Part 21: link
Gwen slips a small piece of folded parchment into Annis’ hand as the two queens hug each other goodbye.
“What is this?” Annis asks.
“You’ll understand when toi read it,” Gwen smiles. Annis tucks it into her belt.
“Arthur,” Annis holds her hand out, and Arthur takes it and kisses it.
“Thank toi again for your hospitality, your highness,” Arthur says. “Do not be a stranger to Camelot.”
“Well, I do intend to pay toi a visit in several months’ time,” she says pointedly.
“Ah, yes, that would be an excellent time to pay us a visit, indeed,” Arthur says, unable to hold back his smile.
Annis leans vers l'avant, vers l’avant and says quietly, “I will keep this information close to my cœur, coeur until I receive word that it has been announced. toi have my solemn promise.”
Arthur nods gratefully. “Thank you.” She understands.
“Travel safely, King Arthur, and look after each other,” Annis steps back and declares. “I wish toi an uneventful
Arthur and Gwen both smile at this. “Thank toi again, Annis, for everything,” Gwen says. Arthur assists her to her saddle and swings himself up onto his own horse.
“I will be in touch,” he says before nodding to the Queen one final time. “Let’s go.”
They turn their chevaux and make their way out of the courtyard and back to Camelot.
Annis watches them until she can no longer see them, then withdraws the parchment from Gwen from her belt, unfolding it. Princess Elana of Gawant.
Princess Mithian of Nemeth.
And thank toi again; your words mean worlds to me. Gwen
Annis smiles and re-folds the parchment before tucking it back into her ceinture and walking up the stairs to her castle.
The party reaches a clearing beyond the small forest surrounding Caerleon. They are surrounded par rolling green hills, with a high rock cliff off to one side.
They pause a moment, and Merlin pulls his horse up alongside Arthur and Gwen.
“I’m going to Ealdor,” he tells them.
“Are you, now?” Arthur asks, lifting an eyebrow at him.
“Yes. I want to see my mother. I need
to see my mother.”
“Is this about the…?”
“Yes. So don’t pull any ‘I’m the king and toi have to do what I say’ nonsense, because I’m going to Ealdor.”
Arthur actually laughs at this. “You’re coming back?”
“Merlin…” Gwen says, eyes worried.
“Gwen, I’ll be back. Probably. I just… I just need to talk to my mother. She’s perhaps the only one who can help me with this right now.”
“Your mother is a wonderful person, Merlin,” Gwen agrees. “Give her our love.”
“I will, Gwen. I won’t be too long.”
“You’d better not be, because I don’t know how long I’ll be able to live with George serving me,” Arthur warns. He’s deflecting his concern,
Merlin notes. “I’ll be back before anything… happens,” he says carefully, looking in the direction of Gwen’s stomach. I don’t know if Elyan and Gwaine know, but I definitely know that Odin’s knights don’t know.
“I certainly hope so!” Gwen laughs. She reaches her hand out to Merlin, who takes it and squeezes it before turning his horse to trot off alone.
“Be careful, Merlin,” Gwen says softly, watching him ride away.
“Where’s he going?” Elyan asks.
“Ealdor,” Gwaine réponses simply.
“Oh,” Elyan says, brows puzzling.
“Let’s keep moving,” Arthur says once Merlin has disappeared from view. He turns his horse in the direction of Camelot.
“Arthur,” Elyan calls, trotting forward. “A word?”
“Yeah. Gwaine, please rejoindre the Queen so I may speak with my brother-in-law,” Arthur says jovially.
Odin’s knights look at each other. “He allows his knights to call him par his donné name?” Sir Jerald says quietly to Sir Bradburn, who shrugs.
“Oh, good,” Gwaine grins, spurring his horse vers l'avant, vers l’avant as Arthur drops back to ride beside Elyan.
Motion out of the corner of his eye catches Arthur’s attention, and he looks up to the haut, retour au début of the distant cliff.
