Six Years Later
Gwen laughs as she nears the training fields, approaching what appears to be a pile of about a dozen boys between the ages of five and seven in a pile. They are shouting and squealing, clearly pleased with their accomplishment.
"So they finally succeeded, then?" Gwen asks, and a moment later, Percival's head appears in the middle of the pile as he sits up. He is grinning from ear to ear.
"Yes; I was just letting them enjoy their victory," he admits, chuckling.
Sir Percival had shown a surprising knack for dealing with small children, and once the secret got out he was put in charge of beginning training for boys wishing to be knights. The boys idolize the large, quiet man, hanging on his every word, and are rewarded for their good behavior by ending each training session with something he calls "Slay the Giant." The boys have to try and take him down, using no weapons.
Arthur had objected to the activity at first until Percival explained that it teaches the boys organization, teamwork, and trust, and that as knights, they may not always have weapons at their disposal and that they also will be battling opponents of various shape and size.
The king could not argue any of those points, and, in actuality, was a little peeved that he hadn't thought of it.
Percival stands now, appearing to be dripping with boys. One child, a golden-tan boy with unruly dark curls, turns and sees Gwen standing there, her hands clasped over her pregnant belly.
"Mother!" he squeals, dropping down from Percival's shoulder to pick up his wooden sword and run to her.
"Mum, guess what Father taught me?" six-year-old Llacheu asks excitedly, stopping a short distance away.
What now? Gwen thinks, but she watches, smiling indulgently at her first-born as he sets the his sword on the ground, the blade resting on his foot.
Llacheu kicks his foot sideways, and the sword flips into the air. He nearly catches it, the handle clunking against his head instead.
"Ow," he says, rubbing his head. "Let me try again." He replaces the sword and this time succeeds, catching it in his small, gloved hand.
Gwen cheers and claps, praising her son as he grins proudly at her, swishing his sword now, rotating his wrist in a circular motion, exactly the copy of his father.
"Well done, Llacheu," Arthur's voice sounds from behind Gwen, and he wraps his arm around her considerable waist when he reaches her.
"Thanks, Daddy!" he beams.
"Yes, Love, that was very impressive," Gwen adds. She turns to face Arthur, and through a clenched-tooth smile, she mutters, "You had to teach him that?"
"I thought you liked it when I did that," he asks, glancing at his son, now distracted as another, slightly smaller boy comes up to talk to him, and soon the two are play-fighting, swinging their wooden swords.
"Yes, you. A grown man. Not a six-year-old boy."
"Guinevere, are we going to continue to have this discussion? We agreed. You get his brain, I get his body. That was the deal we made," he reminds her. "He's already smarter than me, anyway…" he trails off, running his hand over her stomach possessively.
"Oh, he is not either," Gwen smiles, leaning up to kiss him. She turns and sees Merlin and Mordred approaching with Amhar, their second son. "It's that one you'll have to worry about."
"Ma'am?" a small voice interrupts. The boy who had been sparring with Llacheu has stepped forward.
"Yes, Aldwin, dear, what is it?" Gwen asks, looking down at a small light brown boy with large eyes and long, unruly curls.
"My mum asked… um… she was wondering…" he furrows his brows, trying to get the exact message right.
"Your mother would like me to stop in to see her today?" Gwen guesses.
His little face brightens. "Yes, ma'am. She says she has something for baby," he says, pointing at Gwen's stomach.
Gwen smiles at him and touches his cheek. "I will. Tell her I'll come after lunch." Fleta and Radley had come to Camelot just two months ago, wishing for a better life for their energetic and adventurous son. Gwen had suggested they move here so that Aldwin (named for Arthur, of course) could train as a knight of Camelot. They had arrived a week later, moving into Gwen's old house, and since then Fleta's wool work has earned her quite a reputation and, coupled with Radley's skill as a butcher, they are living quite well, and are even planning on building an addition onto their small house. Aldwin and Llacheu are like brothers, nigh inseparable, and Gwen knows that one day Aldwin will be Llacheu's own version of Sir Leon.
"Mummy! Daddy!" Amhar breaks away from Merlin now and runs on chubby little legs. He trips halfway and falls, and Llacheu hurries over and helps him up.
"See what Unca Merlin taught me!" the toddler says, standing now between his parents and Merlin. He holds his hand out, palm-up, scrunches his little face, and his brown, almond-shaped eyes flash gold for a moment. A single flame appears in his palm, dancing in the slight breeze.
Gwen claps and smiles again, reaching down to ruffle his hair.
"Well done, Amhar," Arthur says, smiling as well. It took him a couple years, but finally he's gotten comfortable with the fact that his second-born was born with the gift of magic. He never thought he'd be grateful to have Merlin so close at hand, taking Amhar under his wing as soon as the boy could string two words together. At only three, he is Merlin's star pupil.
Arthur bends and kisses the boy on his head and the wanders over to the older boys, still milling around, bothering Percival with questions. Their focus shifts when they notice the king, and soon impromptu training has begun again, though they are finished for the morning. The boys are only too eager for tutelage from their king, whom they worship nearly as much as they do Percival (something else that peeves Arthur).
"Maybe this one will be a sweet girl," Gwen says with a sigh, almost to herself, her hand coming to rest on her belly. Then she glances at Merlin to see him looking too innocently off in the distance, deliberately avoiding her gaze.
"Not another boy, Merlin…" she says, groaning.
"Sorry," he says, smiling sheepishly at her. He steps over and places his hand gently on her stomach now. Amhar watches, following his usual habit of studying everything his Uncle Merlin does.
"Ah, but this one will be wise and gentle, Gwen," Merlin says after a moment.
Mordred nods, agreeing. "A diplomat. A scholar. Your son."
Gwen smiles, but then it falls. "Not sure how Arthur will feel about that…"
"Oh, he'll still be a strong, strapping lad, skilled in battle, that's for certain," Merlin says, removing his hand. "I don't think Arthur knows how to make any other kind," he laughs. "But he will also have your wisdom and kindness. He will be the peacemaker in the family."
"I think I can live with that," Gwen says. She turns her gaze to her husband, now surrounded by boys. She laughs as the boys rush him and take him down, her heart swelling as she hears the laughter erupting from Arthur's lips from the bottom of the pile.