Part 24: www.fanpop.com/spots/arthur-and-gwen/articles/157868/t...-24
“My lady, the midwife is here to see you,” Sir Leon has just knocked as Gwen and Arthur are finishing their dinner.
“Thank you, Leon, please send her in,” Gwen says.
“Yes, my lady. And congratulations,” he grins at her, a boyish grin that Gwen remembers from her childhood when her mother was working in his family’s home.
Gwen stands, sits again, and stands carefully, slower. Arthur frowns. He is sick with worry over what’s probably nothing,
Gwen thinks. But he thinks he needs to be strong, the poor dear.
She reaches down and cups his cheek with her hand. He takes the hand in his and kisses her palm.
There is a knock at the door and Gwen bids Fira enter. The midwife is looking a little bedraggled, but is still cheerful.
“So what’s troubling you, my lady? I hear dizziness?” she asks, taking Gwen by the shoulder like a nursemaid corralling her charge.
“Yes. Started late this morning.”
“I don’t think it’s anything to be alarmed about,” she says, then turns to Arthur. “You: out.”
“If I am examining the queen, you must leave, Sire.”
“I can stay if I wish.”
“Look, I don’t care if you’re King Arthur himself— oh, wait, you are— you still need to leave. When it comes to the little life growing within your beloved queen, I
am in charge.”
Gwen feels as though she is about to split with the laughter she is suppressing, watching the tiny plump woman stare Arthur down in his own chambers.
Arthur opens his mouth, as if he is about to speak, then closes it sharply, perhaps having second thoughts.
“Arthur,” Gwen says gently, “why don’t you take the dinner tray to the kitchens? It would give George absolute fits,” she grins at him.
He presses his lips together, debating between continuing the argument with the midwife – an argument he will not win – and an opportunity to needle his temporary servant.
Arthur heaves a sigh and stands, lifting the tray from the table. He bends and plants a kiss on Gwen’s cheek and scowls at Fira before he leaves the room, closing the door behind him.
“All right, love, let’s take a look,” Fira says, taking Gwen by the elbow again. She sways slightly and Fira holds tight and mutters, “Hmm.”
“How is Lady Evelyn?” Gwen asks, shrugging off the dizzy spell.
“Excellent. She’s a veteran at this now.”
“Of course. He is called Aylwin, after her father.”
Fira proceeds with the examination and can find nothing amiss.
“You are hale and hearty, my lady, undoubtedly from years of good hard work and fresh air,” the midwife proclaims. She sighs. “I see so many Ladies who have been sequestered away and pampered their whole lives that it just makes me shake my head,” she continues. “I don’t know who got the idea that it is healthy for a woman to lounge around and do nothing. Probably some man,” she laughs, a loud, hearty laugh that one cannot help but join.
“Indeed, Fira,” Gwen says, coming carefully out from behind the privacy screen in her nightdress and dressing gown. No point in getting dressed again now.
“So, if this dizziness continues for several more days, do let me know. And keep dear Gaius appraised of your condition as well. I can find no sign of any trouble, and occasional dizziness is not unheard of during pregnancy, so unless it languishes, I wouldn’t trouble yourself about it. Just do be careful, because if you take a spill as a result, that could
cause a problem,” she warns, raising her eyebrows at the young queen.
“Of course. Luckily we are under extra security measures right now, so I’m escorted almost everywhere,” she chuckles, sitting on the bed.
“Well, then you shall always have a good strong arm on which to lean, shan’t you?” she smiles and collects her basket to leave. Gwen starts to stand. “No, dear, stay put. I will see myself out. Rest is what you need.” Fira nods to Gwen, who smiles back at her.
Fira opens the door to the royal chambers to see Arthur sitting on the bench outside, picking at his fingernails, very clearly bored.
“My lord,” she bobs to him once and starts down the corridor.
“Fira,” Arthur calls after her.
She stops and turns. “Sire?”
She smiles and curtseys again. “Only doing my job, my lord.”
“My bath was no fun without you,” Arthur mutters into her neck, spooning up behind her in the bed.
“Sorry, Love, climbing in and out of a tub wasn’t something that appealed to me tonight. Besides, you needed the bath much more than I did.”
“Oh!” he laughs. “I would have helped you,” he complains.
“I know,” she sighs, twining her fingers with his where they are resting on her stomach. “But it was fun watching George being horrified by my laying right here while you were having your bath, refusing even to close the curtains around the bed,” she laughs.
