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“What could you have possibly been doing out in the woods all day?” Arthur asked grumpily under the light of sconce supported torch at the royal stables’ entrance as it was quite dark and well after supper time when Anwen and Merlin returned.

“That is really none of your business, now is it?” Anwen stuck her tongue out like she was ten.

Although Arthur ‘reluctantly’ smiled at his cousin’s sometimes questionable antics, he inwardly cringed a bit because the sight of her acting so childishly triggered a memory of Morgana doing the same thing.

It pained him to know he will most likely never see that side of Morgana again. Anwen did say that no one is beyond salvation but he had hard time believing it. At least his father started to be more communicative since Anwen arrived even though he was still baffled as to why would his father tolerate presence of a magic user.

Arthur assumed it must be because f Anwen’s general appearance as joist the other day in the lower town an old lady thought she saw a ghost of his late mother when Anwen walked past her. And it took them good hour to convince the old woman otherwise.

“Wipe that smirk of your face Merlin. I’ll make sure you get double amount of chores tomorrow.” Arthur snapped back to reality when he saw that goofy grin on his manservant’s face that faded instantly with Arthur’s threat and Merlin gave Anwen pleading look.

“How would you like to bray through your council meeting tomorrow, Arthur?” Anwen crossed her arms at her chest and made what Arthur came to call ‘Gaius eyebrow raise’.

“You wouldn’t.”

“Yes I would. Did we not offer you to come with us?”

In truth, they only offered because they knew Arthur wouldn’t take the offer since he did not have time for all day horse riding, with him being prince regent now and all. Or as Anwen surmised, he would use the day without Merlin pestering and insulting him whenever he got the chance, to spend some time alone with Guinevere.

“I had duties to attend to.”

“I am not certain Gwen would like to hear you referring to her as duty.” Merlin teased and Arthur blushed.

“Aw, he’s blushing…How sweet.” Anwen chirped in overly sweet voice, pretending to swoon.

“I am not blushing.” Arthur tried to defend himself. “Don’t you have to say hello to Gaius or something like that Merlin.” he added, clearly signalling he wanted to be left alone with Anwen.

“I really had great time today Merlin, we should do this again. I will see you in the morning.” she smiled and motioned for Arthur to follow as she entered the stables to get her things and groom Eira.

“Out with it then. What is on your mind that cannot wait until tomorrow?”

“I received a messenger from Dyffed early afternoon.”

“Dyffed?” She frowned for a second as she tried to remember whose kingdom it was. “Ah…the toad.” she said with wicked smile, making Arthur raise an eyebrow in his own style.

“The toad?”

“Alined, yes. I turned him into a toad.”

“You…Why?”

He was well aware his cousin could come up with all sort of comebacks and he was not particularly fond of Alined but this was news to him.

“He insulted my sister. I can tolerate many things. Insulting my family is not one of those things.”

“As entertaining and just it may have been, please be nice when he arrives the day after tomorrow.”

“What?!”

Anwen’s mount Eira neighed in surprise at his mistress’ exclamation.

“As Camelot’s ally, he is entitled to visit whenever he wants to but I think he is coming to prod and test me to see how this kingdom is functioning without firm grasp of my father.”

Anwen snorted.

“Of course he is. Men like him are predators that lurk in the dark and wait for the fresh blood. Though he isn’t overly bright in manners sometimes.”

“Bright or not, he will most certainly demand an explanation for Kyna and you staying here; and will try to provoke you. Please be careful.”

“I promise.” Anwen said with a yawn. “Do you mind if I retire now?”

“What exactly were you two doing out there?”

His question was met with soft laughter as she made her way into the citadel, upstairs to her chambers. When she closed the doors behind her, she noticed Shae dozing on the perch Anwen made for her in the warm corner of her chambers and a letter on her desk. Even though she was tired, she picked up the letter anyway when she noticed it had her family’s seal on it and got comfortable in the armchair beside the hearth to read it.

“You look like you had good night sleep.” Arthur remarked as they walked toward Council Chambers with Merlin close behind next morning.

“Hmm…What?” Anwen asked almost dreamily, making two men laugh.

“I said you look like you had good night sleep.”

“As a matter of fact I did. Found Shae sleeping on her perch last night in my chambers.”

“Remarkable bird.” Merlin cut in.

“Yes, she is. Anyway, she brought mother’s letter. Mother wants you to know she is happy to hear you want her here for your birthday and that she will arrive day before with Cara, Innogen and Ena.”

“Right…So that will be your mother, sister and…” Arthur had no idea who the other two ladies were.

“They are ladies of the court so to speak. You know we don’t exactly need personal servants running after us all day. But they are close friends of mine and my mother often takes them along on her travels to southern kingdoms of Albion.” Anwen elaborated.

“Four guest chambers then. And no servants.” Arthur concluded, getting affirmative nod as reply.

“Good…” he exhaled as they reached the Chambers. “And now several hours of pure boredom.”

He said it like they were going to their deaths. Then again, the way councils could be sometimes, they might as well be.

“If you think it’s bad now, what will you think when you become king?” Anwen asked with innocent smile dancing on her lips.

“You are going to be queen too.”

“One day yes. But I’m only second in the line to the throne.”

“And you enjoy every second of that fact.”

“You know me so well.”

“Let’s get this over with before you crash my mood even more.”

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