Title: Acorns And All
Character/s:Arthur Pendragon, Merlin
Summary:Arthur and Merlin make a special stop, en route to Ealdor for the week of Harvest Festival
Prompt:Camelot Drabble Prompt #260 Artist Appreciation "The Harvest Festival" by Whimsycatcher
Author's Notes: See the gorgeous work of the amazing Whimsycatcher here:
“Merlin,” drawled Arthur, “although you don’t necessarily deserve it, since you seem to regularly be anywhere else, doing anything other than your duties, I have a surprise for you.”
Merlin rolled his eyes, but looked eager. “Do tell, oh King of Prats. Do I get to polish your extra-fancy boots today?” Merlin teased, but he could tell by Arthur’s pleased expression that he really did have a surprise planned.
“Hmm, good idea. Yes, that’s it. You get to spend extra time polishing my best footwear.”
“Arthurrrr….,” whined Merlin, pouting.
“OK, OK! Gwen told me you where moaning about how much you miss Ealdor at this time of year—so start packing! You’ll miss the first night, but I think Hunith deserves to see her wayward son during festival week.”
“Arthur, I take back everyth—uh, I mean, you are the best. You really are. While I’m getting your dinner do you want me to see if George can cover for me while I’m away?”
“George?” asked Arthur, “Does he know anything about herbs? I don’t think he’s especially suited to help Gaius.”
“No, I mean, do you have someone else in mind to take my place while I’m gone—temporarily, of course?” asked Merlin.
“Take your place? Ohhhh. No, you’ll do just fine. I’m coming with you, you dolt.”
“You want to come to Ealdor for the harvest festival?”
“Yes, Merlin, so do get a move on. And bring my best boots, and make sure they’re nicely polished.”
Merlin started flitting around, pulling clothing out of Arthur’s chests, while Arthur placed his seal on the document he’d been preparing. He wasn’t quite sure, but among Merlin’s mutterings, he almost thought he heard Merlin say, “You prat, you sweet, sweet prat.”
“Um, Arthur, this isn’t the way we went to Ealdor last time, is it?”
“How very observant of you, Merlin. I may have neglected to mention that we have a stop to make.”
“Yes, tonight we’ll be staying at the Druid encampment. At their last audience, the envoy specifically requested that Emrys be present for the first eve of the harvest festival.”
Merlin gaped at Arthur, shaking his head in disbelief. “Oh great gods above and below—you have no idea what you are getting us into, do you? You do know, Arthur, that among the Druids, this is a religious festival, not just an excuse to feast and dance?” Merlin groaned, “I wonder what they want from me.”
“Poor Emrys,” laughedArthur, “Do tell me more about the burdens and obligations of your position. It must be so awful to be worshipped like a god.”
Merlin just scowled at him.
As the sun sank, they approached the Druid encampment and were greeted enthusiastically. Two bandrui led their horses away, and a young druid took them to the tent which would be theirs for the night. “Please refresh yourselves,” he said, indicating the platter of fruit and cheese, as well as a jug and goblets which had been left on a small table. “The elders will be here to prepare Emrys shortly. After the ritual, there’ll be a big feast!”
Merlin groaned, and Arthur laughed out loud. But both were hungry, thirsty, and dusty, and took advantage of the opportunity to wash up and partake of the refreshments.
Shortly, several elders appeared, laden with leaves, sheaves of wheat, berries, and an impressive set of antlers.
“Oh gods, Arthur, I do not have a good feeling about this,” whined Merlin.
Arthur was shooed from the tent by one of the elders. He strolled around the encampment a bit, but curiosity overcame him, and he wandered back towards the tent. He peered into the tent through a small gap in the fabric panels, and grinned at what he saw. Merlin was fighting mightily to keep hold of his clothing as he was being efficiently undressed.
When a headdress of stag antlers was lifted to his head, Merlin again balked, and Arthur was reminded of a certain feathered hat. Finally, exasperated one of the older women spoke to Merlin. She made it clear, again, that it was a great honor to the Druids to have Emrys take the part of the Horned God, and it behooved him to take it seriously. Her tone was an odd combination of deferential, but stern, and not at all unfamiliar to Arthur, who, as a young prince, had often been reprimanded in just such tones.
Arthur sat back on his heels. Sometimes in their familiarity, Arthur forgot that Merlin was not only an incredibly powerful sorcerer, but also highly revered by the magical community. He inched forward again and continued to watch the preparations. Merlin was naked to the waist, dressed only in the antlers, a simple cloth which had been tied around his waist, and garlands of wheat, leaves, and berries which were fastened around Merlin’s brow, neck, and hips. Arthur couldn’t tear his eyes away. He’d never seen anything more beautiful and endearing. The most powerful sorcerer in the world, revered by an ancient and powerful people, half-naked, decorated with symbols of nature and fertility, and biting his lip and skittering like a high-strung horse.
Arthur was torn. His desire to gentle and soothe Merlin warred with the impulse to taunt and tease him back into his familiar, cheeky self. And underneath it all, he wanted nothing more than to rush everyone out of the tent and take Merlin to bed…leaves and berries, acorns and all.
A gentle titter alerted Arthur to the young bandrui who had approached his hiding spot. She smiled and put her finger to her lips. “I promise, I won’t give you away. Anyone can tell you cannot take your eyes off of your intended.”
“Intended? He’s not my—He’s not my intended,” said Arthur, blushing. Arthur stared back into the tent, took a deep breath, and turned back to the young woman. “Wait, can you tell me—I mean—do you mean——among your people—Would it really be permitted for us—two men—to marry?”
“Of course, my lord. What you call marriage, we call hand-fasting.”
“I’m sorry—I have to go—now—excuse me!”
Arthur burst into the tent, grabbed Merlin and kissed him passionately, totally ignoring the tut-tutts and shooing of the elders, who were wise enough to quietly back away.
“Merlin, Merlin, Merlin. Did you know about hand-fasting? Did you know we could be married by the Druids?”
Merlin looked to the elders for confirmation. They nodded their heads, grinning.
Before the elders could shoo Arthur back out of the tent to finish their preparations, Merlin pulled Arthur close and whispered, “I guess we’ve got some big news to share with my mum, huh?”
Arthur just nodded his head, and swallowed, grinning from ear to ear as he was rather unceremoniously removed from the tent.