Title: Game of Hearts
Pairing/s: None (yet)
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Gwen, Morgana
Summary: Many hope to win Arthur's heart at Camelot's royal ball
Word Count: 350
Author's Notes: None
Camelot's annual royal ball is in progress.
The great hall blazes with lights and colour, buzzes with music and animated talk. Minor royals and lords from near and far are in attendance. Noble young ladies crowd the hall, bright-eyed and on the hunt; Arthur is the the most eligible bachelor in the seven kingdoms.
A silver jug of cool cider in one hand, a carafe of red wine in the other, Merlin slides along the wall to stand next to Gwen. She's present to wait on Morgana, who twirls past them across the floor, smirking as her dance-partner fumbles a step.
Gwen doesn't notice. Her eyes have strayed to the far end of the hall, where Arthur is welcoming royal guests.
"Chin up, Gwen," Merlin whispers into her ear, nudging her shoulder. "Arthur dislikes being put on display, but it's his duty. He doesn't care for any of these princesses in their silk gowns and jewels."
Gwen sighs. "Maybe not. But they are all so pretty, and their families offer wealth and alliances. Camelot cannot turn down such opportunities forever. Uther won't allow it."
Merlin shakes his head.
"Arthur'll choose none of them, just you wait and see," he tells her with conviction. "One day soon he'll surprise everyone, and follow his heart. I know he will."
Gwen looks grateful, ducking her head to hide a burgeoning smile, and Merlin continues on his way to the high table.
'Dear, sweet Gwen,' he muses. 'You're far too innocent and much too kind. You fail to recognize your only truly dangerous rival, even when he's standing next to you.'
Placing the beverages on the table in front of the king, Merlin bows and withdraws into the shadows behind the dais. From there he can observe the players in this high-stakes game of royal hearts without himself being seen.
He glances in Gwen's direction, his eyes narrowing, a passionate flash of gold in their depths.
'You're my only real competition, Gwen. But Arthur will be mine,' Merlin silently vows. 'I'll do whatever it takes. No-one will stand in my way. Not even you.'