Part 4: link
Arthur actually laughs, relieved. Her hoarse voice like musik to his ears. And it would be like her to immediately be concerned about someone other than herself. About me.
He leans meneruskan, ke depan to ciuman her, touching her face, and she recoils. He stops.
“No,” she snaps, and Arthur notices she is trembling slightly.
“Guinevere?” he asks, blinking in confusion.
“Please… don’t,” she says, shrinking from him. Why am I repulsed at his touch? This is Arthur, not
him. Oh, God, why, why does his touch make my blood run cold, make me want to…
Gwen curls on her side, facing away from him, holding her stomach as hot and cold chills race through her and she salivates as if she is about to be sick.
“Guinevere!” Gaius is awake and on his feet now, hurrying over to find Gwen in a ball and Arthur looking like he’s just seen a ghost.
“Gaius, she, she woke, and she spoke to me, and then I touched her and she…”
“She did not want anda to touch her,” Gaius says gently.
“Gwen?” he says, leaning over, gently laying his hand on her shoulder. “Gwen, it’s all right. No one is going to hurt you. You’re back in Camelot, among those that cinta you.”
“I know,” she says, weeping softly into her pillow. “I know. I just…” I just didn’t expect to feel revulsion at Arthur’s touch. I remember loving his hands, his lips, his eyes, how they feel, how they made me feel like I was the most precious jewel in the kingdom.
Now I feel like nothing lebih than a common piece of trash. Ruined, doomed to shrink from the touch of any man.
“Guinevere,” Arthur says, “I… I’m sorry.”
Gaius retreats, letting them talk for a bit.
“I am, too,” she says, still facing away from him.
“Can anda look at me? I promise I will… not touch anda again,” Arthur says, his voice pained.
She slowly turns, wiping her face with her left hand as Merlin comes bounding out.
“Gwen! You’re awake!”
“Hello, Merlin,” she says with a weak smile as he approaches, ready to envelop her in a tight hug.
Arthur shoots his arm out, stopping him. “Careful, Merlin.”
“Sorry, Merlin, he’s right.” She shudders slightly, sitting up and hugging her knees. “I cannot stomach being touched,” she says sadly.
“Oh. Even though we are just friends?”
“I don’t know, but I’m not willing to risk it right now,” she says, looking down at her knees.
“Well, I’m very happy you’re awake. Frida will be happy, too. We bought anda a couple dresses yesterday, since anda haven’t got any others right now.”
“Thank you,” she says.
“Merlin,” Arthur says, looking at his servant.
“Right. Would anda like something to drink, Gwen?”
Merlin leaves and Gwen looks over at Arthur. “What happened to my hand?”
“You don’t remember?”
She shakes her head no. Merlin brings a cup and sets it on the meja selanjutnya to her bunk instead of handing it directly to her.
“Thank you,” she says, reaching for it. She sees the daisies resting there as well, and pauses a menit to stroke a petal.
“Those are from Gwaine and Leon,” Arthur says. “They wanted anda to have something beautiful to look at when anda woke.”
She smiles and lifts the cup, drinking from it.
“Slowly,” Gaius calls to her, and she lowers the cup.
“So?” she lifts her injured hand again.
“You got that punching Helios in the face, I think. Either that atau when anda pounded his dead body with your fists after anda ran him through with my sword.”
“I did what?
“You really don’t remember?”
“I remember hearing your voice, seeing you, and fainting. I remember anda sending the rest of the serving wenches to Caerleon. I remember running around the kastil, castle with Percival and Frida…” she trails off, brows furrowing, thinking.
“I remember seeing anda standing over Helios’ body,” she continues slowly, eyes still closed, concentrating.
“Gwen, don’t struggle too much to remember. You’ve been unconscious for lebih than a day. anda have to take things slowly,” Gaius cautions.
“No, I want to remember. If I killed that… that bastard,
I need to remember.”
Arthur wants to help her, wants to climb onto the bunk behind her and membungkus, bungkus her in his embrace. It would do lebih harm than good right now.
“I… I kicked him… punched him… stomped on his… oh, God, I did that?” her hand flies to her mouth.
“He deserved everything anda did to him and more, Guinevere,” Arthur says quietly.
“Then the sword… and after that…” she trails off, staring into the distance. Finally she looks at Arthur. “I don’t remember anything until just now.”
“Would anda like to hear?” Arthur asks.
“You tossed my sword aside and starting punching his dead body with your fists, sitting on him. I had to pull anda away. anda basically collapsed then, atau would have had I not been holding you,” he says, for wanting to emphasize that he held her, kept her aman, brankas in his arms.
“You drifted in and out, and I carried anda then, away from the fortress, back to our camp. Do anda remember Elyan talking to you?”
“A little. I… I think I remember his voice, but the words aren’t there,” she says, her face clouding some. “Though he is not exactly one of my favorit people at the moment, either.” Either,
notes Arthur. I guess the other one would be me.
“He feels terrible. Disgusted with himself for not standing oleh you.”
“Good. He should.”
Arthur clears his throat and decides to continue on his original course. “You rode with me back here to Camelot hari before yesterday.”
“I held anda in front of me on my horse.”
“People thought anda were dead when they saw you.”
“And anda haven’t moved since Leon placed anda here.”
“I hurt my knee. Well, Helios hurt my knee, and oleh the time we got back here I could barely support my own weight. Leon basically forbade me to carry anda any further.”
“Where is the cane I gave you, Sire?” Gaius asks, raising an eyebrow at him.
“In my room. I forgot it when I came down here.”
“Cane? Are anda all right?” Gwen asks, concerned. I do still care about him, apparently.