He sees a figure standing at the edge of the cliff. Clearly female, dressed all in black, her garments blowing in the breeze. She is not moving. She is watching. Intently.
“Into the forest. Now,” he orders, kicking his horse faster, and the party follows quickly behind.
Within the cover of the trees, he slows his horse.
“Sire, was that…?” Sir Bradburn inquires.
“I’m almost certain it was the Lady Morgana, yes,” he says grimly. He looks over at Gwen. “All right, Guinevere?”
“I’m fine, Arthur, yes. Let’s keep moving, though. I want plus distance.”
“You heard your queen, lads. Onward,” he commands, setting his horse at a walk once again.
“Yes, Elyan, sorry,” Arthur says, remembering. He sees Gwaine has not forgotten and has joined Gwen again. Flirting, no doubt,
he thinks, hearing her laugh. He only does it because he thinks it bothers me,
he chuckles to himself.
“Arthur,” Elyan says quietly, “I was wondering if toi knew that Gwen’s birthday is approaching.”
“Is it? No, I didn’t know,” he says. I’m a little surprised that they know when it is,
he thinks, knowing that commoners often do not mark such occasions and often do not know how old they even are.
“Two weeks from tomorrow, my lord,” Elyan says.
“Hmm. I shall have to find a suitable gift. And of course we shall have a feast…” he muses.
“I don’t think a feast is necessary, Arthur,” Elyan says. “I mean she doesn’t need… I mean, she doesn’t like
…” he stammers, trying to explain his statement. “Not that she doesn’t deserve
“Elyan, I know what you’re trying to say. She has simple tastes and does not need big showy displays in her honor.”
“Well, she should have thought of that before she fell in l’amour with me,” he says wryly, and Elyan laughs.
“She likes flowers,” Elyan suggests.
“That she does.”
“When we were children, she used to pick them par the handful out in the fields outside Camelot.”
“I think I know which fields toi are talking about. Overrun with flowers, some of them,” he smiles, trying to picture Guinevere as a child, running around amongst the wildflowers, her dark hair blowing all around her.
“She likes to grow them as well. If toi don’t mind my saying…”
“You may speak freely to me, toi know that.”
“I think she would miss it. Not having someplace to dig in the dirt and watch things grow. If toi take my meaning, Sire.”
“Hmm. Definitely a thought. She wouldn’t take offense at something like that, though? Her own patch of dirt to play in?”
“Oh no, not her. And if she doesn’t like it, tell her it was my idea,” he shrugs.
Arthur laughs. “I rather think if she does like it, I should tell her it was your idea.”
Now Elyan laughs. “We’re getting there, Arthur, thanks.”
“Have toi talked to her at all since we arrived in Caerleon?” Arthur asks.
“Not really, no. Why?”
“She might have some… information that toi might want to know about.”
“We received some news while we were there. That’s all,” Arthur says.
“News? Sire, forgive me, but you’re being a bit vague.”
“I’m trying to decide if she’ll be angry with me for telling you,” he says, looking sideways at him, then up at Gwen, who is munching another pomme that Gwaine apparently had stowed somewhere.
Elyan looks at his sister, then back at Arthur. Arthur is grinning. I’ve never seen him grin like that. Why is he grinning?
He cocks his head at Arthur. “Wait.”
Arthur nods, “If toi figure it out, then I won’t have told…”
“Elyan, you’re going to have to do better than that for her,” Arthur laughs. “Unless you’re looking to get slapped again.”
“Congratulations, Arthur!” he says.
“Elyan, we are keeping it under wraps for as long as we can. For safety’s sake. I wanted toi to know because toi are family.”
Elyan nods. “I understand. And thank you.”
“For what?” Arthur asks. Surely not for coupling repeatedly with your sister…
“For calling me ‘family.’ It means a lot to me.”
