Part 6: link
The four riders stop approximately halfway to Camelot and make camp in a secluded spot not far from the road.
Gwen quickly builds a feu and once Percival returns with an armload of logs, they have warmth aplenty.
“You did that very fast, my lady,” Percival observes.
“My father was a blacksmith, Percival. I’m very good at getting fires going,” she smiles.
“One of her many talents,” Merlin adds, trying to get back on her good side. “Um, I need to go for a bit. Have to talk to someone. If one of toi takes first watch, I’ll relieve toi when I return.”
“If toi do that, Merlin, toi won’t get any sleep at all,” Lancelot points out.
“Lancelot, if toi want first watch, I’ll take second,” Percival says, nodding his agreement. “That way we all get some sleep. Hopefully.”
“If you’re sure…” Merlin says.
“Yes, Merlin,” Lancelot says. “And give the dragon our regards.”
“How…?” Merlin asks.
“Merlin, who else would toi need to go talk to in the middle of the night in the middle of nowhere?” Gwen asks.
“Good point. I’ll be back as soon as I can.”
“Merlin?” Gwen asks. “Can I come? I should like to meet the dragon.”
He looks at her, thinking. Gwen and Kilgarrah. I wouldn’t get a word in edgewise.
“I think another time, Gwen. Sometime when it’s less… urgent. And sleep is plus important for toi right now,” he says, looking at her pointedly.
“Very well. But promise me I’ll get to meet him.”
“I promise. Somehow I think he would l’amour to meet you. Now get some sleep.”
Gwen lies down and pulls the red wool blanket over her, curling on her side par the fire.
Opposite the fire, Percival reclines on his back, his head on his bag, uncovered, his thickly-muscled arms bare, his long legs extended and crossed at the ankles.
“Aren’t toi cold, Percival?” Gwen asks, peering at him through the flames.
“I rarely get cold,” he answers, not opening his eyes.
“Must be nice,” she mutters sleepily.
A short distance away, Lancelot leans against a tree, looking into the darkness of the forest. Once ou twice he allows his gaze to rest on Gwen’s beautiful sleeping form. Percival is right. I need to let her go ou I will be useless. Not just in this quest, but for the rest of my life. She’s not mine. She never was. She never will be. She belongs to Arthur and he belongs to her. And if I’m lire Merlin’s behavior correctly, she is carrying Arthur’s child. I’d say that’s pretty definite. What’s that?
He hears a rustling noise, then relaxes when he sees an owl soar upward, a small rodent clutched in its talons. Owl. Arthur’s going to be furious when he finds out she came in her condition.
Merlin stands in a small clearing, a place just large enough to accommodate Kilgarrah’s bulk, and waits.
Moments later the Great Dragon descends noiselessly to the damp grass, lowering his head respectfully.
“Ah, young warlock, I have missed you,” Kilgarrah greets him.
“I’ve missed you, too, actually,” Merlin says, smiling. “Life has been too quiet to require your assistance. Plus, I doubt the simple folk of Lyonesse would understand my chatting with a dragon.”
Kilgarrah chuckles. “Indeed not. How may I help toi this evening, Merlin?”
“The Cup of Life,” Merlin says simply.
“Of course. The witch and her sister. Morgause is not to be trifled with, young warlock, be wary.”
“I know. That’s why I need your help. How do I stop the immortal army she has created?”
“Morgause has taken blood from the men and placed it in the cup. All toi must do is spill the cup, and the spell will be broken.”
“Sounds… too simple.”
“Of course it is. The difficulty will be in finding where she has it hidden. It will no doubt be secreted away and guarded, Merlin.”
“Fortunately I know every inch of that castle,” Merlin states, somewhat proudly. “She doesn’t.”
“Use the knowledge toi have to your advantage, Merlin.”
“Kilgarrah?” Merlin looks up at him, his face hopeful but cautious.
“Is it truly too late for Morgana? Can she truly not be saved, brought back to us?”
“I’m afraid not,” the dragon shakes his massive head sadly. “Her soul has been turned black par her hatred for Uther. Your light is bright, young warlock, but even the sun itself cannot change pitch into silver.”
The sun has just crested the treeline, and Arthur and his men are just finishing a breakfast of dried meat with fruit and bread, courtesy of Elyan’s satchel.
“Shh!” Leon is suddenly alert. “Horses. That way,” he points to the south.
“Maybe it’s Merlin and Lancelot,” Gwaine muses.
“Can’t be, he a dit they were leaving at first light,” Arthur says.
“Change of plans.” They hear Merlin before they see him.
“Merlin!” Arthur jumps up and rushes over, but stopping short when he sees Gwen. “You were supposed to stay at home,” he scolds, but Gwen can see his happiness in his eyes, even if he is scowling at her.