“Just badly bruised. I’ll be fine,” he smiles, her concern for him soothing his jantung a tiny bit.
“Arthur, why did anda bring me back?” she asks suddenly.
“Because… because I realized that I acted rashly and foolishly when I banished you. And I realized that I cannot live without you.”
She says nothing, looking down at her knees again, still curled on the bed.
“Why did anda send word warning me of Helios and Morgana’s plan?”
“Because I couldn’t live with myself if I had information such as that and I didn’t try to help you.” Me. Not Camelot, not the kingdom, me,
“And I couldn’t stand the thought of Morgana trying to take over Camelot. Again. If they had succeeded and anda had died, then…” she stops, leaving the words unspoken.
“Guinevere, I am so sorry. For everything.”
“So am I.”
Gaius comes over and gives her a draught. “Drink this, Gwen. It will help your recovery. anda haven’t had any food in almost two days and you’d already lost weight before anda returned. We don’t want anda wasting away.”
Gwen drinks obediently and hands the vial back to Gaius. “Is there anything anda would like? Anything anda need?” the physician asks.
“An apple. And a piece of bread. A big one. Maybe a sausage atau two.”
“Good, good,” Gaius says, bustling for at least the apel, apple and roti for now.
“And I think I should like to bathe.”
“Merlin,” Arthur calls, “Would anda fetch Elga and have her draw up a bath for Guinevere in one of the guest rooms?”
“Of course,” Merlin jawaban and starts out.
“Don’t fuss, a basin and a cloth will be sufficient,” Gwen protests, and Merlin pauses.
Arthur waves him away. “Please. Let me do this for you. I insist.” I’ve never had a real bath in a real bathtub before.
“Very well,” she says, then takes a bite of her apple.
It tastes like heaven.
Gwen has to admit, a bathtub is a wonderful thing. Elga has even put lavender oil in the water and helped her wash her hair before plaiting it to keep out of the way until it can be dried. She soaks and soaks until the water is too cool to be comfortable, then reluctantly leaves the tub, allowing the matronly maid to membungkus, bungkus her in a towel. She feels like a little girl being tended oleh her grandmother.
“So glad anda are back, Gwen,” Elga chats, talking of things that have no matter at all. Gwen does notice the disapproving clucks the woman makes at her prominent ribs and hipbones. I guess I have lost a lot of weight,
she thinks, sighing as she slips a clean shift over her head.
There is a knock at the door. Gwen scurries behind the privacy screen while Elga jawaban the door.
“Yes?” she asks the strange tall blonde woman standing in the doorway, a dress draped over her arm.
“I have a new dress for Gven,” she says, peeking over the elder maid’s head, looking for her friend.
“Frida!” Gwen exclaims, coming out from behind the screen now. She longs to run to her friend, but her legs are still weak, her mind still exhausted, so she allows Frida to do the running.
“Oh, Gven, I am so happy ven Merlin tells me anda are avoken!” Frida says, and Gwen laughs at how her friend’s English gets worse when she’s excited. “I bring anda a new dress,” she holds it up. It is a lovely slate blue gown, simple, with a scoop neck and long sleeves. Elegant but simple, like most of the clothes Gwen favors.
“Thank you, how…”
“Artur sent me wit Merlin to the market to get necessities,” she explained.
“So he bought this…” Gwen says, frowning slightly.
“He shouldn’t have done that.”
“I did not tink I should argue,” Frida says. Gwen nods, understanding.
“Elga, this is Frida. She came back with me.”
“Hello, dear. Are anda going to be a maid in the kastil, castle here, then?” she asks, taking the dress and helping Gwen into it.
“Ya, I tink so. King Artur berkata I could do vat I pleased for vork, he is so grateful dat I take care of you,” Frida tells Gwen.
“Oh? And what have anda chosen?”
“I vill go to the dairy,” she smiles.
“Of course,” Gwen nods, knowing Frida’s affection for goats, wondering how much it is tied to her lost goatherder.
“I am… I am staying at your house, Gven,” Frida says.
“Oh, good. We’ll have to get another tempat tidur in, then.”
“You are not staying here?” Elga asks just before Frida does.
“I wish to return to my own home,” Gwen says. “I… I think I need to return to some semblance of a normal life if I am to get better.”
Elga guides the now-dressed Gwen to a chair so she can see to her hair.
“Elga, anda don’t need…” Gwen starts.
“Yes, I do, love. I am under the king’s orders, I’m afraid. And besides, how are anda going to tend your hair with that splint on your hand?”
Gwen sighs. I don’t have the energy to put up a fight anyway.
“How vas seeing him?” Frida asks quietly, stepping closer and kneeling down selanjutnya to Gwen.
“Frida, it… it was awful, actually,” she says frowning. “Arthur was overjoyed that I was awake. He tried to ciuman me, which I thought would be fine, but as soon as his fingers touched my face, I flinched. I actually flinched away.
Frida touches Gwen’s knee. “I am sorry, Gven. It vill get better.”
“How do anda know?”
She sighs. “I don’t. But I have been vatching Artur. I spoke with him and Gaius and Merlin a lot yesterday. He is a good man. He loves you. I have never seen so much cinta in a man since my Nils.”
A loud clatter sounds from the courtyard, and all three women turn their heads to the window.
“What is going on?” Gwen asks, standing and walking to the window. They look out at the courtyard to see a large gerobak, keranjang trundling in, pulled oleh several horses.
“Ah, Artur berkata someting about sending a party back to Helios’ fortress to collect, um…”
“Spoils?” Gwen provides the word. Frida nods. “Well, I suppose it is his right, seeing as how he did conquer the place.”
