Gwen sips her wine and talks with the princesses from Camelot’s neighboring kingdoms when someone taps on her shoulder. She turns around and finds a group of women, somewhere around her age, smiling at her. They curtsey and wait for her.
Gwen looks astonished at them and one of the princesses she was talking to leans forward and whispers, “Nod, you’re supposed to nod.” Gwen thanks her and nods. The princess resumes her place and sneers with the other princesses.
“Is there anything I can do for you?” Gwen asks. She is not sure if that is the appropriate question to ask but since she is still clueless about her new role, she just went with what came to her first, hoping that she’s doing the right thing.
Behind her the princesses snicker amongst themselves. The newly arrived women smile and shake their heads. “No, my lady. We didn’t come seeking anything from you. Just want to be your friend and meet the lady who charmed Prince Arthur.” One of the women says.
Gwen blushes and tightens her grip on her cup. “Pleasure’s all mine. May I know your names please?”
“This is Orianthi, I’m Sade, she’s Myriana and that’s Brianna. They are sisters,” the women named Sade explains and points at the sisters. “Some think they are twins, but they are not, different by two years,” she adds.
Gwen notices how beautiful all four of them look and starts feeling a little inadequate. Behind her, the princesses introduce themselves to the new group without Gwen’s intervention. Gwen watches how the two groups mingle and converses, feeling somewhat out of place among them. She takes another sip of her wine and lets it take the bitter feeling from her. The women finish introducing themselves and turn to meet Gwen again.
“I am pleased to meet you all,” Gwen tries to be polite though she doesn’t really feel like doing so. She just wants to retire back into her chambers and sleep.
“We heard so much about you, from the Queen. She couldn’t stop talking about you, and we decided that we needed to meet you in person,” Orianthi says. She is a brunette with large expressive eyes which Gwen finds very intimidating.
“She’s lovely, isn’t she? She’s been kind to me ever since she visited me back in my home. I owe her more than she knows,” Gwen says. “Anyway, thank you for your wonderful gifts and for attending tonight.”
“We wouldn’t miss it for the world. We just need to meet the person Arthur is finally marrying,” Brianna says. “What we mean is, we are curious to know whom the prince is actually marrying, knowing his reputation as a man who usually ignores commitment,” Myriana adds.
Gwen has a burgeoning question running in her head and wonders if she should ask them. What if it’s rude and inappropriate? What if they are offended by it? But if she doesn’t ask, she will be troubled by it forever. She clears her throat. It’s worth a try. “If you don’t mind me asking … how do you all know Arthur?”
“We are his friends.”
That was a relief. Gwen smiles and acknowledges it. “Oh… right” that went well. Wasn’t so bad after all.
“How about you?” Orianthi asks.
“Sorry?” now it is Gwen’s turn to be surprise.
“How did you come to know him?” they ask her. One of the servants approach them, offering refreshments but they wave him away. “We would like to know, if you don’t mind.”
Should she tell them? Is it really necessary? Why do they need to know? They are just his friends, not close associate like Mithian and Leon. Should she tell them? “Urmmm … it’s quite a long story, actually.”
“Oh we have all night, come on … share with us please,” one of the princesses says, closing in beside Gwen. “We want to know what the secret is, please.”
Gwen feels uneasy. Should she tell them the truth? Why them? Who are they to know anything? She hates lies, but right now, she doesn’t feel she can tell them the exact truth. “Actually he met me while riding with his friends.” Gwen begins, uneasy because she is twisting the truth. “My father was loading the armour he made onto his wagon when one of his men rode towards my father and collided with him. Arthur helped my father and that’s how we met.” She tries her best to insert the truth of their first meeting in the midst of the lie she weaves.
The princesses looks surprised while the other group just smiles. “Such chivalrous act from a prince,” one of them says. “A knight to the rescue indeed,” Another adds.
“Arthur actually helped another?” Sade comments, sipping her wine. “Usually he doesn’t.”
“Perhaps he’s changed …” another adds.
Gwen seems curious about their conversation but she doesn’t say anything, listening on. Looks like they seem to know Arthur more than she realized. Well, they did say they were his friends.
“I remember when Arthur and his father visited my kingdom last year … we went hunting and spotted a deer. One of his servants actually got hurt while running behind us but he still insisted the servant get the deer after shooting it down. Poor fellow broke his arm while trying to lift the heavy load,” one of the princesses says, remembering her experience with Arthur.
“That was better compared to what he did when he came over to mine. He practically barked his orders to my servants because they lost his horse!” another princess shares her experiences with them and laughs. “I mean, they’re my servants, but they are more afraid of him than me,” she adds.
