Into the open Air

Merida

After that, we lead a happy and peaceful life, together in our little castle, until our happiness was interrupted by a dove. We were sitting outside, and it landed on Gawain’s shoulder. He detached a little piece of parchment from the bird’s paw and unfolded it. I saw the look on his face turn from neutral to horrified. He reread the letter, and then ran towards his horse.

‘Gawain!’ I shouted. ‘What’s going on?’ ‘I’m going to Camelot,’ he said. ‘Why?’ I asked. ‘No time to explain,’ he said and mounted his horse. I picked up the piece of parchment he had thrown away.

Lancelot’s secret has been discovered. Come quickly. Gaheris.

I gasped, and ran towards Angus. Some seconds later, we galloped away. ‘Gawain, wait!’ I shouted as soon as I saw him. ‘I’m coming with you!’ He turned his head around, and waited for a couple of seconds when he saw me. Without saying anything, we raced towards Camelot, fearing the worst.

When we entered the castle, we saw Guinevere, crying and screaming to Arthur. ‘Please, Arthur! Please have mercy! I’m sorry! I’m sorry, Arthur!’ she screamed, but Arthur didn’t respond. There was no sign of emotion on his face. He nodded at two guards, who nodded back and took her away.

When Arthur walked away, everyone followed him. ‘What’s going on?’ I asked Gawain. ‘Trial,’ he said. Arthur was standing in the doorway of the dining room. ‘Is it okay if I join you?’ I asked him. He looked at me, still without emotion. ‘I don’t care,’ he said. I looked at him, and wondered if it was a better idea to walk away, but I decided to join the knights.

Lancelot was sitting on his knees in front of the round table. His armour had been taken off, and he looked vulnerable without his weapons. He was staring at the ground, too ashamed to look at anyone. Everyone sat down, except for King Arthur, who cleared his throat.

‘Lancelot. Have you, or have you not had a romantic relationship with my wife, Queen Guinevere?’ he asked. ‘I have,’ Lancelot said, and he sounded like he could burst into tears any second. ‘My king-’ he said, but King Arthur interrupted him. ‘Have you, or have you not slept with my wife?’ he asked.

Lancelot hesitated, but then he nodded. All the knights gasped, Gawain whispered something that sounded like “fuck”, and the King sat down in his chair and sighed. He put his head in his hands and said nothing.

Kay, who was always the first one to speak with his sharp tongue, stood up. ‘My King,’ he spoke, ‘Lancelot has failed to obey you, and for that he should be punished. He is a man like any other. I know he is one of our best knights, and that he has done some good things, but that doesn’t make him something more than an ordinary man. The laws of Kings shouldn’t bend or be broken.’

Gawain immediately stood up. ‘Arthur,’ he said, ‘This man has been my friend from the day we met, and he has never left my side. I know that he would never try to harm your wife, and that he has always treated her with respect. Lancelot has always supported us, and I know he will for the rest of his life. I know he has made mistakes, but this shouldn’t cost him his life.’

I looked at Lancelot, and saw he had regained hope. The King still didn’t say anything. A knight who I hadn’t seen before stood up. ‘As you might know, I am in love with my uncle’s wife. And every day, I feel like I’m betraying him. But my love for her is too big. Sometimes, your heart takes over, and there’s no way of stopping it. We can’t kill a knight, for something as simple and beautiful as love.’

‘Lancelot has bed a woman who was not his own,’ Mordred said suddenly, smiling slyly. ‘This is something unforgiveable. And that is why he should be punished.’ I quickly grabbed Gawain’s hand to make sure he wouldn’t say or do stupid things. He was looking at Mordred, with a look of pure hate in his eyes.

‘Speak, Lancelot,’ the King said suddenly. Lancelot cleared his throat. ‘My King, there are no excuses for what I have done. I fell in love with your wife, and was too weak to stop myself. But I want to assure you that I have always respected her, and I have never forced her to do something. And if you decide to kill me, I understand and accept your decision, as long as you leave Guinevere alone. She hasn’t done anything wrong,’ he said softly.

‘That’s nonsense! You-’ Mordred said, but Arthur interrupted him. ‘Silence!’ he shouted. ‘Bring him to the dungeons. And take Guinevere with you when you come back,’ he said to the guards who were standing next to Lancelot. I saw the heartbreaking look of fear and powerlessness on Lancelot’s face, as he was taken away. And I could do nothing.