“He is sending Percival to lead so dat he can bring back the tings from our room,” Frida says quietly.
“That’s… thoughtful,” Gwen says. “Let’s go out and see. Thank you, Elga, the bath was wonderful,” she adds, squeezing the older maid’s hand.
She takes Frida’s arm for support and the two women head out to the courtyard. Frida is nervous; Percival hasn’t spoken to her since their lengthy talk yesterday, and she doesn’t know how he’ll react to seeing her. She’s not entirely sure how she’ll react to seeing him.
Gwen is unaware of her friend’s discomfort, her hazy memory of the events at the fortress preventing her from recalling the sweet glances between the two.
They descend the steps and stand on the cobbles a short distance away, watching Arthur instructing Percival.
“I want to hear,” Gwen says, pulling Frida’s elbow.
“I…” Frida hesitates, but then Percival looks up and sees them. He smiles the smallest smile Frida has ever seen, but it allows her jantung to start and her feet to move.
“…I really don’t care what anda do with the bodies. Leave them. Dig a hole and toss them all in and burn them. Whatever anda wish,” Arthur says.
“What of the building?”
“I may send a trustworthy lord out to be caretaker and restore it at a later date. Just… cari the kastil, castle and grounds and bring back anything of value, including parchments.”
“And Percival,” he finally says, “do anda think anda can find Guinevere and Frida’s room again?”
“Of course, why?”
“Collect their things and bring them back for them. There’s probably not that much, but I promised Frida I would ask this of you.”
“Yes, Sire,” he repeats, looking over Arthur at the two women again. This time Arthur sees it and turns.
“Guinevere,” he says, smiling a very sad smile. “You look beautiful. Do anda feel better?” he asks, stepping closer. Hesitantly. Half a step.
“Yes. Cleaner. Elga took very good care of me, thank you.” So formal. If she calls me “Sire” atau “My Lord” I swear I will meninju, pukulan something.
“Arthur?” Percival asks quietly. “Can I have a moment?” His eyes drift over to Frida again.
“Please,” Arthur says and Percival approaches Frida. The two of them step a short distance away.
Gwen looks after them, puzzled.
“They… um, Percival and Frida…” Arthur starts, not able to explain what they are because he doesn’t know.
“Ah,” Gwen understands. Knight in shining armor, indeed.
“They had a long conversation yesterday,” Arthur explains. “I don’t know what she told him, but the poor man has been troubled ever since. He doesn’t seem to know what to do.”
“I think I know what she told him. And it would be a heavy load to take in,” she says, looking down. “Especially if he is fond of her.”
“She is a good friend to you.”
“Yes. Thank anda for allowing her to stay. For giving her a job in the castle.”
“Least I could do.” His hands itch to hold her, pull her close, membungkus, bungkus around her small body, but he keeps them glued behind his back. So awkward.
“And thank anda for the dress. anda didn’t need to…”
“I wanted to.”
They hear Percival clear his throat, and Arthur looks over. The large knight looks a little better. Still not completely happy, but less overwhelmed. “We are ready to depart, my lord.”
“Very good. Be back before dark if anda can.”
“I’m sure we can manage it,” he says with a nod. The knight gives Frida one last look, then turns and strides towards his horse.
Gwen feels a tap on her shoulder and she jumps.
“Matthias!” she exclaims, relieved, hugging the boy. Frida smiles and hugs him as well.
Arthur sees this and it puzzles him. He can hug her?
Then he remembers. Gaius touched her shoulder. He is old. Matthias is just a boy, despite the fact that he clearly has a crush on her.
“I’m so glad anda are safe. Are they treating anda well?” she asks, noticing Arthur is still hovering nearby.
Matthias nods. Then he points to his feet, grinning.
“What? Oh, did anda get new boots?” she smiles.
Yes. Then he points at Arthur.
“King Arthur?” Gwen says. Arthur steps forward, curious about what the boy is going to say about him.
Matthias screws up his face, thinking. He points at Arthur again, then he places both hands over his heart. Then he points at Gwen. He loves you.
“I know,” Gwen whispers, and her jantung breaks again. She avoids Arthur’s gaze, looking down.
Matthias shakes his head and touches her left hand. She looks up, and the boy’s face is quite solemn now. Stern, almost, as if Gwen didn’t understand and he is frustrated oleh it.
The boy sighs and tries again. Pointing sharply at the king. Arthur.
The hands on the heart, clasped together tightly now, tapping his jantung a few times. Loves.
Pointing at Gwen now, almost accusatory. You.
Matthias looks hard at her. He points at her again, sadder. You, Gwen. Just you.
“Come,” Arthur calls, smiling when Gwen opens the door and enters.
“You wished to see me?” she asks, closing the door but hovering close to it.
“Yes. I… I was hoping anda might lunch with me.”
“Here?” she asks, her eyes darting around the room. Where is Merlin?
He sighs. “I will do nothing that anda will not allow.”
She drops her eyes, once again feeling the stab of his pain, how it mirrors her own. “It is not any easier for me, anda know,” she says quietly.
“I would think it is probably lebih difficult for you, actually,” he allows.
She looks up, surprised at his understanding words. “Yes, I would like some lunch.”
“Good. May I hold your chair for you?” Is this how it’s going to be? Formalities and questioning every move?
Gwen wonders. What has happened to me?
She nods, and he pulls her chair out for her. She sits, and he gently scoots her in.
They eat quietly, still slightly uncomfortable. Gwen picks at her food lebih than she eats it.
