Merlin woke at dawn the next morning knowing that he had told Arthur he would wake him in two hours and that none of his family would be up this early either it was just a habit for him from being a servant for the past four years. He decided he was going to go down to the tavern in the lower town to gauge the mood of his people they all knew who he was and that they did not have to act different around him for most of them were his friends. Merlin got himself dressed noticing his father must have had clothes made for him with the aid of magic last night because the clothes he found had not been there the night before. It felt a little strange being in the clothes of a noble again but it was also a good feeling because it meant that he was home and did not have to hide anymore. Before he left he noticed two things on his nightstand, a ring and a dagger. Both of the items were his from when he was fifteen, the ring he had received from his father when he was ten it was the royal seal every prince carried it after the age of ten it had just started to fit his middle finger when he had to flee. The dagger had been a gift from his little sister on his eighth birthday, the top of the hilt of the blade was in the shape of two rearing dragons, while the hilt right above the pummel was a blue sapphire, and the blade itself was infused with magic so that when he used a specific spell the blade would light itself on fire because fire spells had always been a strong point of his. When he was a baby he had accidently set some things on fire in one of his tantrums from what his mother had told him.
He smiled at the two items, first he grabbed the ring and placed it on the middle finger of his right hand thinking to himself "Wow it fits perfectly now." then he grabbed the dagger and tied it to his sword belt and finally tied the belt around his waist. Merlin reveled in the familiar weight at his hip he had not realized how much he had missed the freedom to be who he was and all of who he was.
Merlin finally walked out of the castle ten minutes after waking up and went to the lower town. When he stopped at the tavern he read the name and laughed remembering when the tavern had been commissioned when he was five. The name on the sign was, the rearing dragon, his father had named it that with his father his idea of naming things had everything to do with dragons and he had no imagination when it came to naming things. His mother had named him because she knew of his father's lack of imagination. He laughed for a moment shaking his head then walked in to the tavern and went to stand in the corner to watch his people.
He had been standing there for a good five minutes when he heard a familiar laugh that he had not heard in about a year and a half and then another laugh joined it that he had not heard for almost two years. Merlin's head snapped towards the sounds and he saw a the back of a head that had long brown hair that he would recognize anywhere then the man sitting across from him had short black hair and a bit of stubble on his face like he had not shaved in about a week but he was still recognizable. Merlin was so transfixed with the two men that he did not notice the other man sitting with them.
Merlin decided he was going to have some fun with the two men because they were friends of his after all they had kept in contact with him after they had left he just had no idea when they had met and started traveling together. He snuck up behind the man with brown hair until he was right behind him none of them had noticed him yet. "Excuse me I think you two need to come with me because I have some question on what the hell you two are doing here." Merlin had a smile on his face as the brown haired man stiffened at his voice and the man across from him eyes had gone wide with shock as he noticed him. The man with brown hair turned around and looked at Merlin, his eyes traveled up and down Merlin taking in his appearance then asked in a his usual loud voice "Merlin, what the hell are you doing here, where is Arthur, why do you have a sword at your hip if you are so clumsy with one, and what they hell are you wearing?" Merlin chuckled and said "Good to see you too Gwain, I answer your questions soon enough after I figure out what I want to know. How did you meant Lancelot and what the hell are you two doing here?" Lancelot was the one who answered "Well Perceval and I-" Merlin finally noticed the tree of a man sitting next to Lancelot and said "Perceval it is good to see you again but I will ask my other questions in a minute." "Of course sire." Perceval said but Merlin smiled "Perce you know better I knew you till I was twelve years old and you only ever called me sire when you wanted to annoy me so don't even go there." Perceval just chucked Gwain was looking a little confused while Lancelot was looking stunned but he continued with his story "Well Perceval and I were in the wood on the outskirts of the city and we had not slept in three days so we were dead on out feet. We stumbled upon Gwain's camp he thought we were bandits but after we explained that we were not and that we were just traveling he offered to let us spend the night with him but then he ended up getting me drunk Perceval was the only sober one there-" Merlin interrupted with a laugh "That sounds like Gwain." Gwain chuckled to and Lancelot smiled then went on "We found out that we both knew you and we both were your friends but we also found out we were both traveling here so we both just decided to stay together while we traveled here." Lancelot paused then turned to Perceval and asked "How is it you know Merlin Perce I know you were born here in Anelya but Merlin was not, I don't think he has ever been here before and what did your contact tell you this morning?" Perceval looked at Merlin who nodded to tell him it was ok. "Well I will tell you what my contact told me first I have told you all about my time in Anelya and about the royal family, I was friends with the prince until I had to leave when I was twelve. I am the same age as the prince. When I was fifteen my contact sent me a message saying that the prince and his mother had to flee and that Anelya had been taken by no other than the princes own cousin. As you know the king had taken back Anelya about three months ago. I received another message from my contact about a fortnight and two days ago that the lost prince had been rumored to be hiding in Camelot as one of the lower class and that his cousin had escaped the princes father and was going there to kill him but the king had the foresight to send the princes friends and best knights all five where of the Valnerlia the elite force of knights that the prince leads ahead of him to find the prince first. Once they got there the prince revealed himself after his knights had said their story to the king of Camelot. The prince has magic just like his father and sister but he was born with it the only one that has ever happened to. Arthur fought with the prince against the princes cousin and actually accepted the princes and his knights magic with open arms because he was the princes friend. My contact told me today that the prince of Anelya and prince Arthur of Camelot arrived here in the company of the knights that the king sent to protect the prince yesterday right before we arrived and that today the prince of Anelya is going to be named crown prince and hair to the throne because that should have been done when he was eighteen but he was in hiding at the time so it could not be done and he is now twenty three that is actually at noon today." Perceval finished his explanation and Merlin could see Lancelot making the connections between himself and the prince of Anelya from what Perceval had said and the conversation that Perceval and Merlin had shared just minutes before. Merlin saw the realization in Lancelot's eyes as he said "Merlin, Perce called you sire a few minutes ago, he is the same age as you, your carrying a sword at you hip that was not made in Camelot, and you're in clothes made for a noble does that have anything to do with what Perce just explained?" Merlin smiled his usual lopsided grin and said "Yes is does, you do not have to keep my secret about my magic anymore Lancelot Arthur knows the only person here who does not know is Gwain, by the way sorry Gwain Lancelot only found out by accident and the only other person in Camelot who knew until now was my uncle Gaius. I am the lost prince of Anelya I could not tell anyone in order to protect myself and my mother if my cousin had ever found out before had he would have hunted me down and killed me I was lucky he did not find me sooner than he did. I still have the scare on my neck from the curse he had put on me the first time which the curse had been lifted thanks to a druid healer we found not long after we fled but I still have the scar. I am actually glad you are all here I know Arthur will be happy to see you and to meet you Perce I want all three of you come with me to the castle I want Lancelot and Gwain to meet my family and Perce I think they would like to see you again. I have got to wake up Arthur in about ten minutes so come on you three lets go." Merlin paused then turned to Gwain and said "Gwain please tell me that you have enough money to pay for what you have drunk today because if I have to pay for your tab again only difference is I have the money to do this time and don't have to ask Arthur to do it because I was in hiding I will taking it out on you in a spar and trust me you will not like it." Gwain laughed and said "I have enough money Merlin I barely drunk anything this morning." Gwain paid the tavern keeper and then Merlin led all of them to the castle and inside it until they got to Arthur's room.
