I thought it brilliant and got her permission to share. Do enjoy. It is actually wonderfully written. And yes, you are accurate in your surmise/suspicion about the subject matter. Enjoy!
Title: The Queen’s Blood
Warnings: Yup folks - it’s a period fic. Blood and everything.
Summary: Gwen has to explain the basics of female bodily functions to her husband, who is somewhat alarmed to wake up to bloody sheets two days after his marriage.
The second night after her wedding, Gwen bled. She had suspected it might happen as such, her usual rhythm being what it was – indeed she thanked her lucky stars it hadn’t happened the day before. Bit of a shock for Arthur, when he already had so much to be surprised by that night.
It was Arthur who woke her, in fact, in a panic.
“There’s blood! There’s blood on the sheets – Gwen, are you hurt?”
Gwen blinked, glanced down, and groaned. “I shouldn’t have worn this nightdress. I knew it would be soon.”
Her husband stared at her, uncomprehending. “But are you hurt?”
“What? No – Arthur, has no one actually explained to you – ”
No one had.
That a man of twenty five – a king, at that – could be so unaware of the basic workings of a woman’s body seemed utterly ridiculous to Gwen, but then, she remembered Morgana’s panic the first time it had ever happened to her. She had come in to her chambers one morning to find the then young girl cowering in her wardrobe, convinced that she was dying. No one had explained to her either, since she had largely been raised by men who seemed to think an education in her own body was an unseemly thing to grant a girl. The nobility were a strange people.
“This happens… every month?” Arthur was incredulous. “Every month? Forever?”
“Well, until I am old. And unless I am with child – the bleeding stops during pregnancy. How else do you think women know when they are going to have a baby even before it shows?”
“Well – I… I suppose I’ve never had to think about it before,” Arthur folded his arms. He looked a little put-out. “How can it happen every month? For so many days? A man would die of such blood loss.”
“Well, women are stronger,” Gwen replied, “clearly. Besides, it looks like a lot of blood but it isn’t so very much. It slows down after the first few days, at least with me. Every woman experiences it a little differently. Morgana was always slower to bleed at the start, and then there would be more blood at the end. Didn’t you wonder why she would sometimes take to her bed for a few days at a time, around the end of every month?”
“I assumed she was being – womanly.”
“Well, yes, in a way she was,” Gwen allowed herself a moment of amusement.
“You never took to your bed. I don’t think I ever knew you to take a day off in all the years I’ve known you.”
“I hadn’t that luxury.”
Arthur continued to stare at her, and then at the damp scarlet patches on the bed linens. “Does it – hurt…?”
Gwen shrugged. “Some. As if there’s a muscle tightening under my belly button. It can make my back ache, as well. And I find myself craving sweet things. Jam, honey.”
“Why?” Arthur’s brow furrowed.
“Energy, I suppose. My mother told me the bleeding is the body cleansing itself, ready for a new life. It takes energy, it makes us tired.”
“So the bleeding is… part of how a woman gets with child,” Arthur concluded, scratching his head. “Gaius had said there were wonders in it but I would never have thought – I mean all women go through this? Every month? All women?”
“Yes,” Gwen agreed, “at least, any woman who can have a child. Arthur, did you really not know?”
“Well…” Arthur looked a little sheepish. “I mean, you hear things. Amongst the knights and – and the servants. But you don’t assume them all to be true. People say a lot of things. Percival did recently insist to me that he was delivered to his mother on the back of a stalk.”
Gwen giggled. “It must have been a rather enormous stalk.”
“I think he was only trying to see if I would believe him.”
“Of course not!” Arthur waved a hand, “for goodness sake, Guinevere, I’m not an idiot. I know enough. I just – didn’t know about this.”
Gwen quirked her head at him, thoughtfully. He really did look rather put out. That her husband often resented people sheltering him because of his status was a fact she was well aware of – their romance had begun at least in part because he had been trying to prove a point on that front at a jousting tournament, after all – but still.
“I’m sure it’s not uncommon for a man who has never known his mother, who has no sisters or aunts or even a grandmother, to perhaps not be the most well educated in such matters,” she took his hand, affecting a soothing tone. “It’s understandable, Arthur.”
