Part 12: link
“Long live the king! Long live the king! Long live the king!”
The voices ring out through the सिंहासन room, cheering their freshly-minted young sovereign, looking absolutely resplendent in his dress armor and best cape, Excalibur at his hip, crown on his noble brow. He looks petrified,
Gwen thinks. She knows that she and Merlin are the only ones who see the overwhelmed boy behind the charismatic leader, the fear just the tiniest glint in his eyes. The others will undoubtedly mistake it for grief over his father. That is there, too, but being crowned king so young daunts him. Worried about the sweeping changes he is about to make.
Arthur holds up his hands, calling for silence again. He nods at Gwen, who is standing in the front, अगला to Elyan. She steps out and walks आगे the short distance, her दिल thumping in her chest. Now I know why he looked petrified. This is completely terrifying,
she thinks, reaching the cushion on the step and kneeling gracefully. She lifts her head and peeks up at Arthur, to find him gazing lovingly down at her, all the fear erased from his face. He really needs you.
Merlin’s words drift back into her consciousness, and she realizes that Arthur draws his strength from her presence. He’s कहा it both directly and indirectly, but I never fully realized it until this moment.
“By the sacred laws vested in me, I name you, Guinevere, क्वीन of Camelot,” Arthur declares, his smooth, confident voice reverberating through the hall.
Gwen feels the weight of the crown as Arthur places it on her head, feels the cool metal where it rests on her forehead, and her first thought as क्वीन is This thing is uncomfortable. I hope I won’t have to wear it often.
Arthur extends his hands to her in much the same way he did that morning outside the crypt, and she takes them, standing and facing him. He’s not going to किस me, is he? He looks like he’s going to. That’s the look he gets on his face when… okay, then, if that’s how we’re doing this.
Arthur’s lips touch hers, softly, seemingly chaste. Gwen can feel him battling with himself to not pull her flush against him and deepen the kiss. When she feels his sneaky clever tongue slip आगे and flick lightly at her upper lip, she gently pulls away before he loses that battle.
She smiles at him, a smile that melts his दिल and heats his blood and he releases one hand, turning her to face her subjects for the first time. Subjects,
Gwen thinks. These are my friends.
“Long live the Queen!” Arthur declares, and the room echoes him.
“Long live the Queen!” The pride in Elyan’s face almost makes her cry.
“Long live the Queen!” Merlin is beaming. So is Leon.
“Long live the Queen!” Gaius looks like a proud grandfather.
“Long live the Queen!” Gwaine catches her looking and he winks at her. She almost falls to giggling.
The cheering subsides with Arthur’s raised hands again, and he declares, “The coronation feast will commence at sundown.”
Arthur takes Gwen’s hand in his, and the couple walks up the center aisle, nodding and smiling at their subjects, who bow and curtsey as they pass.
Guinevere cannot help but notice that there are a few faces bearing what appear to be less-than-approving looks, aimed squarely in her direction. She pretends not to notice them, holding her head high and her face serene, bearing befitting a queen.
They exit the सिंहासन room and stop in the corridor. Alone. Arthur looks down at her and smiles, leaning down to किस her once more.
She yawns in the middle of it, and they both start laughing.
“You got a nap,” she reminds him, “I didn’t.” They start walking to their chambers, where Gwen is hoping to catch maybe a small rest before the banquet. “I was busy being fitted, re-fitted, poked and prodded द्वारा the midwife, fitted again, and then thoroughly primped and polished for this coronation.”
“Well, आप look beautiful, so it was worth it, at least for me. And I did not rest as well as आप may have thought, Love,” he says.
“Arthur, आप were snoring.”
“I do not snore!”
“You’re still arguing this? We’ve been married long enough now, so आप can trust my word on this: आप snore.”
“Ailith thought it was very sweet,” Gwen chuckles.
“Who is Ailith?”
“The midwife. Now officially the Royal Midwife. She just found it charming that the king snores.”
“Well, king’s aren’t supposed to do something so common as snoring, आप know. So she actually was impressed, in a strange way.”
“What, because it means I’m human?”
“Essentially, yes. Makes आप relatable.”
“Oh,” he says, sounding pleased now.
They walk in silence a for a bit now, and Arthur starts feeling tension radiating from his wife.