“He was equally rude when he and his father came to my kingdom for a treaty negotiation. He lost his cool when his servant bumped into him while walking down the corridor and he started throwing his tantrums at everyone, his father included,” another adds.
For Gwen, this is something new about Arthur. She knew what a womanizer he was as well as how arrogant he could be, but this is another side of his personality that she didn’t know yet. And now, thanks to these women, she now knows that he has a temper. But she still wonders how come they know so much if they are just friends? Are they just friends or … Gwen dismisses the thought, for the time being.
“As far I know, Arthur can be very demanding and sarcastic with his subjects. I have never seen anyone as arrogant as him.”
“But despite all his arrogance, there is one thing he is good at,” Sade says, pursing her lips.
“What is that?” the words escape Gwen’s mouth before she realizes it and later she regrets knowing it at all. If only she hadn’t listened to anything they said.
“He’s good in bed,” the women say and all of them laugh except for Gwen. She doesn’t know if she is petrified hearing it or that she feels numb realising all these women are talking about Arthur, her husband. ‘Good in bed?’
she thinks numbly. ‘What do they mean by good in bed?’
her stomach starts to churn and she feels sick. But she still needs to ask.
“Sorry?” she asks them. Sade turns to look at Orianthi while the princesses smile at each other.
“Should we tell her?” Sade asks.
“She deserves to know,” the other agrees and nods. Sade closes in Gwen.
“Now, since you are new to this, Gwen, we will let you in our little secret. Arthur is a master in bed,” and when Gwen seems lost the princess closes in one by one and says, “He makes perfect love to you in bed.”
Gwen’s world turns dark that very instant. Her head throbs and she feels faint. “What …” her words stop there and she is unable to continue anymore. What do they mean by that? How come…? Gwen looks at each of them and suddenly feels sick.
“Surprise, surprise … well, curious how we know that?” the princess asks, bobbing her head. “We’ve all had the privilege of being treated with his love making mastery before … so we know. And I can tell you, he will treat you with total respect … he will love and respect every inch of your body Gwen. You will be his Queen, in the bed. And he will make you yearn for more!”
Gwen feels her head busting. ‘What is she blabbering about?’
“It’s true, Gwen,” Sade says. “He worshiped my body when we were together … and I have to say, despite being married, my husband has never come close to satisfying me the way Arthur does. He makes you feel like a woman, get it? He just makes you want to shout his name … and you do. God, I can feel him in me right now as I speak,” Sade closes her eyes and cups her breast, licking her lips.
Gwen wants to run away from there but can’t. She feels sick and watching Sade is making her sicker. ‘Are they aware of what they are saying? Do they know it’s my husband they are talking about?’
she thinks to herself. Gwen staggers a little and holds the side of her head.
“Does your husband know?” Brianna asks, ignoring Gwen’s condition.
“He hardly notices anything but each time I made love with Arthur, he made me forget I was married,” Sade says and the women laugh, except for Gwen. She seethes in anger as she is made to listen to this horrendous truth about her husband.
“Oh cheer up, Gwen, he will treat you like he did us and in fact you are lucky. You get to be loved every night and day … I wonder if he will take you anywhere he pleases?”
“WHAT?” Gwen claims in horror. ‘Anywhere?’
“That’s his trait. If he wants you, he doesn’t care where you are at all; he just pulls you to a corner and takes you there. But despite the difficulty of the place, its quiet a thrilling ride … I’ve been pulled into a dark corner or closet on a couple of occasions, so I should know,” Orianthi says, without feeling shame.
Gwen feels so disgusted that she feels like vomiting. Around her, everyone is having fun but she doesn’t hear anything, in fact it is as if she is shut in a room, filled with these wicked women.
“So did we … he took us both together because he didn’t want us sisters to be offended,” one of the sisters says.
Gwen feels her heart bleeding. She feels like tearing each and every woman there into pieces and throwing them into the fire. She grips her cup so tight she fears she will break it. She looks around for help, for anyone to come and rescue her. But no one she knows is around at this hour.
“But like I said, he will treat you well, Gwen,” Sade responds, tapping Gwen’s shoulder.
“Wait a minute,” Gwen puts a stop to their trash and holds up her hand. She’s had enough. And they have just crossed the boundaries. “Do you know to whom you are speaking? I’m his wife. And Arthur is my husband.”
“Of course you, are but do not forget why he married you in the first place,” Sade laughs. She then turns to the others and with her hands over her mouth she says, “Poor lamb, seems she doesn’t know anything yet.”
“And why is that? And what is it that I don’t know? And stop calling me lamb. I am no lamb!” Gwen is getting irritated by these groups.
“There’s no need to be angry, Gwen,” the princess says.