“If we keep this up, he’ll quit before I have to replace him myself,” Arthur joins her laughter. “He’ll claim he can’t work for such morally loose people, even though we are the king and queen.”
“Yes, apparently the sight of my wrists scandalizes the poor man. Goodness, I have gowns that are more revealing than what I was wearing.”
“Not dizzy now, are you?” he asks, his voice worried.
“No. Lying down, I’m generally fine. I was just thinking about the fact that I’m going to have to get some new gowns made. As my stomach grows larger, you know.”
“Obviously,” he says, thinking it no big deal, but he can sense her frowning, even though he cannot see her face.
“I’m going to grow fat and saggy and cross.”
“That’s why pregnant women often get cross, I think. Because they have huge uncomfortable bellies and they know once the baby is born they are going to get all saggy, and the thought of it makes them cross, and stop laughing back there!
“I’m… ahem… not laughing,” Arthur lies, burying his face into the back of her neck, trying to hide in her hair.
“You’re bloody lucky I can’t make any sudden movements right now or you would be on the floor before you even realized it.”
“Oh?” he laughs even harder now. “You think so, hey?”
She turns in his arms, slowly, fixing him in a stare that stops his laughter. “You think I couldn’t land you on the floor?”
“Love, you can land
me any place it suits you,” he says suggestively, stealing a kiss.
“Don’t change the subject.”
“Guinevere, I love you,” he says, raising a hand to her cheek. “I will always love you and always think you are the most beautiful and desirable woman in the entire world. No matter how fat or saggy or cross you may become.” He kisses her softly.
She sighs. “You almost won me back over. Almost.”
“Blew it with the last part, huh?”
“Little bit, yes.”
2 days later
“Merlin’s back,” Sir Percival pokes his head through the open doors of the royal chambers, where Arthur is going over some parchments and Guinevere is resting on the bed.
“Very good, Percival, see that he comes up here as soon as he can,” Arthur says, not looking up.
“Did you hear that, Love?” Arthur calls to Gwen.
“Still not feeling well?” he frowns.
“Yes, still dizzy. Help me up, please?”
Arthur stands with a sigh. Gwen’s dizzy spells have been growing more frequent in the past days, and still neither Gaius nor Fira think it is anything to worry about; just pregnancy woes. Arthur is suspicious.
He walks past the wooden box containing the stuffed rabbit, scowling at it. Still no reply from Annis.
“You don’t have to get up, Guinevere.”
“I want to. I want to—whoa,” she pauses as he helps her sit up, “see Merlin. Help him change his mind when he still says no.”
Arthur laughs. “You still think he’ll refuse, huh?” He holds her shoulders as she stands, making sure she is steady before putting his arm around her waist to support her as she walks.
“If this keeps up, the next several months are going to be very long indeed. Not to mention completely boring for me,” she says. “Stop.”
He stops. “Okay?”
“Yes, just give me a second.”
“Guinevere, you should be lying down.”
“I’ll be fine.”
Arthur sighs and bends down, lifting her carefully in his arms, carrying her the rest of the way to the table, where he kicks a chair out and sets her down in it.
“You don’t honestly expect to carry me everywhere until the baby is born, do you?”
“If I have to.”
“I’m going to get too heavy.”
“Then I will appoint the task to Percival.” He kisses her on the cheek.
Gwen laughs at this and picks up one of the parchments Arthur had been studying. Arthur pours her a goblet of water and sets it on the table in front of her.
Ten minutes later Merlin appears in the doorway.
“Merlin, so glad you’re back!” Gwen says, standing without thinking, then sitting immediately with wide eyes.
“Gwen, what’s wrong?” Merlin rushes to her, immediately concerned.
“Just been a little dizzy lately, that’s all. I’m fine,” she reassures her friend. “Now come closer so I can say hello,” she says, and Merlin complies with the request, crouching beside her so she can hug his neck.
Merlin thinks. He senses something is off as soon as he touches her, but holds his tongue for now. After I tell them.
“Merlin, glad you came back,” Arthur says, slapping him on the back.
“Ready to string George up by his thumbs, then?” Merlin teases.
“Oh, God, you have no
idea,” Arthur rolls his eyes and plops down in his chair. “Sit,” he indicates a chair for Merlin.
“How is Hunith? Ealdor? The rebuilding is going well, I hope?” Gwen asks, drawing a scowl from Arthur. She notices. “We don’t need to pounce on him immediately, Arthur,” she says reproachfully.