“Well, it’s the truth,” he nods at the knight. “I’m sure we will tell Gwaine, Leon, and Percival as well. And Gaius, obviously. Merlin already knows, of course. But it is to be considered need-to-know information until we decide to make the announcement.”
“Understood. At some point, you’ll have
to announce it,” he chuckles, picturing his sister with her stomach swollen with a royal child.
“Clearly,” Arthur smiles. “And thank toi for the information, Elyan, I am certain toi saved me from an almost certain cold shoulder.”
“Anytime, Arthur,” Elyan answers, and Arthur spurs his horse vers l'avant, vers l’avant to ride beside his wife.
“All right, push off, Gwaine,” he says when he reaches them. Gwaine laughs and drops back.
“All right up there, Sir Bradburn, Sir Jerald?” Arthur calls to them.
“Yes, my lord,” Sir Bradburn calls back. He is still puzzling over Arthur’s casual behavior with the two knights. Are they special? He referred to one as being his brother-in-law, but he was just as friendly to the other knight.
“Ready for a rest and some lunch, my love?” Arthur turns to Gwen.
She adjusts in the saddle. “God, yes.”
“Gwen, I’m getting tired of being your personal escort for peeing,” Elyan complains.
“Well, sadly, you’re the only person with this unique set of qualifications. I don’t like it any plus than toi do,” she snaps back. I should say something while we’re alone. But what?
“So. Um, Gwen,” he starts. “I, ah, hear that I’m going to be an uncle.” No point in beating around the bush. Never been good a subtlety, anyway.
“Arthur told!” she exclaims behind him.
“No, he hinted; I guessed.”
“Figures,” she says, walking back to rejoindre him. They walk side par side this time. “He’s very excited.”
“I could see that,” Elyan laughs. “And don’t worry, he told me to keep it quiet. a dit that I deserved to know, being, well, family, and all.”
“So… I am
still family, then? Gwen?” he asks, stopping to look at her.
“Yes, Elyan,” she says, reaching up to hold the awful nugget of silver still hanging around his neck in her hand. “You’ve redeemed yourself. I forgive you.”
“Thank you, Gwen,” he says with a smile.
“I know. Think
suivant time. About toi and your feelings. Not that there will be a suivant time.”
“Hope not,” she chuckles, dropping the pendant and watching it land heavy against his chest. Elyan pauses a second, then leans down to hug his sister.
“I’m so happy for you, Gwen, toi know that, right? So proud of you,” he says quietly to her as her arms emballage, wrap around his shoulders, hugging him back.
“Thank you, Elyan. I l’amour you,” she says.
“Love you, too.” He releases her and she takes his arm as they walk back to the rest of the group.
Gwaine is attempting to cook and making a mess of it, cursing Merlin’s name.
“For heaven’s sake, Gwaine, how did toi survive on your own?” Gwen asks as they return.
“Tavern food,” he shrugs. Gwen steps over and takes the spoon out of his hand. “Get lost,” she shoves him with a laugh.
Sir Jerald looks at Sir Bradburn. “Should I?”
“Yes, do. We can’t have the Queen cooking for us. That wouldn’t be proper.”
“Excuse me, my lady,” Jerald says, stepping forward. “Please, allow me to prepare the food. I know how to cook.”
“It’s all right, Sir Jerald,” she says, “I am quite happy to cook for you.”
“Forgive me, my lady, but toi are the queen. It’s… it’s not proper for toi to cook for us,” he says, reaching down for the spoon in her hand.
“Guinevere,” Arthur says quietly, a gentle reminder that the knight is correct.
She sighs and relinquishes the spoon. “Very well,” she stands again and places her hand on the knight’s arm. “Thank you, sir Jerald, toi are very kind.”
He nods to her, blushing slightly as she smiles at him before turning to sit beside Arthur, who takes her hand in his, pulling it into his lap.
Gwaine walks over to sit beside Sir Bradburn. May as well be friendly.
“Bradburn, right?” Gwaine asks.
“Yes,” he nods.
