Merlin almost skidded as he sprinted along the corridor. Holding on to the nearest wall he controlled himself and swerved into the corner and kept on running. Voices emerged down the hall as he closed in and he didn’t need his magic to know whose voices they were. He stepped up his gear and reached the door. But the moment he reached it, he stopped in a jolt. Agravaine was standing a couple of yards in front of him, by the statue! Merlin hid himself behind the door quickly and closed his mouth with his hand, silencing himself. Agravaine should not see him and realise the wizard had ignored the warning and interfered. If the lord finds that out, Gaius and he would definitely end up in a worse situation that they could expect. But the noises inside increased and Merlin was getting worried as time ticked by. It looked like chaos in there and it sickened him to think of what could have happened! Arthur can have a nasty temper when things get heated up, especially when it deals with Guinevere. Lancelot is a skilled swordsman himself, so if these two are pitted together, there could be either one survivor or none at all. Merlin closed his eyes and bit his lip. ‘No! No!’ Merlin thought and panted. There were new voices emerging down the corridor. Merlin opened his eyes and a sigh of relief escaped from him as he noted it was the knights. Leon and Gwaine were rushing to him. Merlin sneaked out from behind the door, eyed Agravaine carefully and rushed back to the oncoming knights.
“Merlin, what happe …” Leon started but Merlin cut him short.
“Shhh … Leon! Not now. I’ll tell later. You and Gwaine need to get inside now! Arthur is on a rampage and I don’t know what is happening! But no matter what happens, do not question Agravaine anything!” Merlin informed.
“What? Is he inside?” Leon asked, looking rather surprised at this new piece of information.
“Yes, but just do as I ask, please?” Merlin asked. Leon clenched his teeth but still nodded. Gwaine didn’t wait for further instruction, whizzed past the other two and rushed to the hall, followed closely by Leon. Merlin waited a while before he will follow them inside. That way Agravaine will suspect Merlin of interfering. Someone touched him on the back. Merlin turned and looked up. It was Percival. Merlin smiled. It was time to join the others.
“Where are the others?” Percival asked.
“They’ve gone in to stop Arthur … maybe we should too” Merlin said and led the way as Percival followed closely behind.
Agravaine was still being a mere spectator when the two knights of Camelot dashed past him and ran towards Arthur and Lancelot. ‘What the ..’ he seethed under his skin as he watched helplessly as Leon and Gwaine grabbed Arthur and Lancelot respectively. His smile faded, replaced by cold and sardonic anger, raging his blood as he wondered how in the world the knights found out about this. Agravaine turned back and searched the area, finding no one else in progression. Perhaps the knights had seen Arthur storming down the hallway a while ago or maybe the servants had informed them. Shaking his head in disbelief and trying hard to seal his rage inside, Agravaine pretended to join the two knights still struggling to keep the king and the knight apart.
“Agravaine! Hold Arthur!!” Leon instructed as he struggled with Arthur’s weight while Gwaine was keeping Lancelot pinned to his body, away from the king. Agravaine strode to Leon’s side and grabbed Arthur’s left hand and held it strongly.
“Arghhh!!! Let me go!!!” Arthur was still shouting, swinging his sword carelessly, his legs swinging up towards Lancelot. Merlin arrived, followed by Percival behind him.
“Merlin!!” Gwaine called as he was staggering with Lancelot’s weight. Merlin caught the sight of Gwaine’s struggle and asked Percival to help him while he himself ran up to Gwen who by now was silently crouched near the wall, her hands on her face, covering it. Merlin knelt in front of her and touched her shoulder. Gwen shuddered and removed her hand, the touch frightening her a little.
“It’s me, Gwen, Merlin… it’s all right,” he said and squeezed her shoulder. Gwen looked at him in shock, her eyes all misty and red. She looks like she has been crying.
“Merlin…” she whimpered and her hands trembled as Merlin clasped them in his tightly.
“Shhh… it’s all right,” he consoled. Someone touched his back. He turned back and saw Elyan towering above him. He stood up and he took his place by his sister’s side. Merlin touched Elyan’s shoulder and the latter patted Merlin’s hand as if to say he knew everything. Merlin sighed and turned around, noticed Gaius was standing by the door. He must have brought Elyan here and was grateful to the old physician for the help. Someone shouted. Merlin turned his attention towards the struggling party. Arthur had pushed Leon and Agravaine aside and was now springing towards Lancelot, sword tightly clasped in his hand.
