Gwen walks into her chamber and stops. She looks ahead at the table where a vase that had been empty a while ago is now filled with beautiful flowers. She looks down at her hands. She is holding fresh flowers herself, but the ones in the vase are more beautiful. Looks like someone has beaten her to it.
“Do you like them?” someone asks from behind her, almost stunning Gwen.
She whirls around and finds Arthur looking at her, smiling. She blushes and looks down.
“Is that for me?” he asks her, closing in.
She looks up. “Sorry?”
Arthur smiles at her, twitching his lips mischievously. “That blush, is that for me?”
“Oh … hmm …” Gwen smiles, unable to answer him because in truth, she is shy. She didn’t know why but ever since she and Arthur shared their first kiss, she’s been blushing heavily in Arthur’s presence. And she knows that Arthur been noticing too. And that just makes the situation even trickier.
He inches closer.
Gwen’s heart thumps. She knows what his closeness can do to her and though she is nervous, she is also excited.
“I love them, thanks. You really shouldn’t have …” she tries to divert the subject without looking at him.
Arthur clips her chin and turns her to meet him.
“Why are you shy of me?” he asks.
“Shouldn’t I be?”
“No. You are my wife and I expect you to be at ease with me. I don’t want you to hold yourself back … I want you to be yourself …”
“I am myself.”
“Really?” Arthur licks his lips.
“Then why do I see this,” he caresses her blushing cheeks and smiles, “every time the time I look at you?”
“That …” Gwen pauses. She doesn’t know what to answer because he is right. She hasn’t been herself lately. Since that intimate moment they shared, she hasn’t been able to revert herself back to the old Gwen. She has turned over a new leaf, and a new person with more shyness oozes out whenever her husband is around. And it both irritates and excites her.
“See … didn’t I tell you so?”
“I’m not sure if we should discuss this. I have to attend to my duties.” She tries to pull herself from him but Arthur holds her tightly but carefully, not wishing to hurt her.
“Arthur … please.”
“You don’t like me?”
“Nonsense… of course I do.”
“Then?” he asks again.
“I’m just … trying to … get used to …”
“And is it hard?” he asks.
“No, not at all. It’s not your fault at all Arthur, it’s mine and mine alone.”
“But let me help. You are my wife, tell me and let me share your burden.”
Gwen pulls his fingers away from her chin and turns around, unable to meet his gaze anymore.
“Is there something I’ve done to you Guinevere? Something I am not aware of?”
“It’s not you, Arthur … please don’t ever think it that way.”
“Well, what then?”
“I’m … just trying to … adapt to you and our future together.”
“And that’s why you are nervous? Are you afraid?”
“In a way, yes.”
“Of the future or me?” he closes in towards her and Gwen is aware of his presence behind her but she tries not to focus much on him and rather on her thoughts. Ever since she opened up to him and kissed him when he recovered, she has been disturbed by the thoughts of their future. Is there really a future for them both? Or she is pinning her hopes on him falsely? After all, this is Arthur Pendragon.
“I will never be afraid of you Arthur.” She laughs nervously. “I’m just slightly worried and nervous about what’s ahead of us.”
“Why should you be? I have changed, Guinevere. I did for you. You really don’t have to be afraid of us … I have changed.”
“Yes, I’ve noticed …”
Gwen sighs and turns back around and this time she didn’t avoid him at all. She meets him straight in the eye. “I don’t doubt you Arthur. You are my husband and I trust you. But it’s the surroundings I am afraid of. I am worried of what the others might do to break us apart.”
Arthur’s brow aches mysteriously. “Others?”
Gwen nods. “I’m sorry, Arthur. I understand this is our family but there are certain people here whom I don’t trust and they are the ones whom I believe will break us apart.”
“Like who?” Arthur asks.
Gwen sighs. “I can’t say for sure but I know there are some …”
Arthur closes in and lifts his hand to her shoulder. He smiles at her. “Guinevere … my dear Guinevere …” he says. “I love you and even if the world comes to an end, I will always love you. There is absolutely no doubt in that. And I don’t care about the others … no matter who they are. My family or my friends; no one will come in between us. I assure you of that. All I want is to start this all over again. Let me court you properly because I believe I deprived you of that … due to my stupidity and pride. Let me earn your love … and until then,” he steps back, releasing her. “I will not touch you without your permission.” He smiles.
Gwen feels her heart choking. She knew Arthur has changed but she definitely didn’t expect this. She feels tear in her eyes and looks away.
“Is that for me?”
“Those tears … are they for me?” he asks with a smile.
Gwen wipes her tears with her thumb and nods. “Yes …”
“Hahaha …” Arthur laughs and Gwen blushes again. “Thank you, Guinevere.”
“For those tears and blushes.”
“I don’t understand,” Gwen is confused.
“No has shed any genuine tears or has blushed for me before … I’ve always been surrounded by people who put up false fronts, trying to impress me or be who they think I want them to be. You are the first person in my life to give me a genuine hope. And I like that.”
