Into the open Air

Merida

It felt amazing to wake up in my other room again. Even though I loved Scotland to death, and it would forever be my home, England, and especially Camelot, had received a special place in my heart. Suddenly, I remembered Gawain and his leg. I quickly got dressed and ran to the knights’ dormitory.

‘Sorry I’m late,’ I said as I entered the dormitory. ‘Oh my god, ever heard of knocking?’ somebody said. I turned around and saw Sir Ywain, whose back was turned to me, without any clothes on. ‘Oh dear, sorry!’ I said and quickly walked to Gawain’s straw mattress.

‘Merida, you can help me to get out of bed if you want,’ Erec said. I looked at him, and he threw his blanket away with a cheeky smile. He too was completely naked. I turned my head away and started laughing. ‘Why do all you Englishmen sleep without clothes?’ I said laughing. ‘Are you wearing anything?’ I asked Gawain. He nodded and put away his blanket. I started laughing when I saw he was wearing a kilt. ‘What?’ he asked with a smile. ‘It’s better than that,’ he said and he pointed at Erec. ‘You’re just jealous of my beautiful private parts,’ Erec said and he started laughing, just like everyone else. ‘Come on,’ I said to Gawain. ‘Let’s go to a place where not everyone is naked.’

After breakfast, Gawain told me he wanted to go to the dovecote. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘I need to send a letter,’ he said mysteriously and smiled. ‘To whom?,’ I asked curiously. ‘That’s a secret,’ he said and smiled. I sighed and helped him get up from his chair. I walked towards the door that lead to the courtyard with Gawain leaning on my shoulder. ‘Oh, it’s not outside,’ he said. ‘It’s in one of the towers.’ ‘Oh,’ I said and laughed. ‘But aren’t all those stairs too damaging for your leg? I could go and send your letter if you want.’ ‘No,’ he said quickly. ‘Don’t you trust me?’ I asked. ‘I do trust you, but I think it’s a good exercise. Let’s go.’

After a very long time, Gawain wasn’t capable of climbing the stairs very fast now, we arrived in a tower room. There were a lot of holes in the wall, and in the middle was a large pole with a platform on it. A bird landed on Gawain’s shoulder. Gawain tied the letter to its paw, and brought him to one of the holes in the wall. He turned around when the bird flew away. ‘And now back down again,’ he said smiling.

When we arrived in the living room, I got an idea. ‘Can you manage for an hour?’ I asked. He nodded. I felt bad to leave him, but there were enough people to help. ‘Okay! See you soon!’ I said and walked away.

I knocked on the door, thinking back to what had happened when I hadn’t. ‘Come in,’ Guinevere said. ‘Ah, Merida,’ she said when I came in. ‘Good to see you!’ ‘Good to see you too,’ I said with a smile. ‘Sit down,’ she said. ‘I’ve heard of your heroic deeds.’ ‘It’s nothing, really. Good luck, mainly,’ I said. She shook her head and smiled. ‘So, why have you come here?’ she asked. ‘Just to talk, see what I’ve missed when I was gone,’ I said. She started laughing. ‘Not that much, I guess.’

‘Any news about, uhm...’ I said, and then I put my head on my belly. She shook her head. ‘It’s like my body knows that I don’t fully want it,’ she said softly. ‘What do you mean?’ I asked. ‘You saw me when I was with, well, him, didn’t you?’ ‘Oh, yes, I did,’ I said awkwardly.

‘I love Arthur, I really do, but he’s busy all the time. He knows nothing about me, and I think I just need love. And Lancelot is the one who can give me that love. He listens to me, he knows me through and through, and he’s always there for me. I don’t think I could handle carrying the baby of a man with whom I’m not completely in love,’ Guinevere said sadly.

I didn’t know anything to say, and I think Guinevere noticed that. ‘Thanks for listening,’ she said. ‘You’re welcome,’ I said with a smile. ‘But enough about me. How are things between Gawain and you?’ she asked with a smile. ‘Well, you were right,’ I said. ‘Of course I was right. Everyone knew it was coming. But what do you think of him?’ ‘He’s really nice,’ I said. ‘And handsome,’ Guinevere said cheekily. ‘And handsome,’ I repeated. ‘But I don’t know if I’m ready to fall in love.’ ‘I don’t think anyone is ever ready. I think you shouldn’t try to control your feelings. Love is a beautiful thing. Don’t be afraid of it.’

