She and Merlin stepped into the water, both of them shuddering when the cold hit them. They kept going, however, until the water was up to Eira's waist. Merlin closed his eyes again and inhaled sharply as he mumbled the same words as before. "We must go under the surface," he said, meeting Eira's gaze. His eyes were thoughtful and deep, almost sorrowful. He gave her a nod before they, at the same time, sunk just under the surface. Eira felt Merlin take her arm, the Helix in his other hand, as a wave of something powerful flowed through her. Eira opened her eyes and discovered that she could see very clearly. Merlin motioned for her to open her mouth, which she did, and discovered that she could breathe; she drew in large breaths of empty water instead of air. She held onto Merlin's hand, hearing a woman's whisper rise from the bottom of the lake.
"Emrys, you must say my name," the voice said. Merlin's grip on Eira's hand tightened, and she saw him open his mouth. No water entered it. "Freya," he said softly, and his frozen face, tight with shock, seemed to warm up because he broke into a smile as soon as he said her name. The strangest feeling overtook Eira, and she felt tears in her eyes even though she was under water. Merlin gently pulled Eira upwards, and the two resurfaced together. They were facing away from the shore, but she didn't look back at the group on the shore; she was too distracted by what had risen from the clear ripples on the water. In front of her a beautiful woman stood, with a caring, gentle face and dark hair that, to Eira's amazement, seemed dry. The woman wore a shimmering, pale, and pearly gown which flowed into the water around her. Eira thought she looked like a goddess. That was when she realized that the woman was smiling with a loving gaze in her eyes at none other than Merlin. There were tears in her eyes and as she stepped forward, Merlin took her into his arms, holding onto her like he was drowning in an empty space. The two stood there for a while, and Eira couldn't help but stare. Who was she, this Freya? How did they know each other? Did she know who Eira was? Freya slowly released Merlin.
"Can I have the Helix?" she asked softly, taking the object out of Merlin's hand when he nodded. Freya closed her eyes, taking Eira's hand and then taking Merlin's. Freya's hand was cold and a loneliness somehow gathered inside of Eira when she touched her. The woman opened her eyes and let go of their hands as she opened the vial inside of the Helix. She brought it to Merlin's eyes, stroking his cheek as a tear slid from his eye and into the vial. Freya then turned to Eira, collecting a tear from her eye too.
"You shall have your king back," Freya said, her voice soft, sounding like it was coated in honey. Merlin couldn't utter a word, he just nodded and smiled, looking at Freya in a way Eira had never seen him look at anyone. "I will see you at midnight in three days," Freya said slowly to Merlin and Eira barely saw him nod. Merlin drew Freya into his arms again and gently kissed her. She smiled brightly, and her eyes were full of soft love. She then stepped back, opening the vial and murmuring something as she gathered some water in the vial, and the two liquids instantly swirled around each other, mixing.
She took both of their hands, alone parting her lips and saying the words Eira knew were an incantation. The beauty of the words struck Eira, and she felt the sound drift from Freya's mouth into her heart. Merlin seemed to be experiencing the same feeling. Freya looked at them and nodded encouragingly. Eira opened her mouth when Merlin did, and suddenly the same words Freya had said slipped out of Eira and she felt her eyes shift color. Golden threads swirled out of their mouths, joining and connecting when they reached the surface of the water. Freya opened the vial, and it seemed to dissolve into the water after pouring its contents into the swirling fire-like mass at the surface of the lake, which was growing bigger by the second.
"Arthur," Freya whispered faintly, and the way she said his name made Eira shiver, sending cold sparks down her spine. The water suddenly swirled around them with more force, and shot back in a wave that seemed to go underwater. It was like a pathway led from the middle of the lake to where Freya, Merlin and Eira were standing still, frozen. Eira looked at Merlin and saw him studying the wave hopefully, but when she looked Freya's way, she discovered that the girl was gone. Merlin noticed too and flinched slightly and she saw how he swallowed, almost painfully. She took his hand, smiling up at him with a glint of understanding in her eyes.
The pathway in the water started to glow, and it grew so bright that Eira and Merlin had to cover their eyes. When the glow faded into a soft hum on the surface, Eira thought she saw a figure rising out of the water.
As the figure drew closer with slow, even steps, Merlin didn't even need to think about who it was. Merlin's eyes had longed to see exactly what they were seeing now, and a buried feeling pushed its way into his heart. Arthur. Tears appeared in his eyes.
Arthur's expression was focused, his eyes fixed on Merlin's. Soon the King was right in front of him.
Merlin swallowed, trying to push the tears in his eyes away.
This time, Merlin knew that they hadn't brought someone back only for one purpose; Arthur wasn't here to complete empty actions that would lead to closure. His knew that Arthur's voice wouldn't be dry, cracked and broken from being unused for so long. His eyes didn't have a watery, lost glaze over them, they weren't unresponsive and distant. Merlin felt as if his heart had dried up when he met his friend's pure blue gaze.
Arthur broke into a wide smile.
''Merlin, what the hell is going on?''
It really was him.
Eira, Arthur and Merlin walked back towards the shore. The water had started to get cold again and the wet fabric of Eira's dress clung uncomfortably to her body. Eira glanced at Arthur and realized that he barely knew who she was. They would all have time to talk on their way back to Camelot. The thick fog faded slowly and Eira saw the knights, Gwen, Jetta, and Areisius standing on the shore, their expressions brightening when they saw Arthur. Eira heard Gwen gasp, and saw that there were tears running down her cheeks. As if on command, all of the men sank down to their knees, bowing their heads with nobility and respect to the king. They stayed on the ground as Gwen rushed into her husband's arms and clasped her arms tightly around his neck. There were tears in Arthur's eyes that he did not care to hide, and Guinevere wept in his embrace as Arthur closed his eyes, taking a deep breath. Eira knew exactly what it felt like to cry like that in someone's arms, and she almost felt the relief flood into her too. Arthur slowly released Gwen, his arms still around her, and the couple leaned in, their faces inches apart, and shared a deep, passionate kiss full of love and longing. Arthur suddenly stepped back and looked down at Guinevere's lower stomach, noticing the slight swell there. He met his love's eyes again, his hands on her stomach, and she nodded, crying even harder. Arthur smiled, and hugged her once again.
