Actions

Work Header

The Tale of Camelot's First Ever Poetry Night

Chapter Text

Even though it was a Tuesday, the Rising Sun was packed. All available seats had been taken hours ago, with the remaining space for standing fully occupied as well. Nobles, knights, servants, artisans, even day-laborers were all crammed in together, the evening’s entertainment erasing class divisions.

Barmaids struggled to navigate their way through the crowd without spilling drinks. A line of late arrivals stretched down the street, naively hoping that someone might leave so that they could enter.

Inside, the anticipation grew. Along the back wall, where benches had been arranged to make an improvised stage, a man stepped forward and cleared his throat. The roar of tavern-goers fell silent. After two long weeks of waiting, the moment had arrived.

The man on the stage appeared nervous, a little unsure, but he quickly gained his bearings. Brushing his hair away from his eyes, he addressed the crowd.

“Thank you all for coming. My name is Sir Leon and on behalf of the king, I would like to welcome you to Camelot’s first ever poetry night.”

Cheers erupted forcing Leon to pause momentarily.

“We have several… um… talented…”

Leon hung on the word. Knights were supposed to uphold the virtue of honesty. Was that adjective entirely accurate? Leon had his doubts but decided not to dwell on the matter.

“…. Talented poets who have volunteered to share their works tonight for the cultural enrichment of the realm.”

Applause broke out again as King Arthur joined Leon on the stage.

“And as my first knight and organizer of this event, I’m sure that you, Sir Leon, will be happy to start us off with a verse of your own composition.”

“Leon! Leon! Leon!” chanted the audience.

Leon sighed. He loved Arthur like a brother and genuinely appreciated the changes the man had implemented since taking the throne. Camelot was vastly improved from the days of Uther’s reign. And yet, Leon sometimes yearned for a simpler time, a time when the only obligations of knights were to defend the realm, compete in tournaments, and wear stylish cloaks.

Literary adventures were not what Leon had envisioned when he was a young boy dreaming of knighthood. How had he gotten here?

*****

It began a fortnight ago. As is so often the case in these sorts of tales, the night had been dark and stormy. Leon was patrolling the castle corridors when he heard suspicious voices coming from inside a storeroom. Cautiously, he opened the door, fully prepared to take on nighttime thieves or mischief-makers. Instead, he found the king and his manservant standing very close to one another. They were flustered, out of breath, and looking extremely guilty.

Ah. Leon had a strong suspicion as to what exactly they’d been up to. Though no one would dare say anything in front of Arthur, Camelot was rife with gossip regarding the pair and their very obvious affection for one another.

Leon couldn’t fathom why they would sneak off for a tryst in a dusty storeroom when there were many plausible reasons why Merlin, as manservant to the king, might spend the night in Arthur’s chambers. Still, that was none of his business. Since there had been no formal declaration regarding the status of their relationship, Leon decided it best to feign ignorance.

“Is everything alright, my lord?”

“It's perfectly fine. We are… Merlin, tell Leon what we're doing.”

“We're… um… I'm teaching him some poetry.”

Poetry? Seriously? Of all the possible explanations Leon had expected, that one came in dead last. The only thing that might be more unbelievable would be some nonsense about chasing the ghost of Uther. 

“I love poetry.”

Leon had known Arthur for well over a decade now. Not once had the man ever mentioned a fondness for the verse.

“I was as surprised as you are. He can't get enough of it.”

I’m sure he can’t, Leon thought. Best to leave them to their… poetry.

“It’s true,” Arthur continued before Leon could escape. “It’s… um… a good outlet for… feelings.”

“So they say, my lord.”

“Do you have experience with poetry, Leon? Composing or reciting?”

Was Merlin asking what Leon thought he was asking? Leon tried to work out the mechanics. Would the composer be the one who…

No, thought Leon, cutting off his train of thought. I’m not going there. Down that road lies madness.

“A… um… limited amount… with both.” There. That should give them something to think about.

“Well,” said Arthur, “you should practice more often. But not always alone. It’s better with someone else – more satisfying. Merlin here is an excellent partner. I admire his… assonance.”

Please stop, thought Leon. Please, please, please. For the love of Camelot. Just stop.

“Honestly,” Merlin chimed in, “I think everyone could benefit from more poetry - alone, with a partner, even in a group. Helps relieve the tension.”

Maybe for you, thought Leon, whose own levels of discomfort were bordering on lethal.

