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    A week has passed since Gwen attempted to run away from the castle. After striking her bargain with Gwen, Katrina urged her to keep their agreement from Uther, for his sake. Gwen agrees, thinking it will further ensure her freedom. Katrina assured Gwen that by helping them improve Arthur’s tarnished image with the public, she will use all her power to release Gwen from this marriage. Gwen has no idea how Katrina will achieve this, but she decided not to ask, thinking she might look ungrateful. For her, there is only one thing that matters: to get away from Arthur by any means necessary. She agrees to help Katrina and starts by visiting the council members personally, learning about them and their thoughts about Arthur eventually becoming the king.

    As for Arthur, he is still ashamed of what he did to Gwen and has been avoiding her all week. He sees her briefly during lunch and dinner and makes only superficial conversation. When either he or the king has finished eating, he takes his leave. Gwen doesn’t say much and prefers this arrangement to their earlier one. She is content to avoid him.

    Uther, of course, doesn’t suspect a thing. He is happy Gwen is back with her husband and after learning about Gwen’s interest in meeting the council members, Uther is confident things are changing for the best.


    
    Merlin sits with Gaius, plucking the leaves off a sprig of rosemary when someone knocks on the door. They look at each other and then at the door, as if petrified. They are not expecting anyone at this hour but whoever it is on the other side surely does not how to read, as Gaius had actually placed a sign stating ‘do not disturb’.

    “I thought you put up the sign?” Merlin asks Gaius.

    “I did … “ Gaius is angry and setting the bowl down on the table, he heads for the door.

    “I thought most people here know how to read,” he grumbles to himself and unlatches the lock and yanks the door free. Whatever words he actually had in mind stopped midway when he sees Gwen standing on the other side, smiling at him.

    “Your highness,” Gaius bows in respect.

    “No, Gaius … please. I am like you, just a commoner. Stuck here through fate. Please, you are older and wiser and you shouldn’t be bowing to me,” Gwen says immediately.

    Merlin cranes his neck behind Gaius to see what is going on.

    “Have I disturbed you, Gaius?” Gwen asks.

    “No, not at all … please come in,” Gaius invites Gwen and steps out to check out the sign. There is no sign on the door. Gaius searches all over the place and doesn’t find it anywhere in sight. ‘Hmm, funny.’ He thinks and steps back inside, closing the door behind him. He walks back towards Gwen and Merlin.

    “This is a pleasant surprise, Gwen,” Merlin says.

    “Thought I might just pay you and Gaius a visit. It is a beautiful morning, after all,” Gwen replies. She looks around and spots the work Gaius and Merlin are attempting at the moment. “What are you doing?”

    “I needed these leaves to make a new potion for the king. He is suffering from his fall some years back and I managed to discover these leaves have the cure to help soothe the pain in bones and joints. So, I needed lots of leaves and Merlin did a great job getting me all this,” Gaius explains.

    “Oh. I feel bad for the king sometimes. He is always in pain and despite the brave face he puts up to cover up his pain, we can still sense he is suffering from it,” Gwen says.

    “He is, Gwen. And that’s why he’s been pestering Arthur to take up the throne as soon as possible,” Gaius adds.

    “Hmm …” Gwen replies. She picks a sprig and starts plucking the leaves along with Merlin.

    “Is something wrong, dear?” Gaius asks, spotting Gwen’s face.

    “No, I am fine. Why do you ask?”

    “Because you obviously don’t look it, that’s why.” Merlin smiles. Gwen pouts at him and he smiles. “You can hide from anyone but me.”

    “Actually, I came here to seek your advice; both of you.”

    “Advice?”

    “Yes … hmm … since you brought up the subject of the king and Arthur … I thought I might ask you both about my … ideas.”

    “What is it, child?”

    “We all know that Arthur isn’t keen on the throne, don’t we?” Gwen asks. Merlin nods while Gaius listens on.

    “And we also know how the public still views Arthur, right?” Gwen adds. “So, I’m actually thinking of getting Arthur to the throne through his own will and win the support of the people.”

    “I …don’t follow,” Gaius says.

    “I went to meet all the council members and learned about their ideas, interests and opinions about Camelot, Uther and Arthur. Almost half of them still don’t believe Arthur will make a good king. And I also found that the public holds very much the same opinion as the council members. And I’ve decided to step in and rectify the situation.”

