Title: There in the Flower Garden
Character/s: Merlin, Arthur, Gwen
Summary: Arthur and Gwen overhear Merlin in a euphonious moment.
Word Count: 855
Prompt: 320: Eavesdrop
Author's Notes: The songs used in this are from the 12th and 15th century, respectively - Strambotti Siciliani (Sicilian Love Song) and Anonymous Song (Spain). Sourced from this and adapted just a tiny bit.
“More than honey the words you speak are sweet, honest and wise, nobly and wittily said…”
Arthur paused, all thoughts of a meeting with the king fading from his mind. That surely was Merlin’s voice he had heard, but — had Merlin been singing? He hadn’t known Merlin could do that; Merlin’s voice, while not the most discordant thing to fall upon Arthur’s ears, wasn’t quite known for being pleasing to the ear, especially not when it roused Arthur from his beloved slumber or ribbed him for a flashy grin at a visiting princess.
“Yours are the beauties of Camiola complete, Of Iseult the blonde and Morgana the fairy maid,” Merlin continued, somewhere else in the castle, the notes of his song drifting across the hall towards Arthur.
Arthur had to see it for himself. Merlin usually refused all the knights’ entreaties to join them in their revelry around the fire whenever they were out on patrol or a week-long hunting trip, and Arthur had assumed it was a frog in his throat that embarrassed him. But, good God, the truth was the opposite — the truth was that Merlin could sing, and Arthur had thus been unjustly denied numerous glorious opportunities to chaff him.
Stealthily he crept to the end of the corridor; it branched into two different hallways, one leading towards Gaius’s infirmary and the other towards Morgana’s rooms and those of some of the widowed noblewomen living in the castle. Merlin’s voice was coming from Morgana’s rooms.
“If Blanchefleur should be added to the group, your loveliness would tower above each head…”
As Arthur neared Morgana’s door, he saw an odd sight. Morgana’s maid stood flat against the wood, peering into the room through the crack between the door and the jamb. There was a strange, sad smile on her face that disappeared when she noticed Arthur, that was replaced with startled respect. She curtsied as he quietly joined her, and thankfully did not move from her place by the door.
Merlin’s voice rose in volume: “Beneath your brows five beautiful things repose: Love and a fire and a flame, the lily, the rose.” And then it died away. Merlin’s footsteps clapped as he moved across the room.
“What’s he doing in there?” Arthur whispered to Gwen.
“He’s helping me air out all of Morgana’s clothes,” Gwen whispered back. “I left to fetch lavender —” she indicated the basket of sprigs hanging heavy from her hand — “and when I returned, he was singing.”
“I didn’t know he could,” Arthur murmured, taller than Gwen and so trying to sneak a peek from the space above her head. The shock of Merlin’s black hair was visible above Morgana’s changing screen as he draped something green over it.
“He sings quite a lot, my lord.”
Arthur glanced at Gwen. Something akin to envy fluttered in his stomach; he was supposed to know everything about Merlin. He vaunted himself on knowing Merlin best — not that it was a matter of pride for him, it wasn’t — and to think that there were aspects of Merlin still a mystery to him but familiar to others was unsettling.
“Always about you,” Gwen whispered, blushing. “He never says it outright, but it’s quite obvious to the rest of us.”
It took Arthur a precious second to realise that she meant — that she — that Merlin sang about him, for him, and that it implied Merlin at the very least had feelings for — no, that couldn’t possibly be true. Merlin held him in quite obvious contempt. He opened his mouth to argue the point with Gwen but behind the door, music blossomed in Merlin’s voice again.
“There in the flower garden I will die,” Merlin sang. Arthur peered through the crack. Merlin was slowly shaking the dust out of a rolled-up dress. The grief on his face made Arthur draw in a sharp breath.
“Among the rose bushes he will kill me.”
Merlin closed his eyes for a brief while and held the dress to his breast, presenting an exquisite view of himself dappled by the sunlight falling upon him through the windows. Even in his shabby clothes, to Arthur he looked lovely.
“I was on my way, Mother, to cut some roses; there in the flower garden I found my love,” and there was no way Merlin could be talking about Arthur, obviously. Gwen saw the doubt on Arthur’s face and pursed her lips.
“There in the flower garden he will kill me,” Merlin finished, and sighed deeply, smiling a strange, sad smile like Arthur had seen on Gwen.
Arthur whisked himself out of sight, unable to meet the piercing stare of Morgana’s maid.
Gwen waited a beat and then knocked on the door. “I’m back,” she announced, cheerful as she opened it and held up the lavender basket. Arthur chose that moment to steal away, elsewhere, anywhere.
Those songs couldn’t have been about him. Merlin didn’t love Arthur so much that he would compare his beauty to the legendary pulchritude of Iseult, Camiola, Blanchefleur,
And Arthur would never break Merlin’s heart, or kill him.
Not for any cause under the sky.