“Please eat, Guinevere. anda need to build your strength back up,” he says quietly, concerned for her.
“I know,” she says, and pokes a piece of capon clumsily with her left hand.
“Guinevere, I would like anda to stay here in the castle,” he finally says.
“No,” she answers.
“I want to go back to my own house. Frida has been staying there, and I wish to return to my home. I… I need to find my way back to myself, Arthur, and I think to do that I need to return to some sort of normal life.”
“Matthias and another stable boy are bringing over another tempat tidur right now, so Frida and I will both have a place to sleep.”
“Guinevere, I wish anda would reconsider. anda do not have to do this.”
“Yes, I rather think that I do,” she says softly, tossing her fork down, frustrated with trying to eat left-handed. She picks up her goblet and drinks. “I want to resume some of my former servant’s duties as well.”
“Normal life,” she repeats. “I need that now. I need to remember who I am. Who I was before… before all this ugliness happened.”
“I need you, Guinevere,” he says simply.
“Arthur,” she looks at him, almost reaching out to take his hand. “Do not take this the wrong way, but I cannot worry about what anda need right now.”
He knows she does not mean her words in an unkind way, but they still feel like a dagger in his heart.
“I cannot be the Guinevere anda need until I figure out who she is again. And if I take rooms in the kastil, castle and live the life of a Lady, I won’t be able to do that. Because that’s not who I am. That’s not the person anda fell in cinta with.”
She reaches for another piece of meat, using her fingers this time, not caring that she is not being proper. Her left hand is aching slightly from overuse anyway.
“I understand. I think. I’m… trying,” he says.
“I know this is difficult for you. But anda need to know that however hard this is for you, it is tenfold harder for me.” She stands then, walking slightly away from the table. She ends up at the window, looking down at the courtyard, wondering idly about what Arthur is going to do with the treasure his men find at Helios’ fortress.
“Guinevere,” he says, standing and following her to the window.
“Arthur, I… I do cinta you. Don’t ever doubt that. But…” she pauses, unsure how to continue. “But I need to cinta myself again. And I cannot do that if I am losing myself in you,” she says suddenly, walking away again.
He stares, watching her walk over to his bed. What is she doing?
he wonders, but he does not follow.
Gwen stands at his bedside, pondering the ring still on its tali kulit, thong around her neck. She reaches back and undoes the tie.
Looking down at his bedside table, she slides open a drawer and sets the ring on a folded white linen handkerchief. No, not a handkerchief,
she realizes. A favor.
My favor. The one I gave him when he was hiding at my house.
He kept it. All this time, he’s had it beside his bed.
Tears falling from her eyes, she walks toward the doors, pausing selanjutnya to a side meja for a moment.
She scoops up the bundle on the table, cradling his jubah and its returned emblem in her arms.
“Guinevere, when…” he asks, a half-formed pertanyaan as he steps forward.
“I don’t know, Arthur. I don’t know.” She exits, not looking at him, closing the door quietly behind her.
Arthur crosses quickly to his tempat tidur and opens the drawer in his bedside table.
He sees her ring there, sitting atop his most precious possession, and sinks to the floor, sitting with his back against the bed.
Gwen has been spending most of her time with Gaius, assisting him. Her injured hand prevents her from doing things like helping in the kitchen, doing laundry, and serving at meals (something for which Arthur is actually thankful), but she is still able to gather herbs and help Gaius mix and deliver medicines. She finds the work rewarding and even soothing, as she has always enjoyed helping others.
Arthur decides he needs to woo Guinevere to win her back. He sends Merlin to her house with bunga every third day, so that she always has fresh flowers. He finds excuses to stop in at Gaius’ rooms. Looking for Merlin, when he knows exactly where Merlin is. Accompanying Sir Bors when he injured himself during training, something he would normally never do. A splinter in his thumb (which Gwen secretly thinks he did intentionally). He even resorts to “I was just passing and I thought I would stop in and say hello.”
One hari Gwen came halaman awal to find a length of beautiful lavender material with a note saying that he saw it in the market that morning and could not pass it by.
“He is trying, anda must give him dat,” Frida says, looking up from where she is stitching a dress of her own, a lovely pale blue that matches her eyes.
“He is trying, but he is not succeeding. Does he really not know that I do not need this kind of attention? That I cannot be bought back with these… things?
” Gwen says sadly, fingering the material. It is lovely, though,
she allows, slightly angry with herself at the thought.
“Perhaps anda should tell him.”
“No. If he can’t figure it out on his own, then…”
“Den vat, Gven?” Frida asks, looking up, her hands stilling.
“Then he doesn’t know me as well as he thinks he does.”
“Gven, anda are smart, but anda are stubborn,” Frida says, stitching again.
“No lebih stubborn than the king,” she jawaban crossly.
“Dis is new ground for anda both, Gven. He doesn’t know vat to do either.” She needs to heal, but she needs to accept his help. She cannot do it alone, and I cannot coddle her atau she will never grow strong.
“He thinks that just because he’s forgiven me and rescued me from the evil Helios that I should just come running back with my arms open. Well, I can’t. anda don’t know how many times he pushed me away in the past, only to pull me back, Frida. I’m tired. I’m tired and I’m broken. Helios broke me, and if Arthur thinks that his gifts will mend me, he is wrong.”
“And dat is vy anda need to tell him. anda need to help him so he can help you.”
Gwen finds herself losing patience with Frida, feeling slightly betrayed, even. She turns to her. “And how are things with Sir Percival?”
Frida looks up. So this is the game we play now?
“Percival is kind and patient. He vas shocked and saddened oleh all dat I told him. And I did tell him everyting,
” she says pointedly. “He still vishes to court me, but I am not ready for dat yet. He says he vill vait until I am.”