    “How?”

    “By transforming Arthur’s image to the public and among the council members so that they will start to believe in him. Make him presentable as the future king … one they can trust their lives with.”

    “Hmm …” Gaius thinks but Merlin’s mouth drops open. Gwen notices, but she decides to ignore it.

    ‘What is going on? What is Gwen doing? Ever since when … why?’ Merlin cannot put his finger on why Gwen is suddenly interested in the throne or helping Arthur claim it. Something doesn’t seem right, but he doesn’t know what it is.

    “I thought about asking you, Sir Tristan and Sir Balinor about this since all of you are the members of the council but Sir Tristan and Sir Balinor have left for a mission. And that leaves only you, Gaius. I need an honest answer from you both. What do you think?”

    “I think it’s a very good idea, Gwen, because Uther wants this as well. He has been trying to persuade Arthur to accept his responsibility but that boy just won’t. And he is getting desperate. And with Arthur’s tarnished image among the people of Camelot … I think you are the saviour Uther needs,” Gaius says.

    ‘What the …?’ Merlin thinks again.

    “But how do you plan to do this?”

    Before Gwen can answer, Merlin stops her. “Wait … wait a minute,” he says, sets his bowl down on the table and looks at both Gaius and Gwen. “What is going on?”

    “What do you mean, Merlin?” Gaius asks.

    “I think Gwen knows exactly what I mean,” Merlin says, looking directly at Gwen. “Don’t you, Gwen?”

    Gwen sighs, as she has expected this from Merlin. “I’m just trying to help, Merlin.”

    “Whom? Yourself, Arthur or … Katrina?”

    “What do you mean?” Gaius asks, quite taken back by Merlin’s statement.

    “Arthur,” Gwen says.

    “Really? Then why do I smell Katrina’s stench around this idea? Please, Gwen … this isn’t you. What is going on? What are you suddenly interested in Arthur becoming king? You were never interested in his welfare before, so why now?”

    “Like I said, I pity the king.”

    “I’m not buying that, Gwen. Really.” Merlin crosses his arms and glares at Gwen. “And I am not stopping until I find out the truth.”

    “Merlin …” Gaius says but Merlin doesn’t pay the old man any attention. Instead he keeps glaring at Gwen.

    “Fine …” Gwen says after a long while. “But please do not think badly of me. I have to do this because I had no other choice. And promise you will not question else anyone regarding this, Merlin.”

    “That depends …”

    “Promise me now, Merlin, or I will not tell you anything,” Gwen says.

    “Fine. Promise,” Merlin says reluctantly. “But don’t try to hide anything … I will smell it out.”

    “Remember what I told a week ago? About ending my marriage to Arthur?”

    “What?” Gaius’s mouth drops open. “You what?”

    “I’ll tell you that later, Gaius.” Merlin informs the old man and turns back towards Gwen. “Go on, Gwen.”

    “I spoke to the Queen and she said she can’t help me because she doesn’t have the authority to do so. But … she said if I help her improve Arthur’s image in public and persuade him to take the throne, she will grant my wish in a year’s time.”

    “I knew it!!” Merlin slams the table, startling Gaius.

    “Merlin!!” Gaius says, clutching his chest.

    “Merlin, please …”

    “I knew it, Gwen. I could smell her stench in your words and that’s why I don’t believe a word you say. She is behind this …”

    “Merlin, she means well.”

    “Really? And how do you know?” Merlin questions.

    “Because she wants Arthur to be king.”

    “And you don’t know why she wants that?” Merlin asks again, his looks piercing.

    “What do you mean?”

    “Gwen … I understand you still have a lot to learn about this life but you can’t be this naïve. Don’t tell me you believe her.”

    “What do you mean, Merlin?” Gwen doesn’t understand. “She hasn’t done me any harm.”

    “Of course she hasn’t, Gwen, but she is using you for her own motives,” Merlin snaps.
    
“Merlin, please clam down. You are not helping anything here.” Gaius tries to calm the situation.

