Part 16: link
Lunch took longer than expected, so they ride swifter after they eat, slowing occasionally to let the 말 rest some.
“I must say Guinevere, 당신 did impress me back there,” Arthur says, dropping back to ride beside his wife for a bit.
“Thank you. I tried to be brave, but my 심장 was pounding like a frightened rabbit,” she admits.
“Well, it did not show. I am also impressed that 당신 still wanted lunch after all that… all that carnage,” he chuckles.
“I’ve been very hungry today. It’s strange. Must be the fresh air,” she shrugs.
“Could be. 당신 have been spending rather a lot of time indoors lately,” he says.
“Not entirely my fault, my lord,” she says, raising an eyebrow at him, the implication plain on her face.
He chuckles, then his face grows serious again. “Guinevere,” he starts.
“Back there, um, excellent job with the dagger and all…”
“But 당신 were holding it backwards.”
She looks at him as if he had just stated something ridiculously obvious. “I know.”
“Of course, Arthur.” She reaches over and draws the dagger out and holds it the way she did when she thrust it into Bertrand’s hand, with the hilt 의해 her thumb and the blade sticking out near her pinky, her palm up. “I held it this way because I was stabbing toward
myself, at Bertrand’s hand.” She illustrates, moving her hand just slightly.
He watches, realizing that it was himself that was in error, not her, and he smiles slightly as she switches the 칼, 나이프 in her hand, holding it properly, the blade protruding from between her thumb and forefinger.
“Clearly 당신 missed the fact that when I stabbed that other
brute in the stomach I was holding my dagger properly, Arthur,” she points out.
“Mmm. Apparently so.”
“I’ve spent enough time in kitchens over the years that I know how to handle a knife, my love,” she says with a smirk as she puts her dagger away.
“I shall definitely remember that 다음 time we argue,” he says, and she laughs.
“Yes, Sire, 당신 do need to watch out for her when she’s irked,” Elyan says to them from behind, hoping that his teasing will be taken as such from his sister. Their relationship is still mending, and he is still very careful around her. When she laughs, he breathes.
“You would know,” she shoots back, but suddenly her amused smirk turns into a large yawn, and she quickly brings her hand to her mouth, a bit embarrassed.
“Gwaine, you’ve been quiet this afternoon,” Arthur observes. He is looking back at the knight and doesn’t see Merlin’s head turn back sharply at this observation.
“Hmm? Oh, sorry,” he says vaguely.
“Don’t apologize, please,” Arthur says. “Just wanted to make sure that 당신 aren’t ill 또는 something.”
“Healthy as a horse,” he says, brightening some, but he still seems troubled 의해 something.
“Good,” Arthur says, and with a loving smile at Gwen, he trots 앞으로 to 가입하기 Merlin in the lead.
“Those weren’t Odin’s men,” Merlin says as Arthur rejoins him.
“I know that. How could 당신 tell?” Arthur is curious.
“They were far too grubby, too… undisciplined.”
“Agreed. Odin has been our adversary for many years, but that doesn’t mean the man doesn’t have standards. These were hired thugs in fancy dress.”
fancy,” Merlin says.
“Was that a joke?” Arthur asks, eyebrows lifting.
“Of course not. I’m brooding, remember?” Merlin deadpans.
“Right. So. Is Lord Dungball really so dim to think that we wouldn’t recognize Bertrand? Did he honestly think we’d believe that Odin would send his own knights to ambush us on our way to a meeting to try and make peace with him?”
“Ridiculous. Maybe he didn’t know Bertrand would go along.”
“Or maybe he really is that stupid.”
“That is also a distinct possibility.”
“Morgana is usually smarter than this,” Arthur says, brows furrowing.
“She may be weakened. She should
be dead, given how I last saw her. That she yet lives is curious indeed,” Merlin says. “She probably left the planning to Roderick.”
“Well if 당신 consider the company she’s kept, possible allies are getting 더 많이 and 더 많이 scarce. It seems those she tries to sway end up dead 또는 changing loyalties,” Merlin says.
“Queen Annis, for one,” Arthur says.
“Really?” Merlin had been thinking of Alator. But I can hardly tell Arthur about that.
“I found out that Morgana had visited her during that time, trying to advise her, to help her… do away with me.”
“Queen Annis told 당신 this?” Merlin says. I had always suspected.
“She did. I’m sure Agravaine was Morgana’s pawn in there somewhere also,” he says bitterly.
Merlin nods, “I’m sure of it as well.”
They reach the gates of Caerleon 성 just before dusk. Scouts had greeted them earlier and ridden ahead to alert the queen, and she is standing in the courtyard to greet them.
