine had had some younger knights with him, but all his plans had come to nothing as the door repelled them. Leon had managed to usher them away from the corridor and outside before the posse had disturbed anyone else – like Isolde's Mother.
After the wedding it seemed that everyone in Camelot was in a lighter mood. Of course, ever since Arthur had become the King there had been more hope in the country – even with the shadow of Morgana hanging over them – but now it seemed that people had decided to really go with the hope and build a better world for themselves and everyone. Everybody knew the story of Tristan and Isolde and it seemed that if they could find happiness in Camelot, after everything that happened to them in their lives, and some of it being illegal activities of their own, then Camelot was indeed the place of hope and opportunity. Naturally all the things Arthur and Gwen were doing and planning to make life easier for their subjects helped a lot too.
The next month was peaceful and happy for all. Arthur was the only one who seemed to get more and more nervous as time went by but then, everybody expected him to; after all this was the first time he was becoming a father. Knowing that part of his nerves were due to his own birth that had lost him his mother, Gaius and Merlin were trying to be especially reassuring during this time but they knew that they couldn't quite dispel Arthur's fears. Gwen, however, was quite calm. She trusted that Gaius and Queen Isolde would be there for her and that together they could fix just about anything. Also, she was sure that had there been something wrong with her baby Aithusa had fixed it when he breathed on her. But even though she was feeling quite confident and calm she was more than ready to be done with this pregnancy. She felt like a duck trying to climb a steep hill. And everything was a steep hill by now; she couldn't even get up from a chair without someone helping her. Fortunately a Queen always had help near, but even so she was so done!
Then one evening Arthur was helping Gwen back to their rooms when Gwen suddenly stopped and nearly broke Arthur's hand by squeezing it so hard.
"What?" Arthur asked in alarm.
"I think you better send for Gaius," Gwen gasped. "And Queen Isolde."
"You mean you think it's time!" Arthur wanted to be sure, especially since he felt his heart leap up to his throat and that wasn't such a pleasant feeling that he wanted to have it for no good reason.
"I'm not sure, but I think so," Gwen nodded.
"Right," Arthur turned his head to Elyan who was following them (as it was his turn to follow the King). "You heard your sister: go get them. I'll help her to our rooms and to Hilde. Get Merlin, too."
"He's with Gaius," Elyan responded as he passed the royal couple. "There is no way he will stay behind once he hears why I'm sent."
"And if he, for some strange reason wants to stay behind, drag him here," Gwen ordered him. "Arthur needs him, because these things usually take time."
"You worry about me?" Arthur stared at her. "Now? When surely you have something much more important to do."
"Nothing is more important than you, Love," Gwen smiled at him, though beads of sweat were starting to form on her forehead. "Besides, this baby is going to be born now no matter what I do. You, however, need Merlin to keep you sane or else you will worry yourself out of your mind."
"I suspect you are right," Arthur had to admit. "Right, just through the anteroom and Hilde will have you."
Gwen walked fairly slowly and leaned heavily on Arthur but they made it to the Royal bedroom where Hilde took one look at Gwen and told Arthur to help her to the bed while she rang for help. Arthur did as he was told noting with small part of his attention that Hilde pulled the cord for the call bell in a very precise way; apparently there was a pre-agreed signal to tell all who were needed that this was it. Before Hilde had pulled the cord for the last time Merlin ran in with Gaius's medicine bag and Queen Isolde followed almost at his heels.
"Gaius is on his way," Merlin informed all. "Age has slowed him but he is making his best speed; I brought his bag for him. I saw an army of maids gathering below and they were getting all sorts of things together, so Arthur, I think it's time for us to make ourselves scarce."
"I don't want to leave you Guinevere," Arthur told his wife holding her hand.
"I wish you could stay," Gwen smiled at him. "But it really isn't done. And I will have plenty of help."
"I'm the King," Arthur muttered. "I'm supposed to be the one who says what is done." But even so he allowed Merlin to escort him towards the door. At the door he did dig his heels in and turned to look at Gwen one more time: "If you really need me, tell them to get me and conventions and customs be damned."
"I promise," Gwen smiled. "But with Queen Isolde and Gaius here, I'm sure I will be fine. But I promise, if I need you for any reason, I will send for you. And do know that I do want you here, but giving birth is often quite hard work and I need to concentrate on my job. Try not to worry too much. I love you."