    “No, wait … I don’t get it,” Gwen says and nears Merlin. “Why are you so upset about Katrina, Merlin? And what is it you are not telling me?” she pesters and when Merlin keeps quiet, she grabs his sleeve and tugs it, shaking it slightly. “Tell me, Merlin.”

    “Gwen … please calm down,” Gaius tries to pry Gwen away from Merlin but she keeps her grip tightened.

    “Not till I learn what Merlin is talking about!”

    “I don’t trust Katrina … that’s all,” Merlin says shortly.

    “No, there’s more, Merlin. Something you are not telling me. What is it?”

    “Merlin,” Gaius calls. Merlin looks at Gaius, sighs heavily and shakes his head.

    “Listen, Gwen …” Merlin pulls Gwen’s hand from him slowly and leads her to the table and asks her to sit down, tapping her shoulder gently. “There are some things ought to be discussed here and some not. What I’m going to tell you will … be up to you to believe but it is the truth. Nothing has been made up. So just listen, please.”

    “I’m listening,”

    “I don’t trust Katrina because I don’t think she has Arthur’s best interests in mind. She is one mean, selfish lady who only has one thing on her mind: power! And that’s why it irked me when I found out you’ve made an agreement with her!”

    “What are you blabbering about, Merlin?” Gwen says, unable to believe what she hears.

    “See, I told you, you will not believe me … she has that sort of influence on where she seems perfectly lovely and good of heart, when really she is pure evil underneath.”

    “Please be more precise, Merlin … you’re not helping anything here,” Gwen presses.

    “What you see in Katrina now is the mask she wears every day to convince people like you that she is saintly, Gwen. But deep down, she is evil, selfish and a schemer.”

    “Wait a minute, Merlin. What’s your proof? How do you know all this and on what basis do you actually base your accusations?”

    “I’ve heard my father talk with Sir Tristan many times.”

    “Now …”

    “Listen, Gwen. You are still new to this game. I’ve seen and heard many things that have cemented my belief that she wants nothing but destruction to both Uther and Arthur,” Merlin explains. Gaius listens patiently. “I don’t usually accuse someone blindly but I did hear things which have shocked me as well,” Merlin says. “And it’s not something we should discuss here. But the bottom line is, Katrina has her own motives to make Arthur the king of Camelot. You must have noticed how he dotes on her and listens to her only?”

    Gwen nods.

    “She holds the leash on him, Gwen. He obeys her every word without question. And by making him the king, she will be the puppeteer while he plays dummy. She and her brother wish the throne for themselves but Arthur and the Pendragon bloodline stand in their way.”

    Gwen feels like fainting. This isn’t information she came here seeking and it’s terrifying her. Is this all true? What Merlin is revealing … can this all mean that she has just pawned her own future? What has she done? But first, is this true? Merlin wouldn’t lie to her.

    “She married Uther for a reason, never gave birth to her own heir for another reason and showered all her love to Arthur to fully gain his trust in her. Katrina never does anything that doesn’t benefit her; every move she makes has a reason behind it. Like asking you to help her out. Have you never thought why?”

    “She said I’d be more convincing than her. The people will believe in me because I am one of them,” Gwen explains.

    “Of course … you’d be convincing and above all, the perfect person to persuade the people of Camelot because you’re innocent. You don’t have a clue what is going on. You won’t ask questions, Gwen, that’s what she wants. She wants a pawn and you volunteered yourself as one!”

    “Wait a minute, Merlin!” Gwen grabs her head and takes a deep sigh. Her head is spinning and she can hardly breathe.

    “Gwen,” Merlin says softly. “Katrina is an evil lady who has made both the king and the prince her playthings. She wants to be in power and is willing to go to whatever lengths necessary to see that achieved. I was surprised when she didn’t object your marriage but now I understand why. She had her own intentions and you played in to her hands well. Uther and Arthur believe in her deeply and it seems nothing can shake their trust. But I am warning you now so that you don’t turn out like them as well. Think, Gwen. You are a smart person and I know you won’t do anything blindly. No matter what she tells you … please reconsider and think.”

    “I didn’t think … that she will …”

    “I know, it’s hard, isn’t it? It was for me as well until my father convinced me. And then I had my own personal experiences. I believe she could be the reason why father and son don’t share the bond they used to before. Something happened and she must have played her part or else Arthur wouldn’t hate his father like he does now. And then her brother … that scheming pig who trails Uther like a dog, waiting to pounce on the king when he is down. If it wasn’t for Tristan or my father, I think he would have found a way to kill the king a long time ago.”