Merlin told them to wait outside while he got Arthur up and ready because they are actually suppose to meet his family and Ailya for breakfast this morning. Then Merlin went into Arthur's room throwing open the currents like he usually did yelling "rise and shine lazy daisy." Arthur groaned and said "Merlin go away." he tired to grabbed the blanket but ended up grabbing thin air where the blanket had been just moments before Arthur growled "Damn it forgot he had magic." Merlin laughed and said "Arthur we are suppose to meet my family for breakfast in ten minutes so get up." Arthur just grabbed a goblet on his nightstand and threw it at Merlin who caught it in his hand before it hit his head while saying "You know I am really getting tired of you throwing things at me when you don't want to do something or when you just want a laugh so how about you see how it feels for once." then Merlin threw the goblet back at Arthurs head with accurate aim. When the goblet hit Arthur head Arthur jumped about a foot of the bed while in the process falling right off the bed, then he jumped up of the floor yelling "Merlin!" but what he saw made him feel a little afraid Merlin stood there with a scowl on his face that Arthur associated with Merlin being pissed off and Merlin had his arms crossed over his chest and his eyes had a tiny storm in them as he said "You know ever since I have met you, you have loved throwing things at people especially me. you have thrown goblets, books, cutlery, pillows, practically anything you could thrown at me aim for my head every time though sometimes you aimed a little lower and ended up hitting my chest or back depending on if I was facing you or not. I have gotten really sick and tired of it. From now on if you throw something at me I am going to be throwing something right back and it will most likely be the same thing that you threw at me whether I use my hands or my magic depends on how mad I am about it. Do you understand me?" Arthur was taken aback at how angry Merlin seemed to be Arthur said "I did not realize I did it that much or that it made you so angry I can promise you I will try not to throw things at anyone anymore though it is a habit but I will try and break it. You have my word." Merlin seemed to calm down enough with the promise and said "Fine I will accept that now we have about an hour and a half to get you ready and get to the dining hall so let's get you dressed in some regular clothes for now a closer to noon we'll come back here and get you dressed in those formal clothes I talked you into bringing. You told me you had some questions last night so after I get you ready I will answer as many as I can" Now Arthur was confused as he asked "You are going to helped me get dressed, you're not a prince in hiding as a servant anymore so why?" Merlin smiled his lopsided grin saying "Well prat I don't think any of the servant's here could put up with you for any length of time because none of my family treat any of our people including the servants like your father treats the ones in Camelot and like how you still sometimes do though not as bad as your father. Plus I thought I might as well give you some familiarity since all of this is still probably making your head reel." Arthur just laughed and nodded soon enough Arthur was dressed and they still had almost an hour and twenty minutes before they had to get going but before Merlin sat down by Arthur Merlin said "Before I answer any questions there are three people outside the door two of which we both know and have both saved your life, the other is an old friend of mine we were both knighted here together but his parents mostly his father forced him to leave though I never found out why." Merlin paused then yelled at the door "All right you three you can come in now I know you have been listening at the door for the last ten minutes so get in here!" Gwain entered first saying "How did you know we were listening at the door I thought we were very discreet." Lancelot and Perceval followed right after him just smiling. Merlin rolled his eyes and said "You may have thought you were being discreet Gwain but it was you who gave it away when I heard you chuckling two minutes ago right as I was telling Arthur why I was still acting like a servant to him. Now Arthur has a few questions for me and I know that you and Lancelot do as well so I will try and answer as many as I can in before we have to get the dining hall so I will answer Arthur's first then we will go from there." They all sat down and Merlin told Arthur to start with his questions the first one he asked almost made Merlin laugh "So my first question is a dual question, how old do your knights start their training and how the hell do you choose them?" Arthur asked Merlin smiled and said "All of the knights including myself as all but a few of the past princes of Anelya have been knights as well even after their coronations as king they remained knights as well start training at six. The way we choose our knights is at the same time every year we hold a type of tournament and any child in Anelya between the ages of six and seven can enter it whether they are of noble birth or a peasants child if the child feels that they have what it takes then they can enter. The tournament has many different parts to it, there is sword fighting at the tournament we use wooden swords though, there is a magic part each spell that is given for the children to try is harder than the last, there is a resourcefulness test which lasts usually about four hours and finally there is a test that combines all three sword, magic, and resourcefulness. At the end of the tournament the entries are put into training as either knights, or magic user or regular foot soldier if they really wanted to continue if they did not they could go back to doing what they were going to do before they had entered the tournament. The ones who only won in the magic and resourcefulness part of the tournament are put with a sorcerer who will train them in their gift to hone it in whatever they specialize in whether that is healing, defensive, or offensive magic. The ones who do well in just the sword and resourcefulness are placed with a trainer who will train them as foot soldiers. But only ten are places with the knights trainer and usually these ten children have passed all four parts of the tournament with flying colors. The princes of Anelya always enter the year they turn six my father was in the ten that were made knights he came in second best in the tournament. I came in first in the tournament when it was my time to compete and Ailya came in second. Actually I was born the day before the tournament, and the next tournament is in two days. You will get to see the tournament and how we choose our knights Arthur it is actually a rare thing for an outsider to get to see." Arthur was a little stunned at how young the knights of Anelya started to train but gob smacked at how they picked their knights and soldiers.