“Just tell why you think he married me!” Gwen cuts the conversation short. She has no more interest in being polite with them, regardless of whether they are princesses or not. She just wants to get done with them and leave the place. She is feeling so sick in her stomach that she thinks she will just spend the following day in bed.
“For your body, Gwen, it’s obvious isn’t it?” Orianthi mentions.
“And how do you know that?” Gwen challenges her. They are getting on her nerves.
“Fine … has he ever said ‘I love you’ in the first place? No, and then he tries to give you gifts, didn’t he?”
“He gave me one, but it was a wedding gift,” Gwen replies brashly. She is not going to let them get in her head and belittle her.
“That’s how it starts. He gives you gift, slow talks with you, tries to pretend to change his habit until you doubt he is the man you’ve known before, and finally, he will take you when you finally give in. And as for us, we didn’t care if he sweet talked us because we needed him desperately. He gave us pleasure none of our husbands could give, and for that, we don’t mind. But in your case, he wants nothing but your body. Fine … here’s the challenge should you feel like accepting it. Try it tonight. It’s supposed to be your first night together. Try not to give in … disappoint him. He will get angry. If he does, I win but if he does not, I’ll shave my locks,” Sade challenges Gwen. “Feel like challenging me?”
“Are you asking me to doubt my own husband?”
“No, I am asking you to judge his reason in marrying you. That is all. He is a womanizer, it’s a fact known to everyone, and I believe you know, too. But from what I see of you, it doesn’t seem like you are one ready to lay down and allow him to take you freely. You look like you have some fight in you, and that’s why it surprises us that he chose you,” Sade says. Gwen keeps quiet.
“Look, Gwen, we care for you and don’t want you hurt. Before anything happens, there is no harm in setting out a little test … just to be on the safe side,” Brianna adds.
Feeling bitter and angry with everything she hears, she accepts it. “I’m listening,” she tells them. “But if you are wrong about my husband …”
“We’ll see… wait for tonight and you’ll see if he wants you or your body,” Sade says, sneering at Gwen.
Arthur finishes his last goblet and wipes his mouth with the back of his hand. His friends applaud as he raises his goblet high in the air.
“Yeah, Arthur … yeah,” they cheer him and some beat on the table to make a loud noise.
“All right,” Arthur shouts in triumph and looks around, smiling at every one in the hall. It is filled with all the knights, his friends, and princes and princesses from the neighboring kingdoms. The king and queen have retired as has Gwen. Balinor and Tristan have left with the king while Hunith, Mithian and Morgana have accompanied Gwen to her chamber, to get her readied. Those who wished to return home have done, so but those who didn’t remained to have more fun. Arthur had been drinking quite a lot for the night and despite Merlin’s warning, he continues to do so. Only when Leon intervened, did he actually stop.
“More, more, more” the crowd encourages.
“No, Arthur … enough. Come, we need you to get ready for the night,” Merlin advises and pulls him down from the table. Leon helps him. The crowd continues to encourage further debauchery.
Arthur staggers to stay on his feet and allows his friends to help him. Bidding goodbye to his friends and guests, he leaves.
“God, Arthur, I didn’t realize you weigh more than you look,” Merlin struggles with the weight.
“And did you have to get drunk on your wedding day as well?” Leon says, shouldering Arthur’s arm on his shoulder as they walk him back to his chamber.
“Isn’t his fault Leon, it was the crowd.”
“He cannot turn away from a challenge can he?” Leon asks.
“He loves to be challenged, in case you’ve forgotten. It strokes his pride … besides; the crowd loves to tease Arthur … just for the fun of it,” Merlin says.
“And look where it lands him! It’s his wedding night, for goodness sake.” Leon shakes his head and both men heave and puff Arthur to his chamber.
It took them almost half and hour to drag Arthur up to his chamber. The servants were waiting for them as they arrived. Leon nods and as the door is held open, Arthur is led inside. Leon and Merlin sit Arthur on the bed and the servants hurry with a bowl of water. Leon allows the servants to remove Arthur’s clothing and dress him in a white tunic. Merlin sighs and walks towards Arthur’s table, going through the scrolls on his table. Nothing is interesting and he turns around, arms neatly folded across his chest. Leon joins him.
“Are you all right, Merlin?”
“Hmm, yes. Why wouldn’t I be?” Merlin asks.
“You don’t seem like it … I’ve been watching you.”
“I am …” Merlin lies.
“Merlin… come on,” Leon urges and wraps his arm around Merlin’s shoulder. “Something is bothering you, I know of that. Is it about Arthur or the wedding? Or is it something else?”
“Well, you know how Arthur made his proposal, don’t you?” Merlin asks. Leon nods. “I am not satisfied with it.”
“Merlin, you know Arthur. That’s just his way … if he wants something; he wants it no matter what. You of all people know how stubborn he is.”