    Gwen gasps.

    “Yes … Agravaine is a knight but he is also a schemer, and he’s Katrina’s minion. A good one with awful lot of contacts; friends from bad places … you know what I mean, right? So, that is why we never trusted the queen and her brother. Some of the council members share the same thoughts as I, which why they insist Uther remain the king. But now with your arrival, they might want to believe in you. But please don’t fall into Katrina’s trap, Gwen. I beg you …” Merlin pleads, taking Gwen’s hand in his.

    “I … don’t know … what … to say, Merlin,” Gwen stammers. The truth is she really is afraid right now. Listening to what Merlin says about Katrina makes her heart squirm with fear. She has just made an agreement with the monster. What will she do? How will she help herself? And what is she supposed to do?

    “Gwen,” Gaius nears them both and smiles. He understands how terrified Gwen is at the moment and she doesn’t another warning from him. “What Merlin just told you was not to scare you, but to make you aware so you don’t fall in to her trap as well. Please do not be afraid … instead, make sure everything you do is well thought out. Be careful. Like Merlin says, you are a smart lady and you know how to make a good assessment. So please don’t allow Katrina to cloud your judgement …”

    “Thank you, Gaius … Merlin.” Gwen says. “I will think it over,” she replies. But deep in her heart all she wants to do right now is to hide from Katrina.




    Agravaine finds Katrina in the garden, feeding the birds. He nears her calmly, bends down, and kisses her cheek, surprising her.

    “Oh … brother. What a surprise!” Katrina says, her smile widening. She drops the remaining seeds in her hand, wipes it on her gown and gets up. She embraces her brother warmly. “I’ve been missing you. How is everyone at home?” she asks, releasing Agravaine.

    “Everyone is fine, sister, but I brought someone here today to see you,” he says and steps aside, as Elena rushes to her aunt. Katrina’s eye widens with happiness.

    “Aunt Katrina …” Elena embraces Katrina.

    “Sweetheart, how I’ve missed you!” Katrina says, accepting the embrace. “How have you been? Look at you; are you feeding her or not, Agravaine? She looks sickly!” Katrina looks past Elena and to her brother.

    “Of course she is … she is heartbroken,” her father informs.

    Katrina turns back towards her niece. “Elena …” she says and stops. “I’m sorry about what you’ve gone through.”

    “No Aunty, it’s not your fault. Some things aren’t meant to be … I suppose,” Elena replies. “But I think what you did was for my best interest.”

    “Of course, sweetheart … you know I always have your interests in mind. Patience is a virtue. All I ask is that you wait, and you will be rewarded,” Katrina says.

    “Since it comes from you, I am listening, Aunty. If father had told me, I wouldn’t have listened,” Elena says, glancing at her father.

    “She has more trust in you than me,” Agravaine adds.

    “No offense, Father.”

    “None taken.”

    “I’m glad you’ve accepted this bravely, dear … and I appreciate your trust,” Katrina says, raking Elena’s blond locks.

    “Can I meet her?” Elena asks.

    “Who? Gwen?” Katrina asks. Elena nods. “I don’t see why not. She should be in her chambers. You’ll find her boring, though. She is as common as dirt.”

    “It’s all right. I just want to see the woman who caught Arthur’s heart myself. I need to see what she has that I don’t,” Elena replies as both Katrina and Agravaine laugh.




    Gwen sits down by the window, looking out, but her mind isn’t really focused on the scenery outside. Instead it’s still working on the subject Merlin discussed with her this morning. She is still finding it hard to believe everything Merlin told her. Can it be true? Is Merlin lying? But why would he lie to her? There’s no reason for Merlin to do so. So can it be true, then? That Katrina is … evil? Gwen shakes her head and sighs. As far as she has seen, Katrina hasn’t displayed anything suspicious … yet. But Merlin has known her longer and with his father a knight of Camelot, he should know better.

