Ok Guys so there seems to be a problem with uploading things onto FF today, I don't know why but if you are still interested in this story head over to my AO3 page (the link is on my profile) the rest of the story is there!
Gah! Random start to a fic! I've had a bit of writer's block and I've been really struggling with some of my current stories so I'm starting this one, it's a bit fluffy, if you like the idea let me know and I'll keep on writing it, it's just to stave off the block for the time being but it's quite fun to write so let me know if you like it or not :)
Once again these lovely people all belong to the BBC
The sound of hooves was soft in the distance, Arthur had been dreading this ball for quite some time but he had managed to put off thinking about it. Now it was getting harder to ignore.
The banners were up, there were servants clogging the hallways with armfuls of fabric and silverware and he could already smell the boars and swans roasting from the kitchens.
Arthur sighed and turned towards the bed where Merlin had laid out his clothes. His breeches and cloak were the customary Pendragon red, the shirt was embroidered alabaster with a matching set of brown kidskin gloves. He rubbed the fabric between his thumb and forefinger absent-mindedly, he needed to get dressed but Merlin was late. Again. Sometimes he wondered why he kept the boy on, he was such a clot!
He picked up the shirt and pulled it over his head, this was going to be a long day.
Merlin pushed the door to Arthur's chambers open slightly.
"Am I ok to come in? Sorry I'm late, had to run an errand for Gaius."
Arthur huffed, "You know what Merlin, sometimes I think you forget that you are my manservant, not Gaius'"
Merlin laughed, "Something tells me that fetching salve for a woman in labour was slightly more important than fixing the chain on your cloak."
The king pouted in a very un-kingly manner as Merlin adjusted the neck of his cloak, untwisting and refastening it, dusting off his shoulders.
Arthur sighed, "I can't be bothered with this, it's a farce! They are just fobbing their daughters off on me, hoping I'll spontaneously fall in love because it's a ball!"
"You are the king," Merlin frowned and straightened the laces on Arthur's shirt, "You need a wife, you need an heir or the kingdom will be left in chaos when you bugger off."
Arthur slapped him playfully on the back of the head, Merlin cried out.
"What was that for?!"
"For cursing in front of the king," he replied, smirking, "and for being late."
Grumbling and rubbing the back of his neck Merlin gathered up Arthur's night clothes. He wrinkled his nose, he hated laundry duty.
Arthur was walking towards the door when he stopped and turned around, "Oh and Merlin, I want you dressed well tonight, not in your usual garb," he gestured towards Merlin's customary blue and red get-up, "I'll send you something up."
Merlin raised a brow, the last time Arthur had made him wear anything he had looked like an idiot, feathers and all.
Arthur laughed, "Nothing like that, although I was sorely tempted … I am a king now and my household staff need to keep up appearances as much as I do."
Merlin shook his head and picked up a stray boot from the floor, maybe Arthur really was taking the courting seriously this time. He didn't have long to dwell on the thought as the bells chimed and he realised that he was going to be late. Again.
The clothes that Arthur had chosen for Merlin were a lot more refined than he had been expecting, when he had first stood in front of the mirror in them he had felt awkward and out of place. The fabric was finer than anything he had ever owned before and the colour was not something he would have chosen himself. It was a pair of charcoal grey trousers and a matching jacket with a pristine white shirt, laced all the way down at the front. The jacket had the Pendragon crest embroidered in fine silver on the left breast, he had to admit, it was impressive, if a little overstated for him.
Gaius frowned and looked him up and down.
"Well, Merlin, I can't say I've ever seen you in such finery. Is this for the ball?"
The warlock nodded, "Arthur had it picked out for me, I reckon the serving staff all have matching outfits, he seems to be taking this ball very seriously. In all honesty I thought he had forgotten about it, he hadn't mentioned it once to me since it was first organised."
Gaius nodded solemnly, "It's entirely possible he has been dreading it, the pressure has been mounting for him to marry and he knows that tonight he will be expected to choose a bride."
Merlin's eyes widened, "Tonight? I thought tonight was just about introductions and courting, not an actual decision!"
Laughing Gaius put a hand on his ward's shoulder, "Things have become a little more complicated for Arthur since his coronation, but don't worry, he's a big boy, he'll be fine."
Merlin nodded and headed out.
"Oh and Merlin," the old healer smiled warmly, "It suits you."
Merlin grinned and coloured slightly as he turned to leave.
