I had told her. I had a
weak moment and I just told her. That was not at all what I had planned, but it
did feel quite good to get that off my chest. If only I had chosen a better
moment, because the trip would probably be terribly awkward. But there was no
way back, and that wasn’t even that much of a problem, because at the time I was
certainly able to just leave everything behind.
All the knights were still sleeping when I left the dormitory. Should I wake them to say goodbye? I decided to let them sleep. They would notice that we were gone themselves.
Merida was already in the kitchen. ‘Good morning,’ she said smiling. ‘Good morning,’ I said softly. I sighed. ‘Merida, I’m so sorry for everything I said and did yesterday, I-’ ‘Shhh,’ she said. ‘But-’ ‘We’ll pretend that didn’t happen,’ she said and winked.
‘Eat something,’ she said. I grabbed some bread and took a bite. She started filling her bag with a lifetime supply of apples. ‘Do you think we’ll have enough apples or do you think we need more?’ I said with a smirk. ‘Apples are life, my friend,’ she said, and started eating one of them.
There we went. Galloping through the hills I had galloped through so many times. I turned around. Camelot looked beautiful in the orange light of the rising sun. I sighed. I wouldn’t see this beautiful castle anytime soon. Maybe I would never even see it again. I shook my head. Everything was going to be fine. I had to focus on positive things. Like Merida.
In the afternoon, we arrived in the village that we had passed on our journey to Camelot. We both started laughing as we passed the inn in which we had spent the night. ‘Let’s find a better one,’ Merida said.
And we did find one. Instead of a grumpy innkeeper, we were welcomed by a very kind hostess. The stables were nice, the hayloft in which we slept again wasn’t dusty and she cooked us an amazing dinner.
When we were lying in the hay that evening, I felt the urge to lie down next to Merida as I did when we were sleeping in the woods. But this time I felt like she wouldn’t accept it, because she knew that I loved her, and the other time she didn’t. And plus, I was naked at the moment, and I reckoned she wouldn’t appreciate that very much. I shut my eyes. ‘Go to sleep, Gawain. Tomorrow is going to be a long day and you’ll need your energy,’ I thought. Hours later, I finally fell asleep.
‘Good morning, sleeping beauty!’ ‘Shut up, Kay,’ I mumbled with a smirk. I tried to grab my pillow, but couldn’t find it. I opened my eyes and looked right into Merida’s blue eyes. ‘Kay?’ she said. ‘Is that an insult?’ I started laughing. ‘Sorry! Kay always said that to me. I would never insult you,’ I said. She started laughing as well.
‘I brought you breakfast. You did it last time, so I thought I’d have to be the nice person this time,’ she said with her everlasting smile. ‘I’m going to prepare the horses,’ she said and winked.
‘It’s so early,’ I said theatrically when I saw Merida again. ‘I don’t sound like that!’ she said angrily, but then she started laughing. ‘And you told me that you would never insult me. You’ve broken your promise,’ she said. ‘I’m ever so sorry, milady,’ I said laughing. ‘Apology accepted,’ she said with an enormous smile, and mounted her horse.
‘Gawain!’ she suddenly screamed. ‘Dear god! I nearly fell off my horse! What’s wrong?’ I said to her. ‘Don’t you recognise this place? This is where we first met!’ I started smiling. ‘It is,’ I said. ‘Things have changed so much since that day.’ ‘They have,’ Merida confirmed. ‘For the better.’ I looked at her and smiled. ‘Definitely for the better’ I said.
‘Wait, you came from there, didn’t you?’ I said, pointing at the spot that I saw her for the first time, galloping towards the river. ‘I suppose I did. Why?’ she asked. I started laughing. ‘That’s so much longer! You have travelled through the highest mountains, and you could have travelled through some small ones.’
She started laughing. ‘My mother has tried to teach me everything about geography, but her efforts were all in vain. I preferred doodling over paying attention,’ she said. ‘It really is a miracle that I know where the Orkneys are!’ I smiled. She was silent for a second.
‘Gawain, if I had taken a quicker route, I probably wouldn’t have met you,’ she said softly. ‘That’s so weird,’ I said. She nodded. ‘Do you believe in faith?’ she asked. ‘I don’t know,’ I responded. ‘I don’t know if I even believe in anything. There’s just so much one can believe in, how can we ever find the thing that is true?’ ‘I don’t think we will ever know,’ she said. ‘But maybe it’s better that way. Why live if you already know everything, and there’s nothing left to explore?’ I looked at her. I had never even noticed that there also was a lot of wisdom behind those wild curls and those happy freckles.
‘I think we’re in Scotland,’ I said softly, when I noticed that the grass here had a darker tone of green and the trees were standing closer to each other. ‘I think so too,’ she said with a smile. ‘It’s been ages,’ I said. ‘Camelot always feels like home, but I’d forgotten the feeling of being in Scotland. Ever though I’ve never been in this particular place, it feels like it’s a part of me.’
Merida smiled. ‘I must say I’ve missed it as well. And even though I still don’t really want to go home, it feels amazing to be back in Scotland again.’
‘I think the worst part is over,’ I said when we arrived at the top of the mountain. ‘Are you sure that this route is shorter?’ she asked. ‘I’m starting to doubt it, to be honest,’ I said smiling. ‘But we’ll get there, eventually.’