“But it’s …” Merlin sighs and looks away. “It’s just not right.”
“I know it isn’t, Merlin, but now that they are married, let’s hope he changes for good. Something about his bride gives me hope … I just feel she can be the right person for him and his arrogance.”
“I just hope you are right, Leon,” Merlin finishes. “Now … we have to make his sober. There is no way I’m sending him to Gwen looking like this.”
“Agreed. Come on, we don’t have much time,” Leon adds.
“And how do you exactly plan to do this?” Merlin asks.
“By any way possible.” Leon finishes.
Gwen sits patiently in her chamber, thinking back all the words she heard from the women today at the feast. Digging her fingers deep in to the covers, she bites her lip in anger. Her heart is thumping madly, not because of the excitement of meeting Arthur alone for the first time, but because she feels used. She feels cheated and misled. She knows it’s not right to jump into hasty conclusions based on the words of some women she hardly knows, but they seemed to know about Arthur so much and it seems impossible not to believe them. Gwen understands her marriage to Arthur hasn’t pleased every life in Camelot but this isn’t her choice. Arthur chose her, not the other way round! Why are they blaming her when they should be blaming him? There is only way to find out the truth, whether she likes it or not, this is the only way that can help her unlock the truth about Arthur.
But how will she start her conversation with him? What will she ask? Will he listen? Gwen seems lost when the door of the chamber opens and Arthur enters. Gwen straightens up and he closes the door behind him, staggering towards the bed. Gwen notices Arthur’s condition and immediately knows he’s been drinking. She sighs and waits patiently. Perhaps this is going to be a long night after all.
“Hello, Guinevere,” Arthur greets her and reaches the bed, struggling to keep his balance.
“Guinevere … didn’t I tell you …” he wriggles his finger at her, “to call me Arthur. Come on, call me Arthur.”
“Arthur.” She says it plainly.
“There you go, wasn’t so hard was it?” Arthur sways and sits down beside her, almost slipping because of his imbalance, but he manages to cover himself well. Gwen’s heart thumps. She waits, twirling her fingers impatiently. She still is unsure about how she will bring the topic up, but now she is anxious of what Arthur is going to do. If he’d been sober, she could have spoken with him properly, but he is not. And this is harder than she thinks. But no matter what happens, she still wants to get matter off her chest. She wants to test him regardless of what happens.
Arthur reaches up and clips Gwen’s chin. He caresses it and trails his fingers up to her cheek. “So soft,” he says and leans closer. Gwen’s heart thumps. “You smell so sweet, Guinevere,” he says and leans closer, his breath hot on her neck. Gwen closes her eyes. Her skin tingles with his breath hot on it. He closes in on her cheek but doesn’t kiss it. Instead he trails his face alongside her face and blows softly into her ear. Gwen shivers. She clasps her hands together to keep from shivering. Her stomach churns like a crazy wheel. Her breath comes in quickly. Arthur smiles and pulls away. He laughs and takes her hand in his and kisses it instead. He looks up at her. She opens her eyes and looks at him. He winks and she looks away, unable to meet his gaze. There is something disturbingly sexy about his eyes and she fears if she pays too much attention to them, she will forget what she needs to do tonight. It’s easier to just avoid him for the time being.
“Are you afraid on me?” he asks, watching her.
“No, I am not,” she lies still looking away. ‘Of course I am afraid of you. I have been afraid of you from the first day we met!’
she thinks to herself. ‘But I can’t tell you that, can I?’
“So, you don’t mind if I …” he reaches up and places his hand on her shoulder. She turns around and meets him, her face stunned. He leans closer and attempts to capture her mouth but she pulls away quickly.
“Maybe we should talk first, don’t you think so? Get to know each other a bit …” she tells him when she notices the shock on Arthur’s face.
“Yes, find out about one another.” She smiles at him. “I don’t know anything about you …” she tells him and smiles again, nervously. She hates doing this, acting as if everything is under control when it is clearly not.
Arthur straightens up and scratches his chin. “All right, what it is you want to know about me?” he plays with her hand.
Gwen’s stomach churns again. His touch is as magical as his eyes. She braves herself. “Everything?”
“Everything? Don’t you think it’s a little late for that …” he reaches up and caresses her cheek. “We should be talking about something completely different, you know what I mean …” he kisses her fingers one by one. “I really don’t feel like talking tonight … maybe we can do that tomorrow.”
‘This is no good Gwen’
“No, I’d like to talk with you for a bit …” Gwen pulls her hand away from Arthur, much to his surprise. “Please.”
Arthur arches his brow and scoffs. “You surprise me, Guinevere. When I came around to talk with you, I was ignored and chased away but now, when I really don’t feel like talking …” he laughs. “You insist on doing so,” he adds. “That’s what I like about you. You’re unpredictable.”