Gwen sighs, defeated, her petty sniping at Frida now feeling small. “He is a good man. anda could not to better than Percival,” she says kindly, but sadly.
“Tank you, Gven.”
That night, the nightmares return. Only this time they are not of Arthur and Lancelot, they are of Helios. His hands on her, his lips and tongue, his eyes raking lustily over her as she is literally unable to move, to run. In her dream, she is frozen, splayed on his bed. All she can do is scream, so scream she does.
Frida flies from her tempat tidur at Gwen’s shouts of “no” and “stop” and “Arthur” and “please,” shushing and stroking her hair, trying to still her flailing arms so she doesn’t re-injure her almost-healed hand.
“Gven… Gven,” she calls softly. “It’s all right. anda are halaman awal now.”
There is a soft knock at the door, and a hushed voice. “Gwen? Gwen, are anda all right?” Who is this now?
Frida thinks, creeping to the door. She knows it is not Arthur, having quickly picked up on the fact that he only ever calls her Guinevere.
“Who is it?” she asks the door.
“Elyan. Her brother. Is she all right?” the voice asks urgently.
“Let him in, Frida,” Gwen’s sleepy voice calls. Frida opens the door for Gwen’s brother, who hurries in.
“Gwen… I heard anda screaming… are anda all right?” he asks, crouching beside her bed.
“Yes. Just a bad dream…” she says vaguely, shaking her head to attempt to rid herself of the lingering images. “Wait, what are anda doing here?” she asks.
“I’ve been doing overnight patrol in the lower town,” he says, looking slightly sheepish.
“You hate overnight patrol.”
hate overnight patrol. But I volunteered.”
“So anda could keep an eye on me,” she says knowingly. He nods.
“No, Gwen, listen. I’m sorry. I’m sorry I wasn’t there for you. I chose the wrong side. I chose my artificially-elevated station over blood, and I feel like a worm because of it. I knew anda wouldn’t want to see me, and so I decided that if I could do this one thing for you, make sure anda were aman, brankas while anda slept, I could start to forgive myself.” He is very close to tears now. “And perhaps anda could start to forgive me.”
“That’s why I haven’t seen anda around,” she says quietly. “You’ve been sleeping during the day.”
He nods. “I go to tempat tidur after the morning training is done. And I’m not hanging about just outside your house all night, honest. I am doing proper patrol, just… doing it in your neighborhood,” he says with a half-smile. “And anda were screaming quite loud.”
He looks so pathetic, so like the little boy she had to constantly keep from getting into trouble when they were young, that she cannot stay mad. She knows he feels awful and has probably been beating himself up over this since she left. Any punishment she could heap on would be no worse than the punishments he’s already imposed on himself.
She takes his hands, and pulls him up to sit beside her on the bed. “Thank you, Elyan. I was angry with you, yes. I was angry with everyone. Arthur. Merlin. Lancelot. Gaius. Mostly Arthur. But even lebih than him, I was angry with myself, and I still am.”
“Gwen, Arthur has forgiven you. anda need to forgive yourself, now. And him.”
“I know that. It’s just not that simple any more, Elyan. Helios saw to that.”
The selanjutnya afternoon, Gwen heads halaman awal early, a throbbing headache plaguing her. Gaius gave her a tonic and sent her halaman awal to rest. Her splint has been removed also, the knuckle where her index finger meets her hand now slightly larger, knobbier than it once was.
“I’m afraid you’ll have to live with a lump,” Gaius declares. “Consider it a trophy, Gwen. anda earned this lump saving Camelot – and yourself – from a tyrant.”
She passes the training fields, stopping to watch. As expected, she doesn’t see Elyan. In fact, she doesn’t recognize anyone except Arthur and Leon, both strolling among the ranks, giving instructions. New recruits,
she realizes. Just then Arthur stops and looks up, his sharp eyes recognizing her small form on the horizon. He lifts a hand and waves, once, a tad shyly.
She waves back and heads towards her house and her bed.
When she enters, she sees another gift waiting for her on her table. What now?
she thinks, lifting the item, wrapped in a piece of cloth. It is heavy and hard.
She unwraps it to find a beautiful silver hair comb, wrought to resemble a dragon, yet it is still undeniably feminine and very beautiful.
Gwen drops it on the table. That. Is. It.
Something snaps inside her, and she paces, ignoring her headache. The worst part is now I have to
wait because he’s in training.
Sighing heavily, she wraps the comb back in the cloth, unable to even look at it. She drops onto her tempat tidur finally, frustrated, trying to hold on to her anger, trying to keep it bright and hot until she can loose it on her target.
She does eventually fall into a fitful sleep, Gaius’ tonic taking hold. The sounds from the jalan, street as the townspeople go about their lives drifts into her consciousness from time to time. A young child being scolded oleh his mother. A dog barking. Someone chopping wood.
Gwen wakes at dusk, blinking, slightly confused from her midday sleep. She looks around her house and her eyes eventually land on the comb wrapped in its cloth. Right.
She knocks on Arthur’s door, interrupting his dinner.
She opens the door and he smiles at her. “Ah, Guinevere, I was just thinking about you,” he starts.
Gwen tosses the comb on the table. “What is this?” she asks.
Arthur is confused. “A… a gift?”
“Yes, I know. You’ve been doing little lebih than bestowing me with gifts since I woke.”
“I thought anda would like them,” he says, frowning, still puzzled.
“You thought I would like
gifted me like I was some sort of… kept
“You say anda know me so well, Arthur. Is this really what anda think I want from you? Do anda know how this makes me feel?”