Minutes later, the guards entered the room with Guinevere. She had calmed down, but she was still crying. She was looking horrible. Her dress was dirty, her blonde hairs were sticking to her face and her eyes were bright red.

‘So, you fell in love with Lancelot?’ King Arthur asked her. She nodded, and started crying heavily. ‘I’m sorry, Arthur! I couldn’t help it! Please don’t do him any harm! I’m sorry, darling!’ ‘DON’T CALL ME THAT!’ he shouted. Everyone was silent for a moment, but then Guinevere started crying again.

‘Was I not enough for you?’ he spoke, and his calm anger frightened everyone. ‘Please, Arthur, I’m sorry,’ she said. ‘WAS I NOT ENOUGH FOR YOU? I HAVE GIVEN YOU EVERYTHING! AND YOU JUST TOOK OFF WITH ONE OF MY BEST KNIGHTS! ONE OF MY BEST FRIENDS! AND YOU ASK ME FOR FORGIVENESS? ALL THOSE YEARS, YOU LOVED HIM, AND STILL, YOU COULD SAY THAT YOU LOVE ME!’

He sat down, and took a deep breath. ‘There is only one price for treason,’ he said calmly. I felt an enormous lump in my throat, and Guinevere started crying even louder. ‘Please, Arthur, please! Don’t kill him! Kill me instead!’ He looked at her, with no sign of the love he always had in his eyes when he looked at her. ‘Who says that I’m going to kill only one person?’ he growled at her.

‘Next week, Lancelot will burn at the stake, together with the former Queen of Britain,’ he said. I gasped. He couldn’t do this! But there was no sign of hesitation in his eyes. He was serious. ‘Arthur, you can’t do this! Please, have mercy!’ she screamed, but Arthur ignored her. ‘Take her away,’ he said to the guards, and minutes later, her screams died away. But I could still hear them in my head.

‘Someone should talk to him!’ I said, when I was sitting on a haystack together with Gawain, Gaheris and Gareth. ‘You could try, but I’m not sure you’ll survive. I’ve never seen him like this, and I don’t think he’ll appreciate contradiction now,’ Gawain said. ‘But he can’t just kill them! His wife, and one of his best knights!’ ‘He can. Trust me,’ Gaheris said.

‘But what happened today?’ Gawain asked his youngest brothers. ‘Mordred had been suspecting Lancelot’s relationship with Guinevere for a long time. Today, he saw that Lancelot was going upstairs. He followed him, together with Agravain, and saw him entering Guinevere’s room. He waited for some minutes before he entered the room, to make sure he was about to see something that was worth telling Arthur about. But Gaheris and I saw him, and we immediately knew what he was going to do, but when he saw us, he didn’t wait and just opened the door. And they were indeed kissing. Mordred called Arthur, and told him what he had seen. Lancelot and Guinevere tried to defend themselves, but King Arthur could see they were lying. He has sat in his library for a long time, and the rest is what you have witnessed,’ Gareth said.

Gawain sighed. ‘Mordred has never been the kindest of us five,’ he said, ‘but I never thought he would do this. He knows that Lancelot is our best friend! And having him killed doesn’t have any perks for him, does it?’ he said angrily, and I saw the tears in his eyes. ‘Isn’t there anything we can do?’ I asked. ‘Don’t think so,’ Gareth said. ‘If we want to save them, we’ll have to disobey Arthur. And if we do that, he’ll come after us.’

‘You two,’ Arthur said when we entered the castle again. ‘Yes, King?’ Gawain said politely. I could hear that he was just as frightened as I was. ‘Will you stay here for dinner?’ Gawain nodded. ‘You can stay here for the night too, if you wish,’ he said. ‘Thanks for the offer. We will gladly take it,’ Gawain said. ‘But we will not attend the execution, if you don’t mind.’ Arthur was silent for a moment.

‘One of my best knights is married, the other one has betrayed me, my wife has never loved me...what more can I expect?’ he said suddenly. Gawain and I exchanged glances, and remained silent. ‘Everything that I’ve done, the Kingdom I’ve built...it will all be gone soon. I feel it.’