“That’s an excellent idea, Merlin. We should hold a public exhibition. So everyone can join in the fun. It will take time to arrange. Leon, you’re good with planning. Think on it.  Now if you’ll excuse us, we… um… need to get back to…”

“Of course, my lord.”

Leon was just about to retreat when he had a thought.

“You know…” He paused, gathering all of the knightly courage he possessed. “You don’t have to confine your poetry to a closet. There are many, myself included, who would be proud to celebrate your literary partnership.”

Then Leon fled before Arthur or Merlin could say anything else.

*****

In hindsight, Leon recognized that sharing the previous night’s events with Gwaine was a mistake. All might otherwise have been forgotten.

“It’s alright. You’re probably tired. Leon tells me you were up late reading poetry with Merlin last night.”

Whether Gwaine was genuinely trying to soften the blow of having bested Arthur in a duel or was just being an ass, Leon couldn’t say. The shit-eating grin on Gwaine’s face suggested the latter, but Leon was trying to stay open-minded.

“So Leon told you about that, did he?”

As a seasoned knight, Leon had honed his ability to detect even the slightest hints of danger. Arthur’s tone caused all of Leon’s internal alarm bells to begin ringing loudly.

“Did he also mention his own affinity for poetry? And how he’s excited to be in charge of organizing a poetry night for all of Camelot? To be held two exactly two weeks from today?”

Once upon a time, Leon had believed that Arthur was a kind, compassionate king. The glare he was currently directing at his first knight suggested evidence to the contrary.

Was it murder, Leon thought as he stared at Gwaine, to kill a fellow knight who had grievously betrayed one of his own?

Gwaine, perhaps possessing his own ability to sense peril, quickly volunteered to help with the planning, and thus saved himself from an untimely demise. He invited Leon out for a drink to discuss the details.

“You should hold it here,” Gwaine had said as they sat at a table in the Rising Sun.

“But isn’t poetry meant to be read somewhere more formal?”

“Well it all depends on the type of poetry. Let me tell you about something I once saw in a tavern in Mercia called a ‘poetry slam.’”

As Leon listened to tales of Gwaine’s adventures, literary and otherwise, from his pre-Camelot days, he had to admit that the man made some convincing arguments. The tavern was a venue where people from all walks of life converged, making the event more inclusive. It could help Arthur better connect with his subjects and distinguish his rule from his father’s. Staging it at the Rising Sun had the added benefit supporting a small business and the local economy.

Though, if Leon was entirely honest, the fact he’d likely need a few drinks himself to survive the night was a key factor in his decision.

“Fine. You’ve won me over,” he told Gwaine. “We’ll hold it here.”

They easily gained the consent of the proprietor, who needed little convincing after some quick mental calculations about crowd size and drink prices. Notices were plastered throughout the city advertising the event and directing all parties interested in participating to inquire at the Rising Sun for the signup sheet.

*****

The two weeks passed quickly and now Leon stood on the stage, facing an eager audience, abruptly tasked by the king with the privilege of being the first poet to present that evening. Merlin was right. The man really was a prat.

Leon suspected Arthur might try something like this so he had written a verse to read. It wasn’t very long. It likely wasn’t very good. But at least he wasn’t unprepared.

“There is a place I love a lot.

It is my home in Camelot.

Though I have no partner for poetry,

Perhaps I’ll find one eventually.”

 

There was a brief, uncomfortable silence when he made it to the end of his composition, the hype surrounding the event leaving the audience expecting something a little more developed. Sweat started to bead on Leon’s brow as he tried to keep his breathing steady.

They say that knights are supposed to rescue damsels in distress. On this particular occasion, the roles reversed as Guinevere, realizing that Leon was in desperate need of saving, began clapping enthusiastically. Following her lead, others offered polite applause, though not with the same exuberance as Gwen.

The incident prompted Elyan to swap places with the next poet, following Leon with a sweet vignette dedicated to his sister, praising her kind heart, admiring her inner strength, and apologizing for abandoning her at times when she really needed him at home.

“I am so very sorry, Gwen,” he added. “I promise that from here on out, I’ll be there for you.”

There was not a dry eye in the tavern as Elyan returned to his seat.

The mood shifted when Audrey, the head cook from the castle, took the stage. Looking Geoffrey of Monmouth square in the eye, she let her voice echo loudly through the tavern.

          “Twenty years ago, when we were young,

You wanted to have a bit of fun.

Surprise, surprise, you’ve got a son.

