Chapter 1 [Fourth Day of Yuletide/Christmas Eve]
Yule spread its backdrop far and wide across the Five Kingdoms. Brigands stayed off of the roads. Nobody eyed each other’s borders for that period at least. Neighbors and friends talked at market and shared blessings for each other be they of the Old Religion or not.
Natura offered her own bounty. Only a gentle breeze puffed through Nocturne’s dark backdrop. Stars twinkled. Luna shone her best pale light on her children far below. And best of all, her fluffiest flakes coated the ground in a sweet confectionary layer.
All over Camelot, a greater magic was afoot it seemed.
Merlin smoothed down Arthur’s sheets and quilt. With a practiced eye, he inspected the bed making sure that not a wrinkle remained for the royal couple on that evening. He primped the pillows and set them in their places. That should measure up to Arthur’s standards. He’s so on edge with the negotiations coming up. I’m glad King Rodor sent Mithian to help in the preparations. He stopped himself at the thought of her name. A wistful smile spread across his face. His eyes twinkled. Warmth surged up his spine. She’s the most shrewd one there. Just wish that people would see her for what she is. He gazed upon the yule log burning in the fireplace. A time of renewal. A time of hope.
Gwen stuck her head in. “Oh, Merlin! I’m so glad I caught you!” Her eyes brightened at the sight of her servant and longtime friend.
“I was just finishing up. Arthur feeling better?” he replied. He knew of course that the King had been fighting a cold of some sort. Even with Gaius’ most powerful tonic, the condition persisted. In addition, the upcoming talks worried them all.
“He has a lot on his mind, Merlin. Thank you though for asking,” she expressed. She knew full well the depths of Merlin’s compassion, caring and friendship for them all. “I however do have an urgent matter that needs addressing? It could become a political crisis.” Her eyes sparkled into his.
“Really? A political crisis that I can solve?” Merlin eyed her curiously. Of course he used his magic from behind the scenes to fix things and resolve problems. Still he cultivated his chosen role amongst the household carefully.
“Relax. It isn’t like there’s a dragon to be slain or anything. I have a special mission for you in the west wing,” she noted.
I wouldn’t have to slay a dragon. I’d just talk to them. “West wing?” He arched an eyebrow. “What would be there?”
“Oh. Just a bit of decorating. Poor George. He’s struggling with the latest malady. He was supposed to help. Now there’s the hallway, a room and the Grand Hall left that needs a bit of festive spit and polish. I figured you’d be just the person for the job!” she announced.
“Just the person for the job? Gwen, Arthur wants the beds made in the north wing by tomorrow. I’ll need to work all night to get through that,” he lamented.
“It could take you all night.” She shrugged playfully. “Maybe however, I assigned Polly and Brianna to tend to them?”
“And what about Arthur’s dinner? He did want me to fetch the allspice cake from the baker,” he recalled.
“Already attended to.” She sighed. “Merlin, I could make it a royal order. There are other priorities around the castle. I can handle Arthur for tonight.”
He nodded numbly already anticipating the increased chores in retaliation for the “night away”. “Then I’ll get right on it. Thanks, Gwen.” He bowed to her and headed for the stairs. He knew the tinsel and door decoration would be in order for the task at hand.
“Don’t mention it!” She rubbed her hands together in anticipation. Unlike Arthur and the knights, she knew of his feelings for a certain foreign dignitary. She’d seen the warm and longing yet brief glances they shot each other. She knew from Merlin’s increased clumsiness and manic perfectionism where the certain Princess was concerned. She also could see said-Princess’ increased stiffness around him as well. Let them have an evening to themselves. This will be worth dealing with George serving dinner. She sat down at the mirror and started to brush out her hair. This will be a night to remember!