Gwen backed away after a few moments and motioned to the loyal knights, Percival and Gwaine. They both rose when their king approached them, and Arthur stepped forward, clasping arms with them and patting their backs. The three of them broke into wide smiles, exchanging a few words that Eira couldn't focus on. She felt so incredibly overcome with emotion; this was the man Morgana had forced her to betray. She had never seen a kinder look in anyone's eyes; Arthur seemed exactly like the true, honourable king she had heard so much about. Gwen introduced her husband to Jetta and Areisius. Eira stood off to one side, unable to hinder the tears that were falling from her eyes. Gwaine walked up to her, placing an arm around her and leading her towards the group with reassurance. Arthur met Eira's eyes, looking slightly confused, and she did her best to smile at him. Gwaine introduced her, and Merlin made sure to add the details of how she had helped in bringing him back. Arthur took her hand, kissing it and bowing slightly, all while telling her how grateful he was for everything she had done. Eira was shocked at his actions, but thanked him, bending down deeply when she curtsied.
"Arthur, if you're to get your kingdom back, I suggest we leave now," Gwaine stated, grinning, looking up at the cloudy sky. Arthur looked horrified.
"My kingdom? What on earth happened to it?" he asked, staring at the group. Percival sighed, knowing the length and complexity of the story that was to come. The group mounted the horses. Merlin offered his horse to Arthur, but the king insisted on declining, stating that he would be riding with Guinevere.
Then, they all took turns explaining every single thing that had happened since the king's passing, chiming in like children to add small details.
The tension in the air strengthened as the group of eight neared Camelot. Eira was certain that they wouldn't be strong enough to take back the kingdom, how could they possibly outnumber Aymon's soldiers? She never wanted to see him again after what he did to her, but knew that she would have to. If he was in the same room as her, she didn't know if she would even hesitate to kill him. The thought scared her. She thought of the wrong he had done; taken an innocent child from its mother simply because of a greed for magic, capturing a kingdom and torturing its inhabitants, and using someone's emotions, their very humanity, against them. She shrugged off the memory and watched the people in the group in front of her, who were trying to laugh and make jokes to somewhat lighten the mood.
Finally, they arrived in the forest just above the path leading up to the gates of the castle. To their surprise, about eighty to ninety people were gathered there already, all of them armed, looking strong and ready to fight. Leon and Juliana stood in front of them proudly, turning around when they heard the people greeting their king. The crowd ran up to Gwen and Arthur, who had dismounted, surrounding them and cheering happily while everyone clapped. They formed a passage between two lines and as the rest of the group dismounted as well, the King and Queen started walking down the lines of people, simply smiling. Jetta, with Percival's arm around her waist and Areisius in front of her with Merlin, followed Camelot's rulers. Gwaine, his arms wrapped around Eira, walked at the back, receiving more cheers and even whistles.
"They know who you were. They know who you are now, and what you've done for the kingdom. I thought I heard you say earlier that you know the people won't accept you. Well, look at this, it's not just Gwaine they're cheering for," Merlin's voice said in her head. He shot her a smile and she smiled contently at him; what he said was true. Gwaine squeezed her hand, kissing her, which led to even more cheers from the people.
Eira knew that the rest of the whistles and cheers that followed were directed towards her and Gwaine, for the rest of their group was already standing at the end of the line, clapping and cheering as well.
Eira blushed from all of the attention, but deep inside she felt like she was shining.
"I want to thank you all for coming here, not any of you were obliged to fight with us, yet you choose to. Tonight, you demonstrate loyalty, bravery and strength," Arthur stated, as two men with a cart walked over, depositing heaps of weapons on the ground. Eira wondered how much work Juliana and Leon had actually done in Dalry.
Then Arthur continued speaking, informing the fighters of their plan of attack. Juliana, walking closer than usual to Leon, came over, carrying clothes for Eira, Gwen and Jetta as Leon handed swords to those who needed them.
Jetta hugged her cousin for a long time, all while whispering something to Juliana.
Juliana released Jetta, blinking with astonishment. Areisius assumed that Jetta had told Juliana about him, for Juliana ran into his arms.
"Oh God, Areisius, I'm so sorry! Wait, Matilda is here! She's your mother!" Juliana raised her voice and jumped up and down, pulling with excitement at anyone who happened to be standing next to her, which was a very confused Leon. She then took Areisius' hand and ran off with him into the crowd as Jetta followed. Leon looked after Juliana as she ran off, before looking down and smiling. Eira and Gwen shared a knowing look before Leon excused himself and went to greet Arthur. Gwen and Eira walked into the bushes, away from all of the people and tense energy, changing into more comfortable clothes so they could fight, both grateful for Juliana's generosity. Eira was grateful to get out of her wet dress, which she decided to just leave on a tree branch. The blouse and trousers allowed her to move around well, which she was glad for. She was prepared for the long night ahead.
"Ready to fight?" Gwen asked, motioning to Eira's sword, which she was holding on to tightly.
"Oh, hell yes," Eira replied without thinking, nodding her head eagerly. The Queen laughed and hugged Eira. Eira felt slightly surprised, but returned the Queen's embrace. She then looked down at Gwen's swollen lower stomach, which indicated that a baby was on the way, smiling warmly and stroking her friend's hand.
"I'm happy for you, congratulations!" Eira said and the Queen thanked her.
"Maybe you too, soon," the Queen said with a knowing smile and Eira shrugged her shoulders uncertainly. Gwen smiled at her again before joining Arthur.
Gwaine strolled over, his father's sword in his hand. He passed it to Eira when he saw her looking at it and she ran her hands over the blade, admiring it.
"He would be proud of you today," she said, and he nodded.
"What was that all about?" Gwaine asked, referring to Eira's conversation with the Queen.
"I congratulated her on her pregnancy, and she asked me if I was going to...," Eira replied, looking into his eyes.
"You just wait," he said with a sparkle in his eyes that she didn't recognize and she felt like he was hiding something big from her. She made a confused face at him, but he grinned, "I have something special planned for you, but it's a surprise, so shhh." She couldn't help but smile and all of a sudden felt a rush of excitement course through her body. "What-" she started but he placed his finger on her lips to tease her, and she gently bit his finger which he drew back, laughing.
