We left Camelot shortly after we had breakfast. King Arthur had returned to his state of emotionlessness. I assumed that he was a little glad that Lancelot had managed to escape. For a moment, I hoped he would release Guinevere too, but I knew he would never do that. Luckily, I knew she would be released by another man.
‘Do you think we should attend Guinevere’s execution?’ I asked Merida when we came home. ‘I think Lancelot will rescue her earlier,’ Merida said quickly. ‘But if he doesn’t, shouldn’t we come? I mean, maybe Lancelot could use some help,’ I said. ‘Gawain, Guinevere is the only female friend I’ve ever had. I don’t think I can handle seeing her about to burn at the stake. I’d probably start protesting and I don’t think that’s a good idea. We should just trust our friend, I think,’ she said.
I never really knew that Guinevere meant so much to Merida. So much, that Merida nearly started crying. ‘It’s okay, don’t worry,’ I said quickly. ‘She was just like a sort of older sister to me. She helped me and gave me advice, I kept her secrets. And she was one of the only women in Camelot who was nice to me,’ she said.
‘What do you mean? What about the maids? Weren’t they nice to you?’ I asked. She started laughing. ‘You were Britain’s most desired knight, Gawain. They were jealous of me.’ ‘What? But, I am a knight! Did they expect me to marry a maid? I’m sure they are nice and all, but nobody would accept it if I would marry one of them!’ I said. ‘Women are weird creatures, Gawain,’ she said, and smiled a little. ‘They are,’ I confirmed.
The rest of the day, we just sat in front of the fire. I was polishing my weapons, and Merida was brushing our dogs, Seamus and Duncan. We didn’t talk, and after dinner we sat down again in front of the fireplace. We still hadn’t said a word, which was quite uncommon for Merida. But nothing needed to be said. When the moon rose, we went to bed. We both couldn’t sleep, but we knew talking wouldn’t help, so we didn’t.
The rest of the week we were still tensed, but we were both in a better mood. Merida regained her ability to talk, and her chatting kept my thoughts away, which was nice. I realised that she was the best wife a man could’ve asked for.
The day of Guinevere’s execution had arrived, and we still hadn’t heard anything. I slowly started freaking out, so I decided to walk with the dogs, to forget about everything, but it was hopeless.
When I returned to the castle, a pigeon sat down on my shoulder, which nearly stopped my heart from beating. The last time a pigeon sat down on my shoulder, it brought terrible news, and even though I hoped it would say that Guinevere had been rescued, I had a bad feeling about it.
I silently opened the letter, and I read the words. And I read them again, and again, and again, but the words didn’t get through. When I read the letter for the seventh time, I finally realised what was going on. ‘FUCK,’ I shouted. Merida immediately came running towards me. She was white as a sheet. ‘What’s going on?’ she asked
I didn’t hear her. I ran towards Gringolet and saddled him. ‘Gawain, what’s going on?’ she asked. ‘Read the letter,’ I said panting. She picked up the piece of parchment and read it. Seconds later, I heard her gasp, and she dropped the letter on the ground. ‘Oh my god! Oh, Gawain!’ she said. I didn’t hear her, because I was already galloping away on Gringolet. I heard that she followed me, but this time, I didn’t stop.
My feelings were indescribable. It was a mixture of fear and extreme anger, bloodthirstiness even. I didn’t see where I was going, but I trusted my horse. I couldn’t think; the words I had read sounded in my head.
Lancelot saved Guinevere. Gaheris and Gareth are dead.
No further explanation. I just couldn’t comprehend it. They couldn’t be. It probably was a mistake. It couldn’t be true. I told Gringolet to go faster. I needed to know if it was true.
We arrived at the castle, but there was nobody to be seen. I entered the living room. I saw some knights, and Mordred. Mordred! ‘Where are they?’I shouted. ‘Gawain, I-’ he said. ‘WHERE ARE MY BROTHERS?’ I shouted.
‘They’re dead,’ Mordred said softly. I heard Merida gasping behind me. They were dead. My dearest brothers, my comrades, the two men I could always rely on, were dead. ‘IT’S YOUR FAULT!’ I shouted to Mordred. ‘No, it’s not!’ he said. ‘IF YOU HADN’T TOLD KING ARTHUR ABOUT IT, OUR BROTHERS WOULD HAVE BEEN ALIVE! OF COURSE IT’S YOUR FAULT!’
Mordred said nothing. He just stared at me in fear. ‘I never meant for them to get hurt,’ he said softly. ‘I never meant to kill my brothers.’ I walked over to him and pushed him on the ground. ‘THEN WHY DID YOU TELL THEM?’ I shouted. Mordred started crying like a little baby. ‘DON’T YOU FUCKING DARE TO CRY!’ I shouted. He was my brother, but my emotions just didn’t give me the chance to calm down.
‘FOR GOD’S SAKE, WHY DID YOU TELL THEM?’ I shouted. ‘Mother...I...told me...Arthur...I don’t...Queen...sorry!’ he sobbed. I rolled my eyes. ‘Could you form a proper sentence, please?’ I asked. ‘Mother, she always told me, that my father, King Arthur, was a thief, and that he stole the throne from her! She insisted that I would break Arthur, so I could get what I deserved, the throne! I didn’t know...that it would kill...my brothers!’ he said and started sobbing again.
