Okay, first of all, despite my constant research, my knowledge on the five kingdoms is still sketchy, so I have had to make do with what I had. Hopefully, it will not show…
Each chapter will be with regards to each monarchs arrival, and then the treaties themselves.
Anyways, hope you guys enjoy this, and please review to let me know what you think.
So, without further ado, Treaties and Troubles, Chapter 1.
Merlin groaned as Ash barrelled through his bedroom door.
"Come on Merlin, time to get up. You wouldn't want to miss Queen Annis's arrival…"
"Seeing as the last time I saw her, Arthur called me an idiot in front of her, I'm not too sure I want to see her."
"You mean you'll leave Arthur to do the negotiations… Himself?" Ash gave a mock shudder, and it had the desired effect. Merlin sighed as he sat up and rolled over, planting his feet on the floor.
"Fine, fine. I'm up… Damn your infallible logic."
Ten minutes later, Merlin was dressed. At Arthur's request, he had gone for the more formal, decorative and expensive attire Gwen had seen fit to gift him with, and was dressed in dark brown leggings, a deep red tunic, a midnight blue, short sleeved overtunic with the crest of Camelot embroidered on the bottom corner in gold, and he had forgone his brown jacket, instead buckling on a thick brown belt and his sword belt letting the sword rest in its usual place against his hip.
His Aurora stone hung from his belt, swinging by the magically reinforced chain next to his dagger, as Merlin had long since realised that it was irritating to have something swinging across your chest all day.
He looked in the full length mirror and sighed. It may not be what he enjoyed wearing, but he looked… well, like a lord. Like somebody holding one of the most powerful positions within Camelot was supposed to look.
He pulled on his brown boots, a flicker of gold cleaning them to a clean and polished state, and ran a hand through his hair, attempting to smooth it into some kind of order…
He failed. Miserably.
He head down through his rooms, getting an approving nod from Ash, who had a knack for getting him to dress appropriately for any given occasion, and sighed as he head down through the castle.
Annis's arrival marked the first step in the peace talks that were taking place over the next few weeks. King Lot, who had taken over the remainder of Cenred's lands and had managed to build something from the ruins, was due to arrive later that day, and Kings Alined, Odin and Olaf would be arriving the following day.
Both Merlin and Arthur were dreading Alined's arrival, seeing as it would likely come with that of his court sorcerer, Trickler. Merlin hated the slippery sorcerer, and had resolved to keep a close eye on him. And Olaf, though he was not bringing Vivian, may still hold a grudge towards Arthur… As well as the fact that there was some hostility between Rodor and Odin, which Arthur hoped to put right…
Never-the-less, Arthur had invited them and they had accepted. Even if Merlin was sure that it was mainly to figure out just what had made Arthur Pendragon, son of Uther Pendragon, change his stance on magic. No doubt Arthur had planned some sort of demonstration that would involve Merlin.
The Princess Mithian was also due to arrive, to negotiate on behalf of King Rodor and Nemeth, but not till two days hence, one day before the talks were due to start. She was the only one Merlin was actually looking forward to seeing , though he had no qualms about Annis.
Merlin took a deep breath as he realised that it had been a long time since so many prominent figures had come together in one place. But he knew if anyone could convince them to come together, it would be Arthur.
Not that he wouldn't have a role to play in this… he had put far too much work into Albion to let Arthur handle this himself… No matter how much faith he had in his king.
Arthur turned as Merlin arrived on the steps, taking his place just behind Arthur to his left, and grinning at Gwen, on Arthur's right hand. Several knights and several lord were arranged in a formation behind them, and they all nodded in greeting to Merlin, before turning back to their positions, only Gwaine pausing to give him an eye roll that clearly stated 'pointless bloody ceremonial rubbish'
Merlin returned the gesture, then turned to Gwen.
"Good morning, m'lady."
Before she could reply, Arthur had butt in.
"You took your sweet time. Annis has already entered Camelot."
Merlin let the harsh tone wash over him, knowing that Arthur was nervous, and grinned reassuringly.
"Ah well, I'm here on time."
"First time for everything…" Arthur grumbled, but couldn't say more as a trumpet sounded and Annis's convoy came into view.
Arthur left a respectable few seconds after the group had come to a halt, then spoke up.
"Queen Annis, Camelot bids you welcome. It is for a good and just cause that we are brought together these few days, and it means a great deal that you have been willing to join us."
Annis spoke up,
"I thank you for your hospitality King Arthur. It is indeed a worthy cause that we come together for, and it gladdens my heart to be a part of these talks."
With all the pomp and ceremony over, Arthur smiled.
"I am sure you and your men are weary from your trip. Rooms have been prepared for you, which I hope you will find agreeable."
Annis dismounted with the help of one of her knights, and nodded to Arthur.
"It would indeed be a welcome sight."
Arthur walked forward as she did, taking her hand and nodding his head to her.
"Then we will waste no more time. I hope you will consent to joining us for lunch, one hour past noon?"
"I would be honoured. Oh, and I do not abide with all the pomp of names and titles. I would appreciate it if you would address me as Annis."
"And I as Arthur."
The queen smiled,
"Then that is settled." She glanced towards Merlin as Arthur escorted her over to him,
"A very familiar face stands at your side, Arthur."
"Indeed. My Court Sorcerer and Principle advisor."
"So not the fool you made him out to be?"
"Apparently not. Believe me, it came as a surprise to me as well."
"Of that I have no doubt." She smiled at Merlin as they came to a halt in front of him.
"And you are Merlin? I have heard much about you…"
"Good things, I hope?" he said, bowing respectfully and gracing her with a cheeky grin.
She smiled, not at all put off by his informal behaviour, instead seeming to enjoy the novelty of it.
"Nothing but." She turned to Gwen. "Queen Guinevere, It is a pleasure to meet you. I have heard much about you also."
"Gwen, please. It is how I am known to my friends."
The two women shared a warm smile, and Merlin could see a firm friendship forming, despite the age difference.
Arthur turned to Merlin.
"Merlin, would you be kind enough to accompany Annis and her men to their quarters?"
"Of course Sire."
A few moments later, and Merlin was walking next to Annis, her men following on behind. After a few seconds, Annis spoke up.
"So, Merlin Emrys. I have heard much from the whispers of the land. About your power? Your wisdom?"
"Well, that depends on who you talk to."
"Of course. What if I were to talk to you?"
Merlin looked at her, and turned serious.
"I would say that yes, I am powerful. And many say wise, though I have my reservations."
"I have also heard tales of how loyal you are to Arthur. How much you have sacrificed for him and this kingdom."
"And most of them are likely true. I have suffered, and lost much in my pursuit of freedom and peace within this kingdom. And it is my hope that this peace will extend beyond Camelot' borders. As for my loyalty, it is with Arthur. It always has been and always will be. But I am also loyal to all those I consider friends. I hope I will be able to count you among that number, milady?"
"I would consider it an honour. From what I have heard, you are indeed one of the most noble and brave-hearted men I have had the fortune to meet. Not at all the fool Arthur made you out to be during our last meeting."
"Thank you, milady."
"And call me Merlin."
They walked in a comfortable silence for a few minutes, until Annis spoke again.
"So, Merlin. Being court sorcerer in a kingdom that only lawed the use of magic a few months ago must be difficult?"
"It is. But the workload is not the reason for it. No, it is having to instil faith in those who need it. Having to prove to those in doubt that it was the right decision to make. For without the faith and trust of those we fight for, how can we possibly hope to attain our goals? That is why me and Arthur are placing so much importance on these talks. Treaties are only as strong as the people who forge them. Are only as strong as the participants sense of belief and faith in what they are creating. A treaty based on misguided beliefs and doubts is not a treaty, but a burden."
Annis stared at him, then shook her head.
"You speak with a wisdom beyond your years, Merlin Emrys. And with a conviction that few could ever achieve. I believe I am now starting to understand just why you could sway Arthur's mind with regards to Magic…"
"I never swayed his thoughts. He came to his decisions on his own. I simply did what I have always done, protected him and this city."
"And showed him that his beliefs had been founded on wrong assumptions. Do not have such little faith in yourself. Arthur may have made his decisions, but you clearly provided him with the faith and courage he needed to act upon them. The bond you two share is clear to everyone, closer than that even of brothers."
"Try getting him to say that…" Merlin said, with a wry grin, and turned into a corridor. "Here we are mi'l-Annis. Your chambers are through this door here," he turned to the men behind them, all of whom were staring at him oddly, but he chose to ignore it, "and the rest of you, feel free to spread yourselves amongst the other rooms on this corridor as you see fit. And if there is anything at all that you need," Merlin continued, turning back to Annis, "Please don't hesitate to let me know."
The queen nodded as Merlin opened the door for her, and walked past, just as several servant started carrying in boxes and trunks.
"Thank you Merlin. I assume you will be joining us for dinner later?"
"If that is your wish. I am sure Arthur will have no problem with it."
"Good. There is more I wish to discuss with you about magic… I find it a most fascinating subject."
"I would be most happy to oblige. Indeed, it still feels strange to have people asking me about my magic with interest and not fear and prejudice."
"I have no doubt."
"Would you like me to escort you to dinner later? If not, I can send someone to-"
"No, that would be perfect, if it is no bother?"
"None at all. I would be honoured. Is there anything else you need at the moment?"
No, thank you. I will be fine from here. I will see you later, then, Merlin?"
Merlin took his leave, and went to find Arthur who was in his stateroom with Leon and Gwen.
"Merlin! How did it go?"
"Fine. We are on first tame terms and she wants to ask if I can join you for dinner later. She has some questions about my magic."
"Oh… erm, sure. Of course. I assume that means you are going to fetch her?"
"Okay then… Damn Merlin, Is there anyone who won't fall for that goofy grin of yours? Seriously, I can't think of anyone who hasn't wanted to become your friend within minutes of meeting you."
"You? Nimueh? Morgause? Sigan? Thane? Luca-"
"Alright, I get it. Honestly. Wait… me?"
"Yeah, you hated me when we first met."
"You were an idiot."
"I'm still an idiot, apparently, and anyway, you were a pompous, arrogant prat."
"I thought I was still a prat?"
"Yes, but I bantered the pompousness out of you years ago…"
"But not the arrogance?"
"With a head like yours? I'm good, but I'm not a miracle worker."
Leo and Gwen shared looks and wide grins as the two argued, and both couldn't help wondering what the visiting royals reactions would be if they ever saw the day to day banter that went on.
No doubt it would be amusing.
And so the morning passed.
Merlin knocked on the door to Annis' rooms, and a maid opened it.
"My lord," she said curtseying, and Merlin flinched.
"Please, it's Merlin. Though I may like the pay, I don't like the titles that come with my position."
The young girl smiled, and nodded, "Merlin it is then." Before turning and calling back into the room.
"Milady? It's Merlin."
"I'll be there in a moment."
A few seconds later, and Annis exited the room, nodding to Merlin.
"My apologies. The travel seems to have been catching up with me and I have a slight headache."
"It's no trouble." Merlin frowned, considering, then tuned to the Queen. "If you like, I have a spell that can sweep away the effects of a headache. In fact, you will not get another for several days. If you like, I could…"
"Are you sure?"
"Absolutely. It is no burden at all. I only thought I had better ask, seeing s you are a visiting monarch and all…"
"Very good point. But yes, I would appreciate anything you could do?"
Merlin grinned and muttered a few words. His eye flashed gold, and he was surprised when Annis didn't react in any way other than to tilt her head and look interested, before she put a hand to her head, a grateful look covering her face.
"That is a very useful skill Merlin. I appreciate it."
"It is no trouble at all. Are you ready?"
"Yes. But the captain of my knights has insisted on accompanying us."
"It is no problem," Merlin assured her, sending a quick mental message to Flint so that he could tell Arthur and make the necessary arrangements.
He shook hands with the burly man that Annis introduced.
"Merlin, this is Owen. Owen, This is Merlin Emrys, Camelot's court sorcerer."
Owen gave Merlin a quick once over, his gaze coming to rest on Merlins raised eyebrows and amused smile, and the man grinned.
"Pleasure to meet you Merlin. May I call you Merlin?"
"Oh gods, please do. You have no idea how irritating titles are."
"Then Merlin it is. I trust there is no trouble with me accompanying My Queen? I feel honour bound to protect her, and I never leave her alone with anyone I cannot completely trust."
"I understand completely. And it is no trouble. I will make the necessary arrangements for anything that may occur. Though I hope that, in time, you may earn my trust. After all, what is a treaty if not based on mutual respect and trust?"
"Nothing but words on a page."
Merlin turned to Annis as they started walking.
"I like him."
"You seem to like everyone."
"But I really do like him."
Merlin and Owen exchanged a grin, and Merlin smiled inwardly.
Just making friends. Everywhere you go, just making friends.
Arthur was sat at the head of the table, Gwen to his right and Annis to his left. Leon and Owen were seated next to Gwen, and Merlin was sat next to Annis.
The first course was soup, and everyone had easily slipped into conversation as it was being served.
Leon had been downright shocked when Merlin had come in, laughing with Owen, and had pulled the Warlock aside momentarily.
"Isn't that Owen? The leader of Annis's knights?"
"But he's notorious for taking an age to warm to anyone. It takes him years to get to the point where he trusts anybody. Yet you seem to be getting along?"
"I guess I just have that kind of personality."
"You are something else Merlin…"
"Thanks… I think?"
Merlin smiled as he remembered the conversation, and scanned the pair. They were engaged in a conversation about fighting styles and what not, but Merlin could see a cautious wall behind Owen's gaze. Hmm, maybe Leon was right.
He tore his attention away and back to the conversation that he, Annis, Arthur and Gwen were having as he heard his name.
"But really Arthur," Annis said, "Merlin really has wisdom beyond his years. He gave me a small speech that as no longer than thirty seconds, but it was one of the wisest things I have ever heard."
Merlin reddened slightly, and Arthur grinned as he replied.
"Yes, he does that. How he can be the wisest person I now one minute then a complete idiot he next is beyond me."
"It's a skill, Sire." Merlin said, and grinned. "As is my ability to irritate you with no more than a single word."
"Oh really? And what word would that be?"
Merlin chose to project it into his mind.
"Seriously, Merlin. You have to start telling me when you are going to do that."
"But then where would the fun be?"
Annis raised an eyebrow.
Merlin replied as Arthur turned to Leon and Owen, as they stared discussing the different aspects of different swords.
"Speaking into his mind."
Annis' eyes widened.
"You can do that?"
"Care to try and put it in simple terms?"
"I can try. Let's see…" Merlin was quiet for a few moments, then began to explain.
"Okay, so. With enough training, most magic users can speak and project thoughts and images into the mind of another. The druids have a knack for this. For me, however, It just came naturally. I can also send messages over greater distances than most magic users, seeing s Im more powerful and have a natural instinct for the skill. I can also make it easier by creating something called a trace. This is where I can leave an imprint on someones mind, making it easier for me to pick out a particular person's mind from amidst others." He grinned. "It's handy for a lot of things…"
Annis nodded, and Merlin realised that Owen was paying attention to what he was saying. He sent the man a smile as Annis spoke again.
"So, by long distances, you mean about how far? I know most people with this skill can only project across a room…"
"If I am fully rested, I can project a short message across almost the distance of the city. Most days, however, I can only send a prolonged thought across the length of the castle."
"That far? And can you hear their thoughts in response?"
"Again, it depends on my own state, and the distance involved, but yes. Most of the time, I can easily have an entire conversation from opposite ends of the castle."