Arthur stopped at the top of the hill, signalling for his small army-like group of eager fighters to wait. Eira had been told the plan, and she was so nervous she couldn't stop fidgeting, almost jumping up and down. Gwaine emerged from behind Arthur and held her shoulders as if he was planting her on the ground. "I love you, Eira. And hell, you don't even need me to say good luck," he said and grinned, kissing her lightly and stepping back behind Arthur before Eira had a chance to reply. Arthur nodded at her to begin.
She stepped up to the edge of the steep hill, leaning forward slightly and bracing herself for what was to come. She took a breath and ran down the hill so that she was on a small grass plain in front of the gates, for all eyes to see. There was no going back now. She breathed in deeply, summoning all of the emotion she had ever felt in her heart. She watched as Merlin, from the top of the hill, raised his hands and commanded an incantation, raising his voice for every word. She focused her emotions, feeling them grasp hold of her as Merlin's magic streamed out into the air. She turned towards it, breathing in the waves of magic and opening her mouth, feeling and seeing the emotions flow out of her. They collided with Merlin's waves and swirled together, becoming a massive, dark, twisting storm. She felt the storm grow stronger and larger for every second, and some of it managed to rise up to the sky, now becoming very visible, exactly what they'd hoped for. She suddenly felt the emotions slip out of her control slightly, and for what would only take a split second, they threatened to plummet down towards her. Determined to gain control, she let out a scream of frustration as she forced the storm to stay in the air, raising her hands and pushing upwards. She gave it everything she had, and felt relieved when the storm was forced back up into the sky. She heard the gates open and tore her gaze from the cloud to the gates. Like she'd expected, King Aymon strode out with only a sword in his belt, approaching her quickly. He stopped and looked into the air, feeling the attraction of the emotions as he sniffed the air wildly like a dog. "Damn, it's like a thunderstorm. It's amazing!" he screamed, running and trying to touch the magical waves. He truly was insane. Eira kept hold of the storm of emotions, and felt relieved that Aymon hadn't seen the ambush waiting for him at the top of the hill. It was her Arthur had trusted to figure out their enemy's weakness since she had had the most experience with the foreign young king.
"All of this...in my control?" he questioned as if he couldn't believe the potential power in front of him. He suddenly ran towards Eira with speed, the glint of a lust for power evident in his eyes.
Arthur had to hold Gwaine back as Aymon raced towards Eira, the knight prepared to charge down the hill to protect her. "Wait," Arthur instructed, raising his hand at the people behind him. Merlin's hand was still in the air, and it had started shaking. Gwaine watched Aymon raise his hands towards Eira, making pulling movements, and soon, small threads slipped from Eira's hands and into Aymon's. She screamed as he twisted his hands, obviously causing her pain. "The bastard, he's nothing but a coward," Gwaine cursed under his breath, his sword ready, and he imagined running Aymon through. Eira tried to hold back, not wanting to let the storm spin out of her control and reach. Merlin sighed frustratedly, trying to help her pull the threads from Aymon. "He's strong," the warlock muttered, looking into the sky.
"Merlin, I need you to keep him in a struggle. We'll attack soon," Arthur ordered. Merlin nodded. Gwaine's gaze flew to Eira as he heard her piercing scream and she fell to her knees, clutching her heart. "He's attacking her from the inside," Merlin explained. Eira's load of control was put onto Merlin, almost the full storm weighted on him now. Eira then got up unsteadily and threw her arms in the air, pulling an immense mass of threads back into her control. It pained Gwaine to see her struggling, but he knew that his time to do something would come. Suddenly, about thirty knights and guards stormed through the gate, but their king simply motioned for them to wait by his side. "Shit," Merlin cursed, breathing rapidly and his chest heaving as he looked at Eira, who wasn't in full control yet. She let out a raging cry and Gwaine saw her pull with all of her might, forcing threads out of Aymon's turning hands.
"Eira's gained control, now go!" Merlin yelled and Arthur's raised hand in the air shot forward, signalling for the attack to commence. A battle cry erupted from the back of the group as they charged down the hill, and it spread to the front until Gwaine opened his mouth and roared too, thinking of the pain Eira had suffered. The slope of the hill gave him extra speed and he felt adrenaline pulse through him as he closely followed Arthur down the hill. The enemy knights and guards grabbed their swords, running towards Arthur's group with equal power, though at a slightly slower pace. Aymon looked terrified, but remained with the threads in his hand, not budging from the source he could gain power from.
Gwaine started taking on soldiers who threw themselves in front of their king. He tore through them and the mass of black uniforms spread into their group. Gwaine heard screams of pain and looked down, suddenly seeing blood on his sword. He reminded himself to focus. He was fighting for Eira and his father. He continued taking on soldiers who charged at him. He glanced at Eira for half a second, just to see if she was alright, and his opponent took the opportunity to slash at him, stabbing his shoulder. "Damn, why always my shoulder?" he muttered to himself angrily, attacking his assailant with more force than before. Gwaine ran his sword through the man, who dropped to the ground. Gwaine continued fighting and noticed that Aymon was no longer controlling the storm and that he was cornered, Arthur's sword pointed to his throat. He was trying to use magic to escape from Arthur's grip, but Merlin, halfway down the hill, fought back. Eira lay on the ground, unconscious, and Gwaine ran towards her with speed, skillfully aiming to knock out as many enemies as he could when he ran through the crowd. He turned back briefly, seeing that several of their people had fallen, but that even more of the enemy had. Merlin's voice tore through the air, and Gwaine felt as if everything shook, and then realized that it did; Merlin was conjuring up some kind of force to knock out more soldiers, avoiding to kill them when he could. Gwaine continued to Eira's side, lifting her up gently and carrying her behind a few trees and bushes where no one would see her. "I'll be back," he mumbled, not sure if she could hear him, and charged back into the crowd, pulsing with energy. Two dozen more guards rushed from the gates, and Gwaine turned his attention to them, in combat with three at the same time. Some men shoved past him, and while he was distracted one opponent tried to stab at Gwaine's shoulder, trying to worsen his injury so they could disable him somehow. Gwaine rushed towards that one quickly but just at the right time, he ducked and the opponent who had aimed to stab him from behind ended up running straight into the other one, the two severely injuring each other, dropping to their knees. Gwaine brought the handle of his sword down onto his remaining opponent's head, knocking him out.
