Merlin had been picking flowers when they came. He sensed their presence before he saw them.
The royal procession cantered into the clearing, followed by a line of craftsmen, telling by their clothes. Merlin felt a little disgruntled, seeing so many people in his clearing, but that feeling flew away as he saw Gwen climbing down from her horse Beauty. Merlin stayed back in the forest line, unsure of the welcome he would get.
Gwen was in her finest red dress, and she seemed unperturbed as it trailed in the mud. As she walked forward, she saw Merlin's makeshift tent. She started running towards it, and Merlin could see her despondent look when she found it empty.
"Merlin?" She called, her voice shaky.
Merlin could see the damage these few weeks since Arthur's disapperence had caused the Queen. Her face appeared rubbed raw, noticable even from a distance. She seemed frailer, even smaller than the confident Gwen that Merlin knew. Even the way she held herself, presented doubt and fear.
Merlin longed to run to her, but the threatening swords of the guards at the edge of the clearing stayed his feet. Gwen started to venture towards the forest, unknowingly towards Merlin.
"My lady, it might not be safe in there." A guard said. "There is a sorcerer about."
Gwen turned towards the guard, a look of comprehension on her face. Her lips formed a silent, "Oh" as she realized Merlin's hesitation. A look of fury crossed her face, a rare expression for Gwen.
"This Sorcerer-" Gwen spat at the offending guard. "Is the most loyal, most powerful, most loving friend I have ever had the honor to have. He presents no threat to the Camelot, and in fact it would not still be standing if it wasn't for him. He was manservant to King Arthur for fifteen years, and he was Arthur's most trusted companion. And he will be treated as such by all of you, and the kingdom."
The guard had looked terrified throughout the Queen's tirade, and seemed to breathe a sigh of relief at it's end.
"Yes your Majesty." He monotoned, bowing low.
The Queen turned her attention back to the forest.
"Merlin?" She said quietly. "Merlin you can come out now."
The warlock in question, slowly stepped into a shaft of sunlight between the trees, his face questioning.
The Queen's face lit up with a joy that surprised her fully, she had doubted she would ever be happy again.
She ran towards the warlock, ignoring the stupid Queenly etiquette, and yelling, "Merlin, oh Merlin!"
Some of the more kindly guards who had been around longer, smiled happily to themselves at seeing the wellknown servant of the King, and the Queen embrace. She certainly could use the happiness.
Midday found the pair of old friends sitting on the lakeside, dipping their feet into the water. Earlier, Merlin had been quite shocked at Guinevere's offer of a house, but had been convinced of the thought of another night on the mossy ground. She had told him with a smile, that another caravan of people would be arriving in a days time, loaded with household items. In the meantime she had set her over a hundred craftsmen to work. They kindly had brought their own wood.
Merlin was slightly giddy at the prospect of having his own cottage all to himself, and overcome with Gwen's kindness when she mentioned all the luxury's that were on there way.
However his joy faded fast as Gwen started to relate all that had happened in his absence. Many of the knight's were dead, some very good friends. At the sound of Gwaine's name in the list of the dead, Merlin could barely stifle a sob.
After a long hug from Gwen, she continued her retelling. She was sent with a letter from Gaius, and several of his books, and a very extreme apology for not coming. When Gwen spoke of Gaius, Merlin noticed a flash of worry creasing her eyebrows.
When asked, all she would say on Gaius' health was, "He's... He's not doing so good."
Merlin let the subject drop when he saw the distress it caused gwen, but mentally planned to continue the conversation later.
Eventually the part came that Merlin had been dreading. As the sounds of the woodworker's hammer's clanged behind them, gwen looked at him expectantly.
"Now you," She said. "I need to know."
Merlin took a deep breath, and willed himself the strength enough to retell what had happened after the battle.
After two more hours, several cries of horror, buckets of tears, and a heavy sadness speaking of all the things that could have been, Merlin finished his story. Merlin had edited out the part's about Arthur talking to him, because he got a strange feeling, it wasn't anything that Arthur could do for another person, no matter how much he wanted to.
He could almost feel Arthur's spirit struggling. He shook the feeling off, and broke the depressing silence that had fallen.
"Well he always knew how to make a grand exit." Merlin chuckled halfheartedly.
Gwen cracked a watery smile, and continued to stare into the depths of the fog in front of them. She had half expected to see a spectar of Arthur passing along the riverbank when she came. Yet she was only slightly disappointed. She could feel Arthur living on through his bond with Merlin. The faithful Warlock waiting for his king.
"Merlin?" Gwen asked after a minute.
"Yes My Queen?" Merlin joked.
Gwen rolled her eyes, but then grew serious again.
"What are you going to do when we are all dead and gone?"
Merlin stared at Gwen for several moments. He sensed the wisdom beyond her years, and a slight premenition of something Merlin had wondered himself. He had not told her that he suspected he was now immortal.
"I suppose... I will do what I have been doing for the past few years. Wait for my destiny to return." Merlin said with a smile.
A single red rose grew up between the two of them, a gust of wind dislodged the rose and blew it into Gwen's lap.
"Did you do that?" Gwen asked surprised.
Merlin smiled to himself, Arthur was with his Queen forevermore.