The party stops and stablehands and pages attend them and their horses. Arthur dismounts quickly to assist Guinevere, lifting her down from her horse and setting her gently on her feet.
“Guinevere, why didn’t 당신 say 당신 were tired?” he asks quietly, noting that she looks exhausted.
“I’m fine, Arthur, I didn’t want to delay us any further,” she smiles and rests her hand in the crook of his arm as he walks toward 퀸 Annis.
Gwen watches the queen, tall and proud, stunning. She must have been a great beauty in her youth,
she thinks, noting that even at her mature age she is still very lovely, hair not yet greyed, face showing only a few signs of age. Calm. Calm. You’re a queen, too. Don’t forget it, Gwen.
“King Arthur, very nice to see 당신 again, and under 더 많이 pleasant circumstances,” Annis smiles warmly, extending her hand to Arthur.
“Your majesty, I am honored and humbled to receive your hospitality,” Arthur says, bowing to 키스 her hand.
He straightens and turns to Guinevere. “Please allow me to present my wife, 퀸 Guinevere of Camelot.”
Gwen curtseys, a feat not easily accomplished in trousers and a riding cloak, but she does so gracefully. “Your majesty, I am greatly pleased to meet you,” she says, smiling.
“The pleasure is mine, my dear, I assure you. I was much pleased when word reached my ears that the young king had taken a bride.” She turns her gaze again to Arthur. “And I must say that marriage does seem to agree with you, my lord,” she says, a small smile on her face.
“Thank you, my lady,” Arthur says. “I hope it’s no inconvenience, but we’ve brought along two of my knights. We’ve had some cause for need of extra security lately, especially in regards to the queen, and I felt it safer to have them accompany us on our journey. May I present Sir Gwaine and Sir Elyan,” he indicates the two knights, who each bow respectfully.
Arthur eyes Gwaine closely, daring him to make a remark. The knight behaves himself; he doesn’t even wink. But Arthur can see the imp lurking within, dying to get out.
“You are welcome in Caerleon, Sir Knights,” she says, “Your loyalty to your king and 퀸 is to be commended.” Her eyes dart briefly to Merlin. I see he still has his fool servant,
she thinks, but says nothing. Though he no longer seems as much a fool,
she realizes, noting the young man’s countenance, serious and focused, as if he is absorbing everything he sees and hears.
“Please, I can see 당신 are tired, my lady, let me show 당신 to your rooms so 당신 may rest before dinner,” she says. Arthur steps 앞으로 and offers Annis his other arm.
“Thank you,” she says, taking it, and Arthur escorts both queens up the steps into the castle.
“Odin will be arriving in the morning,” she says. “He did not wish to stay over.”
“His prerogative,” Arthur says casually.
“I am only pleased he agreed to meet with me at all.”
“Yes, I am hopeful that only good will come from this meeting. Ah, here we are.”
She indicates the door and Gwen enters first, followed 의해 Arthur.
“Perhaps 당신 gentlemen would be comfortable in the knights’ quarters?”
Gwaine and Elyan nod agreeably, and she summons a nearby guard to take them there.
“Guinevere, this is Norah,” Annis says, introducing the young lady standing in the room waiting for them. “She is my personal maidservant, and she will be looking after 당신 during your stay.”
“Oh, thank you, my lady, but that really isn’t necessary. I’m quite accustomed to looking after myself, I couldn’t take your maid from you,” Gwen says.
“Guinevere…” Arthur starts, worried about causing insult.
“No, no, that’s fine, Arthur, she is allowed to have her say. But I must insist.”
“I am well aware of your history, my dear, and I know that 당신 are capable of seeing to your own needs.” She smiles at Gwen and steps 앞으로 to take her hand between her own. “But 당신 are my guest and I like my guests to be well cared-for.”
“Thank you, my lady,” Gwen says, smiling back.
“Please, 당신 may call me Annis.”
Gwen nods. “Annis. My 프렌즈 call me Gwen,” she says.
“I don’t,” Arthur chimes in, rummaging through his bag as Merlin hands Gwen’s dresses to Norah, who hangs them in a wardrobe so they won’t wrinkle.
She looks over her shoulder at him, chuckling and rolling her eyes slightly. Annis pats her hand and releases it with a smile, saying, “Get some rest, Gwen. There is plenty of time yet before dinner.”
“Thank you, Annis,” Gwen says, and the 퀸 leaves them in peace.
“My lady?” Norah asks.
“Is there anything 당신 require?”
“Perhaps a washbasin and some cool water, Norah, thank you,” she says, noting her dusty hands.
“Yes, my lady.”
Norah leaves, and Gwen says, “I like her.”
“Good. She’s… imposing at first, yes, but I’m glad to get this opportunity to get to know her better. She certainly seems fond of you,” he notes.