“No, Arthur!” Merlin shouted and ran to the king. Agravaine took his time to rise slowly but Leon was on his feet and rushed behind the king. Arthur was still running towards Lancelot, his sword raised above his shoulder when Merlin intercepted and grabbed Arthur by his chest, pushing him all the way back using his own body weight. It seemed to have worked as both Merlin and Arthur collapsed to the ground, Arthur’s sword flying off his hand. Leon arrived and both he and Merlin pinned Arthur down.
“Let me go, Merlin!!” Arthur cried, his feet sweeping the ground. Merlin fought to keep Arthur pinned down.
“Arthur! Get a hold of yourself!!” Merlin said.
“Let me…” Arthur still struggled. Behind them Merlin heard quiet sobs from Gwen. Lancelot reduced his struggle when he heard the sobs and tried to break free but both the knights would have none of it. He turned back and noticed Gwen was leaning against Elyan’s chest as the latter has his arm around her, comforting.
“Elyan, get Gwen out of here!” Merlin instructed and Elyan obeyed willingly. He helped Gwen up, arms still around her shoulder; he walked her out of the hall. Gaius met them outside and he too went with them.
“Gwaine, take Lancelot,” Merlin added but was cut short by Arthur.
“No!!! I want him dead!” Arthur shouted.
“Gwaine, take Lancelot out of here!” Merlin ignored Arthur and repeated his instructions. Agravaine rose to his feet and gave Merlin a hard piercing look.
“Who are you to give orders, boy?” he asked, his voice was harsh with a tinge of mockery slipping in between it. Leon and Merlin both looked at him.
“Merlin’s right, my lord. Lancelot’s presence here will only make the condition worse. He needs to leave,” Leon agreed. Agravaine circled Arthur and neared Lancelot who by now was not struggling anymore. Reaching up, he slapped Lancelot’s cheek softly and trailed his fingers down to his throat. Lancelot tried to move but Agravaine wrapped his fingers around Lancelot’s throat and held him in place.
“Agravaine!!” Gwaine cried but it fell on deaf ears. Agravaine seems to be enjoying this. His grip tightened.
“This man is a knight of Camelot. Swore an oath to protect the king and the kingdom. But here we find him trying to kill the king instead. This is betrayal! He needs to be judged, immediately. Punishment has to be set so that examples can be made out of this,” Agravaine said, his fingers tightening a bit more. Lancelot coughed. Merlin exchanged glances with Leon.
“Agravaine, let him go!” Gwaine warned.
“Know your place, Gwaine, or you shall be accompanying Lancelot in his punishment,” Agravaine hissed.
“Not before my sword washes its blade with your blood!” Gwaine wasn’t afraid.
“Gwaine!!” Merlin called out but Agravaine only laughed.
“There’s no need to confirm on whose side your loyalthy lies, Gwaine. Your anger speaks for itself,” Agravaine added and smiled. Gwaine kept his firm look planted on Agravaine.
“Release Arthur,” Agravaine instructed, his fingers loosening. He stepped back and turned around.
“He is not sensible at the moment, Agravaine! He needs to be escorted to his chambers.” Merlin chipped.
“Since when you started giving out orders, Merlin?” Agravaine commented, his eyes piercing through Merlin’s.
“I am not, my lord. I was merely suggesting…”
“Do me a favour Merlin. Just do what you are good at and leave this matter to more responsible people, like myself. We know what has to be done and don’t need to be taking orders from a servant boy! Is that understood?”
“I was just…”
“IS THAT UNDERSTOOD, MERLIN!!!” Agravaine shouted, sending tremors from his voice. It threw Merlin back a little.
“Is that understood?” Agravaine repeated, softly this time. Merlin bit his inner cheek and nodded. Agravaine smiled.
“Good… now, why don’t you help Arthur up?” Agravaine advised. Merlin and Leon did as was told and helped the king up. But they still kept their grip on him. Arthur stared furiously at Lancelot but he didn’t struggle like he did a while ago. He remained where he was but his stare never left Lancelot. Agravaine neared Arthur and touched the king’s shoulder. Arthur snorted.