"I love you," Arthur responded and left the room with Merlin.
Merlin knew that Arthur would not want to be too far away from Gwen so he pulled the King into the small study that Arthur had set up for himself opposite the Royal Chambers. With the anteroom and the doors any yelling and screaming (and even cussing, as that was a possibility) Gwen was going to do would be muted enough not to worry Arthur too much. If anything went wrong – and Merlin was sure neither Gaius nor Queen Isolde would allow that – they were near enough to be called quickly.
"Settle down," Merlin instructed Arthur. "We have a long wait."
"I don't…" Merlin never found out what Arthur 'didn't' because the door opened and Tristan walked in.
"Thought you might like more company," Tristan smiled. "Isolde is with the women and she promised to act as liaison and keep us posted. Though she did warn me that if this is anything like what she has seen before it will take time."
"So I've been told over and over again these past few weeks," Arthur sighed. "Every knight, every advisor, every courtier who has children, no matter how long ago it may have been, have told me how they waited for their first child to be born and how long it took, sometimes even two days, and it felt even longer. So really, no need to tell me it will take time. I have been told!"
"I hear you," Tristan accepted and shut up about 'time'. "So you are going to have a daughter. Any names in mind?"
"At first I wanted to call her Guinevere after her Mother, but having had Queen Isolde and your Isolde with us for these few months dissuaded me," Arthur mused. "Too confusing. So I left it to Gwen. She has been thinking Ygraine too, but I feel a little superstitious about that. She liked Wynnifred for a while, but then she changed for Lynelle or Laria. I'm not sure what is her current favourite, I just hope she doesn't want me to say anything about it."
"So you are leaving your first born child at the mercy of her Mother?" Tristan laughed.
"That does sound a little cowardly," Merlin joined the teasing.
"Like you have been so very brave lately with Gwen around," Arthur reminded them.
"She hasn't been that bad lately," Merlin protested. "Sure, about midway to her pregnancy I wasn't sure any of us would survive to the next day. In fact, I was sure I would find your bloody remains on the bedroom floor any day, but we survived. It was only for a couple of weeks."
"It was a full month," Arthur still shuddered. "And I have a very good mind not to risk that ever again."
"Of course you'll risk it again," Merlin scoffed. "You know Gwen wants several children with you and you will do what she wants. You know that."
"Too well," Arthur had to admit. "But I hope she doesn't want the next one right away."
"Isolde says that the older generation of courtiers and their ladies rather expect her to give you a son as soon as possible," Tristan revealed. "She may feel pressured."
"I don't care what the court expects," Arthur frowned angrily. "When it comes to our children the only thing that matters is what we want. I will not have either my Wife or my Children held hostage to the succession."
"But you do need an heir," Merlin pointed out mildly.
"If Albion is united again, to what it was before we separated to different kingdoms, then I can choose someone from the other Royal families to be my heir," Arthur stated. "Someone who will be a good king for my people. Though I don't see why my daughter can't rule after me as well."
"You could make that clear to the court," Tristan suggested.
"Make what clear to the court?" Elyan asked from the doorway as he and the rest of the Knights of the Round Table walked in.
"What are you all doing here?" Arthur asked.
"Elyan is her brother," Leon reminded Arthur. "And she has always been like a sister to me; and Gwaine and Percival have sort of become family as well. So where else would we be?"
"He has a point," Tristan concurred.
"Fine," Arthur sighed. "The more the merrier."
"But what was it you were supposed to make clear?" Gwaine picked up the conversation from the moment they had walked in.
"That his daughter can rule Camelot as well as a son," Merlin piped in.
"We know that," Percival muttered.
"Of course we do," Elyan stated. "Gwen wouldn't have it any other way. Not that she will necessarily want her daughter to be the Queen, but you know what I mean."
"The court may not agree," Merlin explained. "And for the stability of the realm the succession needs to be known."
"Then the Princess here just needs to make another declaration," Gwaine shrugged. "He has been making so many of them lately that nobody's going to be surprised if he throws in another one."
"But declaring what?" Elyan wanted to know.
"That my eldest child, regardless of gender, is my heir apparent," Arthur said.
"What if she doesn't want to rule?" Leon asked.
"We'll figure that one out when we get there," Arthur muttered.