    Gwen stands up, walks to her bed, and sits down. Removing an earring, she thinks back to the day she agreed with Katrina to help improve Arthur’s image. She didn’t think much that day; she heard Katrina’s promise and jumped on the wagon, agreeing to help. But now that Merlin had cleared the matter to her, it seems a little bizarre. Why would Katrina want Arthur on the throne so desperately? Well, she could be acting for Uther’s behalf, but then, like Merlin mentioned, perhaps there’s more for Katrina than Uther. And she agreed when Gwen asked to end the marriage, almost as if … she is expecting Gwen to leave. Is it so? Does she want Gwen to leave Arthur? Maybe she doesn’t like Gwen after all … and agreed only because she wanted Arthur to be happy. Gwen removes her other earring and puts its aside. And why does Katrina want Gwen to wait a year? Gwen can help in six months’ time … why a year? Everything comes tumbling through Gwen’s mind and one by one, things start to make sense to her. Merlin’s words starts to ring the alarm bells in her brain, highlighting her mistakes.

    “Great … now I’ve committed a mistake from where there is little chance of escape. What am I going to do?” she asks herself. But before she can think again, someone knocks on the door. She turns towards it.

    “Come in,” she says immediately and regrets it. What if it’s Arthur? She has granted permission way too quickly. And before she can get up, the door opens. Gwen sits back, clutching her chain tightly.

    Elena pokes her head inside and smiles. “Hello?”

    Gwen has never met Elena before so she didn’t know who she was. “Urm … don’t think this as rude, but who are you?”

    “I’m Agravaine’s daughter.” Elena steps inside but she doesn’t close the door. “I couldn’t make it to the wedding but I know Arthur. We grew up together. I really wanted to meet you and that’s why I asked if I could see you. If you are occupied, I’ll leave.” She turns back but Gwen stops her.

    “No, please come in. I haven’t met you before and that’s why I had to ask. Please …”

    “Thank you,” Elena closes the door and walks in.

    “I’m sorry for being blunt ,” Gwen apologises.

    “No, not at all … anyone in your place would do the same. It’s quite all right … I’m Elena.” Elena extends her hand. But as Gwen reaches out to accept it, Elena quickly retracts her hand and curtsies. “Pardon my manners, your highness … I forgot to whom I was speaking.”

    “No, Elena … it’s all right. Please … I am not real royalty. I still consider myself a commoner.” Gwen stands and nears Elena, taking her hands in hers. “I am very pleased to meet you, Elena.”

    “Pleasure’s all mine, urrm … how should I address you?”

    “My name is Guinevere, but you can call me Gwen.”

    “Well, Gwen … pleasure’s all mine,” Elena says.

    “So, what do you do, Elena? I mean … are you studying anything, or …”

    “I’m studying and in my final year. I shall be free from all this education by the end of the year. And then I am planning to take a month free and travel outside Camelot, go and see the world alone. Sort of adventure, you know?”

    “That is really something, Elena … at least you get to see the world rather than be cooped up in a castle,” Gwen sighs.

    “You can come along with me if you want.”

    “Me?” Gwen laughs. “Arthur will be saying ‘no’ before the question even leaves my lips.”

    “Hmmm, you are right. He is very protective of you,” Elena says

    “Sorry?”

    “He is very protective of you, isn’t he? If he isn’t, he wouldn’t have gone to such great lengths to find you,” Elena says and when she notices the puzzled look on Gwen’s face she quickly says, “My aunt told me how he went after you when you sort of went to visit your father. She told me how terrified Arthur was … I’m sorry, was it confidential information?”

    “Oh, that … no, it isn’t. Everyone knows what happened and I’m not exactly proud of what I did,” Gwen says regretfully.

    “But Arthur was forgiving, is he not?”

    “I suppose,” Gwen says.

    “He should be … he always has been.”

    Gwen looks at Elena and smiles. “You seem to know a lot about Arthur.”

    “Hope you don’t mind, he is, after all, your husband but I know him as a good friend, Gwen. And he is very protective of his … you know, those closest to him.”

    “He is of you?”

    “Me? No, of course not. He’s only interested in me as someone to argue with,” Elena laughs. “We are just good friends, but he is not protective of me like he is of you. And I won’t hide my feelings … I envy you, Gwen.”

    “There’s nothing to envy, actually, Elena. I think he has his reasons for being, you know, like you said: protective,” Gwen says modestly.

