Title: Summit of Two
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin
Summary: Arthur and Merlin discuss economic intervention.
Warnings: Thinly veiled political philosophy.
Word Count: 431
Prompt: #32 Laugh
Author's Notes: Bleh.
"I know I can count on your uncomprehending and thus unbiased perspective, Merlin."
"Yes, sire," came the expected and subtly flippant reply.
"There's no written law," Arthur continued, pausing to ravage another chicken bone. "But there's an awful lot of precedent. It's expected that I will accede to Torlon's request."
The wardrobe trembled slightly and made some disinterested "mm-hmm" noises as Merlin rescued a discarded glove from the clutches of a cobweb.
"My father would have." His voice sounded tremulous to his own ears, and he found himself staring out over the city lights, thinking about the thousands of people who depended on Camelot's walls. He was so deep in thought that he nearly jumped out of his skin when Merlin spoke from his right elbow.
"And...they're right. I should reward Torlon's loyalty. I just..."
"...can't help but feel that you'd be betraying every person you've sworn to protect? That the crown's traditional favoritism is utterly incompatible with the virtues of the round table?"
Arthur blinked. "I wasn't going to say that."
"Of course, sire. That's why I said it for you."
Arthur resumed his meal while Merlin remained a perfect model of solicitousness, his eyes brimming with rebellion. They had made him laugh once: the ridiculous notions that his servant held about the world. Arthur had chalked it up to Merlin's being born in a tiny village where the most impractical idealism might be sheltered from the violence that governed the dealings of men. But the more Merlin echoed the whispers of Arthur's own heart, the less humor he found in the situation.
"So you think as Grenvois, then? Strip Torlon of his titles and cede his lands to the people of Downtry?"
"It is tempting. But your defense of the peasants is meaningless if you allow them to become as privileged as the nobles were."
"And what is your solution, oh wise bearer of cups?" Arthur watched with faint amusement as Merlin refilled his goblet.
"If Torlon wants the land, he can purchase it from the people of Downtry. And when he hitches the plow before the horse again, let them buy it back for a tenth of the price. He will have no one but himself to blame for his beggary, and the people will use his wealth to make the fields more productive than they were before."
Arthur stared. "Where do you get these ideas, Merlin?"
"I thought that was the point of the table. 'Equality in all things.' Which, while we're on the subject, means I'm due a day off."
This time Arthur did laugh.