Uther had been slowly and progressively getting worse since the winter. They hadn't thought much of his cough at first, but now 3 months later, first month of the spring, Uther had experience with his first fainting spell.
What was wrong with him? Gaius had the answer. He called it 'acute senectus' – old age.
The kingdom was almost immediately thrown up in arms, but Uther quieted them. While his time was short, his son was alive and well. Arthur Pendragon was to take the throne when Uther died.
Arthur was almost glued to Uther's side the following months. He watched every move his father made, who he talked to, what he did – it was tiring, but it would all pay off in the end. Most of Arthur's princely duties, those he could not maintain while shadowing his father, were split up and passed between the senior knights. They didn't mind the extra work though, if it meant Arthur was to be a better prepared king, then they, and everyone else, were all for it.
Merlin was also quite pleased. With Arthur king, magic wouldn't be as hated and feared. Arthur already knew of Merlin's magic, he'd known for about a year now, but he, Gwen, and Gaius were the only ones in all of Camelot. It was sad and lonely, but soon, hopefully very soon, Merlin wouldn't have to hide anymore.
He was also aware of all the kingly duties Arthur had to watch and learn, and he didn't think too of much of it. It was difficult and complicated, but Arthur already had half of them memorized, the other half being quickly learned. All would be well, he wasn't aware of the other duties and events that would have to be quickened though, and was rather shocked when Arthur handed his manservant a bouquet of flowers - daisies.
"Uh-" Merlin began hesitantly shifting his gaze from the flowers in hand to Arthur and then back to the flowers.
Arthur groaned and slapped a hand over his face, "They're not you, Merlin." The prince huffed, "They're for Eleanor. Percival."
Merlin's face remained stoic and the prince questioned how bright magicians were actually required to be to practice magic, "Princess of the northern kingdom?"
"Eleanor, daughter of King Benjamin?"
"Eleanor the Quick of Mouth?"
"Eleanor of the beautiful?"
Arthur felt ready to pound his face into the nearest 10 inch wall at Merlin'ss uncomprehending face. Had he been paying zero attention to anything he'd been exposed to the last six months?
"Merlin, you're an uninformed idiot." The Prince groaned, "But it doesn't matter. She's coming whether you know her of not, and I want you to ride out, meet her, and give her those." Arthur gestured to the daisies, "They're her favorite last I recall, and you won't lose them."
"Right." Merlin looked at the daisies in his hands, "So, why's she coming to Camelot?"
Arthur did slam his head into the nearest wall and groaned quite audibly, "We're betrothed, Merlin – or didn't you know that?"
Merlin's eyebrows were introduced to his hairline, "You? Married?" Merlin began to break out into giggles and chortles. The poor manservant couldn't help doubling over in his perceived hilarity, and Arthur, with a manly sigh, placed his hands on his hips, rolled his eyes, and waited for the wave of giggling (like a girl) to die down to more appropriate levels.
It took six minutes.
"Done?" Arthur questioned, ready to beat Merlin's face in.
Merlin snorted, ''Yeah, I think so." He coughed, "So, how'd you meet her and when did you propose?"
"I didn't propose, Merlin. We're betrothed. It meant that when I was a baby, and she was a baby, our parents decided that we would be married to strengthen the peaceful and diplomatic ties between our two nations." At Merlin's blank look, Arthur simplified, "My dad proposed the marriage to her dad, and now we're getting married."
"Oooooooh." Merlin had a look of understanding cross his face and nodded, "So you – don't love her then? Never met her have you?"
Arthur slapped the servant upside the head, "Of course I've met her before. I've seen her every summer since I was 4 until I was 21. Her mother took ill after that, and she hasn't been able to make it these past four years because of it, but now that her mother's past, she's coming again. Not only for another visit, but to get married; she won't be leaving this time around." Arthur rubbed tiredly at his eyes, "And as for whether I love her…"
The prince shook his head and crossed his arms, "We're friends, Merlin - like how you and Guinevere were before you got together. I can't say I love her, but I wouldn't marry anyone else either."
Merlin smiled, "Well, I'll go deliver these flowers then." And with that the wizard trotted off.
Arthur sighed as he leaned against the wall and slid down, holding his head in his hands.
He wasn't even king yet, and he already needed a vacation.