    Elena laughs. “You are very pretty, Gwen. Now I know what Arthur sees in you.”

    “I beg your pardon?”

    “Arthur loves beauty and appreciates it. I am sure you are aware of his addiction aren’t you? Women?”

    “Oh that … yes, very much,” Gwen answers, frowning.

    “Some say he goes for everyone he casts his eye upon but that is not the truth. He doesn’t. He is a very fussy person and only goes for those with whom he really is smitten. For him, beauty comes ahead of brawn. A person can be smart but if she doesn’t have the looks to die for, she can kiss her opportunity goodbye. That’s why we saw him bedding even a farmer’s daughter from the village!”

    Gwen listens with her heart thumping loudly against her ribcage. ‘Why is Elena telling me all this? Do I need to know all this? Haven’t I already?’ she thinks to herself. Elena goes on about how Arthur chooses his women and why he does what he did before and that she had advised him against it but he is adamant with his addiction. Gwen knows about Arthur’s reputation before the wedding but she hasn’t seen a single girl with him since the wedding. And she knows from Merlin that he has stopped seeing anyone else after he set his sights on her. So, why is Elena dragging out old tales? Is she envious of Gwen and trying to make her feel bad that she married an immoral prince?

    “Gwen?”

    “Huh? Sorry. I was just thinking back all you’ve said,” Gwen makes up quickly. “Why didn’t Arthur listen to your advice?”

    “When did he? He never listens to anyone except himself!”

    “Tell me about it,” Gwen mutters to herself.

    “Well, it was nice talking with you, Gwen. Hope I can make it another time … take care.” Elena comes closer, gives Gwen a nice warm peck on the cheek and smiles.

    “I’ve enjoyed our conversation as well. Thank you, Elena,” Gwen says.

    “Catch you later, Gwen,” Elena replies and walks to the door. She pulls it open, turns back towards Gwen, waves, and leaves.

    Gwen waves, walks back to her bed and sits down. She thinks back everything Elena told her. The girl seems fine but something about her doesn’t sound … honest. Why did she talk so about Arthur, knowing he is her husband? There is no reason for Elena to bring up subjects of the past. Gwen knows about Arthur and his attitude before the wedding but after marriage Gwen hasn’t seen a single girl with Arthur. And he hasn’t met anyone outside as well. Surely that counts for something? Gwen knows she still hates Arthur but he has altered his behaviour a little, according to Merlin. But Elena knows Arthur better, doesn’t she? She speaks as if he will not change at all, but how can she be so sure? Maybe she is envious of Gwen and is trying to irk her up with these malicious thoughts. Maybe she wants Arthur for herself. Gwen bites her lips and thinks. Well, it does make sense. She knows Arthur since childhood, is his friend and sort of a relative. Perhaps she has her heart set on him but Arthur didn’t notice her. And that probably irked her up and now after learning that Gwen, a commoner, married Arthur she is jealous. But … Gwen shakes her head and laughs to herself, thinking how silly she sounds.

    “Gwen … this is the silliest thought anyone can think up.” She laughs and slides down from the bed, heads to her dressing table and sets down her necklace and earrings. But she pauses and thinks back to what Elena said to her. She mentions Arthur chooses his women based on looks rather than brain.

    ‘Is that why he chose me?’ she thinks again. ‘But I’m neither a great beauty nor am I that smart. I’m just a commoner. Why would he want me?’ she thinks again. Those words keep repeating in Gwen’s mind like a chant. ‘There is only one way to find out … Merlin.’ Gwen thinks to herself, picks up her cloak and heads out.




    Merlin drags his feet towards his room slowly. He is tired it shows. His limbs are aching, the result of the horrendous training session Arthur instructed him to undergo. God knows what gotten in him, he was showing his anger to everyone including Merlin today in the training session. And then he had to help out Gaius with the potion the old man is working on, had little to eat and now had to run and pick up some books for Morgana. And all he wants right now is a good sleep. But as soon he steps inside his room, his mouth drops open, his eye wide.

    “Gwen?” he says, in shock.

    “Hello Merlin?” Gwen replies.

    “She wanted to see you, Merlin, so I thought we might as well wait in your room,” Morgana says, getting to her feet. “So did you get my books?”