"And I'd wager that comes in handy."
"More than you could possibly imagine."
Annis looked thoughtful for a moment, and Owen spoke up.
"Can I ask something?"
"Of course, whatever you like."
"Can you project to more than one person?"
"Yes. But not with as much precision. I can send out a general message to a great number, but they would have to be within a close range. It is also harder to focus on individual minds, so it takes concentration to pick out the ones I need to talk to. And it is also hard to pick out responses. In all, it's not the most effective way of communicating to a large crowd."
"Do you have any other ways?" This was Annis again, and Merlin realised that, whilst Owen and Annis were paying attention to his every word, Gwen, Arthur and Leon were discussing something else, having heard it all before. Merlin nodded.
"There are different ways I can communicate, but the most useful one for long distance, or even short distance, is called scrying. Basically, I can use a mirror or pool to project an image of myself and my voice onto another mirror or pool of water. It's very helpful for long distance conversations, and I can set it up so that the spell feeds off of the energy of the earth, so I could, theoretically, keep a channel open indefinitely and it would take no energy from me."
"I'm still in the middle of a lot of different experiments, but that one is looking promising."
Arthur looked up,
"Is that what you're doing in that room of yours?" he turned to Annis as he explained.
"His quarters have a room where he has all kinds of experiments and projects going. No-one has any idea what most of them are, only that some are dangerous, some are ridiculous and some may actually be useful, and it's a long established rule that no-one goes up there. It's also long been a source of amusement and mystery to all of us."
Merlin sighed as Annis laughed.
"Only because you are all easily amused…"
Owen laughed too, causing Leon and Arthur, who had also heard of the knights distrusting nature, to raise their eyebrows and share a bemused look.
As the main course was served, roast venison with vegetables and freshly baked bread, the conversation turned to what kinds of things the new treaties proposed.
Annis listened to what Arthur was saying with a black expression, which Merlin recognised as her thinking through what she was hearing.
"The basic points of the treaties," Arthur was saying, "Is that we want peace between the kingdoms. With the Threat that Morgana's… legacy is giving us, we believe that it is the safest thing we can do. That way, we can be sure that they stand alone. We are also going to stipulate that any magical threats within the kingdoms that have no magical protection, such as yours Annis, will receive magical aid and assistance from Camelot until such a time as you can sort your own form of magical defence."
"So this treaty requires accepting magic into our lands?"
"Yes. Do you have any problems with that?"
Annis glanced at Merlin who had raised an eyebrow, and shook her head.
"Maybe once, but no longer. Of course, most of us, if we were to accept this treaty, would require help in setting up something similar to what you have here. Some way to keep track of magical activity."
"I was expecting that. Merlin has agreed to accompany any who require his help, and has people willing to stay long-term in order to make things easier for you. Of course, the fact that you have no specific laws against magic users within your kingdom will, hopefully, make things easier than they were here."
"With regards to setting up a situation that my people can handle, it should not take any longer than a few days."
Annis nodded, then smiled.
"I assume Arthur has set up some demonstration so that we can see what you can do?"
"I'm sure he has, and if he ever feels like informing me of it, it would be greatly appreciated."
Arthur laughed, and Gwen smiled.
"Come now, Merlin, this is Arthur we are talking about."
The rest of the meal was taken up with a variety of discussions, and, as a platter of fruit and cheeses was laid out, Merlin was just about to get into discussion with Annis about the set-up of Camelot. They were all distracted, however, but the arrival of a messenger boy, who handed a message to Merlin.
Merlin flipped open the parchment, and everyone saw his face fall into an expression of confusion and concern. He quickly got to his feet.
"My apologies, but I will have to excuse myself. There is a matter which requires my urgent attention."
To Arthur, he sent a mind message,
"Kilgarrah contacted Taren. He says there is trouble. He wouldn't contact unless…"
"It's fine." Out loud, Arthur said pretty much the same thing. "That's fine Merlin."