“Gwaine,” he offers his hand and the other night grasps it firmly. “Been a knight long?”
“Ten summers now,” he nods. “Joined up as soon as I was old enough. Father was a knight and all that; toi know how it is. You?”
“Just a few years. My path was… slightly
different than yours,” he laughs. “Arthur made me and Elyan there knights, along with a couple other lads, a few years back. None of us were born nobles. Well, I actually was, but he doesn’t know that. Yet,” he admits.
Bradburn stares. “Really?”
“Yep. The thing about Arthur is, he doesn’t care about where toi came from. He’s only interested in a person’s worth. If you’re a good person, he sees it.”
“So it’s true, then. About your queen?” This man clearly needs to get out more.
“That depends on what toi are talking about.” He raises an eyebrow at the knight.
“She was a servant?”
“She was. And now she’s our queen,” he looks at the knight carefully, ready to spring should the conversation turn.
“That’s quite… amazing,” he says, looking in the direction of Arthur and Gwen, talking quietly together, clearly very much in love. “And she was accepted?”
“Oh yeah,” Gwaine says with a wave of his hand. “The people l’amour her. We all do.”
“I mean, look at her. She’s everything a Queen should be.”
Bradburn looks. Trousers, boots, and a riding manteau in light blue. Hair is twisted back. No jewels, no paint on her face. Yet she has a quality. A spark.
She laughs merrily at something Elyan has a dit and her laughter is music. She is beautiful, even unadorned and in traveling clothes; her beauty radiates from her heart. She has no airs; she is exactly as she seems.
“Yes. Yes, I see that.”
“Any of the Knights of Camelot would step in front of a blade for her ou Arthur without a seconde thought,” Gwaine says, drinking water from a skin that Elyan has passed him. Gwaine passes it on to Bradburn.
“Thank you. And he’s her brother?”
“Mmm-hmm. Elyan. He was a blacksmith, like their father.”
“And what were you?” Bradburn is very interested in this information.
“A ne’er-do-well, a troublemaker, and very nearly a drunk,” he says, nodding respectfully. Bradburn laughs.
“Lunch is on,” Jerald announces. “Your highness?” he offers a bowl to Arthur.
“Please, Arthur,” he corrects, and then turns to Gwen. “Guinevere,” he says, indicating that she should take the first helping.
“Thank you,” she says, and takes the bowl.
“My lady,” Jerald nods.
“Gwen,” she tells him.
Jerald looks helplessly at Bradburn, who shrugs.
“Is he always so familiar?” He decides to ask Gwaine. He seems congenial enough.
“Arthur is definitely one of a kind. In a good way. Like I said,” he pauses, taking a bowl, “thank you,” he continues, “I was born a noble. I renounced my titre because I couldn’t stand nobles and what they stood for and how they behaved. Arthur was the first person I met who was actually worthy of his title. I serve him and would not serve any other. And yes, he generally does prefer to be called par his donné name. We do tend to defer to titles when other people are around ou in plus formal settings, of course. Leon sees to that,” he chuckles.
“Who is Leon?”
“Sir Leon. Captain of the Guards. Arthur’s right-hand-man on the field.”
“Another knighted commoner?”
“No, real noble. But another good one. salut Jerald, this is really good,” he calls to the young knight.
“Thank you, Sir…”
“Thank you, Sir Gwaine.”
Guinevere yawns and stretches, waiting for the men to finish eating. She ate almost her entire bowl and then dumped the remainder into Arthur’s dish, bringing a scowl from her brother and a chuckle from Gwaine.
She stands. “Going somewhere?” Arthur asks.
“Just going to walk around. Just right here. I’m tired of sitting. Been sitting on a horse; now a rock.” She bends down and says quietly to Arthur, “My bum is getting tired of being sat upon.”
Arthur almost chokes on his food, laughing, and Elyan slaps him on the back.
Gwaine laughs, having a pretty good idea about what she said, and Odin’s knights continue to watch and learn about this very curious group dynamic.
