AN: So it's been roughly three months since I posted another chapter! I'm sorry for the delay but at least I left you at a fairly decent place. I'm thinking the chapters following this one will be more like a two or three shot instead of a one shot. Hope that's okay with everyone, this chapter was inspired by one of my favorite childhood stories "The Secret Garden" by Frances Hodgson Burnett, I hope that this story inspires the same magical feeling that that book always inspired in me. Enjoy!
The freshly manicured garden teemed with life, insects buzzing from one flower to the other, birds whistling their spring song, and flowers smiling up at the warm, bright sun. It was a happy place except for one thing, someone was crying.
Heather tip toed through the garden, following the sounds of tiny sobs until she reached a particular rose bush, at first she thought it might be the bush that was crying by the way it trembled, but as she moved around it she found the person she had been searching for. Her twin brother Aaron.
"Aaron?" she called softly.
The young boy stood up quickly wiping the tears from his eyes and turning to her with a stern look on his pale, sickly face.
"What do you want?" he asked.
"What did those boys say to you?" she asked angrily.
He scuffed the toe of his boot in the dirt. "Nothing." He mumbled.
She huffed turning around to march back the way she had come. "I'll make them sorry, I will."
Aaron ran after her placing himself in front of her and holding his arms up. "No!" he called. "I can't have my sister beating up guys on my behalf. That would be humiliating!"
"Then tell me what they said to you." Heather demanded.
Aaron looked down at the ground. "They were gloating because they got to go on the hunt and I didn't."
Heather's eyes widened. "That wasn't your fault! You were ill!"
"I'm always ill." Aaron said tiredly sitting down in the soft grass. "I never get to go have any adventures."
Heather sat down next to him. "Mother says you'll grow out of it, that you'll get stronger."
Tears pricked Aaron's eyes again. "Father doesn't think so."
Heather eyed her brother suspiciously. "He said that?" she asked.
Aaron shook his head. "No, but I can see it in his eyes, he's disappointed in me. He wanted a strong leader for Camelot."
"And he'll get one." Another voice joined in the conversation. The children looked up and could not help the smiles that stretched their faces when they saw their governess, Esmeralda.
"Ezzie!" They cried jumping up and hugging her around the waist tightly. She laughed and wrapped her arms around them.
"I have missed you two." She said, sighing contentedly.
"Did you have a good trip?" Heather asked eagerly. "Did you see anything exciting?"
Aaron, though happy to see his governess remained quiet. "I will tell you later." Ezzie replied. "First I want to know what this whispering business was about." She said, crouching down in front of them.
Heather glanced at Aaron uneasily, "Some boys were picking on Aaron. He won't let me beat them up."
Ezzie could not help the slight smile that tickled her lips. "As well you should not, it is not proper for a lady of the court to be beating up the young men of the court."
Heather looked only slightly ashamed. "Well they deserve it."
Esmeralda ignored her and turned to Aaron. "What did they say to you, my prince?" she asked. He smiled shyly, he liked it when she called him 'her prince.'
"They were teasing me because I was too ill to go on the hunt."
Ezzie frowned. "You were ill? Oh no, I don't believe so, I think you were just resting your muscles for the greater adventures to come." She suggested teasingly.
Aaron still looked forlorn. "I don't get to have any adventures." He muttered sadly.
Ezzie sighed as she looked at the sad little prince, and then her eyes lit up with an idea. "Well let's have one right now." She suggested. The children looked at her eagerly and she leaned forward to whisper. "Can you two keep a secret?"
They both nodded eagerly. Ezzie looked around again before taking each of their hands and leading them through the garden. She went through many twists and turns before finally ending up at a wall, covered in ivy.
Aaron looked disappointed. "What's so adventurous about the walls that keep us from going out and having adventures in the first place?" he asked dully.
"It's not the walls that are exciting." Ezzie said inspecting the wall carefully, she reached a hand out to touch the ivy. "It's the doors that are hidden in them."