I couldn’t believe my ears. ‘Are you still in contact with our mother? THAT WITCH KILLED OUR FATHER! AND HE MIGHT NOT BE YOUR FATHER, BUT THAT DOESN’T MAKE IT OKAY TO JUST DO WHAT SHE TELLS YOU TO DO! SHE KILLED HER HUSBAND! AND YOU STILL LISTENED TO HER?’ I shouted. ‘I...I’m sorry! I couldn’t say no! She would have taken the throne herself!’ he sobbed. ‘SHE RIPPED APART OUR FAMILY, MORDRED! SHE KILLED OUR FATHER! AND THROUGH YOU, SHE SPOILED YOUR AND AGRAVAIN’S PERSONALITY AND NOW OUR BROTHERS ARE DEAD!’ Mordred was quiet.
‘Where are they?’ I said when I had calmed down a little. ‘Outside...down the hill,’ Mordred sobbed. I ran towards the exit, followed by Merida, who hadn’t spoken a word. When I got outside, I saw a lot of people. I ran towards them, and made my way through the crowd. There they were, five knights, lying next to each other, with their eyes clothes. There they were. Gaheris and Gareth.
I crouched down and started crying. Now that I had seen them, it dawned on me that they would never wake up. Never would they talk again, never would they make me laugh like they used to. They were gone forever.
‘Wake up!’ I shouted. ‘This can’t be true! Wake up!’ I didn’t care that everyone was watching, and that this was completely useless. I just wanted them to open their eyes and tell me it was just a joke. But they didn’t wake up, they didn’t open their eyes.
I felt Merida crouching next to me. She put her hand on my shoulder. I heard her crying as well. ‘I’m sorry,’ she said. ‘Who did this?’ I asked the people around us. Nobody answered. ‘WHO DID THIS?’ I shouted. I looked at the people who were surrounding us through my tears. They all looked scared, probably because they had never seen me like this.
Then Sir Tristan stepped forward. ‘Gawain, it was an accident. Sir Lancelot came to save Guinevere, and your brothers tried to hold back the people who were trying to stop Lancelot and his comrades. It was one big chaos, Gawain. And in that chaos, they were killed by, well, Lancelot,’ he said softly.
It felt like my intestines had turned into ice. My best friend had killed my brothers. The traitor. My grieve made place for the bloodthirstiness I had felt before. ‘WHERE IS THAT BASTARD?’ I shouted and started crying even harder. ‘I WILL FIND HIM, AND HE SHALL DIE, EVEN IF THAT’S THE LAST THING I’LL EVER DO!’
The people who were surrounding us left us alone with our sorrow. Merida and I just sat there, between the bodies of my brothers and her brother-in-laws. We just sat there, crying over the loss of the only people who we knew would always support us.
When the stars were already out, we returned to the castle. My grief had finally died out, and now I felt the same emotionlessness King Arthur had felt. We went inside, and there was nobody. Everyone had already gone to bed. When we entered the living room, we saw King Arthur, in front of the fireplace.
‘Welcome,’ he said. I didn’t react, but Merida managed to produce a little smile. ‘Sit down,’ the king said. ‘I’m sorry,’ he said when we had sat down. ‘Faith hasn’t been too kind to us, has it?’ he said, and smiled without happiness.
‘Do you know where he is?’ I asked. King Arthur looked at me questioningly. ‘Lancelot,’ I said impatiently. It was strange. A month ago, the name would have brought me happiness, yesterday, it would have brought me fear, but now it brought me nothing but anger.
‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘Why?’ ‘What do you mean, why? Aren’t you going to execute him? Are you just going to let him get away? He has betrayed you! He has betrayed us all!’ I said. The same joyless smile reappeared on the king’s face. ‘I remember you had a different opinion just a week ago,’ he said.
‘Opinions can change,’ I said. ‘But if you’re not going to kill him, I’ll do it.’ Merida grabbed my hand, as if she tried to tell me to calm down without words. I looked at her, and she quickly withdrew her hand. She was probably scared of me. Usually I would have cared, but I just couldn’t think about everything right now.
‘That man killed my brothers, Merida!’ I said when she looked at me angrily. ‘And if you want to defend him, you’re just as much of a traitor as he is!’ ‘Gawain, please-’ she said. ‘No!’ I said and stood up. ‘You’re supposed to be on my side, Merida!’ ‘I am on your side, Gawain, of course I am, but-’ ‘Show it then!’ I said and walked off.
My blood started boiling again. So she was not trustworthy as well. Nobody was. Once again, I realised how messed up this world was. How messed up the people are. If she wanted to be on the murderer’s side, she deserved to be killed as well.
I was already lying in bed for a while, when I heard Merida entering my room. She silently lay down next to me. Usually, she placed her head on my chest, but now she was lying as far away from me as possible. Good. I didn’t want that traitress anywhere near me.
The next morning, I stood up early and went downstairs. A young page came towards me. ‘There is big news!’ he said. ‘What?’ I asked. ‘I don’t know,’ he said. ‘They told me to tell you to come to the round table.’
Some of the knights where already sitting around the table. ‘Gawain,’ King Arthur said when I entered the room. ‘Sit down.’ He looked around, and then he brought us the news. Lancelot has been sighted near the beach. Together with some men, he was preparing to go overseas.’
‘Good,’ I said. ‘When are we going?’ ‘I don’t know-’ ