Part 13: link
Merlin climbs the stairs, looking for Gwen. He’s just left Lord Roderick at the stocks to deal with his servant and has made certain that the stable hands have their chevaux and bags waiting for them, outside the château gates. Arthur is going to lose it.
He finds Gwen walking in the corridor, heading for the royal chambers.
“Gwen!” he calls.
“Merlin, Arthur dismissed toi early?” Gwen says, stopping so he can catch her up.
“Not exactly. What happened?” he asks, his face full of concern.
“What happened with what?”
“With you. And Bertrand.”
“Lord Dungball’s servant. toi know, bland guy, dressed all in brown, face like a boiled turnip?”
” She makes a face. “There was a… small misunderstanding.”
“What kind of ‘misunderstanding?’” he asks, eyes narrowing.
“He, um, made advances. He didn’t know who I was, obviously.”
“Arthur’s going to be furious.”
“I handled it,” she says, taking Merlin’s arm as they begin walking again. “However…”
“Would toi send one of the maids up after lunch? I think I would very much like a bath this afternoon.”
Merlin laughs, understanding her implication. “Of course.”
They stop outside the doors. “Arthur should be up shortly,” he says. “I’ll be up in a bit with your lunches.”
“Merlin,” she calls him back. “Bring lunch for yourself as well. If you’ve got news for us about Lord Roderick, toi may as well rejoindre us instead of hovering while we eat.”
“You’re sure?” he says, uncomfortable. “Arthur…”
“…will deal with it,” she interrupts him with a chuckle.
“I don’t know…”
“If toi don’t bring enough for three, I’ll just give toi half of my lunch, since I never finish it anyway,” she threatens.
Merlin knows that Arthur would be even less pleased par that, and surrenders. “All right, all right, no need to play dirty!”
“So you’ve got some new recruits, then?” Gwen says as Arthur walks into their chambers. She crosses to him and leans up to Kiss him.
“Yes, farm lads, but skilled,” he says, one arm around her waist, holding her close. He nuzzles her nose with his own, smiling. “You were watching. I liked that.”
“You were very good, my lord,” she kisses him softly.
“Was my lady impressed?”
“How impressed?” he smirks wickedly at her, his eyes twinkling.
She lifts up on tiptoe and kisses him fully, her fingers tangling in his sweat-damp hair, pulling his head down to her. She opens her mouth under his, her tongue darting coyly in to tease a bit.
Arthur groans in the back of his throat and drops the gloves he had clutched in the hand not holding Guinevere, bringing this hand around to berceau, station d’accueil the back of her neck as he leans further into her, his own tongue taking command, hungry for her.
There is a knock at the door, which Arthur ignores, holding Gwen tighter as she tries in vain to break the kiss.
“Arthur…” she manages.
“It’s just Merlin with our lunch,” he mutters against her lips, diving back in.
She gives in for a few plus seconds, then summons her will and breaks away again.
“Exactly,” she says, managing to pull away enough to stand upright again and gently shove Arthur back. He pouts; she laughs.
“Come in, Merlin,” Gwen calls.
As Merlin enters, she turns to Arthur. “Arthur, Merlin will be joining us for lunch.”
“What? Guinevere, I said…” he begins to protest, and she stops him with another small kiss.
“I know, Love. Merlin has news for us. I suggested he may as well dine with us so we wouldn’t have to grue, crane our necks looking up at him while we eat.”
Merlin sets the places, smirking knowingly at Gwen’s choice of words. She knows just what to say.
Arthur sighs, bending to pick up his dropped gloves. “Very well.” He removes his sword ceinture and tosses it and the gloves on a side table.
They sit, and Merlin is noticeably uncomfortable sitting at the table, tableau with them. They are his closest friends, but he is still their servant and doesn’t truly belong there.
“Relax, Merlin,” Gwen says.
“Yes, Merlin. Now. Guinevere says toi have news, but first: what happened to Lord Dungball? I notice he’s no longer here. Why did the guards come for him?”
Merlin looks at Gwen, who nods. “Well, my lord, his servant got into a spot of trouble this morning.”
“What kind of trouble?” Arthur asks, taking a long draw from his goblet.
“Let’s just say he made a grave mistake,” Merlin attempts.
“Merlin.” Arthur sets his goblet down with a clunk,
and glares at his servant.
“Arthur, he behaved in an inappropriate manner. Towards me,” Gwen decides to jump in, thinking that he may take the news better coming from her.
” he shouts, turning toward her. “I’ll kill him. What did he do, exactly?