But then Arthur remember something else that Merlin had said "Merlin you said that you were born the day before the tourney and that the next one is in two days that means that anniversary of your birth is tomorrow am I correct?" Merlin shrugged and said "Well yes I guess it is but it is no big deal though just means I lived to see another year which I was very hard pressed to do when it came to saving your life every other day." Arthur shook his head saying "Your birth is something I definitely want to celebrate because if you had not been born I would not have the only person I consider my little brother in all but blood." "Yeah well from what I have heard from my sister and what I have seen since we got here yesterday you may have me as a brother legally one day." Merlin said knowing Arthur would catch on at least to the last part. Arthur stiffened and said "What are you talking about?" Merlin chuckled and said "I see how you look at my sister already Arthur and I will tell you this if you ever hurt her I will pummel you into next year. But she also is a seer and she told me last night that she had a vision the night before we arrived of you and here in Camelot with you as king and her as your queen. I may sometimes be unobservant but when it comes to my family not much escapes my notice. So I know you spend most of the day with my sister yesterday and I will tell you I talked to her and she seems to like you just as much as you seem to like her." Merlin pause seeing the look of fear in Arthur's eyes "Arthur I am not angry at you if I could choose a man for my sister I would have chosen you for her so get that look off your face I am glad for both of you. Now do you have any more questions for me?" Merlin finished snapping Arthur out of his daze. Arthur shook his head saying he had no more questions at the moment. Lancelot had no questions for him because he knew all about Merlin's childhood thanks to Perceval and Gwain was just his usual self trying to banter with Merlin.
Merlin had a two questions for Perceval "Perce why did your father make you leave he knew you were a knight but yet he forced you and your mother to leave why?" Perceval looked ashamed as he said "My father was a traitor and he thought he could make me turn traitor as well. I refused so to make sure I could not fight with your father he threatened to kill my mother if I did not go leave with them. I tied to warn you but he had me followed. So the night before the attack we left he died the next day in the attack slain by your father. I am ashamed because I found out later that your cousins main target had always been you, your father was just an added bonus. I am sorry for abandoning you." Perceval bowed his head while Merlin looked at him with a mixture of pity and compassion "Perce you father's treachery is not your fault, you did what you thought was right in order to protect your mother while staying loyal to myself and my father. I am glad that your left actually because at least you were safe some of our finest knights and friends died in that battle so that is at least one more of my friends I can count as alive. My only other question is how is your mother?" Perceval gave a small sad smile as he said "My mother died two winters past. She got sick and never recovered I have been traveling with Lancelot for almost two years I found him soon after my mother past." Merlin bowed his head remembering Perceval's mother she had been a kind woman "I am sorry to hear that I really liked your mother." Perceval just nodded after a few seconds Merlin smiled and said "All right we have about two minutes to get to the dining hall so we all better hurry up because if we don't get there on time my father will string me up and hang me out to dry and not because I was late."