He nodded, mutely, considering a moment longer. “But where exactly are you bleeding from? You say there’s no wound…”
“It comes…” here Gwen hesitated. Her own knowledge of her exact internal workings was a little hazy. She had seen some of Gaius’ books on the matter but it all looked so confused – there was the chamber where a baby grew, in her belly, and it seemed the blood came from there, but there were other little tunnels and tubes, and veins and then the parts that came out between her legs and… how on earth did she try to describe that to Arthur?
He had seen enough of what was there the night before, hadn’t he? He had touched her so wonderingly and gently.
“It comes from inside,” she ventured, “there is a place where a baby can grow, and the blood comes from there, and trickles out.”
“Where do you think, Arthur?”
Arthur considered, then flushed. “So – so you are certain that it’s that. That it’s the normal kind of bleeding that a woman gets, and that I haven’t – I mean, I didn’t hurt you, earlier, when we – or yesterday – or this morning – I didn’t damage something – ”
“What? Oh, Arthur, no,” Gwen shook her head, then placed her hands on either side of his jaw to kiss him. “No, believe me – if it were that I would have known at the time. It would have hurt. Nothing we did hurt me.”
Arthur looked somewhat relieved, though his brow was still creased. “Alright. Well. Is there – I mean, what is there to be done? With the bleeding? It must make a terrible mess.”
“Generally we wear rags, in our underthings,” Gwen replied. “And – I mean I suppose I should go to my own chambers and sleep there.”
Arthur raised his eyebrows. “Why?”
“Well – the blood…”
“Guinevere, if I have had my knights bleed on me in battle then I’m sure I can tolerate the same from my wife in bed.”
Why that response surprised her, Gwen was unsure – but it was a pleasant kind of surprise; a little further confirmation of the inherent decency of her husband. “You are a good man, Arthur Pendragon.”
Arthur flapped his hands, dismissive. “I’m just trying to be a good husband. A good king, and a good husband.”
“That you are,” She promised, before pausing to consider. “Now, we must get up and get these sheets off the bed before the blood dries.”
Arthur grimaced. “Guinevere…”
“Do you have any idea how difficult it is to get dried blood out of linen? I shan’t make life any harder for my maids just because I can.”
“Merlin will get the blood out,” Arthur shrugged, “he manages on my shirts after sparring matches well enough.”
“And he blisters his hands whilst he does it!” Gwen replied, “it will do no one any harm to ease the servants’ labours, Arthur – we can just send these down to the laundry rooms to be soaked. You have no idea the hours of work we’ll save some poor chamber maid.”
“I should have realised that this is what marrying you would entail… bloody sheets and being nice to servants.”
“Get used to it, husband-mine.”
Begrudging but indulgent, Arthur got up, and helped her strip the linens from the bed. Gwen roused the maid who slept just beyond their doors, and asked her to take the soiled sheets to be soaked in salted water, and to bring up a cloth and a bowl of warm water when she had done so. Then she found the rags she had packed into the trunk of things she had had moved into her chambers with Arthur from her own old house (still hers, by law) in the town. After cleaning herself up a little, bathing the stains from her thighs with the water the maid brought, she folded up her rags into tick triangles, and wrapped them in the linens that would keep them in place between her legs. Arthur watched her with interest.
“You’re very good at that.”
“I’ve been practicing since I was fourteen,” Gwen cast him a quick smile. Cleaned up and somewhat more comfortable, she changed her nightdress for one she would feel less guilty about staining, and clambered back into bed beside her husband, on top of the bare mattress.
Arthur kissed her, very gently. The way he had kissed her in front of the court at the pronouncement of their marriage (Gwen’s memory of that moment was more of a pleasant glow than anything clear; the only crystalised image that of Merlin crying a few feet to her left, bless him. But she remembered the softness of Arthur’s mouth.) The heat of him pressed to her eased the uncomfortable tightness across her abdomen – an unexpected comfort. Gwen slept, and was awoken only briefly when Arthur got up the following morning, and left her to curl up deep beneath the blankets, for the first time not expected to get up and go about her business if it didn’t suit her to do so (and it didn’t).
She awoke properly sometime later, to find a breakfast tray laid out, with a pot of honey and another of jam, and a note in Arthur’s usual indecipherable scrawl – a small smiley face at the bottom of the parchment at least suggesting his good intent.
Charmed, Gwen took the honey and a spoon, and went to call her maid to prepare her a bath.