Are toi hurt? He is a dead
“Arthur, love, I’m fine. I was a bit unnerved, but only that. He didn’t actually do
anything. He only… sniffed
me.” She shudders a little. “I stopped him before he was able to do anything more.”
“He sniffed you?” Merlin asks, making a slightly disgusted face.
“I’m still going to kill him,” he says, pushing his chair back to stand. “They can’t have gotten far…”
“Arthur,” Gwen puts her hand on his arm. “Sit.”
Much to Merlin’s surprise, he obeys. But he doesn’t look happy about it.
“I took care of the situation, Arthur. He’s gone and he’s not coming back.”
“That’s all? Just banishment?”
“No, of course not. He spent the morning in the stocks. The ones in the lower town.”
“The ones in the lower town?” he asks, his eyebrows going up. Of course. The exact area where she’s from; where I’m sure the largest portion of yesterday’s tokens came from. Clever.
“That’s why the guards came, Arthur. Lord Roderick didn’t know Bertrand was in the stocks. He didn’t even know that Bertrand was back in Camelot, in fact,” Merlin says.
“Back in Camelot?” Arthur is confused now.
“I’ll get to that in a minute,” Merlin says, taking a bite of his food. “Gwen, how did toi stop Bertrand, anyway?”
“Let’s just say I got to use one of my gifts,” she says, patting her little dagger.
“You stabbed him?” Arthur’s eyebrows fly up.
“Just a little bit,” she smirks.
“A little bit?”
“Where?” Merlin asks. “He didn’t seem injured. Not that it would have been easy to tell under the layer of rotten food. He was filthy,” he chuckles.
“That really was a stroke of genius, Guinevere, putting him there, now.
” Arthur manages a small smile.
“So: where?” Merlin prods, very curious.
Gwen blushes slightly. “In the… stomach. Low. Very low,” she says, hiding behind her goblet.
Arthur raises an eyebrow at her.
“All right, I jabbed him just enough so he knew I was armed and threatened to cut off his manhood,” she says, leaning back in her chair, exasperated. “And then I called for the guards.”
Merlin laughs and Arthur stares again. Slowly a smile spreads across his face. “That’s my girl,” he nods, placing his hand over hers. Still going to kill him, though.
Gwen heaves a sigh, relieved that Arthur approves of her actions. She finally starts eating.
“So Merlin. What was that about Roderick’s servant coming back
“I’ll have to back up some, actually. Yesterday when I brought his dinner, I noticed something odd…”
Merlin tells them about the letter, relaying some of the information it contained.
“But Merlin, surely he could have heard the news of Guinevere’s innocence from anyone yesterday. The word did travel rather quickly,” he says, motioning to the fleurs scattered around the room.
“But it’s not just that, Arthur. He specifically mentioned the bracelet. No one in the château yet knows that a bracelet is involved other than Gaius, Elyan, and us. And Roderick didn’t leave the grounds.”
“Can toi be certain of that?”
Merlin thinks, frowning. “No. I wasn’t with him the entire time. But there’s more.”
“He wrote, ‘They do not know if toi yet live, and if so, where toi are hiding.’ The ‘Lady’ to which he is écriture can only be Morgana.”
Arthur’s face clouds as he thinks. Merlin glances at Gwen. She seems deep in thought, but looks a bit haunted as well.
“That still is not very incriminating. That’s pretty much how everyone in Camelot feels. Though I do agree that he is probably écriture Morgana,” he scowls.
Merlin sighs and takes a deep breath. “There is more.”
“Merlin, how on earth did toi get to read all this without him seeing?”
“I spilled wine on his trousers and looked while he was changing,” Merlin says matter-of-factly, taking a drink from his goblet.
“Continue,” Arthur says, knowing his servant sometimes uses his clumsiness to an advantage.
“It is… delicate, Sire. Please know I am just relaying what I read,” Merlin says, wincing. “It involves Gwen.”
“What is it?” she whispers.
He takes another deep breath and squeezes his eyes closed. “He wrote, ‘It is possible that the king’s wench may be with child.’”
“He wrote what?
” Arthur says quietly. Somehow the fact that he is not shouting is all the plus chilling.
“Please don’t make me say it again,” Merlin begs.
“‘The king’s wench?
’” Arthur citations the words between clenched teeth.
“Someone was listening at our door,” Gwen whispers, staring at nothing. She bites her lip.
She looks at Arthur. “Yesterday. toi and I had a conversation about Morgana. I mentioned that we didn’t know if she was even alive. We talked about a baby, that toi hoped that I was not yet with child because of the stress of yesterday morning.”
Merlin bends his head over his plate, slightly uncomfortable.