Gwaine then felt the wound on his shoulder sting much worse, burning, but he clutched it as he flew onto another enemy soldier, bringing him to the ground.
Eira's eyes shot open and she immediately heard the horrifying sounds of battle. She saw that Aymon's soldiers were outnumbered, and felt a rush of relief which was outweighed by her pounding headache. She crawled to her feet, carefully moving so that she could see through the bushes she was behind. She had no idea how she had gotten there, but she was very grateful for it. The area below the hill was flooded with bodies; some alive, some not. She couldn't see Gwaine, which worried her. Aymon was in combat with Arthur, and she could see that they were both struggling. Appearing out of nowhere, Gwaine rushed to Arthur's side, offering him help and Eira felt like a huge weight was lifted off of her chest as soon as she saw him. Gwaine backed off when he saw that Arthur wanted to finish the man, and after a few moments, Arthur gained a second when Aymon was stumbling backwards, and he used that split second to jab his sword into Aymon's chest with force. "That's for my kingdom," he said, almost with disgust, withdrawing his weapon as Aymon fell to his knees, his mouth open, unable to utter any last words. Gwaine shoved Aymon to the ground further, "And that's for my lady." Warmth and pride spread inside of Eira, and she called Gwaine' name without thinking. He spotted her quickly, but just as he was about to run towards her, a soldier tackled him to the ground.
Arthur didn't see poor Gwaine battling on the ground; he roared with a victory cry, and everyone on their side was instantly recharged with strength and motivation, trying to finish their opponents off. Eira sprang from the bushes, her sword drawn, and sprinted towards Gwaine. The soldier had a knife pressed to Gwaine's throat and Eira tried to not panic. She pushed the soldier off of Gwaine, rolling onto the man on the ground and hitting him with the back of her sword viciously, not knowing if she dared to use the blade. The man overpowered her after some struggling, pinning her to the ground and spitting in her face. "This is no place for a girl," he said mockingly, grinning at her alarmed expression.
"How the hell did I get here then, bastard!" she shot back and he was so surprised she could push him off of her and luckily, Gwaine had recovered, so he knocked the man out quickly. Then Gwaine fell to the ground as well, holding his shoulder. Eira forced the dizziness out of her head and realized that he was bleeding badly. She quickly tore thick strips from her blouse, ripping the fabric with her teeth. She pushed them to Gwaine's shoulder like a bandage, applying pressure as she tied them around his arm carefully. "God, why are you using that when you have magic?" Gwaine asked and attempted to laugh but discovered that he didn't have enough strength to. "Although I wouldn't mind if you tore off a bit more of your blouse," he said cheekily and she kissed him, laughing.
"I really have no strength left," she replied to his initial question, looking down. She then looked up quickly, seeing a few of the last soldiers fall to the ground. The people left cheered triumphantly, joining together. Only a few people were dead on the ground, and most of their side was mildly to severely injured or unconscious. Gwen with Arthur by her side luckily had no serious injuries anywhere near her stomach, just small cuts and bruises. While the group triumphed and cheered, Eira remained on the ground by Gwaine, and no one really noticed them; everyone was too busy tending to or examining each other's wounds. Gwaine grabbed Eira's hand and she looked down at him. "Don't worry, it's just a bad scratch," he said and they both realized how ridiculous it sounded when his shoulder wound was clearly bleeding through the cloth. Yet he smiled. She wasn't convinced but nodded, knowing there was nothing she could do in that moment judging by the number and state of the people around them. Arthur started to walk forwards, leading the group through the gates.
"There is probably a number of soldiers left inside, bring all of them to the dungeons, unharmed if you can, and let our people out!" Arthur instructed before Gwen hugged him. Merlin walked by Arthur's side, smiling and looking proud of what he had accomplished. Arthur smiled back at him, giving him a meaningful nod to show how grateful he was for all that his true friend had done. Arthur pushed the man who he had once thought of as a useless servant playfully, ''I never thought I'd ever hear you swear out loud, Merlin,'' the King said and laughed.
''Well, when you're fighting an evil sorcerer for the sake of some prat, a lot is required,'' Merlin replied, making Gwen laugh along with her husband.
Eira was about to help Gwaine stand up so they could follow the triumphant group into the castle, but he held her back. Gwaine grasped her hand harder. "Wait, there's something I need to ask you, Eira," Gwaine said, summoning the strength to speak loudly enough for her to hear him. She looked at him, laying on the ground, and couldn't stop herself from smiling. They had won. She then realized what he had said. Her heart froze. He searched her eyes, his hair in a mess and small cuts on his face.
"Eira Jacintha Alexandra. Would you possibly be willing to...do me the honor of becoming...," he started and swallowed and she felt her heart skip a beat, expecting the rest of the words to fall into place. "...of becoming...damn this inju-," he started but stopped and blinked up, his expression pained, before his eyes closed and he slipped into unconsciousness. She could hardly believe her ears or eyes. She pushed away what Gwaine had been about to say. If only he had finished speaking. She needed to get him inside of the castle right now, and straight to Gaius' chambers. She tried to put his arm around her and lift him somehow, but with him unconscious, it was impossible. "Help!" Eira cried, trying to wake Gwaine up. Fear struck her and she covered her mouth, realizing that a conscious soldier could have heard her and she panicked as she heard steps coming from the gates. To her relief, Percival and Jetta ran through, seeing Gwaine on the ground and Eira panicking. Percival easily helped, hoisting his friend up over his shoulder. "We realized that you had been left behind," Jetta said, taking Eira's hand and following Percival. The four of them almost ran into the castle and into the throne room, knowing that Gaius would be there to tend to the injured.
Percival placed Gwaine on a table and as if by instinct removed his armor and chainmail, which the physician was grateful for. Gaius had just finished tending to a minor injury and rushed over to examine Gwaine.