Soon all of them were walking to the dinning all. They all got there with about twenty seconds to spare so Merlin just walked right in followed by Arthur who had the other three trailing behind him.
Balinor smiled at Perceval and Arthur then looked at Merlin and his smile got bigger as he sat down by Ailya then he noticed Lancelot and Gwain and said "Merlin I don't believe I have had the pleasure of meeting your other friends. " Merlin just chuckled and said "Father this Gwain and Lancelot I met them both in Camelot they also both saved Arthur's life both on separate occasions. Gwain save Arthur in a bar brawl that was started because I stood up for a woman and then a year before that Lancelot saved Arthur's life with my help by defeating the griffin that was attacking Camelot. Both of them got banished from Camelot by Uther because of different things. I found both of them in the tavern this morning I was there to just gauge how the people were doing and hearing any of the new gossip when I heard Gwain laughing with Lancelot and Percy. So I talk with them for a while with Arthur after I woke him up this morning. And that is how all three of them ended up here with us." Balinor was smiling as he greeted Gwain and Lancelot welcoming them to Anelya and then he asked Perce to tell his story which took about five minutes before everyone was ready to start eating but there was a plan set for this meal.
After the meal had been served Balinor started the plan by saying "Ailya my dear what is that sitting in the center of your plate?" Ailya looked down and saw a ring it had a twisted gold band that when you looked at it, it looked like a vine then the stone on top was a blue sapphire shaped into a rose. Merlin jumped in with the second part of the plan "Oh that is where I lost it." Merlin grabbed the ring Ailya was looking confused but then Merlin stood up and kneeled in front of her Ailya's breath stuck in her throat. Merlin held the ring out to here and said "Ailya I have loved you since I was twelve years old and I love you to this day. I want to spend the rest of my life with you if you will have me so will so will you do me the honor of marrying me." Ailya smiled tears flowing freely as she threw her arms around Merlin's neck saying "Yes, yes I will!" Merlin smiled as she pulled back and placed the ring on her finger the whole table cheered. Balinor hugged Merlin saying it was about time with made Arthur roar with laughter, Hunith hugged both Merlin and Ailya saying she could not be happier. Arthur clapped Merlin on the back and said "Well look who finally got a girl." Which made Merlin use his magic to blow a bit of wind in Arthur face just enough to make Arthur squint and have his hair blow around which made Merlin laugh as he said "Say that again and you might get blown over." Which made Arthur send out his normal insult of idiot and Merlin retort back with Prat.
Soon breakfast was over and it had been the best one he had had in years. He had about an hour before his ceremony to be named crowned prince of Anelya so he went to help Arthur get ready and then he got ready himself and he still had about a half hour so he decided to go and talk with his sister.
He was sitting in his little sisters room and they were talking about their lives and how much things had changed since the last time they saw each other. But now it was time for both of them to get into place for it was time for the ceremony.
Soon Merlin was kneeling on the dais and Lord Albric the court historian and family friend was asking the questions that had been asked sine Anelya was founded "Do you prince Merlin so swear to uphold the laws of Anelya and defend her people till the day you die?" "I so sear to do." Merlin replied confidently "Do you Swear to have mercy in your judgments and to help the people in their times of need?" Lord Albric asked "I swear." Merlin answered then Albric asked his last question "And when your father passes and you take his place do you swear to rule the people with justice and compassion like your father has done?" Merlin smiled and said "I so swear to do till the day I die." Lord Albric and Balinor smiled and Lord Albric said while placing a crown in Merlin's head "Then it is with great pride that I name you Crown Prince and hair to the throne of Anelya." Merlin rose and bowed to Balinor and Hunith while smiling everyone in the room started clapping and yelling in excitement. Merlin was now facing them look out at his people but then his eyes locked onto a pair of familiar blue eyes. Merlin smiled at Arthur who returned it and bowed his head slightly and Merlin bowed his head to him as well. In this happy moment none of them knew that that night would bring heartache, pain, pride, for Merlin and comfort to another and a choice for Arthur.