"Arthur said, just before you all got in, that he will not have his wife and kids held hostage to the succession," Merlin reassured Leon. "The people need to know there is continuity on the throne, but it can be changed if there is a need. All his children will need to know how to rule anyway, they need to help the King or the Queen or may marry into other Kingdoms."
"Who knows, maybe the way he unites Albion is by having his children marry the neighbouring kingdoms," Gwaine laughed.
"That would certainly be a peaceful way to do it," Arthur agreed with a smile.
The night was long and though Isolde kept them posted, the men were more than restless. Gwaine had wanted to arrange a drinking competition but Percival had nixed that idea with one glance (Arthur fortunately hadn't even heard the suggestion). Percival also shot down Gwaine's ideas of having a game or dice or cards, and sword fighting, too. Finally they just talked about business: how the new regime for the guards was working and what training did they need; what new recruits they had got and how the repairs on Dinas Emrys were proceeding; how to garrison Dinas Emrys and who might be the best man to head that garrison once the post was permanent.
After 18 hours they were silent; exhausted in a way they had never been before and worried though every bit of news they had received stated that the labour was going exactly as it should and Gwen was doing great. They had wondered about that 'great' when they heard her cussing everything and everyone at one point when both the doors were open to the corridor when a maid had gone to get more supplies. But finally, after a much shorter time than he had expected – according to him – Gaius was able to come and get the King. His daughter had been born. Merlin and the Knights were only allowed to the anteroom but Arthur went inside the bedroom to see his wife and his very new daughter.
Arthur almost tiptoed into the room. He was definitely holding his breath. He had been told that everything was fine, both the mother and the child were good, but even so he needed to see them to be sure. Somewhere at the back of his head there was a niggling feeling that everybody had been lying to him to spare his feelings and his wife and daughter were actually dead. He suspected that Merlin had figured that out, but fortunately this was one secret his former servant present King's Chamberlain was able to keep a secret. He walked to the bed and looked down. He was met with a tired but radiant smile from Gwen.
"Look, your daughter is here," Gwen turned the bundle in her arms to show Arthur the little face of his daughter. "This is your Dad, Arthur, Melora. He is a King, but a very good King and he will make an excellent Dad for you."
"She is beautiful," Arthur didn't know what else to say – and he wasn't sure if he was talking about his daughter or his wife or both.
"Come, let us leave them alone for a moment," Gaius whispered to everyone in the room. He ushered most of the maids out with him and Isolde and Hilde followed him. Queen Isolde remained in the room with the royal couple but she was standing near the window out of earshot but close enough to help should something unexpected happen.
"Is she really fine?" Elyan asked the moment Isolde stepped into the anteroom.
"Yes," Isolde reassured him. "She is fine. Tired and a little weak, but she will be almost her old self in a couple of days."
"Almost?" Leon got immediately worried.
"She is a mother," Hilde said. "Of course she won't be quite her old self now. Besides, the baby will need a lot of her attention for a few weeks, even though she will have plenty of help. She is not the kind of woman who leaves her child to other people to care and raise."
"Has Gwen decided on a name?" Gwaine wanted to know. "Arthur worried about that half the night."
"I'm sure their majesties will let you know in good time," Hilde shot Gwaine down without hesitation.
"You and Perce here, are you related?" Gwaine demanded but both Hilde and Percival just glared him into silence.
Gaius and Merlin had been talking near the bedroom door so they were the ones who first saw Arthur come out with his daughter in his arms. Queen Isolde was with him hovering close by to make sure the baby was secure, but she really didn't need to worry; it seemed that this was coming quite naturally to the King. Seeing the King come out of the room, Hilde turned her back to Gwaine and quickly made her way to the bedroom to help Gwen to settle down and sleep. Arthur turned to Merlin first.
"See, I have a daughter," Arthur's grin nearly split his face.
"She is beautiful," Merlin's smile matched his. "Did Gwen give her a name yet?"
"Yes she did," Arthur turned to everyone in the room. "Everyone, meet Melora. My daughter and the heir apparent to the throne of Camelot."
I'm ending this story here because the new season of Merlin is upon us and I want to just watch it. I expect to return to the story of Tristan and Isolde but I think for now this is a good point to stop: Merlin's magic had been revealed, Gwen's reputation has been restored, Tristan and Isolde are married and have settled in Camelot, Merlin has been promoted, magic is legal again and we have babies!