Character/s: Merlin, Gwen, Morgana, Gaius
Summary: Merlin worries when several simultaneous celebrations demand his presence
Word Count: 600
Prompt: 458 Maypole
Author's Notes: Canon AU. Thank you to Jenny for useful information!
Merlin came back from his secret woodland meeting with the Druids just as the Maypole was brought out of storage and carried onto the castle green.
The pole was ancient, exceptionally long, and decorated with intricate carvings of flowers, leaves and unicorns. In the coming days, Merlin knew, carpenters would be going over the pole, checking its condition, and repairing any damage or weakness. It would be a bad omen if the pole did not hold up well during the annual dance. Such a calamity had to be averted.
Continuing through the castle gate, Merlin wasn't in a good mood, and for once, the sight of Gwen and Morgana walking towards him under the colonnade could not cheer him up.
Gwen was carrying an armful of many-coloured silks. Morgana had a purple ribbon and pretty white daisies tied into her elaborate braid.
"Merlin," Gwen exclaimed, smiling at him. "We're getting ready for the May festival. I'll prepare these ribbons to be used in the dance around the Maypole. Look, aren't they beautiful? Aren't you excited?"
Merlin nodded and did his best to smile.
"Finally, spring is here," Morgana said. "Just thinking of the festival seems to bring hope and joy to everyone."
"You'll be joining us in the ribbon dance, won't you?" Gwen asked Merlin. "It's such a fun, happy event."
"Maybe," Merlin hedged. "I'm not a good dancer, I'm too clumsy. Just ask Arthur what he thinks."
"Oh, but you must take part in the dance, Merlin. I insist. Never mind what Arthur says," Morgana stated, gesturing in regal dismissal of the prince's opinions. "I myself will choose a May king and queen among the dancers, and crown them with flowers."
Gwen beamed and nodded. "Maybe we'll both be royalty for a day, Merlin. Won't that be fun?"
When Merlin finally arrived home, not even the delicious smell of Gaius' lamb stew could brighten his foul mood. Gaius only had to glance at him to see that something was very wrong, and immediately arched an eyebrow in silent inquiry.
Merlin slumped down on the bench by the table, looking miserable. "This is such a mess! I don't know what to do," he moaned.
"Do about what?"
"The Druids insist that because I am Emrys, I have an obligation to join in the ritual dancing around their sacred living tree in the forest. But I am supposed to attend Arthur at exactly the same time, joining Morgana and Gwen at the Maypole festival on the castle green. I can't do both, and I don't know what to do!"
"That does indeed seem difficult," Gaius said, his tone surprisingly light.
"I'd rather say it's completely impossible," Merlin muttered, his expression morose. "My goose is cooked."
"No goose here, just lamb." Gaius placed a steaming bowl in front of Merlin. "Cheer up, my boy. I actually saw this coming once the Druids summoned you. I've just talked to Uther, reminding him that the Maypole dance originally was a magical fertility rite. Before he could think of cancelling the entire dance, I suggested that he might let the dancing go ahead, but that it ought to be delayed by a week to sever any remaining ties to ancient rituals. The king agreed with me. A new date for the festival has just been decreed."
Merlin could hardly believe his ears. "Gaius, you're a hero! Oh, thank you! You've saved me!"
"I'll always do my best to rake your coals out of the fire." Happy about Merlin's delighted reaction, Gaius smiled fondly, but soon grew serious. "I do very much care about you, you know."