He’s called Thomas, come ‘round tomorrow to meet him.”

 

The stunned crowd parted to let Audrey exit the tavern, followed soon after by Geoffrey. Having finally processed the full meaning of her poem, he recognized that a writer capable of succinctly conveying so much in four short lines might appreciate follow-up questions about her work.

“We’ll have a brief intermission,” Leon called. It would be unfair to force anyone to immediately follow that performance.

Always the vigilant knight, Leon wandered around the room searching for the king. As expected, Merlin was with him, trying to pull a piece of parchment from Arthur’s hand.

“Let me read it.”

“I’m the king, Merlin. You can’t tell me what to do.”

“Just let me look it over like I do your speeches. So you don’t embarrass yourself.”

“Absolutely not. And keep your voice down.”

“Do you need help, sire?”

“Ah, Leon. Restrain this foul peasant so that I can revise my poem in peace.”

“Peasant. Did you just call me a peasant?”

“Well, you are a…”

Leon realized that an intervention was necessary before there was a repeat of last week’s council meeting. The people of Camelot were, on the whole, an accepting lot, but it would still be best to avoid the king and his servant engaging in a wrestling match on the floor of the tavern. And if the king’s breeches were to again mysteriously fall down…

 “Distinguished guests,” Leon called loudly as he again took the stage, “it’s time to resume.”

Fortunately, Merlin and Arthur stopped bickering as the room again fell silent.

Leon announced the next poet with a bit of apprehension. He hadn’t expected George to sign up for poetry night, and he feared the audience might be even less receptive to him than they were to Leon’s own pitiful attempt at a verse. While George was a bit odd, Leon saw that as no reason why he should be subjected to public humiliation.

Things did start off rocky. The title of George’s poem, “An Ode to Brass,” earned a few groans from the spectators. Over the next five minutes, he made a remarkable recovery. The refrain matched up nicely with the tune of a popular drinking song, which caused the Rising Sun regulars to belt it out at the top of their lungs.

          “Some say that it’s a thankless job

          Polishing another man’s knob

          But don’t complain – enjoy it!”

 

“Bless you,” Leon whispered to Gwen as she handed him a mug of ale, saving him yet again. As he reached for it, their fingers brushed. Leon felt his ears go warm, undoubtedly, he told himself, because of the impromptu singalong.

 

No one in the room, Leon supposed, had been prepared for the work written by the Lady Morgana. On the signup sheet, she’d listed her poem as “How the Ladies Love Flowers and Mirrors and Combs” but it soon became clear that the title was a ruse.

“It’s called ‘Vengeance’ and I’ve decided to deviate from a standard rhyming scheme,” she explained as she introduced herself, “because tradition can be its own kind of dungeon.”

If asked after the fact, everyone in attendance would agree that Morgana’s all-black attire definitely helped set the mood. And few would forget memorable lines like:

“I’m so glad you’re dead, Uther.

Hurt my brother again and

I’ll learn necromancy

just so I can be the one to kill you slowly.

I hope Ygraine cheated on you.

Arthur is far too good to be your son.”

or

“Morgause and Agravaine,

You were the perfect match

with your back-stabbing hearts.

I hope you’re burning in hell.”

 

As Morgana finished, all eyes turned to Arthur. During his father’s time, such a work would’ve been considered high treason. Even Leon was unsure what would happen as the king strode forward to meet her. The tension in the room fell when Arthur pulled her into a tight hug and whispered something in her ear, causing Morgana to tear up and hug him back. For the second time that night, Guinevere clapped the loudest of anyone in the room.

Good riddance, thought Leon, as he remembered Uther’s reign. It was a relief to no longer have to choose between defending the people or serving the king, as those two objectives never diverged under Arthur.

(Gentle reader, as this is the tale of Camelot’s first poetry night, it would detract from the narrative to go into the particulars of Morgana’s departure from and return to the kingdom. Suffice it to say, the Pendragon half-siblings were, with some invaluable assistance from Merlin, wise enough to not fall prey to the manipulations of long-lost relatives or succumb to painful revelations about Uther’s past deeds. If only a few events had deviated in the slightest, the people of Camelot would’ve suffered greatly as the pair would have become mortal enemies, alienated from each other and fighting for control of the throne. Instead, they survived the ordeal with an even stronger bond than before, Arthur even gradually learning to accept magic, again thanks to brave contributions from Merlin.)

