Hunnith wiped her hands on her apron and hurried to the door of her tiny cottage. The sound of horse’s hooves approaching on the rough stony ground could mean only one thing. Her son was finally home.
Merlin had sent word last week that he would come home to visit at the end of the month, and that he would be bringing a very special lady with him. She ran a floury hand through her hair, trying to tuck flyaway strands back into her cap.
Of course, Hunnith was filled with excitement. She had always hoped that in Camelot, Merlin would find someone who could love him as he so richly deserved to be loved. In his letters home, he often spoke of a lady's maid called Gwen. She sounded quite lovely. Hunnith had already begun to save up wool to knit a baby shawl.
She squinted a little in the bright sunshine, trying to get her first look at Merlin's special lady friend. She had to bite down her disappointment when she saw only Prince Arthur on the second horse.
“Your highness,” she said, curtsying.
Merlin dismounted and gathered her enthusiastically into a bear hug.
“You look fantastic,” he grinned, spinning her around. He'd grown so strong since leaving home. He’d left a boy and come home a man. She smiled at him sweetly when he let her feet touch the ground again.
“I've made fresh bread,” Hunnith informed him. Of course if she’d known that Merlin would be bringing royalty with him, she might have splashed out and bought a chicken, but rabbit broth would have to do.
“I can smell it,” Merlin sniffed the air enthusiastically, closing his eyes in rapture. “But first, I want to introduce you to someone very special.” As he spoke, Merlin turned towards Arthur, and Hunnith frowned in confusion. Granted, the Crowned Prince of Camelot was special, but this was hardly their first meeting.
Merlin headed towards the back of Arthur’s horse and moved aside a blanket. Hunnith gasped. Strapped to the back of the horse, was a piglet!
Merlin grinned mischievously at her as he began to untie the animal, which was now squeeing loudly and wriggling. “Her name is Pinky,” he informed her.
The Prince dropped effortlessly to the ground and went to help Merlin control the scared animal. “It’s a gift,” Arthur informed her. “I asked what I could bring and Merlin mentioned how much he liked bacon.”
The piglet, perhaps sensing that its life was in danger, took a bite out of Arthur’s hand, kicked Merlin in the shins and made off towards the woods in a cloud of dust.
Hunnith coughed, waving dust away from her face as she watched her erstwhile dinner's rapidly receding pink bottom disappear into the bushes. Sighing, she rolled her eyes at master and servant who were comparing war wounds. “Go wash up boys. Rabbit broth will be ready in a few moments,” she said.
Later that night, she lay in her narrow cot watching the two of them sleep. Arthur’s Broad shoulders made an excellent pillow for her son’s dark head. Merlin’s hand rested lightly on Arthur’s chest and Arthur’s arms wrapped tightly around Merlin, holding him close.
It wasn’t exactly what she had been hoping for, but from what she could see, Merlin had indeed found someone very special in Camelot to love him as he deserved to be loved.
She glanced at the basket of wool by the side of the fire and sighed.
Ah well, it wouldn't go to waste. Winter would soon be here and she could definitely do with a new woolen blanket ...