“Someone must have been listening at our door and only heard snatches of the conversation,” she says, her face growing hot. She feels humiliated par this. Violated. What else did he hear?
“Bertrand,” Merlin says. “I found him wandering the corridors not far from your chambers yesterday afternoon.”
may I go kill him?” Arthur asks, furious.
“There is one plus item.” Merlin sighs.
“I don’t think I can take any more,” Gwen says, biting her lip.
“He knew about the letter to Queen Annis.”
“No one knew about that letter. Just the three of us,” Arthur says.
“Exactly,” Merlin says, “and this morning Bertrand was nowhere to be found and I saw no sign of that letter, either. I did see a figure riding away from the château this morning. It might have been him; he was pretty far away, though, I can’t say for certain who it was.” I know it was him, but I cannot give away how I know,
he thinks mournfully.
Arthur pounds his fist on the table, tableau and suddenly stands. “Why didn’t I have guards outside the door? Why didn’t you
let me know he was here yesterday?” He wheels on Merlin.
“You told me not to disturb you! How was I to know that he was Morgana’s latest… pawn?” Merlin rises from his chair and shouts back, refusing to take the blame. Don’t toi act the wounded animal on me now, Arthur. I’m not backing down from your claws.
“Well if toi had told me he was here we could have kept a closer eye on him!” Arthur stalks
“Just this morning toi were commending me on the good job I did looking after him and leaving toi undisturbed! Don’t take your anger with Roderick out on me, Sire,
I’ve done nothing wrong here!” Merlin fires back, and the two Friends stand and regard each other.
“Stop it, both of you!” Gwen says sharply, standing and walking between them. She puts her hands out, one on each man’s chest, and shoves, gently but firmly, placing some distance between them.
“It’s no one’s fault.” She faces them, her face stern. “Instead of attacking each other, toi should be thinking about what to do next.
We know what he knows, but he doesn’t know this.”
“True,” Merlin agrees, the first to cool down. “Still, we must keep on our toes, because now we know that Morgana somehow survived and is clearly gathering both information and allies. Again.”
“Right,” Gwen says. “Arthur?” she looks to her husband, still silent and scowling.
“We will double the guard,” he says levelly, looking out the window. “All visitors will be escorted at all times. Guards will be posté outside our doors…”
Gwen’s eyes shoot to him.
“Okay, not right
outside the doors, but at the each end of the corridor leading to our doors. And we will send a chercher party west to try and catch up Lord Dungball and his toad I want them brought back so that they can be executed. Horribly.”
“Ar—” Merlin starts, but Gwen holds up her hand, stilling him.
There is a sharp knock on the door. “Sire?” Leon’s voice from the other side.
Gwen walks over and opens the door.
“Is everything all right, my lady? We heard shouting.” Leon asks. Elyan is with him.
“Yes, just a little misunderstanding, that’s all,” Gwen says, and Leon notices Arthur and Merlin looking rather guilty standing there. He looks around and sees no one else in the room, and decides it must be all right, knowing that the two of them fight like brothers sometimes.
“Very well. Sorry to disturb you, your majesties.”
“Leon,” Arthur says.
“A word, please.”
Leon steps in to receive the latest instructions from Arthur, leaving Gwen face to face with Elyan.
“I heard what toi did.”
“You… toi did?”
“Very clever, letting Wilhelmina overhear like that.”
“Thanks.” He looks at his feet.
“Yes?” he raises his head hopefully.
“Did toi say anything specifically
about the bracelet?”
“What?” he was hoping for forgiveness, not a question. “Well, Edgar knows, of course. I don’t know if his wife heard anything about the bracelet ou not. ou if Edgar a dit anything to her. I know that it was not one of the things I intentionally a dit extra loud…” he smiles.
“We’re trying to sort some things out. It seems… it seems that Lord Roderick and his servant were doing some snooping, and we’re just trying to put the pieces together. He knew about the bracelet. We just don’t know how exactly, but we suspect he’s working for Morgana.”
The siblings stand awkwardly for a moment, neither knowing what to say next.
“What’s that?” Gwen asks.
“The bracelet. Well, what’s left of it after I melted it.”
“You… toi kept
“Yes. As a reminder.”
“Not because it is silver?” she asks, raising her eyebrows at him.
“No. Honest, no. If I cared about its monetary value at all, I would have sold it to a jeweler. But it is not intended to be an adornment.”
ugly,” she says, allowing a small smile.
He smiles weakly back. “I needed something to remind me to be a better brother to you. This seemed appropriate.”
She reaches out and lifts it, weighing it in her palm before dropping it again, watching as it lands against his chest.
