Summary: Today is a very special day in Camelot. It's the day Albion will crown its High King. (And Arthur's not a bit nervous!)
Warnings: A bit flufferific, but needed after this week IMHO...
Word Count: just an eeeek > 2,000
Author's Notes: For the lovely mushroomtale. Your Merlin art is amazing and beautiful! I can't tell you how hard it was to get into "Happy Golden Age of Camelot Canon AU" mode after watching that finale episode! But, I'm SO glad I did. It was very cathartic. I hope it will be for you, too! Happy Holidays! :D (PS ~ I am an idiot for not profusely thanking my lovely beta k_nightfox. Lord, I'm a jerk! hee)
Disclaimer:Merlin is owned by the BBC and Shine. No copyright infringement is intended and no profit is being made. Don't send us to the dungeons.
[Dawn of a New Era]
Dawn of a New Era
“Stop fidgeting, Arthur.”
Despite himself, Arthur jumped at the sound of Merlin’s voice.
“I am not fidgeting, Merlin…” Arthur huffed as he tugged at the neck of his maroon gambeson.
“Sure, you’re not…” Merlin muttered as he crossed the room. He pried Arthur’s fingers away from the uneven collar, deftly retied the mismatched strings and brushed his long fingers along Arthur’s chest and shoulders in a gesture that was much more about calming his skittish lover’s anxieties than removing wrinkles.
Merlin rolled his eyes theatrically. “Just like you’re not nervous….”
“I’m not!” he insisted, giving Merlin a disgruntled look. “Besides, you should be getting yourself ready, not bothering me right now.”
Merlin stepped back and did a slow turn with arms outstretched, allowing Arthur to take in his dress attire: black boots, black breeches, and his ever-present red neckerchief jauntily tucked into the collar of his dark blue quilted velvet jacket. Arthur’s precious gift of Ygraine’s sigil hung from a braided chain at his breast, and over all of this was his formal Court Sorcerer’s cloak. It was the color of midnight and had hundreds of runes embroidered in metallic thread along its edges that matched the silver that had recently begun to streak the wiry man’s temples.
“I am ready, Arthur…which you would have noticed if you weren’t so damn worked up.”
Arthur’s eyes narrowed dangerously. “You may be my Consort, but you’re still not allowed to talk to me like that, Merlin. I am the King, after all…”
“That never stopped me before…” Merlin’s cerulean eyes twinkled over a cheeky grin.
Arthur just huffed and rolled his eyes. “And where the hell is Aelfric? He should be helping me get dressed!” Arthur started pacing agitatedly, running an impatient hand over his golden beard.
Merlin picked up Arthur’s perfectly polished chainmail from the table and motioned for him to stop.
“I told him to stay away from you and these chambers at all costs today, Arthur,” he said, expertly pulling the mail over Arthur’s head and helping him tuck his arms inside. “You’re a bear to deal with when you’re like this. After ten years as your servant, I should know.”
“Well, at least I’m not the idiot who accidentally made it rain in the council chambers last week,” Arthur smirked as he tucked his head through the chainmail hood Merlin proffered.
“Aw, come on, Arthur, that’s not fair! You know how Leon drones on at times. I was half asleep and got thirsty. How was I supposed to know that would happen?” The wounded face the warlock pulled was so pitiful it was almost laughable.
“Perhaps because you are the foremost authority of magic in this land,” Arthur responded reasonably with a teasing smirk. “Besides, you’ve attended thousands of council meetings with me over the years and never made anything like that happen before.”
“Yes, well, I was never expected to actually listen to the proceedings then, either,” Merlin grumbled and pouted so spectacularly that Arthur could not suppress a chuckle when he pulled the other man into his embrace, placing a penitent kiss against those beloved lips.
Instantly, Merlin stepped closer, pulling Arthur’s hips against his with one hand while the other snaked up Arthur’s chest to play with the soft hair at the nape of his neck.
Arthur groaned and grasped both of Merlin’s buttocks, pulling him into sharp and intimate contact. But a hair's breadth later, Arthur sighed and stepped back, putting space between them again. “As much as I’d like to, we shouldn’t start something we definitely don’t have time to finish right now…”
Merlin took a shaky breath to collect himself before opening his eyes. “Don’t think you’re off the hook, Pendragon, just because you’re a good kisser.”
Arthur let out a bark of laughter at that. “Flatterer.”
Merlin rolled his eyes heavenward. “Such a prat…You’re so full of yourself, we’ll be lucky if the crown still fits that cabbage head of yours.”
“Well, we’ll never find out if you don’t shut up long enough to get me bloody dressed.”
With a long-suffering sigh, Merlin gathered up the overtunic bearing the Pendragon crest and tugged it over Arthur’s head with just a bit more force than necessary.
“Oi!” Arthur protested loudly. “You’re fixing that…” he grumbled, running his fingers through his sandy hair to comb down the mess Merlin had made of it.
With the excuse of grabbing Arthur’s sword belt, Merlin turned his head and bit the inside of his cheek to keep from grinning like a madman.
When Merlin met Arthur’s eyes moments later, however, his brows scrunched with worry at the suddenly solemn visage of his king. “What? What is it, Arthur?”
Arthur stared across the room, his eyes unfocused. “I…just can’t believe this is happening.”
Merlin tightened and looped Arthur’s belt, slid Excalibur into its scabbard and then straightened so he could put a reassuring hand on Arthur’s shoulder. “I can. If anyone deserves this kind of recognition, Arthur… it’s you.”
Arthur shook his head a little. “No, I meant…that the Kingdoms are reunited and Albion is at peace at long last. It seems a bit…surreal, you know?”
“A bit,” Merlin agreed, a tender and proud smile curling at the edges of his mouth. “But you’ve always had it in you. I never doubted you could do it.”
“We,” Arthur corrected, placing a mirroring hand on Merlin’s shoulder. “We did it, Merlin. I could not possibly have achieved all of this without you.”
“Arthur…” Merlin began to protest, but stopped speaking when Arthur’s fingers squeezed his shoulder.
“Do not even bother denying it. I would have been lost without your easy friendship, your wise counsel, and your steadfast devotion to me and to Camelot.”
Although it was true that Arthur had vastly improved in speaking from the heart over the years, the same could not be said of Merlin’s ability to receive said praise and recognition. He couldn’t quite meet Arthur’s eyes as a slow blush crept up from his neck into his cheeks. They flamed against his otherwise alabaster skin.
“Would you stop that, you idiot?” Arthur remonstrated, lightly cuffing Merlin on the back of the head. “Learn to take a compliment, for Gods’ sake!”
“Great…” Merlin griped, “now I have to fix both your hair and mine…”
However, the flush of embarrassment had faded and, although Merlin was now annoyed with him, Arthur still found it a vast improvement over the shy and meek persona he’d just seen. That didn’t suit Merlin at all. And when Merlin met Arthur’s eyes again and smiled despite himself, Arthur thought, Mission accomplished.
~ ~ ~
Merlin stood on the dais in the main audience room to the left of Arthur’s throne, hands clasped in front of him in the very picture of solemnity. Atop his head he wore the studded circlet that Arthur used to wear before he was named Crown Prince, as was befitting his role as the Royal Consort.
Over the years, he’d gotten used to (if not altogether comfortable with) people staring at him due to his raised status. But today, all eyes were on Arthur as he strode toward the front of the great room, proud and tall, his scarlet Camelot cloak billowing behind him as he walked.
Arthur climbed the steps to stand before his throne, one hand by his side, the other resting comfortably on the handle of Excalibur.
Geoffrey of Monmouth stepped forward, nodding once each to Arthur and Merlin before asking in his clear, booming voice, “Who amongst you have come to pledge fealty to King Arthur Pendragon?”
King Rodor of Nemeth was the first to approach the dais. He knelt on one knee and swore to follow the young man that had more than earned his and his kingdom’s devotion by saving his and Mithian’s lives and restoring them to their throne after an attack by Morgana.
Queen Annis of Caerleon approached next, vowing to protect and serve the man who had once averted a war with humility and bravery, and had returned many good, strong men to her realm after defeating Morgana’s forces in Ismere.
Next was King Bayard of Mercia, who had not forgotten the brave young Prince who had gone on quest to save the life of his servant, and who had uncovered the plot of the Sorceress Nimueh that had pitted his kingship against the Pendragons.
King Lot of Essetir was the last ruler of the Five Kingdoms to swear his fealty, but he was no less sincere for that. Essetir had fallen into a time of unrest and poverty a few years after King Cenred’s disgraceful end at the hands of Morgause, and Camelot’s King had pledged his assistance to the newly-minted king…and followed up on that offer many, many times over the years in a sure sign of good will.
But the line of royalty who wished to honor Arthur did not stop there. King Odin also knelt before the man who had, in a strange twist of fate, become almost a second son to him. King Olaf also pledged his loyalty to the man who had nobly spared his life even after Olaf had threatened his own. King Godwin of Gawant also offered all the assistance and loyalty his small kingdom could offer in repayment for the healing of his only daughter Elena from a Sidhe possession. King Ephraim, the new ruler of the land Alined hailed from, could not have been more different from his Great Uncle. Where Alined had been sneaky and cruel, Ephraim was trustworthy and patient. He was more than pleased to become a part of something as truly remarkable as a united Albion.
Once the last of the dignitaries had made their oaths, Merlin stepped forward and nimbly unclasped the Camelot cloak from around Arthur’s shoulders and set it aside. A page stepped forward, holding a folded cloak.
As Merlin picked it up by the collar and let the material unfurl so that the room could see it, there was a gasp that went up through the room at the garment’s beauty. Made from the richest crimson velvet to be found in Albion, it shimmered in waves as it moved. Upon it was embroidered, as Arthur had insisted, the crests of every kingdom of Albion, including Camelot. Laid in a circle, each of identical size, no one crest held more importance over the other. In the center of these emblems lay a new crest: A golden sun encompassing a mighty sword licked by blue flame, symbolizing the dawn of a new era where every citizen of Albion, both magical and non-magical, would have equal rights and fair treatment under the law.
Merlin stepped forward and, with a flick of his wrist, settled the new mantle across Arthur’s shoulders, clipping the sun-shaped clasp at his throat before looking up to meet his lover’s eyes.
Surreptitiously, Merlin rubbed the moisture from his lashes with one hand before stepping back and turning toward the teeming crowd.
Merlin’s voice echoed throughout the chamber as he proclaimed, “Citizens of Camelot and Honored Friends, I give you: Arthur Pendragon, High King of Albion! Long live the King!”
The cheers of “Long Live the High King!” resounded throughout the chamber, nearly deafening in its volume.
In pure joy and delight, Merlin raised his hands and from them issued a flurry of tiny, starry sparkles that danced in the air and floated on the breeze. Moments later, they were joined by Iseldir’s fragrant flower petals and Gilli’s fluttering dragonflies which danced to the ethereal windsong cast by Oonat of the Catha’s magic. The cries of the masses for their King quieted to gasps of awe at the beautiful display of the force that used to terrify them all.
As the celebration continued, Merlin and Arthur’s eyes locked as the weight of the moment sunk in. They had done it; together they had united the land in harmony and understanding. Magic was free and peace ruled the land. The Golden Age heralded by prophecy had truly begun.