How could he have kept who he was from me the entire time? His father was King Ulric of Suffolk, the perfect example of how a king should not rule his people. If he was anything like his father, and the gossip’s usually were true at a minimum, he would be no better than him once he was crowned. The women in Belhawe knew him all too well and he wasn’t the type of man to be helping girls along their way. He was a philanderer, a scoundrel to say the
least, he left a baby fatherless in every town he visited. He was not the type of man that I wanted to be associated with, prince or not.
He was right about the stew, it was delicious. My hungry stomach welcomed every morsel as if it was the last thing I would eat in a while. It wasn’t wrong, I had only brought supplies for the first day, I had enough money to make it but I was hoping my brother would help along the way back. I placed a lot of faith in him, it was risky because he wasn’t the most responsible person. He had left home at a young age because he felt like father was too hard on him. I saw it more as a way to prepare him for life, our father knew how hard it was to survive and he wanted us to be ready. My brother didn’t see it that way and decided it was time to go and make it on his own. If the gossips were true, then he was just a drunk who played cards and swindled richer folk into paying for his room and meals. All I knew was that I had to find him to at least let him know that father was going to die soon. I didn’t want him to find out from any other person than me. Merek finished his stew, ate some bread and drank some ale quickly. I kept thinking he was going to talk or ask me more questions, but he didn’t. Maybe he had finally understood that I wanted to be left alone. I didn’t need to make conversation with someone who was probably only thinking about bedding me and leaving me as soon as possible afterwards. When I finished my food, I stood up and went to find Muriel. She walked out of a nearby room and
gestured for me to come inside. I walked into the dimly lit room and saw one bed as I entered, a dresser and chair and another bed off to the back of the room.
She smiled and walked out, closing the door behind her. As I sat down on the bed, I took off my boots and stretched my legs. My body was begging me for a warm bath but I was too tired to
get up again. I was about to remove my cloak when the door opened and Merek walked in.
“What are you doing in my room?”
He walked to the other bed and sat down smugly.
“You mean our room.”
He took off his boots and placed them next to mine.
“I can’t sleep in the same room as you.”
I got up to leave but he came and caught me gently by the arm.
“This is the only room Muriel has left. If you go and ask her for another she will only feel sad about not being able to offer more.”
I nodded, but I was still uncertain of what to do. I had never slept in the same room with another man. Merek saw the look in my eyes because he smiled and sat back down on his bed.
“Don’t worry Gwendolynn, I won’t take advantage of you. If we are ever together, it will be because you came willingly to me.”
The nerve of him. This man really was so full of himself. Never would I come willingly to him and let him make me impure.
“I have no intention of becoming one of your whores.”
Merek did not expect me to answer that way, he just stared at me as though he was trying to figure out what to say. After what seemed like an eternity, he laid down and went to sleep.
I woke up early, making the least amount of noise possible not to wake Merek. I didn’t want to have to converse with him any more than necessary. I took my things and walked out of the room slowly. When I found Muriel, she was cleaning the floors on her hands and knees. She stood up, wiped the sweat from her forehead and smiled at me.
“Some food before you continue your travels?”
I could not say no. As I sat down, I looked around the room and
became deep in thought before a bang on the table got me out of my daydreaming. Merek sat down beside me and bid me good morning. I acknowledged him and went on with my thinking until Muriel set a food tray on the table for us to consume. I took some cheese and a piece of bread and stood up to go sit by the window. I loved the outdoors and now was as good a time as any since Merek wouldn’t leave me in peace. As I ate and looked out at the
vast fields and the road that stretched out before me, I couldn’t help but wonder how long it would take me to find my brother. I hoped he was where the gossips said and he hadn’t already left. When I finished the last piece of bread, I found Muriel and thanked her for everything. I put some coins down on the table, but she pushed them back towards me.
“Prince Merek was most gracious and paid already.”
I picked up the coins, walked over to where he was eating and placed them beside his hand.
“I don’t need nor want your help.”
I walked away and out the door before he could answer me.