“Arthur, how many times have I told you that you should stop thanking me? I am your wife and this is my responsibility …”
“But no one forced you to love me, Guinevere,” Arthur says softly. “Yet you do. I certainly wouldn’t call that a responsibility.”
Gwen opens her mouth to answer but she stops. Arthur smiles. “You don’t have to answer me because I already know your answer … but as I said, let me start this all over again. I want to win you back and I don’t care how long does it takes. I am always known to be patient, so I am willing to take my chances.”
Gwen smiles back. “I can’t wait.”
“Trust me, Guinevere … you’ll be impressed.” Arthur says.
Arthur picks up his sword and plants it on the ground. He wipes his sweat and waits patiently for Merlin to approach.
“I thought Uther and Gaius said you are not to start your training until next month?” Merlin asks, looking slightly uneasy at Arthur and his attire.
“Merlin, I can no longer bring myself to stay indoors and do nothing. I have been watching the knights train and it frustrates me that I am unable to join them. I am born warrior and my place is here, not in the castle.”
“You are also the future king; remember that. You escaped death, my friend, and I am sure Uther means well.”
“Yes but I feel as if I am getting lazy. I need exercise and this is all I can think of.”
“This is extreme, Arthur. You are still recovering from your injury and it’s not something I would take lightly. And remember Gwen has put in a lot of effort to ensure you’re safe and sound. Don’t try to do something stupid,” Merlin warns.
“Of course not, Merlin,” Arthur says. “Now speaking of Guinevere, there’s something I need to ask you.”
“What is it?”
“I have decided to court her. Problem is, I don’t exactly know how.”
“Court her?” Merlin seems surprised.
“Yes, I have decided to start all over again. I haven’t been really respectful of her wishes and she deserves better than the treatment I gave her. So I have decided to court her properly, and I need your advice.”
Merlin smiles widely. “Now, that is better, my friend. Great … wait, let me think of something,” Merlin says.
“I’m planning to do something special for her effort while I was wounded.”
“Take her out for a picnic.” Merlin says.
“Yes, everyone loves going out for picnics and I am sure Gwen would love to go out with you. And you can take her to the woods, near that stream where we saw that peacock last month. She will love it and I am sure she misses those times when she used to wander into the woods on her own.”
“How do you know she misses going to the woods?”
“She told me. She used to talk to me about herself, Arthur … and that’s how I know what her interests are,” Merlin explains.
“Oh!” Arthur says and looks away sadly. Merlin understands why Arthur is looking dejected. But he doesn’t really blame Gwen for being open with Merlin and not her husband. Their relationship didn’t actually start off well and they have been fighting each other since the day they were married. So who can blame Gwen for deciding not to open up to her husband. And Arthur knows he hasn’t been honest with her as well. So Arthur knows he cannot really complain about this. Merlin knows it saddens him.
“Arthur?” Merlin calls, touching Arthur’s shoulder.
“I know you are sad about what I said. I am sorry, I shouldn’t have …”
“No, Merlin. Don’t be. I am glad Guinevere finds time to talk to you … at least she finds a friend in you. I am just sad I didn’t know anything about her.”
“And that is why you should take her out,” Merlin says with a huge smile on his face. “This is an opportunity for you both to get to know each other. Talk to her. Ask her questions. Find out what she likes. You will have fun, both of you, trust me.”
Arthur smiles. “A picnic does sound good, but you know that I am never good at all this … romantic stuff…”
“I’ll help. Don’t worry about all that … just let me know when are you planning to take her and I will make all the necessary arrangements. I assure you that.”
“Thank you, my friend … I know I can count on you.” Arthur says happily.
“Don’t worry, I will make sure it will be a day to remember for both of you,” Merlin assures.
Katrina is with Agravaine when Arthur enters her chamber. Both sister and brother look at Arthur. Agravaine smiles while Katrina gets up and walks towards Arthur, her arms extending to embrace him.
“Arthur, what a surprise! Agravaine and I were just talking about you. How are you?” she says and accepts Arthur’s embrace, kissing him on the cheek.
“I’m good, Mother. I missed you.”
“You really shouldn’t be straining yourself, Arthur … you must be resting.” Katrina looks at him in concern.
“Arthur, in bed?” Agravaine questions as he nears his sister and nephew. “Since when can you restrict the future king to bed rest? This man here is a natural born killer. You can never tie him down, no matter how seriously he is injured.”
“Well said, Uncle. See, Mother? Agravaine knows me better,” Arthur laughs and walks to the table, pulls out the chair and sits down. “I am good. I can walk and be myself, just like I was before.”
“Thanks to Gaius, of course. He worked wonders on you,” Katrina says.
“Hmm … Actually I was thinking you’d say Guinevere,” Arthur replies, twirling the apple on the table.