“What’s troubling you, my queen?” he asks softly, reaching over to place his fingers over the small hand tucked into his elbow.
She smiles a little at being addressed as such द्वारा him, and looks down. “Just… some uneasiness, I guess. Nothing आप need to worry about.”
“Guinevere, tell me,” he says, stopping on the stairs and stepping down one step to bring her face level with his. “Why are आप uneasy?”
“I’m… nervous about the feast tonight. There were a few disapproving looks from some of the courtiers as we were walking out of the सिंहासन room,” she admits, looking to the side. The late afternoon sun shining through the stained-glass windows casts her face in a soft rosy glow.
“Ignorance, jealousy and pride,” he sighs, reaching up to caress her cheek. “Three things we have to learn how to deal with, sadly. But don’t worry. आप brought my father around, you’ll win over the Lords as well.”
“It’s not the Lords I’m worried about,” she says, frowning. “It’s the Ladies. They
were the ones giving me the stink-eye as I walked out with you.”
“Stink-eye?” Arthur repeats, slightly amused. “I don’t believe I’ve ever heard that phrase before.”
“Something my mother used to say. Usually referring to judgmental old nobility with nothing better to do than sit around looking down their noses at everyone else. Almost always female.”
“Seems appropriate. So the Ladies of the court are your trouble?” he asks, seeming genuinely perplexed द्वारा this.
“Arthur, do आप really know so little about women?” she asks, but she knows the answer. Too much time on the training field combined with no mother. Of course he knows nothing about women.
“The Lords may be the ones outwardly making the laws and moving the pieces around the game board, but whom do आप think it is telling
them what to do and how to vote?”
He looks fascinated now, so she continues, placing her hands on his shoulders, occasionally brushing her thumbs on his neck.
“Well, at least the married ones,” she shrugs. “Did आप not ever notice that the unmarried Lords seem much और decisive, और ready to jump into the fray than their married counterparts? That the husbands always delay decision making till the अगला meeting?”
“Now that आप mention it…”
“It’s so they can go घर and discuss with their wives what to do. Or, in some cases, tell their wives what’s going on and then have them tell them what to do. Sometimes it is an even-handed discussion…”
“Which is what I hope आप and I have,” he interjects.
“Yes. But sometimes it is the Lady of the house who is truly making the decisions. Especially if the Lord is old and his wife is young.”
“How do आप know all this?”
“Remember what I कहा to your father about keeping my eyes and ears open and my mouth closed?”
“Well, mouth’s open now,” she says, leaning आगे to किस him once before turning and continuing up the stairs.
“Hey! Your mouth wasn’t open just then,” he teases, following after her, taking every other step to catch up.
“Not what I meant and आप know it, my king,” she answers, taking his arm again. “Look. I’m just nervous about the Ladies of the court spurning my friendship, या worse, spreading rumors.”
“You’re nervous about rumors?”
“They can do the most damage, true या not.”
“Well, आप do have one point in your favor as क्वीन already, Guinevere,” he says.
“You’re carrying my heir already. So that’s one thing they can’t gossip about.”
“Well, they could
gossip about whether the child was conceived in wedlock या not, since we married elsewhere, and no one knew about it apart from Merlin. And since I conceived almost immediately after we were married…”
“Guinevere,” he says, opening the doors to their chambers and ushering her inside, “you are beginning to sound ridiculous. The midwife will be able to कन्फर्म everything, and we have parchments to prove when we were married. Now lie down and rest.”
He guides her to the बिस्तर and gently pushes her shoulders so she sits. Then he takes the crown from her head and bends to remove her shoes. She obediently lies down on चोटी, शीर्ष of the covers.
“Will आप rest with me?” she asks, her eyes closed already.
“I have some things to look over, sorry,” he says, चुंबन her forehead. “I’ll just be right over here, though,” he says, pointing to his desk.
“Okay,” she mumbles, drifting already.
“I see what आप mean द्वारा ‘stink-eye,’” Arthur whispers into Gwen’s ear at the feast. Only ten मिनटों in, खाना not even on plates yet, and he’s already seeing signs of discontent among some of the Ladies of the court. Most interesting is that it is chiefly among the younger ones. Jealous, ladies?
he thinks smugly.
“The worst part is I’m not sure what I can do about it,” Gwen whispers back, smiling as if they are carrying on a pleasant conversation.
“Just be yourself, Love. It’s been working for आप so far,” he says, but then movement at the entrance to the hall catches his eye and he turns his head, looking curiously, wondering who the late arrival is along with nearly everyone else.
A tall, beautiful older woman strides in, the air of nobility thick around her. She might even be mistaken for a क्वीन herself, actually. Her auburn curls are secured and veiled, and she looks resplendent in a dress of soft pine green.
Amidst surprised murmurings, Gwen leans over and prods Leon in the shoulder. “Sir Leon,” she says softly, and he turns. She nods towards the door, and Leon nearly leaps to his feet, striding over on his long legs.
“Lady Amelia,” Arthur mutters, a shocked whisper.
Fully aware he is being watched now, Leon approaches the woman and she smiles warmly, extending both hands to him.
“Mother,” Leon says, smiling broadly now, taking her hands and चुंबन them both before leaning down to receive her किस on his cheek.
Leon’s parents, Lady Amelia and Lord Spencer, have been two of the most respected nobles in Camelot for as long as Arthur can remember. Since Spencer’s death several years पूर्व from illness, Lady Amelia has become somewhat reclusive, appearing publicly only on very special occasions. She is still highly respected, however, a commanding presence without ever having to ask. She is widely known for giving away large portions of her wealth to help the poor and often hiring people who are lame या otherwise disabled as servants and giving them very simple tasks in her household, just so they can earn some coin to bring घर to their families.
“I’m so glad आप came out, Mother,” Leon says as he escorts his mother to a सीट that seems to have magically appeared beside his, nearest the head table.
Instead of taking her seat, however, Lady Amelia walks to the head table, moving around behind it to where the king and क्वीन are seated. They see her approach and rise immediately to greet her. Lady Amelia stands in front of Gwen, and, pausing just long enough to ensure that everyone is watching, she curtseys deeply and says, “My queen, it is an honor to dine with आप at your coronation feast.” She says this loud enough for all to only just
Arthur bites back his grin, but looks at Leon, silently asking Did आप have something to do with this?
Leon looks just as surprised as everyone else, and he smiles and shakes his head no
very slightly, his eyes twinkling.
Gwen returns her curtsey and says, “It is I who is honored, Lady Amelia. The king and I thank आप for coming out from your घर on this chill autumn night to attend our celebration.” Then she holds out her hands to the Lady, who takes them and clasps them warmly in her own.
“Sire, allow me to offer my congratulations, both on your coronation and on your marriage,” Lady Amelia steps आगे and curtseys to Arthur now, and Arthur holds out his hand. She places hers in it and he kisses it respectfully.
“Thank you, Lady Amelia, for coming. I am certain Sir Leon is only too thrilled to have आप here as well,” Arthur says, smiling his thanks at her.
Amelia nods, and then as she passes Gwen on her way back to her seat, she whispers, “I always knew आप were special. Make me proud, dear.”
As Gwen and Arthur sit, they notice all eyes follow Lady Amelia as she takes her seat. The Lady is aware of this as well, and sweeps her gaze across the room, a split-second glance that is a silent challenge. I dare you.
The खाना is served, venison that has just been caught that morning. For a hastily-prepared feast, the खाना is excellent and the servants are prompt and congenial, only too happy to have their proper rulers in place.
“I think Lady Amelia just solved your problem for you,” Arthur speaks quietly in Gwen’s ear, even चुंबन it while he was there.
“Maybe,” she allows. “She at least lessened it for a while, anyway,” Gwen smiles, looking down at Leon and his mother. “Look how Leon dotes on his mother,” she says. “It’s very sweet.”
“She’s no doubt reminding him of the fact that he has not yet married,” Arthur remarks dryly, chuckling into his goblet.
Gwen looks again. He’s right,
she realizes, chuckling now herself. Elyan is sitting with them, and he looks as pleased as Leon to see “Lady Milla,” as he used to call her. He catches her looking at him and he beams at her. She waves at him and blows him a kiss.
“Sir Leon, when आप told me that every क्वीन needed a champion, I didn’t realize that आप were speaking of your mother,” Gwen teases him when he comes to the head तालिका, टेबल to pay his respects. Lady Amelia had taken her leave already, after spending several long moments allowing Gwaine to flirt shamelessly with her while Leon glowered at him.