“I just want to know about you better.” She clasps her hands together again, covering her trembles from being noticed. She is shivering inside and it’s better for Arthur not to find that out.
“There’s plenty of time for that tomorrow, my love. Why don’t I teach you something else?” he moves closer and before Gwen can stop him, he starts to loosen the knot that holds her night dress together. Gwen immediately clasps his hand stopping him. Again she takes him by surprise.
“I don’t feel … like …” she doesn’t know how to put it. She is definitely shaking and her fingers, clasped around his, are shivering.
Despite her brave efforts not to have him notice, Arthur feels her shiver and his eyes soften. “What is it? You are afraid of me, aren’t you?”
Gwen swallows. “Maybe we should wait …” she trails, not knowing how to say it.
“Yes, until I … am ready,” she says and looks directly at him, casting her fear aside and taking the matter as it comes, without being frightened. She isn’t a child, and yes, she is his wife, but he cannot force her to perform something she isn’t ready for. And Arthur must respect her wishes, even if he is known to be a master performer with women. She just isn’t ready for him at the moment and she wants to know if she’s wrong to judge him.
Suddenly Arthur feels sober. Gone is his dizziness he felt a while ago. “My love, this is a lesson that we learn as it comes … there’s no need to wait for it. I can teach you … I have plenty of experience in this.”
“But I don’t and it frightens me!” Gwen pulls away from him and scrambles to the edge of the bed, clutching her dress tightly. What she feared is coming true and her heart weeps knowing her life is ruined forever.
Her actions seem to take him by surprise. “Guinevere, what is wrong?”
“I just need some space and time to adjust to all this … and I can’t do it all in a day or night. I can’t …” she starts to sob and her voice crackles.
“It’s all right, I understand …” Arthur clutches his head. The heavy drinking earlier is taking its toll on him and his head is throbbing. His dizziness returns. But he still doesn’t want to give up on her yet. He has to try to win her … perhaps, a little persuasion. “I will be gentle with you, I promise you.”
“I am sorry, but I can’t,” Gwen says, sliding off the bed and standing up, still clutching her dress. “I need time,” she puts softly, but bluntly.
Arthur’s face darkens with anger but he bites his lip and controls himself. “Fine, I understand … today had been a long day and you probably are tired. We’ll talk about this tomorrow. Good night, Gwen,” he says and stands up. He staggers a bit because of his imbalance but controls himself. He doesn’t even look at her. He starts to walk to the door.
Gwen notices he had called her Gwen instead of Guinevere, which means he is feeling angry with her but she doesn’t care. She is angry too, hurt and feeling rather low with her lot in life. And who will feel the pain for her? She watches him leave and when he slams the door behind him, she sits back on the bed, and hangs her head down, pain slowly creeping up to herself.
They are right, she thinks to herself. Every word they mentioned about Arthur is true indeed. He is interested in her body, like they said, and nothing else. He agreed with her because he knows he can still persuade her tomorrow. Arthur is no loser; he will not give up easily. Tomorrow, he will try another way to get her to bed. Gwen shakes her head and sniffs. Tears roll down her cheeks. Her life is ruined forever. And no one can help her now. Not her father, Merlin, or even Gwaine. She can’t even help herself. Gwen reaches up and buries her face in her hands. Sobbing quietly she thinks about the women who challenged her today. She can hear them laughing in her mind. Arthur married her because he wants to get her to bed, just like he’s been treating every other woman before her. And she had been a fool to think he has changed! He hasn’t. Everything has been a lie, an act to get her married to him! And she wonders if Mithian and Leon are part of Arthur’s plan too? Perhaps Arthur recruited them to act accordingly to convince her? Gwen wipes her tears and sighs, sobbing. She feels lonely in the chamber. When Mithian told her about Arthur, Gwen had allowed herself to fall in love with him. She is willing to accept him in her life and become his wife. She was willing to forgive him, but now! She is wrong and a fool! Gwen closes her eyes and more tears roll down. Her heart is deepening with pain and she doesn’t know how to face him again tomorrow.
Gwen wipes her eyes, and rubs her nose. She stands up and ties the strings of her night dress. “I will not let you rule my life as you wish, Arthur,” she tells herself. “You just lost my respect …” she says and walks to the bed, climbs on it and lies down. She pulls up the covers and covers herself. Sniffing she closes her eyes, forcing sleep to take over her troubled mind.
