[One Day After the End of "Trial"]
Optimism warmed Nemeth’s capital on that partially overcast morning. A slight breeze puffed over the rooftops and ruffled the citizens’ hair. The town and surrounding manors buzzed with activity. People regarded each other with a pleasant air. The knights trained in the palace’s courtyard. Governance went on as usual within the citadel itself.
And in the gardens, some understandings took root as well…..
As was her habit to do between council meetings, Mithian retreated to the palace gardens on that morning. Anxiety unsteadied her gait along the familiar cobble-lined paths over the latest border reports with Cawdor and the Southrons. Disgust grated on her sensibilities concerning the advisors’ views on peasant affairs in the countryside. Impatience weighed down on her like a lead weight.
Her heart kept tugging her back to the east…back in the direction of Camelot….
…back toward Merlin….
We had our visits! We saved him! We still have business back here! her brain implored.
So? We still do our business! We needed to be at the council meeting. We were there. Lords Aethelwald and Edwin were intolerable! her heart snapped back. A bit of numb warmth caressed it suddenly. Too bad Merlin wasn’t exiled.
What? You’re mad! You really think Father would have just let him come here? You are so *transparent*. We have duty! So does Merlin! Patience. We need balance, her brain pointed out. It can happen, all right? We just need to be able to handle all things.
Her heart pouted akin to a child wanting his or her favorite treat right then and there.
I have to at least keep up the act. She sniffed deeply of the lilacs and lavender near the garden’s center. The scents relaxed her mind. They eased her mood. It’s not like Britomart and Father don’t know. We just have to wait for the right time. Meantime I can serve my people whether here or in Camelot. Merlin is safe and well thanks to our intervention. Still I wonder what the bloody fuss was about? Arthur needs to be more mindful it would seem! As if Merlin was really a traitor? A rude snort escaped her lips at that thought.
“Something amuses you, my Daughter?”
She stiffened. Instinct pulled her into a rapid turn and curtsey before her King. “Forgive me, Father. I was deep in thought.”
“Yes I imagine you were.” Rodor smiled. “You seemed inspired in our meeting this morning. I liked the suggestion for the tavern in Gedref. Your concern for our subjects has been missed the last few days. It is quite refreshing.”
“Thank you. That’s kind of you to say,” she accepted graciously. “I just seek to make you proud of me.”
“I’m always proud of you, Mithian. Never doubt that. I wondered if you’d be distracted by your other situation. I am glad you have been able to conduct yourself as we had discussed before your last visit to Camelot,” he assured her. “Still….” He coughed into his hand.
“Still what, Sire?” Her heart froze for a beat’s span in her chest.
“We should tread carefully especially when trying to soothe feelings and establish diplomatic connections. Storming the gate of Camelot under most circumstances is not advisable. Sirs Ywain and Galahad reported that you tried civility first and that Restraint ruled your thinking. Thankfully no one was injured or worse. Under the circumstances, it was understandable. Your actions prevented a grave miscarriage of justice.” He smiled at her.
She nodded. “At least we were able to deal with the magical forgery. Arthur still didn’t understand how Agravaine used magic right under his nose. Certainly he should be more mindful of matters around his court.” Then again Merlin might be doing the same. Be careful what you wish for, Mithian!
“Indeed. And to think I almost insisted that you leave the necklace here this time,” he admitted. “I’m glad I didn’t.”
She bit her lip. For a breath or two, she could almost imagine Merlin swinging at the end of a noose. Pain’s burning dagger stabbed through her heart. Her face turned white. “I’m glad too. Without that, we would have had no proof with which to convince Arthur of Merlin’s innocence.” She trembled. “Pardon me. I…”
“Your reaction is understandable given your feelings for him. Sir Galahad spoke at length with me about your sentiments in front of the court. You maintained your dignity. I am especially proud of your attitude toward Arthur Pendragon. You are growing as a Princess, diplomat and a woman.” His eyes sparkled at her. “It seems Merlin has quite the effect on you.”
“He does. My mind, as always, is on Nemeth’s needs and our subjects. Still Merlin inspires, Father.” In spite of herself, she allowed a heartfelt sigh more befitting a love struck girl than a Princess. “It doesn’t matter how much they put him through. He just does his duty. He’s always there when needed. He’s so humble about it too. I told him that he should have more faith in himself. He didn’t even know he’s worthy of being raised up.”
“Mithian, remember. He still needs one more deed for us to consider him,” he reminded her.
“For us, Father. I spent time with Sir Geoffrey of Monmouth as you recommended. Merlin received his position by saving Arthur’s life years ago. Then there was the return of Mother’s necklace, saving me and preserving the peace. Sir Gawain reported how Merlin fought along with Arthur and the knights to turn back Morgana’s undead army last year.” She shook her head. “I suspect there are more deeds than that. And of course, Merlin will never take credit for them.”
Rodor scratched his chin. He knew well of Mithian’s almost obsessive focus when she’d made up her mind on something. “And you haven’t said anything to Arthur yet?”
“I want more proof before I take the matter to him. I want an ironclad case.” She sniffed. “He should allow me the same grace that we have given him. We only follow his precedent.” She decided not to say anything about Arthur’s promise to help in bringing things to a positive outcome. Father would be more indignant over that.
“I am glad you remain levelheaded in this matter. You are our ambassador. As such, the matters of both kingdoms are your primary focus. It sounds like Merlin has already done enough to merit the status within Camelot. I hope he shall have the opportunity soon to help us once more. Then I can extend him the offer and welcome. Then we can go to Arthur,” he declared.
“As always, I remember my priorities, Father. Thank you for your support once again.” She grinned and embraced him. “I love you.”
“And I you always,” he concurred returning the gesture. “Now shall we eat something before we hear the cases?”
She nodded. “I’d like that. Thank you.”
“Then come. Michael has prepared our meal. It waits in the main hall,” he bade.
Perhaps she was walking with him. Still her heart soared above the clouds. It darted and wove up high on clouds of Faerie dust.
Hope, it seemed, prepared a banquet of its own for her and Her Warlock. Now if only he’d partake of it….