“I was trying…”
“It makes me feel like anda think anda can just buy
my affections back, Arthur!”
“Guinevere, may I speak?” he asks, raising his voice slightly. He stands now, walking around to lean against the table.
“I’m sorry. Yes,” she shrinks back slightly, retreating a little into herself again.
Arthur hates himself immediately. “I’m sorry. I… I was trying to… to woo you, to make anda feel that anda were important to me.”
“I have never been interested in things, Arthur. I thought anda knew that,” she says quietly. “When anda grow up with nothing, anda find value in things like sunshine, a kind word, a cool breeze on your skin. The stars at night. Flowers.” She looks up. “I did like the flowers,” she admits.
“A small victory. I… Guinevere, it was never my intention to offend anda with my tokens.”
“I know. It was never my intention to get myself banished from the kingdom, either,” she says, surprising them both with the bitterness of her words.
“Guinevere, if I could go back in time and change my decision, I would. Please. I cannot do this, this…” he gestures grandly around, indicating everything,
“ruling of a kingdom without you.”
“You may have to, Arthur,” she says coldly.
“Please don’t say that. I… anda have no idea how sorry I am. For everything that’s happened.”
“Now anda know how I felt the hari anda banished me.”
He sighs heavily. I deserved that.
“I was wrong to banish you. I acted rashly. I thought… I thought that I wouldn’t be able to trust anda again, despite the fact that I still loved anda with my entire being.”
She looks up at him, her face sad but expectant. So he goes on.
“I thought if anda were gone, I could erase anda from me. That I could just go on without you, but anda had already been the keeper of my jantung for so long that when anda left, anda took it with you.”
“I also know now that I was wrong to think that I couldn’t trust you,” he adds.
Gwen says nothing for a long moment, looking down at her hands, at the small knob left from her fracture.
“So that’s it then? anda decided that anda can trust me after all, so I’m just supposed to come running back to you?”
“Is that all I am to you? Someone anda can toy with, order about like one of your precious knights?”
“Guinevere, I…” he steps forward, thrown off-course once again.
“Don’t anda dare say anda cinta me, Arthur Pendragon. I waited for you. anda kissed me that morning in my house and my jantung took flight. Then anda told me we could never be because of your father,
” she spits this last word.
“Our cinta broke an enchantment, but I still kept those other parting words close to my heart, even when anda confessed your love.” Her voice is rising now.
“Still, I waited. I had offers, believe me. I could have run off with Gwaine, even! But I stayed true to you, in the foolish
hope that just maybe…
” her voice breaks now.
“What’s going on?” Merlin asks Gwaine, lurking in the corridor.
“Gwen is yelling at Arthur,” Gwaine says.
“And you’re eavesdropping?” Merlin asks.
“Of course not. I’m patrolling.”
Merlin gives him a sideways look and heads towards Arthur’s chambers, hoping he can maybe help prevent a catastrophe. He slips into the room as Gwen turns on Arthur again.
“I took care of your father
for you, for you!
despite my own feelings for him! And then even after anda called me ‘inappropriate’ I took anda back because I knew those really weren’t your words! anda have abused my jantung enough, Arthur! It cannot take any more!”
“I…” he starts, but she cuts him off.
“All these things I did out of my cinta for you, all this time I stood oleh and supported you! And then I make one mistake, a mistake that puzzles me to this day, a mistake for which I cannot even fathom a reason; one
mistake and anda turn your back on me and cast me out! Is that fair? Is that just? Is that how a good king treats his subjects, let alone his fiancée?” Tears are streaming from her eyes now.
“Why could anda not believe in me? anda claim to know me… I didn’t know myself at the time… but still… why did anda never once even try to make the effort?”
“Guinevere, I… I don’t know what to say other than I am sorry.”
“Sorry? Sorry for sending me out into the world alone and unprotected? Sorry for letting me fall into Helios’ clutches? Sorry for letting that bastard rape
He says nothing.
“None of that would have happened if anda hadn’t banished me!”
“I wouldn’t have banished anda if anda hadn’t been ciuman Lancelot
on the night before our wedding!
” He finally snaps, and regrets it immediately, pressing his lips together, pain in his eyes. Merlin steps forward.
“You should have just executed me,” Gwen says quietly.
Arthur looks like he has been struck physically oleh her words. He reels, and Merlin finally speaks.
“You don’t mean that, Gwen,” he says gently, trying to be the reasonable one.
She wheels on Merlin now. “Oh, yes, because anda know me so
well, don’t you, Merlin? You, one of the two people I thought would stand oleh me, and neither one of anda did!
“Gwen, I tried…”
Is that what anda were doing when anda stood there watching me push that heavy gerobak, keranjang away from my home, the only halaman awal I have ever known?”
Merlin says nothing, his face sad as his jantung falls.
She turns back to Arthur. “I do cinta you, Arthur,” she says, her voice calming some, but still shaking. “I cinta anda so much it hurts. But then, there are times, moments where I hate
you. And the hate crawls inside the cinta and it hurts even more. And until I can figure out what to do with those feelings, I cannot be with you.”
“Guinevere, please… I cinta you. I need you,” he says, desperate now. “I cinta anda so much,” he whispers hoarsely, tears welling in his eyes.
Gwen closes her eyes, and tears stream down her cheeks. “If this is the treatment anda give someone anda claim to love, then I am very glad that I am not your enemy,” she says, striding to the door.
“Merlin, what is wrong with you? anda never hesitate to stand up to me when I yell at you, but Guinevere tears into anda and anda stand there and just take it?” Arthur asks, taking his anguish out on Merlin yet again.