Eira took Gwaine's hand, deciding that she would tell no one of what he had been trying to ask her. Secretly, she felt thrilled, she had never really thought about him asking for her hand in marriage...she had always expected them to be together somehow anyway. Before she started stressing about anything else, she saw that more than one hundred people had gathered in the throne room, waiting to hear Arthur speak. All fell silent and Arthur started his speech. Eira couldn't help that she couldn't listen, she was too busy being nervous about Gwaine. Gaius noticed her unease. "He'll be fine, we just need to make sure that his shoulder is bandaged properly and that it doesn't move so much when he's awake. Hopefully that will be soon," Gaius assured her and she thanked him. Eira distracted herself by thinking about her surroundings. She realized how many of the king's guards were still alive; they had just been locked up, and she watched them stream out of the room, ready to take their place and guard the castle once again. Aymon's rule had fallen so easily and quickly after he had died. He himself must have been a powerful ruler, he just wasn't a strategic king. She was grateful for that. She left quickly to find the packing she had brought all the way from Caerleon, which had been taken away from her, and found it stored in a small room next to the throne and court chambers.
Guinevere and Arthur approached her, wishing Gwaine well and thanking Eira for her efforts. After Jetta and Percival left as well, she sat at Gwaine's side for another hour, observing how the amount of people Gaius was tending to had decreased slightly. Gaius came to inform her that it was a quarter to midnight, but she didn't even feel tired.
"I'm not sure what state your shared chambers are in, but you may take him back there if you'd like. Send for me if anything happens. I know no damage was done to his head, so despite the amount of time he has been unconscious for, he will wake up once his body has overcome the majority of the pain," Gaius explained slowly. She took in every word he said, ready to do whatever it took to make Gwaine comfortable. Two guards arrived with a stretcher, which they carefully placed Gwaine on, and then they followed Eira up to the chambers after she thanked the physician once again. The guards placed Gwaine on the bed and Eira assured them that she could handle the rest of the work. "Would you like us outside of the chambers, miss?" one guard kindly offered. Eira gratefully accepted and thanked them, closing the door. She realized that she was carrying Gwaine's scabbard and his father's sword, so she placed them on the floor carefully, not exactly knowing where to put his things. She unpacked her own things, looking at some of her dresses and hair brushes. She then removed Gwaine's bloodied shirt, well what hadn't been cut off to allow treatment, and his boots, leaving them on the floor too. She lit a few candles and removed her clothes, slipping into her nightgown after she washed herself. She was sat at the dressing table, brushing her hair, when she finally found the case containing the beautiful necklace Gwaine had given her, and admired it fondly. When she heard Gwaine groan from the bed, she immediately rushed to his side, asking if he needed anything but he declined. "God, it hurts, how long was I out for exactly?" he asked. "About two hours," she replied, stroking his cheek. She opened the door slightly, informing the guards that Gwaine was awake and dismissing one to tell Gaius. She said goodnight to them, blew out the candles and climbed into bed, looking to see how Gwaine felt. She knew that he couldn't possibly propose to her now, but she hoped that he hadn't changed his mind about it.
"Thank you Eira," was all he could say before he dozed off, and shortly after, she did too, trying to dismiss all thoughts of worry and impatience.
The next morning, Gaius checked Gwaine's injury and re-dressed it. Eira told him that she felt much stronger in her mind and body, so she asked Gaius if it was possible that she could attempt to heal Gwaine somewhat using her magic. Gaius approved, and went to get Merlin, who supported Eira, combining their power. After they had done their work, a lot of the pain had been extracted, which meant that Gaius had let Gwaine move around after some convincing. There was something Gwaine really needed to do. He felt like such an idiot for losing consciousness right when he was about to ask for Eira's hand, but as he lay there in bed, he was plotting a greater surprise for her. Eira however hadn't mentioned anything about the event yesterday at all, and he suddenly felt very nervous.
"I met Areisius this morning, he was planning to spend the entire day with his mother and cousins, in the marketplace," Eira started. Gwaine nodded, suspicious of where this was going.
"Since there is no severe damage to the lower town, a festival is going to be held there to celebrate the return of the king and the restoration of Camelot. Everyone knows that Arthur has two days left. I thought I might join Jetta and Percival there later at noon," she continued. That sparked another idea in his mind. "I will go with you later, there's something I have to do," he responded, smiling and kissing her briefly before leaving their chambers. Making sure that few people saw him, Gwaine hurried down to the market and directly to the person he knew could provide him with the ring he would give Eira. After he searched through what the provider had to offer, he immediately caught sight of one beautiful ring. He barely looked at the price even though he knew the precious ring was expensive, and paid for it without hesitation. For once in his life, he wanted to do something properly. He knew she would love it. He hoped.
A few minutes later, he hurried back to their chambers, stuffing the ring in a small pouch that fit in the pocket of his shirt. He entered and closed the door behind him, turning around to see Jetta, Juliana, Lillian and Eira standing by the dressing screen. They were chatting non-stop, all while holding up and inspecting a variety of dresses. Gwaine was about to back out of the room when Eira spotted him. "Out please, we're helping Guinevere get dressed for her day out with Arthur."
He raised his hands, surrendering, and started to walk out. "Poor Gwaine, where's he going to go! And sorry that we just forced you in here Gwen, but we all need to spend some time together before the festival," Juliana added, laughing. Gwaine closed the door behind him when he exited, sighing amusedly.
Eira, Lillian, Jetta, Juliana, Guinevere and a few other women then headed down into the market in search of Arthur.
"He and I have to make an opening speech about the celebration," a nervous Gwen explained. She received assurance from her friends, and they told her to try to enjoy the day as much as possible. Eira herself felt a bit down, and she couldn't stop thinking about the proposal. Why hadn't Gwaine at least said something? And what was it that he had had to do so desperately? She shook her head, telling herself that she was also going to make the most out of the day and have fun. More than two hundred people were already gathered in the streets, awaiting the commence of the celebrations eagerly. The girls had prepared themselves along with Gwen in Eira's and Gwaine's chambers, brushing their hair and putting small flowers in it to look a bit nicer. Guinevere left the group to join Arthur on a large stand so that they could be seen by everyone. Eira again didn't listen to their welcoming speech; she was turning every way she could, looking for Gwaine. She didn't see him. A few minutes later, Eira snapped out of her thoughts as everyone clapped and cheered, chanting various things. Cheerful music started playing and people danced around the musicians who were lined up in the street. Market shops selling food and other various items opened, but Eira wasn't interested. Jetta and Juliana were walking next to Percival and Leon in front of her, and she really wished that Gwaine was there with her. Maybe he was resting or had fallen asleep in their chambers after she had left, or not felt well enough to come down.