“I wish King Odin was this friendly,” Jerald whispers to Bradburn.
“Shh! Do not speak ill of our King, Jerald,” he says, then adds, “but yeah.”
Dishes are collected and wiped down and they prepare to leave. Gwen rolls her head, stretching her neck.
“Are toi all right, Love?” Arthur asks quietly, stepping behind her to rub her shoulders a little.
“Tired is all. Annis’ midwife a dit that the fatigue was quite normal.”
Arthur bends down and wraps his arms around her waist from behind her and plants a Kiss on her neck.
“Can I ride with you? Elyan can lead my horse.”
“Of course,” he smiles, looking vers l'avant, vers l’avant to sitting close to her, holding her as they ride.
“We are ready, Arthur,” Gwaine calls, and they walk to Arthur’s horse.
“Elyan,” Arthur says, handing the reins of Gwen’s horse to him. “Guinevere is going to ride with me. Would toi lead her horse, please?”
“Of course. Is she all right?” he asks quietly, taking the reins.
“Only tired. She just wants someone to lean on,” he smiles.
Arthur helps Gwen onto his horse and mounts behind her, holding her around her waist. “I like this,” he says quietly in her ear, and she smiles.
“Me too,” she leans back against him, closing her eyes.
“All right lads, let’s go. I’d like to be accueil before dark.”
They enter the courtyard just as the sun is starting to sink below the treeline.
“Welcome back, my lord,” Leon says as they halt their chevaux and stablehands approach to attend them.
“Good to see you, Leon,” Arthur says. Gwen smiles sleepily down at him from her spot in front of Arthur. She had been dozing, but Arthur made sure she was awake before they reached the town.
“My lady, is everything all right?” Leon asks.
“Yes, thank you. I’m just tired,” she says.
“Percival,” Arthur calls. “Would toi assist the queen, please?”
“Of course,” the large knight steps forward. Gwen reaches down to him and he lifts her down from the horse, swinging her as easily as if she were a small child.
“He’s big,” Bradburn observes.
“Another non-noble,” Gwaine mutters with a grin, having heard his observation. “And he’s really a great guy. Likes puppies.”
Bradburn looks at Gwaine. I can never tell if he is joking ou serious.
Arthur leaps down. “Guinevere and I will dine in our quarters,” he says. “Send,” he pauses, sighs deeply, and continues. “Send George up with our dinners in an hour, please.”
“Yes, Sire. Um, where is Merlin?” Leon asks.
“He went on to Ealdor to pay his mother a visit,” Arthur réponses simply, walking up the stairs with Gwen on his arm. He does not sound cross, but something in his tone tells the knight not to press.
“Very well. I will have George attend you. Things were thankfully uneventful in your absence, my lord. We—“
Arthur holds his hand up, stopping Leon’s words. “If it was uneventful, surely I can hear about it tomorrow.”
They enter the castle, and Arthur stops and turns to Gwen. “Go up to our chambers and rest. I’ll find your maid and have her draw toi a bath; would toi like that?” He speaks quietly to her, fingers caressing her cheek.
“Yes, that would be very nice. What are toi going to do?”
“I have a few matters to attend before dinner,” he says, glancing up and giving Elyan a meaningful look. The knight catches it and pauses, waiting. “Go and get cleaned up and rest, I will rejoindre toi before dîner is brought up, I promise.”
“All right. Don’t be long.”
He bends down and kisses her, his fingers still at her chin, tilting her head up to him.
She turns to walk to their chambers, and Percival catches her up in two long strides. “Allow me to escort you, my lady,” he says, offering his arm.
She looks up at him, smiles, and takes his arm. It feels like she has looped her hand around a warm arbre trunk. Extra security measures still in place, I see.
“Arthur, toi wanted to talk to me?” Elyan asks.
“Yes, I wanted to discuss the matter of the queen’s birthday some more.”