The path kept climbing, to the point where we actually reached some snow. But instead of doubting myself and thinking about how stupid I was, I silently walked towards the snow and formed a little snowball with my hands. Merida didn’t notice, and I shouted her name. She turned around, and I threw the ball right in her face.
‘You bastard!’ she shouted and ran to another pile of snow. She smiled as she threw an enormous snowball towards me. I ducked and made another snowball, when I heard her whistle. I looked up, and saw Angus galloping towards me. I quickly took a step back, but tripped over my own feet and fell into the pile of snow.
We both started laughing, and I realised that I had learnt so much from Merida. She taught me that there always was something fun to do, even in the darkest of times. ‘Great, now I’m completely filthy,’ I said. I tried to sound angry, but I didn’t succeed at all. ‘That’s your own fault,’ she said. ‘Come on. We’ve got to find ourselves a place to sleep.’
After another half hour, we finally found a little cave. ‘Could you check if there are any bears inside?’ she asked with a smile. ‘Certainly,’ I responded. ‘OH DEAR GOD IT’S MOR’DU!’ I shouted. She started laughing and entered the cave as well.
‘Thanks for joining me on this trip,’ she said when I had started a fire. ‘No problem,’ I said. ‘I think it’s good for me too to visit Scotland again. And make some good memories here. If I think about Scotland, I always think about my mother and I want that to stop. So thanks for joining me,’ I said smiling. She smiled as well, and placed her head on Angus’s belly. ‘Good night,’ she said. I lay down too. ‘Good night,’ I whispered.
‘Rise and shine!’ I said when I was woken by the first beams of sunlight. ‘Dear god, Gawain,’ she said. ‘Dun’Broch is probably just a stone’s throw away from here.’ ‘Well, I don’t think so. Let’s go.’
In the afternoon, Merida suddenly stood still. She silently pointed at a small grey castle. I looked at her. She looked like she was going to burst into tears in a couple of seconds. ‘Don’t worry,’ I said. ‘I’m with you.’
‘But what if they don’t even want to see me? What if they just send me away? What if... what if they’re dead?’ she said with a fragile voice. She sighed. ‘We’d better go back.’ I smiled. ‘Merida, we’re not going back. Not now we are finally here. And of course they won’t be angry. They will see their lost daughter, they will be happier than ever before. Come on.’
We galloped through the woods, and arrived at an open field. We pushed our way through a flock of bleating sheep. I realised I had even missed the Highlands’ sheep. ‘Gawain,’ Merida said, ‘I’m scared. I’m really, really scared.’ I grabbed her hand. ‘Don’t be. It’s going to be fine. I promise.’
There was nobody in the courtyard. ‘It’s like it’s lost all its colour,’ Merida said sadly. ‘Of course,’ I said. ‘It has lost you.’ We put our horses in the stables. We both smiled because Angus was really glad to be home again. Merida stroked his neck, and then walked to the door, with me behind her.
She took a deep breath before opening the door. ‘Come on,’ I spoke softly. ‘You can’t go back now. It’s going to be fine.’ She nodded and opened the door. She grabbed my hand, and I gave her an encouraging smile. ‘Let’s go.’
We walked through a kitchen, and arrived in a big hall. A woman with a bright green dress was sitting in a chair, embroidering and softly muttering. Merida froze completely when she saw her, but the woman hadn’t noticed us. She looked at me like a helpless puppy. I nodded at her encouragingly and softly cleared my throat.
The woman looked up and dropped her embroidery. ‘Merida?’ she said and she got up. ‘Merida!’ she said again and ran towards us. She hugged her tightly and gave her a thousand little kisses. ‘I’m so, so sorry,’ the woman said, and they both started crying.
After at least five minutes of standing there awkwardly, Merida’s mom finally released her. ‘Please sit down,’ she said, and we did what she told us. ‘I’m going to search Maudie.’ Merida still hadn’t said a word.
‘Are you okay?’ I asked when we were alone again. She nodded, but still looked really pale. Merida’s mom returned with a small maid who was carrying a serving tray with tea and some small pies. ‘Princess, we’re all so glad that you’ve returned,’ she said with an enormous smile. Merida smiled at her, and still didn’t say anything.
The silence returned, and for some minutes I just said there, awkwardly sipping the tea. Then I saw Merida and her mother having eye-contact, but as an outsider I had no idea what was going on. Merida softly cleared her throat. ‘Mother, I present to you, Sir Gawain of the, uhmm, round table? Gawain, this is, as you probably already noticed, my mother, Queen Elinor of DunBroch.’ I bowed my head. ‘Pleasure to meet you,’ I said with my most formal voice.
‘A knight? My, my, Merida, I think you have some impressive stories to tell at dinner,’ the Queen said. Merida smiled. The Queen turned at me. ‘Have you ever been to Scotland before?’ she asked me. ‘I was born in Orkney, milady,’ I said. ‘Oh my, the Orkneys. I’ve met the King and Queen once. They were both very friendly,’ she said. I decided to keep my mother’s betrayal secret for a while. I looked at Merida, and this time, she was the one who smiled encouragingly.
We heard some dogs bark, and a couple of seconds, two enormous Scottish Deerhounds came running towards us. One of them happily greeted Merida, the other one jumped on my lap and started sniffing my face. I laughed and tried to get him off my lap. Then I heard a low and loud voice. I looked up and saw a gigantic man standing in the doorway. It was Merida’s father, King Fergus.