A few moments later, a shout was heard from the castle lookout, a long platform lining the front wall of the castle located about four or five meters up. Lots of people looked up. Guards patrolled the platform, looking perfectly fine and alert. A figure appeared, standing by the edge of the platform and standing on the wall of it so he could be seen better.
Eira realized that it was Gwaine, and gasped, sending Jetta a confused and surprised look. "What on earth is he going to do now," Percival mumbled next to her, and she shook her head. "It's Sir Gwaine!" someone shouted and everyone nodded. "Indeed it is!" Gwaine replied, projecting his voice out to them. "Now, you're all probably wondering what I'm doing up here, so I'm going to tell you," he announced cheerfully, and Eira could tell that he was enjoying himself.
He cleared his throat theatrically, causing sparks of laughter in the crowd.
"There...is a girl that I love. When I first met her, I never expected to be standing here three months later, avowing the feelings of my heart in words. She means more to me than she can ever begin to understand. So, today, I am here to ask her something, trying to get a start on showing her how important she is to me. Eira Jacintha Alexandra, are you out there?" he called.
Eira froze. Excitement bubbled up in her as she heard him say her name. Many recognized her, and formed a space around her so that Gwaine could see. She stepped forward a bit, looking into his brown eyes. Eira bit her lip, hoping that no one could see her hands trembling. Warmth exploded inside of her and she felt like she was dreaming.
"There is something that I've been wanting to ask you, but when I tried yesterday it just so happened that I was knocked out. Thanks for that, Aymon's soldier," he said, and more laughs erupted from the crowd. Then all fell silent, and Eira heard Gwaine's voice clearly. She knew that he was speaking to her and her alone as he fixed his gaze on her.
"Eira," he got down on one knee, holding his hand out and looking straight into her eyes.
"Will you do me the honour of marrying me?"
Tears appeared in her eyes and she forced them back. "I will," she whispered, so quiet that no one heard her. But she wanted him to hear her more than anyone else. "I will!" she shouted, raising her voice to the sky and feeling joy take over her and she was smiling so much that it hurt. She knew that Gwaine was smiling back at her. "Then I have something to give you," he announced and to everyone's surprise, jumped off the wall without hesitation, flying through the air for a few seconds until he landed in an enormous pile of hay that had been strategically placed below him. Eira ran towards the pile, people parting to allow her to get through. She couldn't believe that everyone was watching her. Gwaine appeared from the hay, holding a ring that he presented to her. She gave her hand to him, feeling him slip the delicate gold ring adorned with small stones onto her finger. Then the whole of him appeared and she threw herself in his arms, kissing him with passion. He carried her, forgetting about his shoulder injury and embraced her in front of the crowd. Everyone cheered louder than before and clapped, whistling at them. Gwaine smiled at Eira and looked at her like he had never seen anything as precious in his life, and kissed her again.
"Now, I think it's about time we started a new engagement tradition!" he yelled and ran into the castle, disappearing with Eira. He still held her in his arms and she clasped her hand around his neck kissing his cheek and then his chin, and she couldn't stop smiling. Suddenly they were on the lookout platform again, and Eira realized how amazing it must have felt for him to stand up here. She waved to the crowd which cheered again, chanting for them to jump. "Ready?" Gwaine asked her playfully, looking into her eyes. "Hell yes," she replied, the image of his brown eyes frozen forever in her mind. He leaned in and kissed her again, and before she knew it she felt her stomach drop and screamed as they jumped together, falling through the air and landing in the soft hay below, remaining in the safety of Gwaine's arms.
Eira stayed close to Gwaine for all of the four hours they were down at the celebrations.
He never once let her hand go and she realized how good it felt to know that there was something more securing them together. She admired the ring on her finger, and Gwaine promised to get them rings for their wedding as well. They barely had time to talk; Percival, followed by at least seven knights, pounded Gwaine's back and ruffled his hair as they congratulated him. "You try to work up those nerves too, it's not as easy as it looks," Gwaine said to them and some of them nodded uncertainly, laughing.
Eira turned to him, "Was it really that nerve-racking?".
"Yes, considering the chance of being rejected in front of hundreds of people...," Gwaine replied with a grin. "Why would I ever reject you?" Eira said and laughed. Gwen and Arthur came over and congratulated them personally too. There was a sad glint in Gwen's eyes, and Eira suspected that the queen still wasn't prepared to face the kingdom alone, even though she tried to hide it. After they left, Gwaine told Eira that Arthur had done as much overseeing of the restoration work as possible, but that he had difficulty dividing his time so that he could be with Gwen as well. Eira wasn't surprised that Arthur had told Gwaine this; she knew how much trust lay between the king and his knights.
Eira also noticed that Gwaine held her closer to him if they passed any men their age that so much cast a glance at her, and she laughed quietly to herself, kind of charmed that he was being so protective of her. They walked around the market for another while when it neared evening, and then went up to their chambers to prepare for the feast Arthur had organized. As a surprise since Eira knew Gwaine liked it so much, she had asked a seamstress to do some work on her violet dress, which had been slightly torn and ruined during the bandit brawl at the tavern in Caerleon. Eira had fondly described the gown to the seamstress, and she had recreated it perfectly, adding a thin, wavy, diagonal slit at the back instead of a straight one, which made it even bolder, as the seamstress explained. Jetta had also suggested a few things to the seamstress, which Eira happily agreed to; she wanted to look her best. A maid helped dress her and did her hair up nicely, adding a few touches of makeup to her face.
Eira felt so drawn back into memories when she remembered the necklace Gwaine had given her, and he helped her fasten it around her neck. The banquet in Caerleon had certainly been exquisite. She wondered if Gwaine's mother would visit, or if Ina and Isaac would. She hoped that it would be soon. Before she could get stuck in her thoughts, Gwaine took her arm and the two walked down to the feast, which was held in the large dining and entertainment halls.