Arthur slams the door of his chamber as hard as he can and staggers to his bed, pulling down the sheets and picking up the pillows and throwing them away. He then climbs on the bed and lies down. He is angry and his head is killing him. He’s been thinking about what Gwen told him all the way to his chamber and he cannot understand why she’d been so reluctant to commit herself to him. At first he thought it might have something to do with the wedding and her first time alone with him but she’d been shivering and it looked as if she was afraid of him for a reason unknown to him. Why would she be afraid of him? He promised to be gentle with her, and he will take her slowly. He has promised and usually he doesn’t do promises! What is she afraid of? Arthur growls angrily and rolls to his left, pumping his fist on the bed.
“I have changed … for her! What does she want from me? I stopped my habits, stopped bedding women for sport, stopped gambling, and I have even decided to come clean with myself!! Isn’t that enough?” he asks, seething in anger.
“And why did I do that … for her! I haven’t done anything for a woman before, but I am willing to change for Guinevere!! And yet, she is afraid of me!!” he pounds his fist a couple of times and rolls back on his back again. He wonders for a long time, staring without any direction. Suddenly he thinks of something.
“Was she afraid of me because she doesn’t know me?” he asks himself. “And is that why she asked to have a conversation?” Arthur wonders again. It all seems genuinely fitting and he feels foolish now. He lifts himself up and slaps his forehead. It makes sense and refusing to oblige to her request hurts him. She made a simple request to talk with him, and yet he jumped into the matter he loved and she hated him for. What a fool he was!! What must Guinevere be thinking of him right now? That he hasn’t changed and married her for her body rather herself. Arthur regrets refusing her request. If only he’d been sober and wise enough to understand her request, all this could have been avoided. Why on earth did he drink so much tonight? Why didn’t he just oblige her request? Why did he do what he did? Arthur slaps his cheek and sighs loudly, cursing himself for his stupidity. He is afraid of what she will be thinking of him, and worse, tonight’s incident is going to bear consequences tomorrow. She will probably be angry with him and he will have a lot to do to convince her that he has changed for her and that he is willing to listen to her request. If she wants to delay everything, then they by all means will. Arthur doesn’t care if she isn’t ready to commit herself to him. He wants her to understand him and love him like he does her.
Arthur stops. ‘Love?’
did he actually think that word? Is he in love with her? Is it love? Really? Arthur feels his head throbbing. He wants to walk back to Gwen’s chamber and apologise, promising to spend the time tomorrow talking but his head is hurting him and he feels he can use some sleep. Too much happened tonight and he needs to have a clear head for a bright start tomorrow. For that to happen he needs sleep. Arthur drops back and closes his eyes. But when he does, Guinevere’s face pops up, and without him realising, he smiles as he drifts off to sleep.
Gwen yawns and slowly lifts her lids open. The sun is shining through the window and the rays falls across her face, warming her. She stretches and feels the cozy bed beneath her. Suddenly she stiffens. She spreads her hands all over the bed and feels it. Se hasn’t slept in a bed as comfortable as this before in her life. The only bed in her humble home belongs to her father and it’s never been cozy or soft like this. She feels it and pulls up the cover up to her chin and cuddles underneath it. She feels soft, pampered and spoiled. So this is how life is when one is rich? She reopens her eyes, throws the cover away and sits up. She feels refreshed, new and completely like a stranger in her large chamber. She looks around and finds the table is readied with breakfast, her new gown and shoes. Gwen wonders if she is to have breakfast alone or with Arthur? Or is she supposed to have breakfast with the king and queen? She doesn’t know what to do! Slipping off the bed, she slips on her slippers and walks to the table. The food laid on the table looks delicious and some of it she hasn’t tasted, let alone seen, before. Gwen feels tempted to try one of the tartlets when the door opens and in walks Mithian, with a lovely smile on her face.
“Good morning, Gwen. How are you this morning?” she greets and nears Gwen, reaching out and pecking her cheek.
“Good morning, your highness,” Gwen curtsies.
“Gwen …” Mithian trails, her hands on her hips.
“Sorry, Mithian … I’m still learning to adapt,” Gwen says with a smile.
“It’s all right. Take your time,” Mithian says and looks around, as if searching for someone. “Where’s Arthur? Has he left to his own chamber?”
Gwen’s smile fades. “Hmm, we didn’t exactly spend the night together.”
“Oh, I see …”
Gwen’s brow arches. “You’re not surprised?” she was expecting Mithian to be at least stunned.
“No, that’s your choice, Gwen. If you are not prepared, then no one can force you. If Arthur understands that, I am happy to hear that. This is not a matter to be rushed. When you are confident of yourself, then commit yourself,” Mithian advises.
“Thank you, I thought it might anger a lot of people when they hear what happened.”
“Well, I am not sure about Arthur’s parents, but if Arthur’s fine by it, then you need not worry about anyone else,” Mithian says.
Gwen smiles and nods.
“Come, let me help you get ready.”
“Get ready for what?”