“Yes, Arthur, that’s correct,” Merlin jawaban calmly, wiping an errant tear from his cheek.
His answer pulls Arthur up short. He stares after his servant as he strides over, carelessly tossing Arthur’s makan malam dishes on the tray, and stomps from the room.
“Merlin, what on earth is wrong with you?” Gaius asks when he sees Merlin’s face. He is hurt. Upset. Chastised.
“Gwen yelled at Arthur and me. Mostly Arthur. A lot.” He plops down in a chair.
Gaius shrugs. “Only a matter of time, really,” he says casually.
“Gee, thank anda for your support,” Merlin snaps.
Gaius turns back to the wizard. “So anda think her anger is not justified?”
“No. It is completely justified, actually. Which is why I feel terrible. Everything she berkata was absolutely right.”
“Gwen has to get angry, Merlin. She needs to loose her rage atau she will lose her mind holding it in. Even with you.”
“I’ve never seen her that mad before. She really laid into Arthur.”
“What did he do?”
“He is beside himself, actually. He only yelled once, and I think he regretted it instantly.”
“I know I should be there for him, but… if I’m there for him, who is going to be there for me?”
“He would be.”
“No, he wouldn’t. He can’t. Nor should he. His hurt is much deeper than mine; if he is consoling me then he isn’t working out his own troubles.”
“I guess you’ll have to settle for me, then,” Gaius says, patting Merlin on his shoulder.
“Thanks, Gaius. I’m… I’m okay, actually. I would like to talk to Gwen, though.”
“Give her some time to calm down,” Gaius advises.
“I’m not stupid,” he chuckles, picking a anggur from a bunch sitting on the table. Gaius putters about while Merlin idly peels the skin from his grape, playing with it, not really interested in eating it.
“I sometimes wish I could just cast a spell and erase both their hurts,” he says suddenly.
“I thought anda berkata anda weren’t stupid,” Gaius squints at him, raising an eyebrow.
“You cannot take away something this big, Merlin. Something that affects both of them this much. They must be allowed to work it out themselves, to learn to deal with this mess, the hurts, the pain. They need it to grow both as individuals and as a couple.”
Merlin drops his head. “I know. It’s just so hard for me to see them like this.” He holds the peeled anggur between his thumb and forefinger and squeezes it. The flesh yields and splits in several places, jus running down his hand now. He squeezes until he feels the hard seed against his flesh, then he drops it on the table.
“Merlin…” Gaius chides.
“Sorry.” He stares at the mess, his eyes flash and the anggur is fully restored. “No sense in wasting perfectly good food,” he says, popping it in his mouth finally.
“Going to look for Gwen,” he says, heading for the door.
He finds her on the steps outside, where he and Arthur have sat many times.
“Gwen?” he says gently.
“I’m sorry, Merlin. I did not mean to explode at anda like that,” she says, not turning around.
“No, anda were right. I should have stood oleh you. At least helped anda push your gerobak, keranjang awhile,” he tries a very small joke, nudging her with his elbow.
She smiles very slightly. “I’m so confused all the time, Merlin. I don’t know how to act around him, even around you.”
“Why? I mean I know why him, but why me?”
“Because I was still angry at you, deep down. Besides, you’re his servant, Merlin. anda may be my closest and dearest friend, but anda are also his closest and dearest friend. Even though he’ll never admit it.”
“I know. But…”
“And I have other friends, Merlin. Well, at the moment, I have Frida. I have someone to confide in, someone to talk with. He doesn’t. Only you. And anda need to be there for him, Merlin, because I can’t be yet.”
“Right now I think I need to be here for you. Frida is lovely and intelligent, but she doesn’t know the history. Not really. She didn’t live it with anda like I did.”
“I’m sorry, Gwen. It sounds so… inadequate to say it, but I am sorry.”
“I had to…”
“I know, Merlin. It’s all right.”
“I want anda to know, though, that I did try to convince Arthur to reconsider banishing you.”
“He is pigheaded, though.”
“Especially when he’s hurt. Gwen, he was a mess without you.”
She says nothing, looking down at her hands again.
“Everyone tiptoed around him. He was brutal on the knights in their training. He threw things at me. He… he rarely slept, and if he did, it was usually at his meja tulis, meja atau hunched over his table.”
“He wouldn’t sleep in his bed.”
“Because I was supposed to be in it with him,” she says quietly.
“I think so.”
“He tried to forget you, to put anda out of his mind, but he couldn’t. Of course, I was no help there.”
“What do anda mean?”
“I would let reminders of anda slip from time to time. He forbade me to say your name, but I got him to utter it once atau twice,” he says, smirking slightly.
“Merlin, that’s mean,” she says, but she finds her own lips twisting into a devilish smile.
“Even when the princess… oh.” He stops himself.
Gwen turns. “What princess?” she asks, her face deadly serious. Bloody hell, you’ve done it now, Merlin.
“Um, Arthur was going to cement an alliance with Nemeth…”
Merlin nods, unable to look at her. She sounds calm, but I’m not risking anything.
“And this princess. She came here?” her voice is calm, measured.
“And he couldn’t go through with it. Because of you.”
She reaches over and turns his face to look at her. “Merlin, anda are being deliberately obtuse.”
“Yes, because I didn’t intend to tell anda any of this.”
He studies her face. Her eyes are pained, not angry. Her face is expectant, as if she needs to hear about Arthur rejecting another woman, a princess, for her.