“What shall we do with Lancelot, sire?” Agravaine asked. Arthur shifted his stare towards Agravaine.
“I want him burnt at the stake by sunset, today!” Arthur instructed. Percival gaped while Gwaine looked as if he’d seen a ghost.
“No, Arthur!” Merlin whispered, but Arthur hardly heard him.
“And Guinevere, sire?” Agravaine asked, his eyes glistening with glee.
“Lock her in the dungeons!! And do not let her out until I say so!!” Arthur said, rudely shrugged Merlin’s and Leon’s arms from around him, turned around and stormed out from the hall. Agravaine bowed at the departuring Arthur, looked at Merlin and smiled before following the king out. Merlin couldn’t believe what he heard. Neither did Leon.
“What was that all about, Lancelot?” Gwaine asked, and before Lancelot could reply, three armed guards rushed into the hall and grabbed Lancelot from the knights. Gwaine and Percival had no other choice but to comply. They removed their arms from Lancelot and watched their friend dragged out. Leon neared Merlin and touched the latter’s back. Merlin turned to him.
“What happened?” Leon asked. Merlin sighed and looked down.
“Merlin, please. We need to know” Percival added. And he was right, Merlin thought. They deserve to know. Both Arthur and Lancelot are their friends, too, and if there were anyone who can help solve this mess, it would be these men. Merlin trusted them with his life and it wouldn’t hurt if he revealed what he knew. But this isn’t the place to do it. First they must get to a safer place.
“Not here, Leon… let’s get to Gaius’ chamber. I promise I will tell you everything,” Merlin finished.
Arthur was pacing his chamber furiously. His shirt was drenched with his perspiration, his hair matted with sweat. His face, cold and grim, was all gloomy. His breath came in quick rasps and his hand trembled as he gripped his sword. His other hand held on to the sheath as if it was his protection and as he walked the floor, he sliced the pole of his bed with his sword.
“Why? Why Guinevere!!!” he asked loudly and another slice at the pole. He paced the floor again.
“I gave you everything!!” he shouted again and this time he swung his sword at his cupboard, cutting the edge off.
“I loved you… loved you!!” he shouted again and threw the sheath away. Grabbing the sword in both hands, he sliced everything there was in the chamber. Cupboard, chest, wall, his shield, goblets, cups, table, chair, his hanger, the pole of his bed, the side table; everything was sliced, cut, or simply thrashed around. When he couldn’t find anything else to cut he threw his sword away and crouched in a corner, raising his knees to his chest and burying his face in his hands. His anger slowly subdued to ache. His heart burned as he felt the pain of the betrayal. His misery welled up in his heart, threatening to get to his eyes but he didn’t want to cry. She deserved no tears from him. She broke his heart; no she shattered his belief in their love. She had never loved him. NEVER! Lancelot was her true love. But he left her and she had merely used Arthur to fill the void left by him. Because she was feeling hurt and Arthur had been a willing sacrificial lamb! She used Arthur for her own will, pretended to love him until her true love returned and now that he did, she tossed Arthur away like a used dress, no longer pretty to look at. Arthur felt his heart wrench. He removed his hands from his face and pressed it against his chest. The pain was devastating. It was far more painful than the pain he felt when he watched his father die! Thoughts of betrayal filled his mind as a single tear managed to escape his eye. He sniffed and closed his eyes. He loved her very much. She had been the only woman in his life whom he held dearly after his mother. There was no one else. He was willing to do anything, prove his love for her by any means at all. He stood up for her against his father, the council, his uncle and the kingdom if he needed to. He was willing to give up his title! All he asked from her in return was her love! Yet this is what she gave him back. Arthur could not keep the pain from spreading. The misery was hurting inside and he felt his mind was going to explode thinking of her betrayal. More tears rolled down his cheek. His father had been right all along. He shouldn’t trust a servant let alone love her. He should have just had fun with her, like his father suggested. But no, Arthur chose to upgrade Guinevere’s rank in the society and decided to give her what no one ever thought of doing; a place in the castle as his wife and his queen. And look how she repaid that deed!