It was a very loud banquet since it was packed with so many people; Eira spotted tables full of regular citizens of Camelot dining close to nobles. To her happiness, she saw Areisius sitting with his mother, Matilda, and something in his eyes had changed.
At their table, she talked to Gwaine all evening, and the knights who had started teasing Gwaine about being 'soft' stopped after he questioned whether they would even be brave enough to ask a woman to dinner. At about ten o'clock, one particularly boisterous knight by the name of Sir Blake asked if anyone wanted to join him at the tavern, and to Eira's surprise, about a dozen knights followed him out of the dining hall. Leon and Percival asked Juliana and Jetta if they wanted to join them, and Eira knew that there was no stopping Gwaine.
"Okay, we'll go down but since you've already had wine, you will only drink two jugs of ale at the maximum. Otherwise, no celebration tonight," she threatened, and he was forced to agree to her terms, which seemed strict to him.
The tavern was already full of people, mostly citizens celebrating their freedom and having fun. The knights sat down at a table with a bench against the wall in the corner, trying to squeeze as many people as possible in. Eira ended up in Gwaine's lap, squashed between Sir Martein and Sir Blake. She rose and walked up to the bar counter, ordering two large jugs of ale, and receiving about fifteen tankards to carry. Jetta flew to her aid, assisting her in carrying the jugs and tankards. No waitresses were in sight, they were probably busy as well. Eira returned to the counter, ordering three waters for her, Jetta and Juliana, luckily the only girls at their table. Eira didn't want to deal with drunk women close to Gwaine. She was his and he was hers. Officially.
"Didn't see you there," one man suddenly said to Eira as he sat down by the counter, very close to her. "I'm sorry, do I know you?" Eira replied uncomfortably, shrugging away as she got his breath in her face. He was slightly drunk. No surprise. "No, but you can," the man replied, trying to meet her eyes. "No thank you, I'm really not interested," she said, trying to move away as she waited for the water. The man suddenly shifted closer and grabbed her waist, pulling her into his arms. She squirmed and tried to get out of his grip, but she didn't have to wait long because Gwaine immediately stormed over, not hesitating as he punched the man in the face.
"That's my fiancée you've got your hands on," he snapped, taking Eira into his arms as the man recovered. She reassured Gwaine that she was fine when she met his concerned look. She kissed his cheek and hugged him gratefully. She quite liked the sound of being his fiancée.
Gwaine helped her with the water and they returned to their original places. Percival toasted, "To Eira and Gwaine! And to Camelot!" Everyone raised their tankards, and Eira stole a sip from Gwaine's, deciding that a little couldn't hurt. He gave her a surprised look and she kissed his cheek. Sir Blake suddenly swung back as he roared with laughter, nearly pushing Gwaine and Eira off the bench. Gwaine pushed back stubbornly which made Sir Blake push onto Juliana, who was pushed onto Leon. She quickly sat up again, looking down and blushing as Leon did the same, the two slightly shifting away from each other. Eira opened her mouth, giving Gwaine an excited look as he nodded. "We have to do something about that," Gwaine whispered in her ear. "We could get them drunk," he offered, but she gave him a disapproving look.
A while later, Sir Martein got the lively conversation going, and Eira was suddenly laughing uncontrollably at some of the things that were said. "Sit still," Gwaine said with a chuckle which made Eira laugh even harder. "What did you give her?" Sir Blake inquired with humor and Gwaine shrugged, "I didn't give her anything. You aren't drunk, are you Eira?" Gwaine asked her and she shook her head mindlessly, still laughing. Gwaine quickly downed the second tankard of ale so that Eira couldn't drink anymore because he knew that she would kill him if she woke up with a hangover.
The group kept talking and laughing, and soon Sir Blake turned to Gwaine. "Come on then, you two are engaged now, aren't you going to show us something?" he said, wiggling his eyebrows, and the entire table agreed, chanting and cheering them on. Gwaine turned to Eira and as she nodded, he drew her in, kissing her wildly and passionately and she ran her hands up his chest, grabbing his hair and moving even closer to him. She opened her mouth and Gwaine used his tongue, eagerly exploring her mouth. He then released her lips and let his own travel down her neck, stopping where her slightly more low-cut dress started and moving back up again, making her gasp. His chest was heaving and he released her, smiling as the entire table cheered and whistled and banged their fists on the table, some people around them even joining in.
"There men, that's what you have to look forward to. Now you just need to find a woman you love," Gwaine said, kissing Eira's cheek and looking into her blue eyes. He then scanned the room. "Blake, can't you see that brunette? She keeps looking at you, go ask her to dinner!" Gwaine said, pointing discreetly to a small, short girl with brown hair standing with a few people at another table. "That's Rachelle, I think she already hates me, I made a fool of myself in training while she was watching," Sir Blake replied, casting down his eyes. Eira put her hand on his shoulder, making him look up, "How do you know if you haven't even talked to her?" she questioned. He shrugged but Sir Martein pushed him from the bench and shoved him in Rachelle's direction. He turned around and swore at them under his breath, making large, wild gestures with his hand. No one understood him and watched as he slowly walked up to Rachelle. She stepped closer to him instantly, listening to him intensely.
A few minutes later, Blake returned, blushing and grinning, satisfied. He jumped up, making a triumphant victory gesture with his fist. "Damn, she even kissed me! You were right Eira! I never thought you'd give us such good company, the traitor that you were," he exclaimed. Everyone had heard his remark and shifted uncomfortably. Eira laughed, like the other times someone had said something she had heard as unimportant, and Gwaine wondered if she had even really heard Blake. The tension slightly lifted, but before anyone could speak, Eira's laughter continued and didn't stop, and she drew in rapid breaths of air, continuing to laugh hysterically until she somewhat collapsed in Gwaine's lap, her eyes closing. "Well then, look who drank more than they could handle," he said, raising his eyebrows, and she fell asleep. Blake's comment was forgotten.
Jetta and Juliana had strictly kept to water, and they asked Gwaine if they should take Eira outside. He shook his head, telling them that he would take care of her. "She hasn't had too much, so it's not dangerous for her to sleep. I have some experience with these things," he said with a laugh. He leaned back slightly, letting her rest against him and holding her carefully. The group continued talking and laughing, as cheerful as ever. Gwaine felt so incredibly at home, and his heart was still filled with joy from the moment Eira had agreed to marry him.