Merlin turned to Annis, obviously apologetic.
"My apologies, but I will gladly continue our conversation at a later date?"
"I look forward to it."
With that, Merlin nodded and turned, literally running from the hall.
Annis stared after him, then turned to Arthur.
"That young man really is one of the most intriguing people I have ever met. So powerful, yet he does not seek to use his power for his on gains… Rare is the man who is content with his lot in life."
"He is one of the most selfless people I have ever met. And no doubt one of the most powerful. But he has long since been a mystery to all of us. Even if he can be optimistic to the point of it being depressing. It's when he is not being optimistic and cheerful that we all start to worry…"
Annis laughed, and the conversation turned back to the upcoming talks.
Merlin jumped as soon as he had left the room, appearing in front of Taren's door. The people in the street, so accustomed to this, barely blinked, and one eagerly called over,
"Good morning Merlin!"
"Morning Cass. How's Shawn doing?"
"Good thanks. That spell you used really worked."
"Glad to hear it."
He turned as Taren threw her door open and dragged him inside.
"We've got trouble. I couldn't hear most of what Kilgarrah said, the link was too un-attuned, but I got the gist of it. The Brotherhood is moving, and Kilgarrah needs to speak with you. He wants you to meet him in the usual clearing as soon as you can."
"I'll head there now. Thanks Taz."
With that, he gave her a peck on the cheek and ran out, leaving her completely bemused, but ginning wildly.
Merlin made several jumps, so as not to expend all of his energy, until he got to the edge of the forest. Then he ran for several minutes until he reached the clearing.
The dragon came into sight less than five minutes after the mental call and landed, his face grave.
"I have bad news Merlin. A group of powerful sorcerers are grouping together on the edges of Queen Annis' lands. It will be some time before they have amassed a group that will be sufficiently dangerous, and a further several days before they can reach any specific place, but I have no doubt that there intentions are to attack another kingdom and disrupt these talks."
"Great. Just what we need. You said several days? Can you keep me updated?"
"Of course. And if these talks proceed according to plan, I have no doubt that you will be able to accompany Annis back to her kingdom in time to prevent what they are planning."
Merlin sighed, and nodded.
"Okay. Hopefully, these talks will go according to plan. I can inform Annis of any danger if the sorcerers do head into her lands. But for now, I think it's best to keep it quiet."
"I agree, young warlock. I will keep you informed of any progress that they make. Though it may have to be through Aithusa, as I'm afraid that my strength is not what it was with regards to sending messages of the mind. It will be easier to relay this information through her."
"Okay… Are you alright? You just sounded a bit…"
"I am fine, Merlin. But thank you for your concern. Now I believe you had best head back. King Lot and his entourage are just crossing the bridge into Camelot."
"But I can't make it back there in time!"
"Then I will carry you. I believe you will have no trouble with doing a space jump from my back and landing unharmed?"
"D-do a j-jump? From in the air?" Merlin thought about it and grinned, "Well… The city I due another surprise someday soon… And it may be fun. What the hell, let's go for it."
"You have a strange idea of fun, Merlin." Kilgarrah aid, as the young man clambered onto his back.
He took flight and arrived over the citadel just as Lot was entering the courtyard. Everyone looked up as Kilgarrah flew overhead and Merlin grinned.
"One huge entrance, coming right up. Thanks Kilgarrah."
"No problem Merlin. I will send Aithusa with news as soon as I gather any."
With that, Merlin stood and leapt from Kilgarrah's back, vanishing in the air.
He landed net to Arthur in a crouch, and got to his feet, dusting off his sleeves as Kilgarrah circled above before flying away.
"My apologies for being late, Sire."
He hid a grin at the awed and shocked expressions as he was being directed and gave Arthur a mental nudge.
"Oi? King of Camelot… Greeting… ya know?"
Arthur shook himself and turned to the waiting group,
"King Lot, Camelot bid's you welcome…"
Merlin grinned as they went through the motions.
Round two was about to begin…