Title: Harvest Festival part 4/4
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Arthur attends an Ealdor harvest festival with Merlin.
Word Count: 708
Prompt: #260 art + "harvest festival"
Author's Notes: canon era
Arthur stays in his crouch and watches Merlin's closed eyelids for any sign of gold glowing there. He sees nothing, and relaxes back onto his heels.
"Merlin?" Arthur asks. "How do you feel?"
Merlin opens one eye to look at Arthur. A flush rises on his cheeks, but he says, "Better," and it comes out strong. "Thank you, Arthur," he adds. He closes his eyes again.
"Do you know what that was?" Arthur asks.
A pause, then, "No," Merlin admits.
"I believe it was a contract of sorts, though I don't know why it happened or who benefits from its outcome," Arthur says.
Merlin thinks for a moment, then says, "I think it was the god of the harvest preparing the earth for the next year. Sow the seeds, and all that. We're meant to do the offerings tomorrow."
"I've never heard of something like this happening to a human before, though," Arthur says. "Play acting is one thing. This was more like the drunken rituals of old, except without the drink to blame."
Merlin looks at Arthur again. His gaze is measuring, but there is an element of trust in it born from the knowledge that Arthur would help him through this kind of need.
"I think I know how this happened to us, or at least to me," Merlin says. He looks back down at the crown of wheat, berries, leaves, and antlers lying on the ground. He puts a hand out in front of him. "Forbearnán," he says.
Arthur sees Merlin's eyes flash gold briefly. Then his attention turns to the crown, which is now on fire.
They both watch as the bones crack and the crown turns to ash over the tilled and seeded soil.
"There," Merlin whispers. "That's the first offering finished."
"Merlin," Arthur scolds.
"Merlin, what... Wh... How..." Arthur can't seem to choose a question. He finally settles on, "What are you doing in Camelot when you have magic?"
"It was the only place we knew of where I could learn to control it," he says.
Arthur can tell there's more to the story than that simple answer. "And?" he asks.
"And...." Merlin takes a deep breath. "And then I met you, and learned about a path I could take. I went there to learn about myself. I stayed there, where, you're right, it's not safe, because I can better help you live to become king one day if I am there when something bad happens. You're going to be a great king, Arthur, and I want to see you and Camelot get that chance."
Arthur stares at Merlin and does not reply.
Merlin looks Arthur in the eye and continues, "My magic is for you, Arthur. It is of the land, and the land wants you." His gaze turns inward. "I think that's how this all happened just now. I must have tempted the gods by wearing the costume at the right time. If you wish, take your participation as a metaphor for good fortune to come."
"Your mother said nearly the same thing when I came by here earlier," Arthur says.
Merlin smiles. "Then that is the second time she has commented on us with a phrase that magic has chosen to have someone else say, too. Though the first time was in a different order."
Arthur thinks over what Merlin has said while Merlin finally sits up.
"Alright. Time to get my clothes back on," Merlin says.
"Yes, that wheat belt was rather scratchy on my forehead. Probably best to go back to cloth," Arthur quips.
They both freeze.
Merlin stares at Arthur.
Arthur feels his unfulfilled urges snap back to attention. He looks at an interesting corner of the tent.
Merlin clears his throat and says, "You know... if you want... even when we're back in Camelot... if you want to... I... but if you don't want, then that's--"
"Merlin," Arthur regains his composure and cuts him off. "Quit your babbling."
"Yes, sire," Merlin sighs, and he sounds a little dejected.
Arthur stands up and offers Merlin a hand. "We'll discuss it when we're home." He pulls Merlin up, but doesn't let go of his hand. Quietly, he says, "I do want."
Merlin smiles at him.