Gwaine was up next. Raucous and bawdry would be preferable to patricide, though Leon wasn’t sure that he was ready for whatever Gwaine might have in store, especially after George’s unexpected performance.

While they waited for Gwaine to leave the bar and saunter toward the stage, Leon again saw Merlin trying to take the parchment from Arthur.

“Why won’t you let me see it?”

“Because it’s private.”

“You’re about to read it in front of half the kingdom…”

Arthur’s face went pale but Leon couldn’t keep listening to their exchange as it was time for Gwaine to begin.

“Needed liquid courage,” he whispered as he walked past Leon.

For the second time that night, Leon had been deceived. The signup sheet indicated that the title of Gwaine’s composition was “Remember the Time with the Pickled Eggs,” but he instead introduced it as “Nobility.”

“It’s not who you are, it’s what you do,” Gwaine explained to the audience before giving a rundown of the noble characteristics of those he’d come to care about in Camelot. It wasn’t so much a poem as a list of what he admired in his friends.

“Merlin, you were my first true friend, my best friend. You’ve never judged me, but accepted me as I am, even when that wasn’t much. Arthur, you stood up to your father for me because it was the right thing do and then, for reasons I still can’t fathom, you saw potential in me – I hope I haven’t disappointed you. Elyan, you are the brother I never had, and your sister knows how to keep us both in line, all while smiling sweetly. Leon, I know I’ve made your life difficult. I’m not always the best at accepting authority. Sometimes I’m headstrong just for the hell of it. But you’ve been patient and helped me grow into something better. Finally, Percival… The other night when I said… I wasn’t drunk. I was afraid. I’ve been trying to find the right words. I need to tell you…”

Gwaine paused, as if suddenly realizing that he was standing in a room of people giving him their undivided attention.

“… something better said outside. With less of an audience.”

And with that, Gwaine jumped down from the stage, grabbing Percival by the hand to pull him along toward the door.

For not the first time that night, tavern patrons were discreetly wiping their eyes.

“Intermission for drink orders!” called the bartender, giving everyone some time to compose themselves.

Leon was grateful, as he too needed a moment to collect himself. Of course, he considered Gwaine a close friend, but to hear it like that…

Apparently, Arthur hadn’t been prepared for Gwaine’s words either, the surprise giving Merlin the opening he’d needed to wrench the parchment out of the king’s hands.

Leon watched Merlin scan what the king had written, his expression growing more confused the longer he read. Eventually Merlin lifted his eyes to look at Arthur, though the king seemed to be avoiding his gaze.

“Arthur… did you mean… because that sounded like you were asking me to… I thought you wanted to wait until…”

While Merlin had been reading, the king had taken off the ring he wore on his forefinger. He fidgeted with it nervously as Merlin questioned him.

Leon wanted to keep listening but duty called. And anyway, that conversation clearly wasn’t meant for him.

“Up next is Gaius, reading… um… ‘The Benefits of Handwashing to Help Contain the Pox.’”

Loud grumbles erupted from the audience until Gaius silenced them with a disapproving eyebrow, then launched into more of a lecture than a poem.

Next time, Leon thought, it might be a good idea to require everyone to submit their compositions in advance for editorial review.

As the old man droned on about health and hygiene, Leon looked at the signup sheet. Only two names were left, Arthur and Guinevere. It was strange that the king hadn’t listed a title and had requested a spot close to the end. Still, he was the king. Eccentricity was allowed.  

Gwen had specifically asked to be the final poet of the night, though it seemed she’d had some uncertainty about the whole thing. Her name and the title of her poem had been repeatedly written in and scratched out to where Leon couldn’t read what it was called.

When Gaius finally departed the stage, Leon still hadn’t deciphered Gwen’s writing but had to turn his attention to other matters. Arthur was up next but was nowhere to be seen. Leon cursed himself for taking his eyes off of the king and began to search the room.

“We’d just like to let everyone know,” the proprietor called out, “that here at the Rising Sun we wash our hands regularly. At least once a day. So you know all food and drinks we serve are safe for consumption.”

This announcement led to an animated discussion amongst the crowd. Gaius’s presentation had given them much to consider, with some loudly questioning whether once a day was enough, others countering with examples from how their great-great-so-and-so had stuck to weekly washing with no ill effects.

Though Leon hoped that a brawl didn’t break out, the debate gave him the cover he needed to continue looking for the missing king. Arthur clearly wasn’t in the main hall of the tavern and Elyan, keeping watch by the exit, hadn’t seen him leave.