Someone knocked on the door, in a weird rhythm. ‘That’s Lancelot,’ Guinevere whispered and she blushed a little. ‘Do I have to send him away?’ ‘No,’ I said. ‘Thanks for everything.’ I opened the door. Lancelot was surprised to see me. I quickly winked at him and walked away.

I returned to the living room, where Gawain was still sitting. ‘Ah, Meri,’ he said cheerfully. ‘Where were you?’ ‘I went to Guinevere, just to chat a bit,’ I said. He smiled. ‘Would you mind to bring me to the library?’ he asked. ‘I need to speak with King Arthur.’ ‘Sure,’ I said and helped him up.

After about a quarter of an hour, the library’s doors opened again. Gawain had a big smile on his face. ‘What is going on?’ I asked. ‘Nothing,’ he said. ‘I know there’s something going on,’ I said. ‘Tell me.’ ‘You’ll figure it out soon,’ he said mysteriously and smiled.

After two weeks, I stopped trying to convince Gawain to tell me what was going on. He still acted mysteriously, but I decided to just ignore it. It was hard for me, though, because I had always been a rather curious person.

One day, when we were sitting by the fire, as always, Mordred approached us. ‘A letter has arrived for you, Gawain,’ he said with a smirk, which showed that he knew what all this mysteriousness had been about. Gawain smiled. ‘Finally. Did you take it with you?’ ‘Oops,’ Mordred said sarcastically. ‘Forgot about that.’

Gawain sighed and looked at me with a pair of puppy eyes, but I shook my head. ‘I’m not coming with you if you don’t tell me what’s going on,’ I said resolutely. ‘Fine,’ he said, and he hobbled towards the stairs. He succeeded to climb one step, but he fell down on purpose when he tried to get higher. ‘Oh god,’ I sighed and walked towards him. ‘You’re one hell of a knight,’ I said and started laughing.

When we arrived in the dove-tower, he immediately grabbed a letter from a bin that was standing on the ground. He started reading it and a big smile appeared on his face. ‘What?’ I asked. ‘Tell me now, Gawain!’ ‘Not here,’ he said smiling and grabbed my hand.

He took me to a big door. I opened it and felt a soft evening breeze playing with my curls. ‘It’s beautiful here,’ I whispered. We had arrived on what I think was Camelot’s highest flat place. I walked towards the parapet and looked at the view. I saw the sun going down between the hills, and the air was coloured orange and pink. It was absolutely breathtaking.

‘So why did you bring me here?’ I asked Gawain. ‘Well, there’s obviously something that I should tell you. As you know, I am in love with you. I am deeply, truly in love with you, and that feeling has only increased over the past weeks. And I know that you’re young, and you probably don’t see anything in a antisocial, bearded, boring, silent knight from the Highlands, but I just have to ask you. You know how I feel about possibly becoming a King, and if I don’t become the King of Arthur’s kingdom, I might still become the King of the Orkneys, but with you at my side, I wouldn’t mind being a King. As long as you are there to be my queen. So, my dear Merida,’ he sat down on one knee and presented me a ring, ‘Will you marry me?’

I was stupefied, to say the least. This was the last thing I expected. He looked at me with a slightly desperate look in his eyes. ‘Merida?’ he said softly. ‘Gawain,’ I muttered, ‘I don’t... I... Of course I’ll marry you!’ I said happily. ‘Really?’ he asked and he stood up. ‘Are you sure?’ ‘Yes, Gawain, I’d love to marry you!’ I said and kissed him.

I don’t know how long we stood there, in each other’s arms. It might have been just five minutes, it might have been an hour. My body was filled with a feeling of intense happiness, and I felt like I could conquer the world. Every time I looked at him, I started smiling and kissed him again.