Merlin laughs a little, grateful to his friend for the delay. He feels a tickle on the back of his head, and reaches up with his hand. Nothing there. Odd.
“Mother is very well, and she sends her love to you both, as well as her congratulations. I didn’t see any harm in telling her the news,” he adds, his hand rubbing at the back of his neck now.
“That’s fine, Merlin. I’m glad you told her,” Gwen says.
“She was overjoyed, actually.”
“She should come to Camelot for a visit sometime,” she suggests.
“I’m sure she’d like that,” he pauses, again feeling that strange tickle. He turns his head quickly, looking around as he continues, distracted, “though she does not like to travel.”
“Well, perhaps seeing a newborn prince could persuade her,” Gwen says.
“Or princess,” Arthur adds. Gwen rolls her eyes. Why does he insist that it’s going to be a girl?
“Are you all right, Merlin?” she asks, noticing that he seems uneasy.
“Yeah. Um, yeah, I think so.” He rubs the back of his neck again. Something is in here. Something… magical. Bad. It’s making me itch.
“The rebuilding is going well. It’s about halfway restored. I did as much as I could for my mother and some others while I was there. This winter might be a little lean, since Agravaine made sure to set fire to some of the crops, but Mum thinks that they’ll make do.”
“Is there something we can do? Guinevere, do we have any surpluses we can send them? I know Ealdor isn’t part of my kingdom, but since it was my fault that Agravaine torched the village, I feel that I should do something to help.”
“I’m sure we can spare some food and supplies, Arthur. I’ll look into it.” Arthur gives her a look. “I’ll have someone
look into it,” she corrects, rolling her eyes. The world swims before her again and she closes her eyes and grips the edge of the table.
Arthur looks at her, concerned. His eyes shoot to Merlin, who is twitching again, hand worrying at the back of his head.
“Thank you, Arthur, it will be greatly apprec—” he breaks off, his head jerking suddenly around, and stands. “That’s it,” he declares and goes to the door and closes it before he starts walking slowly around the room.
Where is it? Where?
“Merlin, what the hell are you—”
“Shh.” Merlin closes his eyes. Where are you?
“Merlin!” Arthur interrupts, and Merlin waves his hand at him, irritated.
He walks the chamber, eyes closed, not bumping into anything, able to navigate the room perfectly despite not being able to see. He stops. This way.
He turns. Closer, closer…
Merlin opens his eyes. He is standing in front of a wooden box on a side table. I’ve never seen this box before.
“What’s in this box?” he turns and asks Arthur.
“It’s a gift for the baby. We received it a few days ago.”
“Who from?” Merlin asks.
Something in his demeanor is beginning to worry Arthur. His face is stern, serious, with an intensity the king has never seen before.
“We’re not sure. There was no name. That’s why it’s still in the box,” Gwen says.
“I’ve sent a messenger to Queen Annis to inquire if she sent it. She’s the only one outside this building who knows,” Arthur adds, still studying Merlin carefully.
“Apart from Hunith,” Gwen corrects.
“Well, obviously it’s not from Hunith. But we haven’t received word back from Annis yet. So until we know who the sender is, it’s staying in the box.”
“This is not from Queen Annis,” Merlin says simply, surely, turning back to the box.
“Trust me.” He turns to the box and gingerly opens it. A toy rabbit, made of cloth and stuffed with something soft. Seemingly harmless. Button eyes, floppy ears. Charming, really. Merlin holds his breath and reaches for it.
He lifts it from the box and as soon as it emerges, Merlin hisses as if in pain and he drops the rabbit to the floor as though it has burned his hands.
Behind him he hears a gasp and a thud as Guinevere clutches her stomach and faints to the floor, falling from her chair.
“Guinevere!” Arthur shouts, dropping to the floor beside her. “Guards!” he calls, as loud as he can.
Merlin rushes over to her. Arthur is cradling her head on his lap, stroking her hair, bent over her.
“Move,” Merlin orders, pushing Arthur upright.
“Get out of the way,
Merlin kneels beside her, placing his hand on her forehead, her stomach. “No, no, no…” he whispers. “No. No.
This is not how it’s going to happen, Morgana. You are not going to succeed. You will not hurt this child or its mother.”
There is a sharp knock at the door before it opens with a creak.
“My lord?” a voice asks.
“Get Gaius, quickly!” Arthur yells from his place on the floor.