Growing slightly worried but trying not to show it, Leon began discreetly checking the rooms the tavern rented to overnight travelers.

“Apologies,” he whispered to a startled man in a nightshirt. How he’d been sleeping through poetry night, Leon couldn’t imagine. Leon moved on to the next. It was empty, as were the three after it. Only one room remained on the ground floor and then Leon would have to move upstairs. That would alert the patrons that something was wrong – the soap discourse likely wouldn’t hold their attention over rumors of a missing monarch.

Leon’s rising panic got the best of him. He threw open the final door, the force causing it to crash loudly into the wall behind it. Silence fell in the tavern as all eyes turned to see the king and his servant, sitting on the bed, halfway undressed, and kissing each other senseless.

So many years ago, when the Rising Sun was constructed, the original owner wanted to build a tavern that would stand the test of time. Royal dynasties might rise and fall, but the regular folk should have the certainty of knowing where they could always go for a good drink. And so the finest carpenters were called in. No expense was spared on the lumber or nails or plaster. Short of the castle itself, the Rising Sun was one of the sturdiest buildings in all of Camelot.

Or at least that’s what the current proprietor hoped. The cacophony of congratulatory sounds - cheers and shouts, applause and banging on tables – began to shake the walls of the tavern.

Out of instinct, Arthur tried to pull back, but Merlin wouldn’t let him, holding Arthur tightly with one hand while using the other to make a very rude gesture to the onlookers. The fact that Merlin was now wearing the ring Arthur had been toying with earlier hadn’t escaped the notice of Leon or a good number of the tavern patrons.

Satisfied that Arthur was safe, Leon felt it prudent to pull the door shut, lest the kingdom have even more gossip to share.

And with that, poetry night adjourned itself, the crowd racing from the building to spread the happy news. The entire kingdom would likely know before sunrise – possibly even by midnight.

Leon settled into a corner seat, close enough to keep watch for the king, but with enough distance to avoid any further intrusions on Arthur and Merlin’s privacy.

All in all, he supposed it had been a good night. Everyone in attendance seemed to have enjoyed themselves and pretty much all who’d taken part had left happier than when they’d arrived. Some family issues were being resolved – Elyan and Guinevere, the cook and Geoffrey. Morgana was working through her anger and George had never been more popular. Gaius might now have a bit more time to rest. Gwaine and Percival… Leon could imagine what they were getting up to, not that he really wanted to. He’d seen enough for one evening. Still, he was happy for them. And Merlin and Arthur… they’d finally gotten the push they needed to stop hiding, even if part of that had been due to Leon giving them an accidental shove.

It’s true that Leon was left alone, but that was alright he supposed. A knight’s duty came first and…

His thoughts were interrupted by a hand on his arm.

“Guinevere.”

“Hi Leon.” She gave him a gentle smile, then took a seat next to him on the bench. “Congratulations on the successful conclusion of Camelot’s first ever poetry night.”

“Possibly the first and only.”

“I don’t know. I heard people talking as they left. A lot of them want to do it again next month and more than a few were planning out their own poems. Though I’m kind of scared to find out what we’ll discover.”

Leon laughed, then remembered the abrupt ending.

“I’m sorry you didn’t get to read yours.”

“It’s alright. Honestly, I wasn’t sure I wanted to. And… I think it’s better this way.”

Leon sensed that she wanted to say more but he didn’t pry. He’d known Guinevere since childhood and, while their lives had taken very different paths, they’d remained friends. It was easy to sit in companionable silence with her as she sorted her thoughts.

“I wrote it about Lancelot - how he was always leaving and coming back and then leaving again. And then one day he never came back. I know his sacrifice was noble and brave. But for the longest time, part of me was angry at him for never staying. I loved him and I know he cared me in his own way, but… it always seemed like I was never enough for him. And then he died saving us all and I felt so guilty…”

“You did nothing wrong. A knight may be called to face many dangers, but he shouldn’t hide behind duty to avoid his heart. Lancelot had many virtues but… you deserved better.”

“Thanks, Leon. Writing the poem helped me make peace with him. I don’t need to dredge all of that up in public to move on.”

They fell back into their easy silence until it was broken by a thud behind the closed door.

“I should check on…” Leon began to rise when a loud moan made him freeze.

“Maybe not just yet,” said Gwen.

They shared a look before bursting into laughter. Leon sat back down.

“Did you find a poetry partner tonight?”