“Her birthday’s coming up?” Gwaine asks.
“According to Elyan, it is,” Arthur says. “Gwaine, montrer our guests to the knights’ quarters. Surely they can do with a rest.”
“Sure,” Gwaine smiles.
“And Gwaine,” Arthur adds.
“Go easy on them in the taverns tonight. Oh, don’t give me that false innocent look; I know you’ll be taking them there.”
Gwaine grins and walks to Odin’s knights. “Come on, lads, let’s find toi a couple bunks.”
“So Elyan. I was thinking. About flowers.”
“Is that so?” Elyan is amused par this and he doesn’t bother hiding it.
“Shut up. One of the windows in our chambers overlooks a field. It’s an empty field. Do toi think Guinevere would appreciate a better view?”
“What did toi have in mind, Sire?”
“Having the royal gardeners plant it with fleurs for her, fleurs that she could look down upon and know they are for her eyes.”
“Purple ones, no doubt.”
Arthur smiles. “Most likely, yes. I was also thinking of having a siège placed near the window, so she can sit and look out while she tends the baby and does… whatever she wishes to do in her spare time. Needlework, I don’t know.”
Elyan laughs. “That would indeed be a nice addition. Don’t forget about the little plot for her to tend. I really think she will like that, honest.”
Elyan’s face goes pensive for a moment, as if he is Lost in a memory.
“What is it, Elyan?”
“I just remembered something. About a field of flowers. A different field, on the other side of the kingdom.”
“It’s silly. From when Gwen and I were children.”
“Well, now I’m intrigued.”
“We were in this vast field of wildflowers. Mostly white and yellow, and Gwen was poking carefully through the field, looking for purple ones. She found a few. I was picking dandelions and popping their heads off with my thumb,” he laughs, “and seeing how far I could throw rocks.”
“How old were you?”
“I don’t know. Five, maybe six. Gwen would have been about seven ou eight, then. It’s hard to remember. She found a papillon and watched it for a while. I saw a bee and ran like my backside was on fire.”
“Then we were interrupted par a snotty boy with a wooden sword playing at soldiers. He wouldn’t let me play with him. He even told us that we were in his
field and that we
needed to leave. Skinny git.”
Arthur’s eyes widen. “Arthur! Arthur, slow down!” Hazel, my nursemaid, called after me as I ran down the colline to the field.
“Charge! Onward, men! To victory! For the l’amour of Camelot!” I was racing now, as fast as my scrawny legs could carry me.
There were people on my battlefield. A boy and a girl. This was
my battlefield, and they were
“Hello,” the little boy said. And he was little, younger than me. Not interesting. I didn’t answer.
“Can I play with you?” the boy pressed.
“No.” I said, as disdainfully as I could manage.
Great, now the girl was coming over. No use for them at all, girls.
“Hello,” she says. I turned and ran the other way, swishing my sword in the air.
“Arthur!” Hazel finally reached the edge of the field, panting, her huge bosom heaving with exertion.
“You’re not nice,” I heard her say behind me.
my field. toi lot need to clear off.” I turned back around to face her.
own a field. It’s just a field.” She bent down and picked a flower. She did it to make me mad, I know it.
“Yes I can, and yes I do. So push off.” I stood taller, trying to be as princely as I could.
She calmly tucked the fleur into her hair, and strode up to me.
“You can’t own flowers. toi can’t own a field. You’re just a boy; boys don’t own anything anyway. Do toi own the sun as well, boy?”
No one had ever talked to me like that before, and I didn’t know what to say. All I knew is that I did not like this girl. Not one bit.
“Or how about the moon? The river?” she steps closer. “Oh, sorry, am I breathing your
I stood there, stunned, and suddenly she grabs my wooden sword, my favori toy, snatching it from my hands. She flings it into the field as far as she can, then she turns and grabs her brother’s hand.
“Come on, brother. These fleurs stink anyway.”
Part 23: link