“You will pay for this Guinevere!!! You will pay for this!!” Arthur shouted again and pounded his fist on the ground, several times before collapsing on the hard ground, burying his tears and sobs in them.
“Gwen? What happened?” Elyan cupped Gwen’s face and forced his sister to look at him. Gwen peeled his hands off and turned away. Elyan sighed and looked down. They were in her chambers and ever since they arrived, she had been sobbing uncontrollably. Elyan rose to his feet and paced the room. Gaius was sitting at the corner, watching the siblings. He decided to allow Elyan do the talking as it was best for someone close to Gwen to ask about the matter. But up until now, neither could get her talking. All they’ve been hearing is her sobs.
“Gaius, please help. I don’t know how else I can make her talk,” Elyan said, throwing his hands up in the air, frustration showing on his face.
“Perhaps we ought to give her time, Elyan, it’s been very emotional for her,” Gaius advised. Elyan neared and sat down beside him. Gwen lay down on the bed, covering her face with the pillow and continued crying.
“But you realise what happened haven’t you? You did see the way Arthur reacted, didn’t you? I’m afraid we haven’t much time at all, Gaius. If Arthur believes she had betrayed him, he wouldn’t hesitate to punish her.”
“I understand, Elyan, but look at the state she is in. She is in turmoil. She is devastated. I think we should give her time,” Gaius replied. Elyan sighed and shook his head. He turned to look at her. Gwen was still crying but the pillow blocked the sound from leaking out. Elyan felt bad for her. He loved his sister and would never want to see her hurt or harmed. And he also knew Gwen would never commit such a sinful act. There was something odd here. Something isn’t right. He turned back to Gaius.
“Don’t you think Lancelot’s been acting rather strangely today?” he asked softly, almost whispering as he didn’t want his sister to hear.
“Lancelot’s loyalthy to Arthur was deep and he is a man of principle. He would never attack Arthur and though I have known him in short span of time, I have my respect for him. But, there’s something weird with him Gaius! Especially today. Gwen as well. Don’t you realise that, Gaius?” Elyan asked, constantly keeping an eye on Gwen.
“I noted how reserved he came to be since he returned and his odd choice of clothing, but apart from that, none.”
“Precisely! I did, too, but there’s definitely something wrong with him, more than we know. But I can’t quite put my finger on it.” Elyan said and turned back to Gwen. Is she listening to them? It would be good if she does because she is really behaving strangely today and Elyan is clueless about it as everyone else.
“And her?” he asked without looking at Gaius.
“She seemed odd today! Never seen her behaving like this before.” Gaius replied.
“Could it be magic, Gaius?”
“I’m not sure, Elyan, I’m not sure. There can be many possibilities and magic is one of them. But is what the core of this matter is, I don’t know for sure. But it might have played some part, which I wouldn’t deny.”
“Gwen would never betray Arthur! I know that. She loves him, Gaius, and you’ve seen the love they have for one another, don’t you?”
“I do, Elyan, but sometimes matters of heart are far too unpredictable and we can’t really decide what path one is heading to.”
“But Gwen isn’t one who’d switch direction Gaius, and she is one determined woman. If she’d set her heart upon one thing, she stick with it forever. The same applies to the man she loves. It’s been Arthur all the way and she’d never betray him. She loved him, trusted her love and above all trusted him. She would lay her life, sacrifice for him, but betray? No Gaius … I don’t think so,” Elyan replied.
“I wish so, too, but we all saw what happened today, didn’t we?”
“Are you suggesting that Gwen did betray Arthur?” Elyan asked, annoyed.
“No, of course not, Elyan. But how are we going to prove she didn’t when all proof suggests she has. Let’s not get angry here, Elyan and look into this logically, shall we? Arthur found her in that compromising situation and anyone in his place would have only one conclusion in their mind: treason. And whether it was accidental or not, the damage has been done and what we need to get down to is the root of this issue. We need to know why and who started it first, since we know both Lancelot and Gwen aren’t these types of people.”
“Who’s on your mind?” Elyan asked, closing his eyes. His lids were heavy as was his heart. What’s going to happen next is still eluding him and as the time passes on, he’s feeling the heat. If Arthur has his way, any time now the guards would be at the doorstep, waiting to escort Gwen either to the dungeons or the stake. Elyan snapped his eyes open. ‘No! No! I will not let that happen!’ he thought.