When we had both calmed down, we sat down on a small bench. ‘But what were those letters about? And that conversation you had with Arthur?’ ‘I needed to ask your dad for permission, and the letter I received today said that, although you were young, he couldn’t have asked for a better son-in-law,’ he and his eyes were filled with pride. ‘I had to ask Arthur for permission too. He actually wanted me to find the Holy Grail, but I refuse to go anywhere without you.’

‘I still can’t believe it,’ I whispered and looked at the ring on my finger. ‘It’s gorgeous.’ ‘Just like you,’ he said laughing. I rolled my eyes and started laughing too. ‘Let’s go show the others,’ I said and we went back inside the castle.

Lancelot, Gaheris and Gareth were sitting by the fireplace. ‘Lads,’ Gawain said. He looked at me, but I didn’t know anything to say either. The three men looked at us questioningly, and I just stretched out my arm to show them the ring.

Lancelot was the first one to understand. ‘Congratulations!’ he said and he shook Gawain’s hand. Gawain’s youngest brothers suddenly understood it as well. ‘No way!’ Gareth shouted and he congratulated his eldest brother. Gaheris hugged me. ‘Welcome to the family,’ he whispered in my ear. The tears immediately welled up in my eyes, but I quickly wiped them off with the back of my hand.

‘What’s going on here?’ Guinevere asked when Lancelot and Gareth had congratulated me as well. ‘We’re engaged!’ I said happily. She started smiling. ‘Congratulations!’ she said and hugged me as well. It was a little awkward, because she always was very calm and queenish and I hadn’t expected her to be this exited, but I didn’t care at all.

Agravain and Mordred entered the room as well. ‘Congratulations,’ Agravain muttered as he shook my hand. Mordred looked at me and hesitated for a moment, but then he hugged me. ‘Congratulations, sister,’ he said with a smirk. ‘Thanks, brother,’ I said and smiled.

Hours later, we were all sitting around the round table. King Arthur had quickly organised a feast to celebrate our betrothal. Everyone was in a great mood, even Arthur, who actually wanted Gawain to find the Grail. After dinner, we went to the living room, where we continued our party.

When I was dancing with Gawain, Erec approached us. ‘It hurts me a lot that you sold your heart to another,’ he said theatrically, ‘but I want to ask you for one last dance.’ We started laughing, and I looked at Gawain. He nodded and smiled. ‘But nothing more,’ he said to Erec and started laughing.

The music continued, and I danced with Erec. ‘I must admit that I like you more than that other girl he brought with him. She was sweet, and extraordinarily beautiful, but she didn’t know how to interact with people, because she had spent her whole life in a castle. She didn’t understand jokes, and she didn’t understand what flirting was, or that you shouldn’t flirt with other men when you’re engaged.’

‘You shouldn’t talk about her like that,’ I said quickly. ‘I didn’t know her, but Gawain loved her a lot. I’m sure she was a good person.’ Erec shrugged his shoulders. I didn’t like to admit it, but I was actually quite proud of the compliment he had given me.

After some other people, I ended up with Lancelot. ‘Before Ysabele, I thought Gawain would never fall in love again. And it also surprised me to hear that he moved on so quickly. I must say I’m glad that he’s found you.’ I started blushing a little.

‘Lancelot, Erec told me that Ysabele didn’t know how to interact with people properly,’ I said. ‘Is that true?’ He nodded. ‘She was never taught how to interact with people because she had spent her whole life inside a tower. I actually was afraid she would quickly end up in someone else’s bed, because she would have thought the other person was just being friendly. But I’ve never dared to tell Gawain.’ ‘I think it’s better like that,’ I smiled.

After that, I quickly grabbed Gawain to continue dancing with him. Even though we hadn’t been engaged for a day, it felt weird to dance with other men. I laid my head on his chest. ‘Thank you,’ I whispered. He kissed me on the top of my head. ‘No problem.’

The sun was already rising when I went to bed. We had danced all night. I still couldn’t believe it. How lucky I had been to meet Gawain. And now I was going to marry him. I didn’t know what future was going to bring, but I had no fear, because when Gawain was with me, I knew I would be fine.


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