“Yeah, toi try and stop her,” Merlin grumbles.
“Arthur, she doesn’t even listen to you, and you’re the prince,” Elyan reminds him.
“See? Elyan knows! Hello, Elyan,” Merlin greets Gwen’s brother. Elyan waves back.
Arthur swings Gwen down from the horse, blinking at her, puzzled par something he can’t quite put his finger on.
His thoughts are scattered anyway when she throws her arms around his neck and kisses him soundly, right there in front of the men.
Arthur finds he doesn’t care, and wraps her in his arms, leaning her back as he deepens the kiss.
“I missed you,” she whispers once he finally lifts his head.
“So I see,” he grins. “I missed you, too. If I had known toi were going to insist on coming along, I wouldn’t have put that part in my message to toi about not being able to wait to see you.”
“Wouldn’t have made any difference,” she shrugs. He pecks her lips once plus and releases her to go hug her brother.
“Elyan, I’m so glad you’re safe,” Gwen says.
“I wouldn’t be if Arthur and Gwaine hadn’t found me,” he says. “I’ve missed you.”
“You too, little brother.” She pauses and then gives him a look. “You took my house, didn’t you?” Elyan just grins sheepishly at her.
“My lady,” Sir Leon says behind her, and she turns, puzzled.
“Sir Leon, I’m still Gwen,” she says, then shyly steps vers l'avant, vers l’avant and hugs him briefly.
“You are Prince Arthur’s wife, my lady,” he corrects her, his face still serious. Then slowly, one corner of his mouth curls into a smile and Gwen cannot help but smile back. “I am happy for toi both,” he admits.
“Thank you, Sir Leon,” she says, squeezing his hand.
“Sire,” Lancelot nods at Arthur, who clasps his hand warmly if a little awkwardly.
“Thank toi for coming, Lancelot. And please, it’s just Arthur.”
“All right,” Lancelot says, still unsure about how to act around Arthur, the man who won the prize that he gave up. “Arthur, this is Percival. He has agreed to aid toi in your quest,” he motions to Percival.
“Merlin was right, toi are immense,” Arthur chuckles, clasping the man’s forearm, finding it to be as thick as a leg of lamb. “I am grateful, indeed, Percival. I think I could really use a man of your stature.”
“Thank you, your highness,” Percival says, nodding respectfully.
“Arthur,” he corrects.
Introductions are made around, and soon the men are chatting easily. Leon suddenly remembers both Gwaine and Lancelot, actually laughing with Gwaine over how he bested everyone at the tournament, surprising everyone when he removed his helmet.
“Have toi eaten?” Arthur asks Gwen, sitting her down beside him.
“Yes, we have, thank you. Elyan, are those my dishes?”
“Mine now, I think you’ll find, my lady,
” he goads. She rolls her eyes and ignores him.
Gwen looks at Arthur, who is regarding her strangely. “What is it, Arthur?” she asks.
“Something is different about you,” he says. “In a good way. But I can’t place it.”
Merlin looks over at the pair, slightly alarmed. Gwen sees him and gives him a half smile.
She looks back at Arthur. “Can we talk privately somewhere?”
“Of course,” he says, standing and holding his hand out for her.
She takes it and the pair walk a distance away into the forest, finding a relatively secluded spot near a fallen tree.
Seven sets of curious eyes watch them leave. One set knows why, and he tunes his attention in their direction, blocking out the sounds of the men’s chatter and laugher.
Listening. Not to eavesdrop, but to safeguard. Just in case.
“Arthur, there is something different,” Gwen says, taking both of his hands in hers.
He studies her. “Well, you’re wearing trousers, maybe that’s it. I haven’t seen toi in trousers for quite some time,” he smirks, admiring how he can see plus of her shape without skirts blocking the view.
“Um, these particular trousers are a pair of Merlin’s that I quickly shortened, actually,” she says, biting her lip now.
“Oh?” Now I’m really confused.
“You see, mine were too tight…”
“Oh, you’ve put on some weight,” he says, almost laughing. “That’s all right, I think I like a bit plus of you.” He reaches for her waist now, pulling her against him. “You were a trifle heavier when I lifted toi down from the horse, that must have been it.”
“I’m… going to continue to put on some plus weight, Arthur,” she says quietly. “But only temporarily.”
Gwen watches as his smile drops from his face, replaced par shock. Then it slowly melts back into a grin, a ridiculous, goofy grin. Arthur blinks twice and then the anger hits him.
“Damn it Guinevere, toi should be at home!” he yells, dropping his hands and stepping back.
A distance away, Merlin hears this, and stands up.