Arthur had wandered away, currently across the hall speaking to one of the Council members. He doesn’t look very interested in what the Lord has to say, but he is being polite.
“She told me that she knows how petty the nobility can be, and feared they would make things difficult for you,” Leon explains. “So she wanted to do what she could to help ease your transition from servant to queen, and felt that दिखा रहा है her loyalty to आप would set an example to the others. Particularly the younger nobility.”
“Please thank her for me. आप still attend रात का खाना with her twice a week, yes?”
“Of course,” he nods.
“I shall have to send a token of my appreciation,” she says.
Leon smiles again. “She anticipated that, and bid me tell आप that it was her pleasure.”
“Surely a bunch of फूल would not be turned away,” Gwen says, angling her head at the knight.
“I do not see how they would, my lady,” he smiles. “If आप will excuse me,” he says, nodding.
“Of course, and thank you, Sir Leon,” she says, holding her hand out to him, which he takes and kisses. He turns to see Gwaine sauntering up, goblet in hand.
“Leon,” Gwaine greets him.
Gwaine, I’ll thank आप to pay a little less attention to my mother should आप ever see her again,” he warns.
“Hey, all I was doing was reminding her that she is beautiful,” Gwaine defends himself. “No harm in that.”
“She’s my mother,
” Leon says, glaring down at the shorter man.
“Still a woman,” Gwaine shrugs, then sighs. “Look, I apologize if it made आप uncomfortable. But I made her smile, which is worth और than your discomfort.” He hoists his goblet to Leon, and drinks.
Leon sighs and walks away.
“Princess,” Gwaine grins at her.
“I think you’ll find it’s Queen, now,” she laughs, reaching आगे to touch his cheek gently. “Thank you, Gwaine,” she says.
“For what?” he asks.
“Just thank you. Because I know Arthur probably won’t say it.”
“You are most welcome, my lady. And we know how Arthur feels. He doesn’t say much, but he shows his gratitude in other ways.”
“Really? Like what?” Gwen asks, intrigued.
“Oh, आप know, little notes tucked into our chainmail, the occasional nuzzle द्वारा the campfire…”
Gwen laughs loudly now, clapping her hand over her mouth, but not before every face turns in her direction, wondering why their क्वीन is laughing uproariously.
Then they notice that it is Sir Gwaine chatting with her, and conversations resume. Already he has built a reputation, I see,
Gwen thinks, still giggling.
“You have a wonderful laugh, my queen, I do hope I continue hear it often,” Gwaine says, taking his leave now as Arthur approaches, presumably to find out…
“So what was so bloody funny over here?” he asks, but he is smiling.
“Gwaine,” Gwen says, indicating the rapidly-retreating knight. “He just likes to make me laugh, apparently.”
“Jealous, husband?” she coos, leaning across the तालिका, टेबल towards him.
“Never,” he says, चुंबन her.
“More water, my lady?” a voice interrupts them. The only voice that would dare.
“Merlin, why are आप serving?” Gwen leans back and asks. She holds her goblet out, drinking only water as per Ailith’s instructions.
“My new position won’t be announced until tomorrow,” he sighs. “So I figure I may as well be useful before I become merely decorative.”
“You’d better be damn well और than decorative, Merlin,” Arthur warns.
“Pssh.” Merlin waves his hand dismissively, setting his pitcher on the table. “Honestly, when have I ever been decorative?”
“When have आप ever been useful?” Arthur shoots back.
Now it is Merlin’s turn to laugh and cause heads to turn. Arthur cannot help but शामिल होइए in himself, saying, “You walked right into it, Merlin.”
“I know,” Merlin answers, still laughing, wiping his eyes on his sleeve. “But Gwen,” he turns, “you should see my new robes. Very… wizard-y,” he whispers conspiratorially.
“Wizard-y?” Arthur repeats, just as quietly. “They don’t change color on their own या anything, do they?”
“No, no, no, nothing like that. They’re not enchanted
robes या anything. I promise.”
“What do they look like?” Gwen asks.
“You’ll have to wait and see,” he teases, and Gwen pouts. “Oh, and… I have a staff that I’ll be carrying as well.”
“A staff?” Arthur asks.