With that said she pulled a curtain of ivy out of the way revealing a secret door that no one had entered for years. The children gasped and shrieked in awe running towards to the door and pushing on the rusty latch. It gave way with a creaking sound that admitted them into the secret garden within.
Inside was a rectangular garden, thirty paces far and ten across. Roses climbed up the walls and over the green trees, dangling like icicles from the branches, tiny buds poked their heads from the earth, welcoming the warm sun, the winding pathways were tangled with vines and branches. The place looked wild and untamed but the best part about it was that no one knew about it but them.
Ezzie smiled and walked in with them, glancing around the garden she had not entered in years, not since her marriage…
"I like these pretty flowers," Heather stated kneeling by a bed where several flowers were being choked by weeds. "But these ones look mean."
Ezzie kneeled beside her charge. "Those are weeds, and they can be quite mean to these nicer flowers. If you pull them up gently maybe we can free the flowers.
"Like freeing a princess from a dragon." Aaron said jokingly.
Ezzie smiled and ruffled his hair. "Now that's using your imagination my prince." She stood up and strode to the entrance. "I'll be back in a moment," she told them.
While she was gone the children explored the beautiful garden. They found a bird's nest with
barely laid eggs which they were careful not to touch, they watched the squirrel's chasing each other in the trees and in one of the trees they found strange markings which they could not quite make out.
When Ezzie returned with a small but heavy looking bag, they tugged her over to the tree. "What does this say?" Heather asked eagerly.
Ezzie's eyes widened as she traced a finger over the carved letters inside a small heart. "U and Y," she murmured.
She glanced at the children nervously, wondering if she should tell them, but looking at their pleading eye she knew the answer. She could never keep a secret from them.
"These are the initials of your grandfather and grandmother. This must have been their secret garden," she stated looking around.
The children stared in awe at the initials, Heather touched them with her finger as though touching them would somehow link her to the past and the love of her grandparents.
"What's in the bag?" Aaron asked.
Ezzie smiled and pulled back the flap that hid the insides of the sturdy but dirty bag. Inside were tools of all sorts and sizes.
"Gardening tools?" Heather asked. "Aren't those for the gardener?"
Ezzie huffed a little. "Well if you want to keep this place a secret we can't very well have gardeners coming in and trimming everything, we'll just have to do it ourselves." The twins eyes lit up mischievously as Ezzie taught them how to use the tools for weeding.
Slowly and painstakingly they freed the princess flowers from the dragon weeds that surrounded them. They worked until the sun was about to leave the sky, all of them sweaty and dirty by that time. Aaron was breathing harder than the other two but his face looked flushed and healthy from the work.
Esmeralda glanced up and saw a figure looming in the doorway before it disappeared. She cleared her throat and turned back to the children.
"I think it's time we called it a day," she told the children.
"Aww…" the children whined but she simply shook her head at them.
"Can we come back tomorrow?" Heather asked.
"If you want too." Ezzie nodded.
They put their tools back in the bag and placed it in a secret corner of the garden before they trudged up the path, their feet becoming heavier with every step. Esmeralda smiled, she could see the exhaustion in their stances despite their complaints. When they reached the doorway she sent them on to the castle. "I'll be there to help you bathe in a moment," she told them.
She waited until they were almost to the castle door, stifling yawns as they went before she turned back into the garden, walking along the paths.
She spoke towards the door, "I know you are still there, sire."
The shadowy figure appeared back in the doorway. He stood there for a moment, watching her as she bent over the garden.
"No one has worked in this garden for years," he told her.
She nodded glancing around. "I can tell."
He was silent a little longer. "How did you know about it?" he asked her.
She smirked. "I discovered it the first day I arrived." Her eyes seemed far away with the memory but she said nothing else, and Arthur didn't press her for more information.
"How did you know of it, sire?" she asked glancing at the tree with the initials on it. "I have a feeling it's been untouched since before you were born.