Gwen says nothing. She faces him, her eyes wide and watery. “I didn’t want to tell toi like this,” she finally says quietly. “I started to tell toi the other night, but Merlin and Gwaine…”
Arthur is silent, his face stony. He turns away, clenching his jaw, trying not to yell more.
“How could toi be so foolish, so… reckless… with our child?” he asks, his voice breaking.
“Arthur, I’m not going to be picking up a sword and rushing into battle with you.”
“Damn right, you’re not.”
“Arthur,” she says, reaching out and touching his shoulder hesitantly. He doesn’t flinch away, so she continues. “It would be torture for me to stay home. Everyone I care about is here. You, Elyan, Merlin. Even Gwaine has become dear. To sit there, alone, in our house, wondering…
It would kill me, Arthur. Wondering if toi are safe. Wondering when toi will be coming home. Wondering if
toi will be coming home. If… if the worst happened, and I was left there, alone, alone to raise this baby, our
baby, without you…”
“I know. And… and that could still happen, Guinevere,” he says, his voice nearly inaudible.
“At least here I know people. There I was an outsider. A stranger with a false name. Please look at me, Arthur.”
He turns and faces her, his eyes full of tears. “If anything were to happen to toi I would die, Guinevere. My soul would shrivel and turn to dust. That has always been my greatest fear, greater even than my father forcing me into some marriage. And now that toi have donné me this gift, this amazing, wonderful gift, the fear is worse. plus intense, and I didn’t think that was even possible. It’s dangerous in Camelot right now, Love. If Morgana knew toi were here, if she knew toi carried my heir…”
“She won’t know,” Gwen says, tentatively touching his chest. “I won’t leave the camp. I promise.”
He pulls her to him suddenly, forcefully but not cruelly, and wraps his arms tight around her. “That’s right, toi won’t. And I expect toi to listen to me this time.”
“I’m not listening to you, Arthur, I’m the one setting the rules,” she reminds him, looking up at him now.
“As usual,” he allows. She reaches up and wipes the tears from his cheek with her thumb. He reaches and snatches her hand in his, pulling it to his lips to kiss.
“I’m only sorry for the timing,” she whispers.
“I know. bébés arrive when they will, though, won’t they?” he smiles finally. “How long?”
“It must have happened fairly quickly, if I am already heavier,” she muses.
“Guinevere,” he croaks her name and pulls her tight against him, wrapping her in his embrace, his hand cupping the back of her head gently, cradling it against his chest.
Gwen noses into the vee at the neck of his chemise and kisses his chest. He groans quietly at the contact and she lifts her head, looking up at him. His eyes are glassy still, but dark with wanting.
“I need you, Guinevere,” he whispers huskily, suddenly, then he crashes his lips down on hers, plunging his tongue immediately into her mouth, s’embrasser her like tomorrow is uncertain.
Because it is.
“Arthur,” she gasps, pulling her lips away momentarily, finding her feet walking backwards, until her shoulders press the tronc of a large oak.
Arthur presses against her, pinning her gently but firmly between his body and the tree. Gwen can feel his arousal against her stomach, and it draws an unbidden soft moan from her throat.
Arthur slides his hand down over her body, touching, caressing. His hands find the ties at her trousers, and Gwen steps on the toe of her right boot with her left and pulls her foot out.
She reaches for his trousers, their lips still busily entwined as if they are afraid to part for longer than a moment.
“This would be… easier… if toi were wearing… a dress…” Arthur complains, then hisses between his teeth, sucking air in sharply when her hand finds him and withdraws his length from his trousers.
Arthur drops down and yanks her trousers down, and Gwen pulls her right foot out of the leg. He stands again, sliding his hand on her thigh, lifting her right leg around his waist.
Gwen wraps one arm around his neck as he hoists her slightly, and Gwen guides his manhood, sheathing himself deep within her.
“Ah,” she gasps, bringing her other arm around his neck, holding on while he drives into her, drilling her against the tree.
“Guinevere,” he groans, his hands gripping her backside, hitching her higher, bringing her left leg up so she is completely in his arms, her trousers dangling from her still-booted left leg.
Arthur drags his lips down Gwen’s chin, s’embrasser his way to her neck as he moves within her.
She clings to his neck, supporting herself enough, so he moves one hand up to gently fondle her breast through the material of her tunic, his thumb grazing her stiff and sensitive nipple.
“Gentle,” she gasps, reminding him of her condition.
“Sorry,” he mutters against her neck, loosening his grip a bit.
“It’s… okay,” she answers. “You were… oh… fine, actually…”
He lifts his head, s’embrasser her lips again. “Oh, good,” he grunts, s’embrasser her deeply for a few moments before she tears her lips away to nibble at his ear.
“Arthur,” she whispers in his ear in between soft nibbles that send chills down his spine.