“I will not let this happen,” Merlin continues, his voice a fierce whisper. He acts without giving any thought to consequences. He looks up, over at the rabbit, lying in a tumbled heap on the floor. He fixes it in his gaze and his eyes flash. The rabbit lifts from the floor and sails across the room and into the fireplace. As soon as it hits the coals, the fire flashes bright and hot, its flames tinged with an eerie bright green. To be safe, Merlin sends the box in immediately after, where it splinters against the back of the fireplace before adding its wood to the fire.
He bends over Gwen again, paying absolutely no heed to the apoplectic Arthur stammering something about “No” and “it can’t be” and “this has to be a nightmare.” Merlin doesn’t know if he is referring to the magic, his wife, or both, and for the moment, he doesn’t care.
He places his hand over her heart. It beats. Merlin breathes again. He puts his hand over her stomach, closing his eyes. Concentrate. Feel. Find the child.
Below his hand, he feels a flutter, like the wings of a small bird, flapping rapidly. Regularly. The beat of a tiny, tiny heart, secure within the warmth of its mother’s womb.
“Good,” Merlin breathes and opens his eyes.
Merlin keeps his right hand over Gwen’s stomach and moves the left to her forehead. He closes his eyes a moment, finding the words to bring the correct magic forward.
Opening his eyes, he speaks one incantation and his eyes flash again. He stares at his right hand and feels it grow warm, a faint gold glow rising around it. The glow fades after a few seconds, and Merlin lifts his hand as he switches his attention to the other.
This one is easier.
He speaks again, another flash, and his left hand grows cool, a faint blue light rising around it. Gwen takes in a sudden deep breath of air, and blinks her eyes open. Merlin exhales heavily and sits back, taking his weight off of his now-aching knees.
“Arthur? Merlin? What…?”
“Shh,” Arthur soothes, stroking her hair.
Gwen sits up. Quickly. It’s gone. The dizziness.
“What’s gone?” Arthur asks, reaching out with his hand, his voice tinged with panic. Not the baby, not the baby…
“The dizziness. I feel… fine. Perfect. The world is no longer tilting and swimming.” She looks around, turning her head this way and that, even shaking it. “Perfect,” she repeats, her voice filled with wonder.
“The toy rabbit was enchanted with a curse,” Merlin says quietly, avoiding Arthur’s eyes. “Undoubtedly sent by Morgana. It was trying to hurt you, Gwen. That’s what was causing the dizziness. If you had taken it out of the box it would have affected you much faster, much more severely.”
“Merlin?” Gwen asks, looking at him.
“I have magic, Gwen. I always have. Since the day I was born. Ha, probably before.” He looks down at his hands, picking at his fingernails.
She gasps, her hands flying to her mouth. She looks at Arthur. He looks extremely confused. She can see the relief battling with the anger and hurt behind his blue eyes.
“I destroyed the rabbit. And the box,” he continues, still speaking very quietly, very levelly. Tears are streaming down his cheeks and have been for some time, but he hardly notices them. “Your child is fine. I… placed a protective charm over him. To be safe. To keep
him safe. And I revived you as well.” He peeks up at her but finds he cannot hold her gaze and looks back down at his hands in his lap.
Her hands drop from her mouth to her stomach. Shocked.
She looks at Arthur. He is staring at nothing, and the pain in his eyes sears into her heart.
“So, all this time…” Gwen says softly.
“Yes. I’ve hidden it from you both all these years. I didn’t want to. But I had to.”
Gwen nods. Something registers in her brain. “Him?”
Merlin looks up. “Him who?”
“You said you placed a protective charm over ‘him.’ Just a minute ago.”
Merlin nods. “Him.”
“I… I don’t know what to say, Merlin,” Gwen says.
“I know.” Merlin sniffs, looking down at his tear-soaked shirt. “Arthur?” he ventures, his heart attempting to pound its way out of his chest.
“Thank you, Merlin, for saving Guinevere and the baby. But you need to leave now,” Arthur says, his voice barely audible, his face unreadable.
“Arthur, I…” Merlin starts.
Merlin stands, wipes his face, and walks to the door. “I have never used my magic for evil, Arthur. Never,” he says to the floor just inside the doors.
“I will send for you when I am ready to deal with you, Merlin,” Arthur says, his voice low and emotionless.
Part 26: www.fanpop.com/spots/arthur-and-gwen/articles/158531/t...-26