He nodded. "You are correct. I discovered it as a boy. I did not have much interest in it except that it was a secret place I could escape to away from my father. I continued to come here long after he died. Until I discovered Merlin's secret."
Esmeralda looked up. "What changed then?" she asked.
Arthur frowned in thought as he searched for an answer. "I don't know, I guess then there was no more reason for secrets of any sort. I didn't need a place to hide anymore."
Esmeralda nodded. "I never came here for long. Initially it was a place to be by myself amidst a bunch of strangers, but making friends proved to be easier than I had expected."
Arthur smiled at her. "You did fit in well, Esmeralda. I was hesitant to hire you when I met you, Guinevere was insistent though, she always sees the best in people, the most potential."
Esmeralda smiled at him. "Well I hope you have been pleased with how I have helped raise your children," her smile fell. "Aaron thinks you are disappointed in him."
Arthur did not look surprised by the news but the smile fell from his face. "I think what my son sees is the worry I feel whenever I look at him. I am not disappointed."
Esmeralda stood and walked only a few steps closer. "You should tell him that, sire," she stated. "It would be good for him to hear it."
Arthur nodded in agreement. The last thing he wanted was for his son to feel as he had felt growing up, like nothing he ever did was good enough. Like his father was always disappointed and never proud.
"Your children are waiting, sire. With your leave?" she asked curtseying as she did so.
Arthur nodded and she walked lively from the garden. Arthur glanced towards the end of it, walking in the dim lighting to the tree he knew so well and tracing his fingers over the carvings, as though they could link him to the past and the love of his parents.
Esmeralda sighed as she closed the door to her quarters behind her. She turned to hang her shawl on the hook by the door and gasped in surprise and delight as two strong arms snaked around her.
"Good evening, gorgeous." The rich husky voice whispered in her ear sending shivers down her neck and spine.
"Good evening," she murmured teasingly and turning to face her captor.
Gwaine pushed her back and held her at arm's length before letting out a bark of laughter.
"What happened to you?" he asked.
Esmeralda blushed tucking an unkempt strand of hair behind one ear. He clothes were covered in a combination of dirt and dust, only some of it had washed away while she bathed the children and the majority of it had turned to mud ruining her beautiful dress.
"I took them to our secret place," she stated smiling brightly.
Gwaine chuckled. "I remember the day we escaped there," he said his eyes growing distant. "I was sure the cook was going to find us, she's friends with the gardener you know."
Esmeralda laughed at the way he went on, talking as though all the staff of the castle were plotting against him.
"I hope you don't mind, that I showed them," she said questioningly.
"No," he responded. "It's been years since we went in there, and it's time to pass it onto the next generation."
Esmeralda sighed contently as he pulled her into his arms tightly. "You, my dear, are in desperate need of a bath." Gwaine teased.
She pushed away and slapped him lightly on the arm. "You're one to talk, sir knight," she teased back.
Gwaine laughed holding his hands up in surrender. "One bath coming right up," he stated opening the door and ducking out of it, waggling his eyebrows at her as his head disappeared.
Esmeralda laughed and shook her head at him. When she had come to Camelot she had been looking for adventure, watching the spawn of the King and Queen hadn't exactly been what she had expected but meeting Gwaine, and all the rest of their friends had opened new doorways that she never would have or could have expected.
More than adventure, here she had love and contentment and a magical feeling she had felt as soon as she had grabbed Gwaine's hand in the kitchen all those years ago. Here she was home and there was nowhere else she wanted to be.
AN: So it wasn't until I was halfway through with this story that I realized that it is almost completely about OCs… I didn't realize because they felt so integrated into the storyline for me. Hope you had the same feeling and that you are enjoying the new characters as much as I am.
As I said before I'm thinking the next segment will be more like a two or three-shot instead of a one-shot and I'm going to write the full segment before posting any of the chapters.
Please leave a review! As always I love them!