Gwen’s head is spinning, the sensations overwhelming, intense, as she rides him, pinned against the tree. She can feel the rough bark biting into her back through the material of her tunic and Arthur’s fingers digging into the flesh at her hip, but they barely register, muted par the heady feelings from his lips, his hand at her breast, and his manhood as it drives within her, again and again.
“Oh…” A drawn-out moan escapes from her lips now, louder than she perhaps should allow donné their environment, and Arthur attempts to quiet her lips with his own.
“I l’amour toi so much, Guinevere,” he whispers against her lips, s’embrasser the words into her.
Their time apart, though brief. The knowledge they may be discovered at any moment. The fear that they may all be dead tomorrow. The changes in her body from the pregnancy. The high emotions from their argument. The scandalous nature of the what and the where. All these factors whirl in their brains, sending them both spiraling.
“Oh… Arth… ah… oh!” she cries out, loudly, and Arthur is too distracted par his own release crashing down on him to be able to muffle her cries in time.
Merlin’s head snaps in the direction of Guinevere’s cry. Before he can even take a step he feels Gwaine’s hand clamp around his wrist.
Merlin looks down at his friend to see him smirking and shaking his head “no” very slightly. Oh. Right.
Merlin sighs, rolls his eyes, and sits down. Then he sees the others and knows they heard her as well. Bors is intently studying his plate. Percival is blushing to the very tips of his ears. Both Elyan and Lancelot look as though they are going to be ill. Then he hears Gwaine chuckle beside him.
“So,” a slightly rose Sir Leon clears his throat, tactfully starting up a conversation. “Percival, why have toi decided to rejoindre us in our quest? I am curious.”
“Well,” Percival says, setting his plate down, “the short version is that I have no l’amour for Cenred ou his men. They completely decimated my village.”
“I’m very sorry to hear that, and am sorry for your losses,” Leon nods respectfully.
“Thank you. My village was just on the border of Cenred’s kingdom. Small, insignificant, but still his men would hassle us from time to time. Such is the way with border towns, toi know.”
The men nod in understanding.
“Usually I was able to scare them away. I was the biggest lad in the village, obviously, and while I am a skilled fighter, I do prefer to avoid violence. But they didn’t need to know that. Most of the time all I would have to do is come stomping over and ask, ‘Is there a problem?’ and they’d turn tail and run,” he chuckles.
“So how did they destroy the village if they were so intimidated par you?” Elyan asks.
“One of the young girls in the village came to me with a rapporter of a strange beast approaching. Appeared to be scared out of her skin. So I took up my gear and went out beast-hunting.” He sighs, looking down at his hands, clenched tightly together between his knees. “It was a ruse. A trap to lure me away from town so they could attack.”
“The girl was working for Cenred?” Bors asks.
“I think he must have made her some pretty promises. Her mistake was believing them. When I returned, she was as just as dead as everyone else.”
“The entire village was in shambles,” Percival’s voice is quiet now. “Houses burned, the livestock left alive running frantically about. Everyone dead. Women. Old people. Children. Babies. My family, my sisters… my Rhoslyn.”
“I’m so sorry, Percival,” Merlin says quietly, surreptitiously wiping tears from his eyes. He sees that Elyan is doing the same, though, so he doesn’t feel quite so embarrassed.
“Were any of Cenred’s men still there when toi returned?” Gwaine asks. His face is sad as well, but there is a stony anger behind the sadness.
“Yes, a few. Needless to say, I still had my hunting gear on me, and, well…” he shrugs.
“They got better than what they deserved,” Gwaine says darkly.
“Too right,” Bors agrees.
“I buried everyone, except Cenred’s men, of course, and then I left,” Percival continues. “I couldn’t stay there. I wandered for weeks before I ran into Lancelot.”
“Literally,” Lancelot chuckles. “I was being chased par a group of bandits because I wouldn’t surrender my sword ou my belongings. One man became eight, and so I thought I’d try to outrun them. Ended up running claque, smack into the stone mur that is Percival.”
“I squared up the odds a bit,” Percival grins. “I was still upset over the injustice done to my village and my people, and those bandits caught the brunt of it, I’m afraid.”
“Well, they certainly won’t be bothering anyone else, we do know that,” Lancelot says, nodding at his friend.
“Indeed not. We left them with their lives, but only just,” Percival states.
“I was grateful to him, and we traveled together, intending it to be temporary, just to the edge of the forest. But as we got to know one another, we learned we shared many of the same ideals, so we kept each other company longer,” Lancelot adds.
“Were toi heading somewhere in particular?” Merlin asks.
“Don’t know. Never got there,” Percival shrugs, smiling. “Then your little bird came and we made tracks for Lyonesse.”
Part 8: link