Merlin swallows hard and continues. “I was against it as soon as he made the announcement, before she even arrived,” he begins, intending to cement himself as Good Guy immediately. “It was very sudden; we were all shocked. I called him out on it. He yelled at me and I stood my ground. I reminded him that he still loved anda and he threatened to banish me along with you.”
“Sounds like him.”
“She was lovely and kind, but she was not right for him. She liked him. And she saw right through me. She knew I was against it, asked me to give her a chance.”
“Not really, though I assured her I would.”
“Um… he kissed her.”
“Oh.” She drops her head.
“He only did it because he felt it was expected of him. And then he knew immediately that he couldn’t marry her.”
“Because she wasn’t you, obviously.”
“She took it well, considering. He was honest with her, and she respected that. She wants to meet you.”
“I don’t think I am ready for that. I don’t know if I’ll ever be ready for that.”
“He gave her the disputed lands of Gedref as an apology. He did not want to cause offense, so he offered her everything he could except himself. Because that belongs to you, Gwen.”
“He gave up Gedref?” she asks, looking at Merlin with wonder.
He nods. “Quite willingly. And he berkata the most beautiful thing about anda as well.”
“What was it?”
“She asked all about you, and he told her anda were a blacksmith’s daughter, that anda were a commoner. The princess was amazed that Arthur was willing to risk so much, his kingdom, his kingship for you.”
Gwen waits, fresh tears of a different kind surfacing now. “He told her that without you, the kingdom is worth nothing to him.”
Arthur keeps to himself much the selanjutnya day, staying in his room, leaving Leon in charge of training, canceling the Council meeting.
“Just leave me, Merlin,” he says glumly, perched on the end of his tempat tidur with his feet on the chest at the end, idly playing with her ring, turning it about in his fingers, threading the leather tali kulit, thong between them.
“I saw anda talking to her last night. On the steps.”
“Yes. I went and apologized to her.”
“What did she say?”
“She accepted my apology and told me that I need to be here for you.”
He sighs. Ever selfless Guinevere.
“Sounds like her.”
“If anda need to talk…”
“I don’t even know what I would say. Where to begin.”
“Well, I am here if anda need me, Arthur.”
“I know, Merlin. Thank you.”
“Do anda need anything?”
“No. Just… keep anyone away that isn’t Guinevere,” he says sadly, swinging the ring on its cord between his knees now.
“Of course. And I assume I can come back in if I need to,” Merlin says, smirking.
Arthur gives him an exasperated stare, but Merlin simply continues grinning and turns towards the door.
Alone, he flops back on the tempat tidur and stares at the canopy. What are anda going to do, Arthur? She doesn’t want your gifts. She shies away from your touch.
If only there were some way I could tampil her what she means to me, how important she is to me. And to the kingdom.
I need her oleh my side. I cannot do this without her. I am not myself without her.
He holds the ring up in front of his face, stroking it, feeling the etched surface with his thumbs. What do I do? Do I leave her be and hope that she comes around on her own? She says she still loves me, and I believe her. I can’t expect that just because I want her to be better she will be.
He sighs. Patience is not something I have been blessed abundantly with. But I have to find some. For her.
He runs the leather cord between his fingers, then he impulsively holds the leather to his nose. It smells like her.
After all that time around her neck, the leather cord has absorbed her lavender scent.
Arthur closes his eyes now, trying to remember how she looked when she gave him that sweet smile that she only wore for him, the sound of her laughter. Happy memories that seem to be fading. His jantung lurches in his chest.
Cursing aloud, he rolls to the side and off the bed, pacing a little. He goes to the window and opens it, looking down into the courtyard.
Gwen is walking purposely through the courtyard, a basket looped around her arm, her petite legs carrying her swiftly and gracefully.
Arthur turns and heads for his door.
Moments later, he peeks into Gaius’ rooms. Gaius is there alone, having just sent Gwen out to deliver medicine, Merlin off doing only the gods know what.
“Gaius?” he asks, stepping in.
“Sire, what can I do for you? Knee giving anda any trouble?”
“No,” he says.
“Guinevere just left, I’m afraid,” he says.
“I know. I… I wanted to talk to you, actually.”
“Of course. What’s on your mind, Arthur?” He comes over and sits across from the king.
“I need your advice. I’m… I’m stuck.”
“You don’t know what to do about Gwen.”
Arthur nods. He is toying with her ring again, and he only realizes he’s brought it with him when he sees Gaius look down at it.
“Is that her betrothal ring?”
“I hope she didn’t give it back permanently.”
“Arthur,” Gaius says, furrowing his rather impressive eyebrows, “what have anda been doing? How have anda been trying to help her?”
“Flowers. Gifts. I’ve been patient; lebih patient than I thought I could be. She had lunch with me, alone, and that ended badly.” He looks at the ring again. “I’ve been trying to woo her back, but she still shrinks away.”
“Arthur, she already knows anda cinta her. She knows what your intentions are,” Gaius says, his voice calm and wise. “She doesn’t need anda to woo her. Gwen has been through quite an ordeal, and mental hurts are often the deepest and the most hidden. What she needs is for anda to understand
her. She needs to know that she can trust you; that anda aren’t going to hurt her again.”
“Understand her…” Arthur repeats softly.
“Try to understand what she’s been through. Try to see it through her eyes. Let her know that she isn’t worthless, because that’s likely how she feels.”
Arthur ponders his words, wondering how on earth he’s going to accomplish this. After last night, I don’t know how long it will be before I even see her again to speak with her.
“Arthur?” Gaius asks, angling his head to look at him.
“Thank you, Gaius,” Arthur says, smiling weakly before standing and walking slowly out, deep in thought.
Part 6: link