Katrina smiles. “Yes, how could I forget her? She is the main reason of your recovery. She never left your side, Arthur. I feared for her own health but nothing could turn her away from you. She simply wouldn’t leave your side.”
“Yes, Mother, and that is why I decided to repay her kindness by taking her out for picnic.”
“Picnic?” both brother and sister say in unison.
“Yes … I want to get to know her better, find out everything about her … court her again because I believe I spoiled it the first time.”
“Oh, really?” Katrina quickly masks her disappointment. “That is a wonderful idea, Arthur. When are you planning to do that? Where?”
“I haven’t decided yet but when I do, you’d be the first to know, Mother.”
“You don’t have to tell me, Arthur … what you both do isn’t my business. That is your personal life and I am just happy that you wish to get back in her good books,” Katrina says.
“No, let us go and tell you father about this wonderful news. I am sure he will be thrilled.”
“Yes, why not?” Katrina says.
“Hmm … I was thinking perhaps later? When I have got everything settled.”
“Nonsense. He deserves to know and I think you should not wait. Come, let us go and tell him.” Katrina grabs Arthur and pulls him to the door. “He will love it.”
“Katrina is right, Arthur. Your father needs to know,” Agravaine adds.
“All right then … let us go, Mother,” Arthur says and leads the group. Before Katrina leaves the chamber, she tosses a quick look at Agravaine.
Her brother nods as if he knows what she means. Katrina nods back and disappears. Agravaine smiles to himself.
Merlin paces the floor uneasily in his chamber. Morgana pokes her head in and clears her throat.
“Can I come in?”
“Morgana? Just the person I’ve been looking for. Come, I need to talk to you.” Merlin rushes to the door, pulls it open and drags Morgana inside and closes the door behind him. “I need your help!”
“Calm down, Merlin … what is going on? Why are you looking so tense?” Morgana asks, nearing Merlin.
Merlin takes a deep breath and sighs. “Arthur wants to court Gwen and he wants to do it in style. So I suggested he take her out for a picnic and he asked me to help set the preparation for it. I have the spot ready but I don’t know what else is needed because I have never taken a woman out for picnic, including you.”
“Thank you for reminding me, Merlin,” Morgana glares at him and pouts her lips. She does that whenever she is thinking. “Hmm, a picnic huh?”
“Yes… what is needed? And what does Gwen like?”
“Well, certainly if Arthur is trying to impress Gwen then I think he shouldn’t overdo it. Gwen will not like that. She likes simple things. He doesn’t need to impress her that way,” Morgana says
Merlin scratches his head. “Meaning?”
“Meaning, don’t use anything from the castle. Be more humble in the preparation … if possible, try to use things she is accustomed to and misses … items from her old life.”
“Ahhh … noted. What else?”
“The food has to be less luxurious because the main motif Arthur is taking her for picnic is to court her so food shouldn’t take centre stage. Prepare mostly Gwen’s favourites. And she likes flowers so there has to be plenty of them.”
“I will see to that … more?”
“Hmm … certainly the place you have chosen has a stream, right?”
“Good.” Morgana says. “Well, the rest is really up to Arthur. He must impress her from the beginning. And remind him not to bicker but please her. Make her comfortable,” Morgana adds.
“I’ve telling him that since this morning. And I hope he really doesn’t lose his temper.”
“And she hers. Remember, she has bad temper as well,” Morgana laughs.
“Ahh, yes … well, let’s hope everything goes on well.”
“When is he taking her out?” Morgana asks.
“Next week,” Merlin replies.
A week later in the meadows near Camelot…
“Hurry up, Merlin, she will be here any minute!” Arthur shouts his orders at his friend as they both scramble to get the final preparations done.
Merlin bites his lip and arranges the cushions and swipes the dust from the sheet, laid on the ground. Arthur takes a look at the flowers and sighs.
“Are these fresh?”
“Arthur, I didn’t even trim the roots, how fresh do you expect?” Merlin says in shock.
“Haha,” Arthur laughs. “Just joking. I know you went far to get all this prepared. And I really appreciate it, my friend. Thanks.”
“Anything for you and Gwen, Arthur,” Merlin says with a smile. He gets up and takes a long satisfied look at his effort. “Hmm, satisfied?”
“Very, thanks a lot,” Arthur says and adjusts his tunic.
“Now, remember what I told you?” Merlin asks, crossing over towards Arthur.
“Yes, impress her, keep my temper at bay and most importantly: woo her.” Arthur replies.
“Good, and don’t ever try to be nasty or over confident. You know your wife and she is feisty. She isn’t one of those women you’ve gone out with, so be careful with what you say. Understand?”
“Yes, my lord,” Arthur bows at Merlin.
“Thank you, Arthur,” Merlin smiles back.
“So what are you boys up to?” someone says from behind them. Both Merlin and Arthur turn around in unison. Arthur’s mouth drops open and Merlin looks stunned.
Guinevere stands looking at them, with a smile on her face.