Fifteen minutes later, Eira woke up, first confused as to where she was, but then remembering.
"Welcome back," Sir Martein said, and she smiled, a bit embarrassed.
"It's quarter past midnight, are you feeling better?" Gwaine asked her, searching for her reaction.
"God I can't believe I fell asleep. I actually feel much better," she replied, feeling refreshed and awake.
"Maybe you two should head home, I think you still have a little bit of celebration to do," Blake said, winking suggestively at them, and Eira raised her eyebrows at what he was implying before smiling.
She rose, taking Gwaine's hand after he agreed to leave. "Have a good night then," he called, waving to them as he left a few coins on the bar counter. "Oh, we're sure you will," Blake replied, punching Martein's shoulder. They laughed and raised their tankards once again.
Gwaine and Eira walked towards the door of the tavern and everything suddenly became unnaturally quiet around them.
"Hey look, it's the newly engaged couple!" Sir Percival bellowed at the top of his lungs and two dozen people, mostly knights, instantly rushed towards them as if on cue, which Eira realized that it was. She was lifted off her feet into the air with people holding her up and cheering and laughing. She felt slightly shocked and bewildered, but when she realized that it was planned, she smiled and started enjoying it as she was carried out of the tavern and down the street with a parade of people around her. Gwaine, carried in the air too, appeared next to her with a smug grin on his face, and she realized that he was the one who had organized this. The people holding them brought them closer and Eira kissed Gwaine's cheek with happiness. Eira felt slightly uncomfortable when she felt that some random knight was holding her, but Jetta and Juliana were by her side, laughing and giving her reassurance. The small crowd started singing, still cheering loudly, and she smiled again. "Just imagine what they'll do at our wedding!" she shouted to Gwaine and he laughed, raising his hands into the air and enjoying himself. After they were carried through the streets, the people released them by the gates separating the castle and the city, all the knights telling them to have a good night, some of them half-drunk as they walked back to the tavern. Percival, Leon, Jetta and Juliana said goodbye last, all with smiles on their faces and joy in their hearts.
Gwaine had his arm around Eira's waist and they walked towards the entrance of the castle. He felt content with how his little surprise had gone and saw that Eira had had a lot of fun too. It hit him that the autumn season was coming to an end, and he realized that it had started to get colder as he felt the wind in his face.
"I never liked spring weddings anyway," he said, seeing Eira look up at the sky.
"No, me neither," she said and smiled at him. She was so beautiful.
Gwaine and Eira rushed into their chambers, shivering from the chilly night air. Eira was only wearing a cloak over her dress, and she was absolutely freezing; the winter weather was already approaching. The cloak was somehow stuck in the lacing at her back, and she struggled to take it off, sighing irritatedly. Gwaine saw her fighting and laughed quietly to himself.
''You know, I'm not as drunk as I thought I would be. But that's still to come," he said and laughed, pouring himself more ale from a jug on the table.
"That's because I forced you to have only two fills of ale at the maximum," she explained.
"I only drank one," he teased and she gave him a look, not wanting to refer to her sleeping encounter. She continued wrestling with her cloak, but realized that it was impossible; she couldn't reach the complex lacing of her dress.
"Let me try," Gwaine said as he sighed, amused, motioning to his shirtless self as a symbol of his professional capabilities of undressing, as he explained, and she laughed.
When Eira felt his hands linger by her skin after he had gently guided the cloak loose from the lacing, his touch sent shivers down her spine.
He let go, and the cloak slipped down to her feet. She boldly took off her undergarments from under her dress, letting them fall in the pile by her cloak, meeting his brown eyes with every movement. Gwaine gave her a surprised look as he removed her necklace. His touch scattered her thoughts completely and sent sparks of electricity coursing down through her body. He very slowly let his hands slide from her neck down her body.
''I wonder if I should change into my nightgown,'' she said slowly, a playful glint in her eyes.
''I don't see a purpose,'' he whispered softly, and his flirtatious smile led her into a trap she didn't want to escape from. She looked into his dangerous eyes and let them study, devour, every inch of her as he bit his lip. She looked at his muscular arms and thought of how they touched her like she was made out of porcelain. He walked around her, his finger tracing down the wavy slit on the back of her dress, touching the bare skin exposed on her back.
She turned to face him and let her hands slide up his strong chest, and he became tense at her touch. She stroked his chin with one of her hands and he pulled her closer. She breathed in his familiar scent, and let it fill her thoughts. She wanted to drown her senses in him, and for time to freeze forever.
None of them said anything, they had never been this close to each other, and alone, since the night before they left for Caerleon. She could tell that he wanted to take his time; he was simply staring at her. He put his face closer to hers. She knew exactly what his lips tasted like, but she desired even more, she wanted his taste to be the only thing she knew, the only thing that could ever make sense to her. He leaned in and she pushed forward slightly, surprising him when their lips met. He kissed her harder and let his hand slide upwards to her back, playing with the lacing of her dress. She clasped her arms around his neck and buried her fingers in his hair. She kissed her way up his neck and teased him, slightly pulling away to come just as close after. There was no air between them. She stopped at his chin, and let him feel her warm breaths. He leaned down and kissed her lips, releasing her an inch to open his intense, brown eyes and meet hers. She opened her mouth slightly and felt his lips on hers again, growing more passionate and desperate with each breath apart. Then she could only feel his soft lips making their way down her neck, the rest of the world disappeared. His fingers had undone the rest of the lacing on her dress, and he pushed the fabric over the edge of her shoulders, letting the barrier between their bare skin collapse; her dress slipped off. Gwaine gently lifted her up and placed her on his soft bed, and she felt like the air between them was on fire.
"Gwaine, the door," she breathed, nudging him off gently and walking over to the door to lock it. Eira could still feel Gwaine's hands on her body, and as soon as she saw him again, smiling with his irresistible eyes and just him being there, she craved his touch even more.
"Let's try that again, shall we?" he said.
"Go ahead, sir knight," she replied playfully, gasping as he swept her off her feet. His touch sent sparks flaming down her body once again.
She smiled and let herself fall into his warm embrace in the dark.