“For the newlyweds to ride outside as a couple for the first time. The village needs to see you and I am sure you and Arthur could use some fresh air.”
“Is it necessary?” Gwen asks, trying to avoid being with Arthur again. She hasn’t recovered from the hurt last night and to be with him immediately is not something she is looking forward to. She prefers some time alone, trying to recover.
Mithian looks curiously at her. “Gwen, this is your husband you’re riding out with. Is something wrong? Is there something you are not telling me?”
“Wrong? No, of course not. I am fine with the idea, but I have seen the village, Mithian. I would like to know the castle and the people who live here better. I could use a better introduction than the one I was given last night at the feast.”
Mithian’s face lights up. “You know what, that is a splendid idea. I’ll inform Arthur at once and he can take you around,” Mithian starts to leave.
‘What … not again’
“Mithian, I was thinking you could accompany me rather than Arthur,” Gwen says quickly. Mithian stops in her stride and again the look of curiosity crosses her face.
“But I don’t know anyone here, Gwen, Arthur would know them better,” Mithian tells Gwen. “I still think Arthur should take you around instead of me …”
“I’m sure he wants some time with the men. Besides, I was thinking we can do this as a women thing … just you and me,” Gwen says quickly with a smile.
“Are you sure nothing is wrong with you and Arthur, Gwen? Because if there is … if he …”
“I’m perfectly fine with him, Mithian. But I want to spend the time with you today. Actually I want your advice on being a wife, especially to a prince. You of all are the one I’d like to seek advice from. If you don’t mind, that is.” Gwen manages to cover her act so that the princess doesn’t suspect anything further.
Mithian smiles in relief. “For a moment there, you had me scared, Gwen. Well, I like that idea of yours. I think Leon and Merlin can handle Arthur while I can teach you a lot about being a wife to a prince.” Mithian winks.
“Thank you so much Mithian,” Gwen thanks and sighs in relief.
“Come, hurry now, you go and get yourself readied for your bath and I will send in the servants.”
Gwen stops in her stride. “What? No, I can do it on my own … I am used to bathing alone.”
Mithian laughs. “Of course you are, I don’t doubt that, but you are a princess now, Gwen. You have the privilege even if you don’t want it ...”
“Oh … but … it’s so … different being attended to,” Gwen answers.
Mithian closes in and tilts Gwen chin. “I understand this is new and perhaps hard for you to adapt. But this is the way of life in the castle, as a princess. You have to learn to adapt, Gwen, even if it pains you to see the servants working hard for you,” Mithian advises.
Gwen looks at her and nods.
“I am sure as time passes on, you will be able to adapt …”
“Sure … thank you,” Gwen says and leaves to get herself cleaned while Mithian leaves to inform the servants.
“She what?” Arthur is shocked and he exchange glances with Leon as Mithian informs him about Gwen’s request.
“She wants to explore the castle and learn about everyone who lives here.”
“And she wants you to take her around? And not me?” Arthur asks. Mithian nods. “And don’t you think I should know better because I live here?” he asks again. Mithian shrugs her shoulder. “Am I missing something here?” he throws his hands in the air in frustration.
“It was her request, Arthur, there is nothing I can do. Besides … she wants to ask me some issues about being a prince’s wife.”
“What?” Arthur asks, still in shock.
“Oh, come on … don’t give me that look, will you! It’s not that I’m going to kidnap your wife. She wants to learn the ways of becoming a wife to a prince and I don’t find anything wrong with her request. She’s learning and you have to bear in mind, these surroundings …” Mithian points around, “are all new for her. She’s trying to adapt, Arthur, and you can’t expect her to change her ways and understand everything in a day!”
“Hmmm …” Arthur says with a grumpy look. He is still cross after finding out his plans to take Gwen out for the day have been altered by Guinevere herself. He was hoping to make amends for last night’s issue.
“Look, what she’s doing … is for you. She’s learning and making herself acceptable. And she feels comfortable with me because I’m a woman and I’m a princess and a wife to a knight. With you, she might feel shy or even frightened …”
“I’m not going to eat her!”
“I don’t know … with that look, anyone can get frightened,” Mithian teases. And when Arthur doesn’t smile, she looks at her husband. “Leon?”
“She’s right, Arthur. Gwen’s previous status means she has a lot of learning and adapting to do and I think she is using the best opportunity by asking Mithian. We will be leaving next week and the sooner Mithian can teach Gwen a few things, the better,” Leon advises.
Arthur sighs and sits down. “Well, if it’s my wife’s wish, then … fine.”
“You could say that with a smile, Arthur,” Mithian teases again.
Arthur grins at Mithian.
“Now, isn’t that better?” Mithian says and smiles at her husband. Leon snickers. Arthur still grumbles. “Have a nice day, both of you. See you later,” she says and leaves.