“Hmm?”

“In your poem, you said you didn’t have a partner but you hoped you’d find one. Did you?”

“No. I didn’t really get a chance to socialize. And anyway, a knight’s work is never done.”

Leon nodded toward the closed door he was guarding. Gwen thought about this for a moment.

“Leon, would you like to go with me to catch frogs?”

“Catch frogs?”

“Like we did when we were little. It’s a full moon tonight and that’s the best time to find them.”

“I had forgotten all about that. You would help me sneak out. We went to that pond just beyond the east wall. Although I hated grabbing them…”

“Who would’ve thought that you, the brave knight, were once afraid to touch frogs?”

“They’re slimy. And they squirm. They never scared you, though. You always caught more than me.”

“Then you deserve a rematch.”

“Why do you want to chase frogs so badly?”

“It’s not so much the frogs I’m after as it is the company.”

“Oh.” It took Leon’s brain a second. “Oh!”

“There’s no pressure. We could just… see where things go. It doesn’t have to be poetry. Although,” she added shyly, “it could be.”

For the first time in his entire life, Leon felt regret about being first knight of Camelot.

“Guinevere, there is nothing I would rather do right now than chase frogs with you. But the king really can’t be left without a sentry. Especially not in the tavern.”

Gwen thought about this for a moment.

“Does it matter who’s on watch? I mean, so long as it’s a knight?”

“No… I suppose not. But I’m the only one left…”

“Oi! Elyan. Get over here.”

Her brother hurried over, carrying the tankard of mead he’d just ordered at the bar.

“Hi, Gwen.”

“How much have you had to drink?”

“This is my first. I’ve been watching the front door all night.”

“Well give it to Gaius over there. He needs it more than you, and anyway, you are now officially on ‘guard-the-king-and-his-fiancé’ duty.”

“But…”

“You promised to be there when I need you and right now I need you. To guard the king. So if you’ll excuse us, Leon and I have important matters to attend to.”

And with that, Leon rose, letting Gwen lead him out into night and all of the poetic possibilities it held.  

Chapter Text

“You don’t have to do this, you know.”

“It’s my job.”

“It doesn’t have to be. You are my soon-to-be consort.”

“Which is no reason for me to start slacking.”

“You’ve slacked for years and it is entirely too early, Merlin.”

“I was rushing to get to the tavern on time last night and forgot to finish up a few things. Let me grab some fresh sheets and we can go to your bed.”

“You’ll only have to change them again later.”

“Then I’ll get two sets. After that bed in the tavern, I just want to lay on something clean.”

Merlin had a point.

“Fine.”

Arthur stood behind Merlin as he opened the door to the laundry storage.

A shriek of surprise cut through the quiet morning stillness, causing them both to jump. Merlin, more alert after years of early rising, quickly turned his back.  

“Leon. Gwen,” he called over his shoulder.

Arthur, not yet ready to face the day, could only stare at the sight of his first knight and dear friend, frantically grabbing at random fabric in an attempt to cover themselves.

“Arthur!” Gwen’s voice went an octave higher than normal.

“Sire.” In all the years they’d known each other, Arthur had never seen Leon’s face take on that shade of red. He’d also never seen him wearing a woman’s shift, Guinevere’s undergarment being the first thing Leon had grabbed in his panic.

“We were… um… Gwen, tell the king what we were doing.”

“I was… um… teaching Leon some poetry! Last night he told me that he loved poetry and I…”

Leon looked as though he might die. A stunned Arthur nodded sagely and began to open his mouth to offer his own contribution to the conversation.

After years of rescuing Arthur, Merlin knew exactly when the king needed to be saved, even when it was from himself.

“We won’t keep you. The sheets can wait. We’ll leave you to your poetry.”

Averting his eyes as best he could, Merlin pulled the door shut.

“Come on, dollophead. You still haven’t heard my poem.”

That revelation pulled Arthur out of his stupor.

“You wrote a poem?”

“Yes. Of a sort. It’s an interpretive piece. Meant to be performed for a small, intimate audience. Of one.”

The look Merlin gave him made Arthur’s knees go weak.

“Let’s get back to our chambers.”

Arthur was halfway down the hall when he realized he’d left Merlin behind.

“You said… ‘our’ chambers…” Merlin stammered as Arthur came back to collect him.

“Of course ‘our’ chambers, Merlin. We are to be married soon. And you call me the cabbage head… Now let’s go. I want to hear this poem of yours.”