‘I don’t believe that, my King,’ Gawain said quickly. ‘I should have known this,’ King Arthur continued. Merlin warned me. “Women will make or break this kingdom”. And I obviously believed he meant that marrying her was a good choice, for how could a woman like her take down my whole empire? But now I understand.’

After saying that, he turned around and walked away. ‘Gawain,’ I whispered. ‘We can release them now.’ He looked at me. ‘They’re guarded, Merida. We can never defeat them.’ I sighed. ‘There must be something,’ I whispered.

Suddenly, I got an idea. ‘Maybe we can’t help him get away, but if he does by himself, we can aid him by making the escape easy for him,’ I said. ‘And how are you planning to do that?’ he asked. ‘Well, we can saddle his horse, and prepare a bag with clothes and food,’ I said. ‘Brilliant!’ he said. ‘But if King Arthur finds out that Lancelot’s horse has been saddled, won’t he know that someone’s trying to help him?’ he asked. ‘A risk we have to take,’ I said. ‘I’m going to the kitchen to grab some food, and I can get some clothes and a weapon in the dormitory. You should go saddle his horse,’ I said. He kissed me on my forehead and headed outside, and I ran towards the kitchen.

‘Done!’ I said when I arrived at the stables with a filled satchel. ‘But where can we hide something that nobody but him can find?’ I asked. Gawain thought for a second, and then he grabbed a wooden bin. He laid the bag on the ground and put the bin over it. ‘See? It doesn’t look too suspicious, but he’ll know it doesn’t belong there,’ he said. ‘Great,’ I said. ‘Now let’s head back inside for dinner.’

Dinner was very awkward, because nobody dared to say anything. After dinner, Gawain and I headed to our bedroom. It felt good to be back in my “old” bedroom. Gawain had become quite nervous, and I tried to calm him.

‘Don’t worry, darling,’ I said. ‘He’ll manage on his own. We’ve done what we can. We should go to bed now.’ ‘I can’t! I have to help them! How could Lancelot, who’s locked inside a guarded cell, escape? And even if he manages to escape, what about Guinevere? She is still my queen!’ he said.

‘And that’s not the only thing I’m worrying about! I wonder what Mordred is up to. That little brat! He’s my very own brother, and now I can never trust him again! Why would he do such a thing?’ he said. I didn’t know what to say. ‘I’m sure there’s an explanation,’ I muttered. ‘Do you mean you take his side?’ he said softly. The look in his eyes was frightening, as if he could attack me any moment.

‘Calm down, Gawain! Of course I don’t take his side! I just wanted to... calm you, I guess,’ I said. ‘Calm me? My best friend will be executed and that’s my brother’s fault! How can I stay calm?’ he shouted. We were quiet for a moment. ‘I need to save them,’ he suddenly said. ‘Gawain, we’ve done what we can, there’s no way-’ ‘I need to save them. If Lancelot dies, I will never be able to forgive myself,’ he said.

‘Gawain, don’t risk your life for them, please! I know they will manage,’ I said. ‘How can you be so sure?’ he asked.

‘Well, I just-’

‘See? You are only saying this to comfort me, you-’

‘Gawain, I-’

‘No, we have to save them, now! They-’

‘Gawain, listen-’

‘You listen to me! We have to think of-’

‘Gawain-’

‘A plan, before it’s too-’

‘Gawain!’ I screamed. He looked up. ‘Look!’ I said, pointing at the window. ‘Do you see that man, on his horse? That’s Lancelot. I told you he would manage,’ I said. ‘You’re right,’ he said. ‘You’re absolutely right! But where is the queen?’ he asked. ‘Do you really think he will leave Guinevere to die?’ I said. ‘No, no, of course not,’ he said. ‘That’s right. So we can go to sleep now.’

The next morning, we were woken by the knight who had defended Lancelot yesterday. ‘Lancelot’s gone!’ he said. ‘Great!’ Gawain said immediately, and the knight left again. ‘Who was that?’ I asked sleepily. ‘That was one of our best knights, Sir Tristan. You haven’t met him, because he has been with his uncle all the time you were here, because-’ ‘He loves his wife,’ I said. ‘Exactly,’ Gawain said. ‘I should’ve trusted you from the beginning, Merida,’ Gawain said, and he hugged me. ‘Of course Lancelot will be fine.’


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