Gwen sits heavily on the 침대 and pulls her boots off, wiggling her toes. The joints crack and she flops backward on the bed, closing her eyes with a sigh.
“All right, Guinevere?” Arthur asks.
“Merlin, where is my vest? 당신 did pack it, didn’t you…?”
Gwen feels a gentle 키스 on her forehead.
“Guinevere,” she hears Arthur’s voice, her name a caress on his lips. When did it get dark?
She feels a familiar rough warm hand stroke her cheek.
“Guinevere, wake up, Love.” I fell asleep?
She squeezes her eyes together and contracts her body, pulling it into a tighter ball before reluctantly opening her eyes and stretching. It’s not dark in here. My eyes were closed. I
“Why did 당신 let me fall asleep?” she asks sluggishly.
“I didn’t let
당신 do anything,” Arthur chuckles. “You just did it.”
“Just like everything else,” Merlin says wryly, in the background somewhere.
Gwen laughs, sitting up. “Ugh. I’m sure I look a mess. How much time before dinner?” She yawns.
“Enough. Norah brought the water for you, but 당신 were already out. Merlin can fetch her if you’d like.”
“In a bit. I can certainly wash my hands and face 의해 myself,” she says, making a face at him before standing up. She stumbles briefly when she stands, and Arthur catches her.
“Whoa, are 당신 all right?” he asks, alarmed.
“Yes, I just must have stood up a little too quickly, that’s all,” she says, looking at Arthur, noting he has already dressed for dinner.
Gwen washes up, unwinds the plait from her hair, shaking it free (much to Arthur’s delight), and then excuses Merlin to go retrieve Norah while she brushes the dust from her hair and attempts to put it into some semblance of order.
She is standing in front of the wardrobe contemplating the two dresses she’s brought along when Norah knocks. Arthur is reviewing some parchments he’s prepared for tomorrow’s talks, pretending that he’s not interested in what Guinevere is doing and failing miserably at it.
“I think the blue tonight. Save the lavender for tomorrow,” she says, and reaches for the dress.
“Allow me, my lady,” Norah jumps in and retrieves the dress for her. “This is lovely,” she says as Gwen goes behind the screen to change.
“The purple one would be better for tomorrow anyway,” Arthur says over his parchment.
“I thought 당신 were reading,” Gwen calls back, smiling.
“No, you’re not. If 당신 were, 당신 wouldn’t be talking about my dresses.”
“Humph,” he snorts, noisily raising the parchment in front of his face.
Norah hands Gwen the dress and then steps around to 레이스 up the back for her.
Gwen squirms a little, and Norah asks, “Sorry, too tight?”
“It shouldn’t be,” she says. “I did eat rather a lot today, though,” she says, laughing.
“There we are, my lady,” Norah says, and Gwen turns around. “You look beautiful.”
“Thank you, Norah,” Gwen smiles warmly at the girl. Girl. She’s probably the same age as me,
she thinks, stepping over to the 표, 테이블 to retrieve her dagger, sliding the sheath through her 벨트 before placing it around her waist.
“May I ask why 당신 wear a dagger?”
“Of course 당신 may,” she says, walking to the vanity to do something with her hair. She’s brought along her new comb and intends to wear it tonight. “It was a gift, actually, from the captain of the guards of the Knights of Camelot.”
“A gift from a knight?” Norah steps behind Guinevere and gently takes the hairbrush from her and starts working on her hair.
“It is a long story, but suffice it to say that this particular knight was concerned about my safety during a very complicated time a short while ago. He gifted me this dagger that I might have means to protect myself should I ever have a need. I promised him that I would always wear it.” She pulls it from its sheath and holds it across her palm.
“And… have 당신 ever needed to use it, my lady? If I may ask, of course,” she quickly adds, securing the last tendril of Gwen’s hair right where she wants it, and places the comb into her hair, the creamy white standing out proudly against the dark brown of Guinevere’s curls.
“Three times, in fact,” Gwen says, putting the dagger away. Norah gasps.
Gwen stands and faces the maid. “Thank 당신 again, Norah. 퀸 Annis is lucky to have 당신 as a maidservant, if 당신 treat her as well as 당신 treat me,” Gwen says.
Norah blushes. “Thank you, my lady. It is I who is fortunate to have her as my mistress.”
There is a knock at the door. “Sire?” Merlin’s voice.
“Come in, Merlin,” Gwen calls.
“Dinner,” Merlin says, and Arthur jumps up and heads for the door, stopping short when he nears Gwen.
“Guinevere, 당신 look absolutely beautiful,” he says, leaning in to 키스 her cheek softly.
Norah blushes again and exits, and Gwen notices her noticing Merlin as she passes.