“You know, a wizard’s staff. Big magic stick thing,” he says, holding his hands a distance apart.
“Right. Why am I suddenly concerned?”
“Honestly, Arthur, it won’t go off on its own या anything,” Gwen says. “Will it?” she asks Merlin.
“No, it won’t,” Merlin says. “Oh, I started moving my things into my new rooms this afternoon as well. Since the whole गढ़, महल is being put back together anyway, I took the liberty.”
“You’re taking many liberties, these days,” Arthur mutters. “Where are they?”
“Just down from Gaius. Thought I’d at least stay in the vicinity so I can still assist him.”
“That’s very thoughtful, Merlin,” Gwen says, stifling her third yawn since their conversation started.
“Guinevere, आप are exhausted, Love,” Arthur says, reaching his hand across the तालिका, टेबल to take hers.
“But there are still so many people here,” she says, but Arthur is right. She is exhausted.
“You need your rest,” Merlin says.
“No one will mind if आप excuse yourself,” Arthur says. “I’d come with you, but one of us should stay here,” he adds, somewhat apologetically.
“I know,” she says, squeezing his hand.
“Trust me, there’s nothing I’d rather do right now than retire with you,” he says, scanning the room still filled with knights and courtiers.
“I’d like that, too, but it cannot be helped,” she says, standing now.
“Elyan,” Arthur calls.
“Arthur…” Gwen says, knowing that Arthur is calling for an escort for her.
“You’re not going un-escorted. आप are the क्वीन now, my love, and आप will
“I’m inclined to agree,” Elyan says, joining them. “And who better to escort the क्वीन than her own brother?”
“Well, the king, actually, but he must stay and attend his duty,” Arthur answers. “Please escort the क्वीन to our chambers, Sir Elyan. And do see that the guards are patrolling the corridor outside the royal chambers.”
“Smith will be there, आप know,” Gwen reminds him.
“Yes, but the guards must do their jobs as well, that’s why they’re there,” Arthur says.
“He was disappointed आप wouldn’t let him come down, आप know,” she chides.
“He’s a dog,
“He was still disappointed,” she says, plucking a scrap of meat from the तालिका, टेबल and wrapping it in a napkin.
Gwen and Elyan start to leave, and Arthur meets them at the end of the table.
“Come here,” he says, pulling her into his arms and चुंबन her softly but ardently. “Good night. I’ll try not to be late.”
“I can’t guarantee that I’ll be able to wait up for you,” she says, her exhaustion being greater than her desire for her husband at the moment.
“Sleep is important,” he says, “good for the baby.” Gwen can hear the slight disappointment in his voice, only because it mirrors hers.
“Good night, my king,” she whispers, चुंबन him once और then taking her brother’s arm and leaving the hall.
Merlin finds लवा, लर्क on her way to the kitchens, and touches her shoulder.
“Merlin!” girl exclaims, looking up at him.
“Sorry, didn’t mean to startle you. But I thought you’d like to know that your mistress is retiring for the night.”
“Oh,” she says, thrusting the empty थाली she was carrying into his outstretched hands. “Thank you, Merlin, I will go attend her.”
Arthur finally enters the royal bedchamber much later. Smith barely registers his entry, opening one eye and grunting softly.
He pads quietly to the bed, noting that she’s left a few candles lit for him. He looks down at his wife, sound asleep in his bed. Our bed.
It is a sight he’s wanted to see for longer than he would probably admit: Guinevere, in his bed. Of course, in that कल्पना she is awake. And usually naked.
Curious, he lifts a corner of the blankets. Nightdress. Not that I’d wake her anyway.
He hears Caldwell enter softly and so he pulls the curtain on the near side of the bed. Gwen isn’t indecent, but it still isn’t proper for the king’s manservant to look upon the sleeping queen.
“My lord,” Caldwell says quietly, respectful of Gwen’s slumber.
“Yes, get me out of this mail before I fall asleep wearing it,” Arthur mutters, striding towards the young man.
A short time later, Arthur is curled around his wife’s soft, sleep-warm body, smiling at how someone so tiny has managed to take up the entire bed, thinking of how he gently slid her over to give himself और room.
Gwen sighs in her sleep and snuggles against him, and he kisses the चोटी, शीर्ष of her head, falling asleep nearly before his head hits the pillow.
Part 14: link