“This is a delicate issue Elyan, and it can be anyone. They can be from around here or even from other kingdoms. Nothing can be certain,” Gaius said and placed his hand on Elyan’s shoulder. The latter buried his face with his hands.
“Elyan… your sister and Arthur are from different backgrounds and ranks. But they loved one another and despite the obstacles that they faced…” Gaius snickered to himself. “Oh, they did face quite a lot of them, and despite all that, their love prevailed and here they are, still believing in one another and their love. That alone is good enough reason for a lot of other kings, princes and lords to envy and take out their wrath on Arthur. Even some council members here argue with Arthur’s decision to take her as his wife. But he is the king and no one can question him his decision. Shouldn’t that have some sort of connection with the incident today?” Gaius said. Elyan lifted his head and started thinking.
“A king who marries a servant has never been heard of anywhere, Elyan, let alone in Camelot. As per traditions, a king should be betrothed to a noble and that tradition had been passed down from generations. Arthur is a young king and full of life. He doesn’t believe in the old tradition and follows his heart. His heart belongs to Gwen and he sees that as no problem to his marriage, though others do. As he changes the face of the tradition, he also irks the wrath of those who still believe in it. But he sets the rule and tends to follow them regardless of what others say. And these are repercussions of his decisions,”
“But Gaius…” Elyan stopped short as the door of the chamber slammed open. Agravaine stepped inside followed by two guards. Elyan looked stunned and rose to his feet. Gwen wiped her tears and straightened up.
“Take her,” Agravaine instructed and both the guards stepped past him, approaching Gwen.
“My lord?” Elyan moved to protect his sister but the guards shoved him aside and grabbed Gwen’s arm. Gwen looked at Elyan, frightened.
“Elyan?” her voice trembled as she was dragged from the bed. Elyan stepped in between her and the guards, peeling their grip from her.
“Elyan!!” Agravaine shouted.
“Where are you taking her?” Elyan asked his face angry.
“To the dungeons!” Agravaine said.
“Under whose order?” Elyan asked again
“The king!!” Agravaine said shortly, sending chill down Gwen’s spine. Gaius closed his eyes and shook his head. Elyan looked shattered.
“Arthur has ordered Gwen to be locked in the dungeon till he’s passed judgement. I am just following his orders, Elyan.”
“No, I will not let you take her. This is madness!!”
“I understand your pain, Elyan, and as her brother you have the right to feel angry about this, but as a knight of Camelot it is your duty to uphold the oath you swore.” Agravaine said but Elyan stopped him with his raised hand.
“Enough of your preaching, Agravaine. Keep them for someone who needs it. I want justice for her, a fair trial. I need an audience with the king!”
“Arthur is no situation to meet anyone.”
“Even his friend? Is it him or you who wish for my sister to be headed out to the dungeons, Agravaine?”
“Hold your tongue, knight!! Do you know whom you’re speaking to? Better not forget your roots, Elyan, or I’ll remind you that myself!”
“Why…” Elyan started but Gaius held him back.
“Elyan … not now! Let them do their duties and we have ours.”
“Elyan, please… let her go!” Gaius stressed and Elyan stepped out of the way, reluctantly.
“Elyan? No… please. Gaius!! Gaius!!” Gwen pleaded as they dragged her out. Elyan looked down and tears welled up in his eyes. Someone grabbed his hand. Elyan looked up and noticed Gwen was struggling with the guards, her eyes flooding with tears. He clasped her hand in his.
“Don’t let them take me, Elyan…” she cried. Agravaine urged the guards to hurry and they dragged her to the door. Gwen pleaded as she was peeled away from her brother. Elyan’s hand trailed down as she was pulled apart. His hand stopped at the bangle and he tried to hold on to it, slipping his fingers inside it. But the guards used more force and with one final pull, they got them both apart. The bangle slipped off her wrist and landed into Elyan’s hand. Gwen’s cries slowed down and she looked at her surroundings in surprise. Gaius noted the change but Elyan didn’t. Before Gwen could voice out, the guards led her out followed by Agravaine.