    “Here you go, have you given Gwen anything to eat or drink?”

    “It’s all right, Merlin. I needed to talk with you in private so this is just a short trip,” Gwen says.

    “I’ll leave you both alone, then,” Morgana turns to leave.

    “It’s all right, Morgana. I could use your advice as well. I appreciate if you could stay,” Gwen invites.

    “Thank you, Gwen.”

    “Anything Gwen …” Merlin says and sits down opposite Gwen and Morgana.

    “I need some honest clarification from you, Merlin. Honest … get what I mean?”

    “Sure,” he says, stripping off his coat and hanging it behind his chair. “About?”

    “Arthur,” Gwen says shortly.

    “Ohh …” both Morgana and Merlin exchange glances. “Sure … why not?” Merlin adds.

    “I met with Elena today, Agravaine’s daughter,” Gwen says.

    “Her?” Morgana’s brow starts arching furiously. “What does she want?”

    “She wanted to meet me because she couldn’t make it for the wedding. She was very friendly and I think she is a nice girl.”

    “That’s how it starts,” Morgana mutters underneath her breath.

    “Don’t tell me you believe her act, Gwen?” Merlin says.

    “I didn’t want to believe her, but she seems like a good girl to me.”

    “Well, that’s how they all start … they’re nice to you, become your friend, start hanging around and take you out. Then comes the poison part. They will start poisoning your thoughts with all kinds of things and you will believe them because by then they’ve gained your trust. And when the time is right, they will strike you. Either you or those closest to you. What did she want?” Merlin asks.

    “She spoke to me about Arthur.”

    “Should have known!” Morgana slaps Merlin’s shoulder and shakes her head.

    “Wait a minute … is there something I need to know?” Gwen asks, quite puzzled by the reaction both the brother and sister are giving her.

    “Elena is most definitely her father’s daughter, Gwen. She is as scheming as her father and aunt. She’s been besotted with Arthur since they were children. They grew up together and Arthur has never seen her as anything other than a friend. He never dealt much with her except for to play and fight. But she takes things rather heavily and has been harboring feelings for him since she can remember. And from what I overheard one day, it seems Katrina has been planning to marry her to Arthur.”

    “What?”

    “Yes, but Arthur and the king don’t know anything about this of course and even if he does, I don’t think Arthur will agree with it,” Merlin replies.

    “Oh, that’s why she told me all those things about Arthur?”

    “What? What did she say?” Morgana asks, her eyes almost dropping out. “She better not tell you anything nasty or I will …”

    “She told me about Arthur’s addiction … how he prefers looks over brain. And why he chose me … she also says he has great taste in women because … he took me as his wife.”

    “That …” Morgana punches Merlin on the shoulder.

    “Oww … that hurts, Morgana!”

    “If I can get my hands on that … little scheming rat!! I’ll …” Morgana was too angry to continue.

    “You are not upset by what she said, are you, Gwen?” Merlin asks cautiously.

    “That’s what I came here for Merlin. I need to know about Arthur and Katrina. And I need honest answers from you,” Gwen says.

    “I told you everything I know about Katrina, Gwen.”

    “Not entirely everything, Merlin. I am still puzzled by some questions … I need to know about her, Arthur and why Uther and his son don’t see eye to eye. I need to know when Arthur started his philandering ways. Why did he do it? Why is he close to his stepmother and not his father? Why does Katrina wish to destroy the king and the prince? Why did she come to me for help? There are so many questions plaguing my mind that I can barely concentrate on anything else at the moment. So I need you to tell me all this. And I have all day, Merlin,” Gwen says to Merlin and crosses her arms across her chest.

    Merlin swallows and looks at Morgana.

    “I need to know as well, Merlin. You have been hiding from me way too long and I’d like to know all this as well,” Morgana replies.

    Merlin sighs and knows there is no escaping from either woman this time. He knows quite a bit about the answers Gwen is seeking and he feels she should know why her husband is behaving like he is right now. If his information can help Arthur recover from his addiction and turn over a new leaf, then Merlin is willing to share and perhaps go to great extents to dig up more information for her.

    “It’s up to you, Merlin … I’m asking you as a friend. And I need to help my husband,” Gwen says.

    “Fine …” Merlin starts his tale.