“I l’amour you, Gwen, please remember that. Even if I don’t montrer it very much. ou very well.”
“Thank you, Elyan,” she says, but does not return the sentiment. Not ready yet.
Leon clears his throat politely.
Gwen turns and smiles at the tall knight. “Thank you, Leon, for the dagger.”
“You are most welcome, my lady. I am only sorry that toi had need of it so soon,” he says, frowning slightly.
“No, Leon, do not be sorry,” she says, placing her hand on his arm. “Be thankful, proud, that toi gave it to me at the right time. I am forever grateful to you, Sir Knight, and I shall wear it always.”
“Thank you, my lady, that was my intention.”
Gwen smiles again at him and lifts up to bestow a Kiss on his cheek. “You’re going to have to meet me halfway, here, Leon,” she says when she can’t reach him.
Chuckling, he bends his head, allowing her to Kiss his cheek. Blushing slightly, he turns to Elyan as Gwen walks back into the room.
“We’ve got work to do, Elyan,” they hear Leon say as he closes the door behind him.
Guinevere closes her eyes and sighs, letting the warm water soak into her pores, relaxing her frazzled muscles. The scent of the lavender oil in the water wafts up to her nose, carried on the steam rising from the water, and she takes a deep breath before sighing heavily.
“My lady, is everything all right?”
“Yes, Daisy. And no. It’s been a very confusing day.”
“None of my business, I’m sure,” she says meekly. Gwen is fairly certain that the young maid knows almost all of what has been going on.
“At least that horrible man and his even plus horrible servant are gone now,” Gwen says, swishing her hands idly in the water.
Having lived most of her life bathing par using a basin and a cloth, shivering most of the time, Guinevere has discovered that she loves the decadence of a true bathtub. She savors every moment steeping herself in scented water, so hot that her tawny skin comes out slightly rose when she’s done, fingers and toes wrinkled like raisins. It is almost her favori thing about being queen. Almost.
“Yes, my lady. He was… rather unpleasant,” the girl bravely ventures.
“Oh, Daisy, toi do not need to manteau your words with honey for me. Speak your mind,” Gwen says, opening her eyes and raising her head from its resting place on the edge of the tub.
“He was horrid. Rude. Vile, even. Merlin told me that he asked for a ‘young, pretty maid’ to go to his chambers to retrieve a pair of soiled trousers to be cleaned. Then he told me that he sent Corliss,” she smiles sheepishly.
“Corliss? That girl is nearly as big as Percival!” Gwen laughs. “She’s a wonderful girl, and pretty, but my goodness, she’s built like a knight!”
Daisy allows herself a giggle. “Corliss is my best friend, my lady, but toi are absolutely right. She’s a very… robust girl.”
“Well, Lord Roderick did ask for young and pretty. Corliss is definitely both those things,” Gwen smiles.
“And then some, my lady,” marguerite, daisy smiles back at her.
“So what happened? I can see toi want to tell me,” Gwen prompts, holding her hand out for the soap and cloth. “Thank you.”
“Apparently she knocked and the lord asked who was disturbing him. She calls to him that Merlin has sent her to retrieve his trousers to bring them to the laundry, and the door opened immediately. Corliss a dit that his servant nearly had to pick his master’s jaw up from the floor. The lord only stood as high as her shoulder, my lady.”
“I’m sure he was quite disappointed that he was not presented with someone he could bully or, perish the thought, overpower,” Gwen says grimly.
“Indeed, my lady. So then the servant fetches the trousers and flings them at poor Corliss. She caught them, of course and put them in her basket. They slammed the door in her face then.”
“How terribly rude. But I am not surprised.” Gwen leans vers l'avant, vers l’avant and marguerite, daisy steps over to run the cloth on the queen’s back for her.
“She said…” marguerite, daisy hesitates.
“I should not, my lady. It is gossip.”
“But now I’m too curious. Tell me.”
She hesitates. “Corliss a dit that Lord Roderick’s trousers smelled. Bad. Like a stable that hadn’t been cleaned recently.”
Guinevere laughs, and marguerite, daisy is taken par surprise.
“Okay, I’ll trade a secret for a secret.”
“No, that’s really all right, toi don’t have to…” marguerite, daisy protests.
“Arthur and Merlin and I have been referring to Lord Roderick as ‘Lord Dungball’ all day.”
Now it is Daisy’s turn to laugh, covering her mouth with her hands, as shocked as she is amused.
“More hot, my lady?” she asks once she recovers.
Gwen sits back, swishing the water again. “A bit, yes. I won’t be much longer.”
Part 15: link