The hall was almost unrecognisable. The walls were up to the rafters in red, silver and gold banners, half of the floor was a designated dance floor, the other half was filled with tables laden with food. There were poached pears and thrice stuffed birds, steaks still pink in the middle were piled onto plates and staggered between the meats and sweetbreads were bowls full of buttered florets of purple broccoli, potatoes mashed, smashed, boiled and roasted and in the centre of each table was a spit roasted boar, glistening with oil and juices, a fat apple stuck in each mouth and cloves pressed into the hide.
Merlin ran his tongue over his dry lips, his eyes drinking in the place. Just his luck that he would be serving wine to Arthur the entire night, just what he wanted to do. Sighing he picked up two jug and moved towards the casks. He was watching the ruby liquid splash into the jugs when he heard the trumpets sound. Here we go.
Arthur Strode into the hall, people parted for him, kneeling to show respect. He stood in front of the top table and gestured for people to stand.
"My friends and honoured guests, welcome! Thank you all so much for attending tonight, I know that some of you have travelled a great distance to be here, which I appreciate greatly. Now, enough talking, there is feasting and dancing to be done!"
Arthur flashed a dashing smile at his guests, only Merlin could see that it didn't quite reach his eyes.
The rest of the night was spent wining and dining, feasting and dancing and courting. Arthur danced with practically every woman thrust at him, many were very comely but he was less than enthused by their conversations. Some only spoke of themselves, others of their family and vast vaults of gold, some just gossiped incessantly and soon Arthur had found his smiles straining. When he wasn't being dragged around the dance floor he was bombarded with offers of marriage from the parents of the girls he had been dancing with. He politely declined all offers for the time being and for a while that suited his guests for a while, they soon started to become increasingly agitated and more and more demanding.
Lord Gerrish's daughter was the last straw. She was young, with a homely face, small piggy eyes and an honest smile. She was lovely in her own right and Arthur didn't have the heart to turn her down, so he confronted her father.
"Lord Gerrish, how nice it is to see you here, I wasn't expecting so many to arrive with daughters."
Gerrish laughed and patted him on the back, he was a large man, with a greying beard and waved hair that brushed his cheeks. His rounded stomach, achieved with years of fine wines and ales, was barely restrained by the forest green velvet doublet that Merlin was sure could have made Arthur at least four separate outfits. Arthur made a mental note to allot some time for exercise the next day.
"Yes my liege, I believe we are all hoping to win your favour and perhaps even your hand for our daughters. I see my Livvy has caught your eye."
Arthur spluttered a little into his goblet, covering it with an indiscrete cough, "I have … danced with her … yes."
"She would make a fine wife, good child-bearing hips, her mother gave birth to seven healthy children, two of which were boys!"
"I am quite sure she will make somebody a lovely wife one day, but unfortunately I cannot accept her."
Lord Gerrish's face turned a frightening shade of purple, "And why not? She is perfectly acceptable, more than acceptable I'd say! She has good blood and we have good connections!"
"She just isn't exactly what I am looking for at the moment…" Arthur trailed off as he saw the vein in Gerrish's temple start to throb, this did not bode well.
"Not what you are looking for?! What on earth could you be looking for that my daughter could not provide you? Are you disrespecting my family? You may be a King but you have no right to dishonour my family in this way!"
"No, sir I …"
"I don't want to hear any of your half-baked excuses! What is wrong with my daughter? Is she not the specimen of womanhood?" he gestured to the girl who whimpered slightly at the increased attention, "She is buxom and has been taught in all the womanly arts! What more could you want?!"
Lord Gerrish's glare intensified. This was all going so horribly wrong. Arthur could feel his face heating up, he tugged at his collar self-consciously.
Merlin looked around at the raised voices, tonight was going from bad to worse. He could see Arthur shifting from foot to foot uncomfortably. What had the prat got himself into now?
Looking around desperately Arthur's eyes caught Merlin's. He looked at his friend pleadingly.
"He can't!" the words were out of Merlin's mouth before he had thought it through, "He can't marry her."
The crowd turned. A hundred eyes bore into him, he really should have thought this through.
"Who are you and what on earth are you talking about?"
Merlin swallowed, he had to think, and fast!
"He can't marry her because he is already getting married." Yes! That was a fantastic plan! He couldn't just break off an engagement, even Lord Gerris would have to accept that!
The older man raised a grey brow quizzically, "Oh really? Pray tell, who is the King's mysterious betrothed?"
Shit. He hadn't got that far. Merlin frantically eyed up every woman in the room, not a single one met his gaze. The gods damntheir interest in this infernal gossip!
It took a little while for Merlin to realise the words had been his. He looked at Arthur. The colour had drained from his face, his jaw was slack and Merlin could practically see the suicidal cogs turning in his brain. Maybe this hadn't been the best plan after all.