Arthur grumbles on while Leon laughs quietly.
Gwaine feels lazy. He doesn’t have the motivation or the strength to pick himself up from his bed. He had been working out all day yesterday to rid himself of the thoughts that had been plaguing his mind since Gwen announced her marriage to Arthur. He didn’t want to think about the wedding or let it ruin his day so he ended up pushing himself to the maximum. He exercised his skills, did sword fighting and retrained everything he learned from his academy. While his parents attended the wedding, Gwaine kept himself busy and didn’t even stop for lunch. It was almost dawn before he slumped, tired and worn out like a shredded cloth. He limped his way back into his house and stayed shut behind the walls, afraid of listening to anything that had anything to do with the wedding. He didn’t want to know what happened at the wedding, how lovely the ceremony had been, how glorious the feasts were, how beautiful the bride was … nothing. It hurts him to even listen to any of the wedding details let alone attend it. And when the hour was late, when his parents returned, he pretended to be fast asleep so that his mother would not talk to him about Guinevere and the prince. And it worked because the moment his mother knocked on the door of his chamber, he didn’t respond and she walked away, telling his father that he is asleep.
It hurts him to watch Gwen marry another when he had always dreamt himself to be the groom. But he also realizes Gwen never saw him like that, so he cannot blame anyone but himself. He wishes nothing but happiness for both Gwen and Arthur. But if Arthur hurts Gwen or even makes her cry, Gwaine promises himself to make Arthur pay for every tear Gwen sheds. Gwen is his best friend and she means a lot to him. He wants her to be happy because she deserves it. But if Arthur hurts her, prince or not, Gwaine will take him down.
Gwaine sighs, rolls to his side, pushes off the covers and walks towards the window and looks out. The sun is bright and it will be a good day for a walk in the forest, a hunt or perhaps fishing. But Gwaine doesn’t feel like doing any of that. He misses Gwen and wishes he can see her, apologise for his absence and ask after her well-being. But he can’t face her, certainly not after her marriage. She is someone else’s wife now and that thought itself hurts. Yet he yearns to see her. Sighing, he leans closer and ponders if he should or should not try to meet with her.
Katrina waits with Agravaine in the forest when Sade approaches them. She slows her horse, pulls down the cloak and acknowledges the queen. Katrina smiles and nears Sade, bringing her horse closer. Agravaine stays where he is, closely watching both women.
“You’re early, my queen. Pardon if I am late,” Sade apologises.
“No, it’s all right, Sade. I wanted to be early for reason … let’s make this quick,” Katrina says and looks at her brother. Agravaine tosses her a heavy pouch. Katrina catches the pouch and hands it to Sade. “This is real stones, taken out from Uther’s very own vault. Treasures of his ancestors and values … well, you’re a smart woman, you figure out,” Katrina says. Sade juggles the pouch happily. “This is for the help you and your friends offered last night.”
“My lady … we were only doing as you asked.”
“But it meant so much … Just when I thought I’d run out of ideas, you walked in with a brilliant one. I have to say I am very impressed with your work,” Katrina tells her.
“We are happy to serve you anytime, my lady. Gwen was horrified when she listened to us.”
“Did she believe you?” Agravaine asked.
“Yes … and I even challenged her. Poor lamb, she must have tried out the tests on Arthur, much to his horror,” Sade tells him. Agravaine smirks.
“I noticed Arthur walking out from the chamber angrily last night … what ever you told Gwen, it worked. Congratulations, Sade. I think I can count on you to break them both apart?”
“It will be my pleasure your highness, but if I may ask, why marry them off if you tend to break them apart?” Sade asks, curiosity getting the better of her.
“That’s none of your business!” Agravaine snaps.
“Agravaine!” Katrina scolds her brother and smiles apologetically at Sade. “I have my reasons, dear … and soon, if you are kind enough to do my chores and be faithful to me alone; I shall reveal them to you.”
“Thank you, my lady.” Sade seems satisfied with the answer. “I better leave before anyone spots us. I have to share the prize amongst all of us,” Sade says, nods at the queen and her brother and rides off.
“I don’t think you should depend on these women too much, Katrina!” Agravaine warns his sister.
“Why not brother? They seem to be happy working for us?”
“I don’t know … I just don’t feel right.”
“Oh come on, Agravaine. What could go wrong? After all, we know her, don’t we? She’s been in Arthur’s company many times before and she trusts me. I can count on getting the task done through her.”
“Just be careful, is all I will say.” Agravaine turns the horse around.
Katrina laughs. “You worry too much, Agravaine. I trust her and she will be loyal to us, trust me. Come. We need to talk to Elena,” Katrina says and leads the way.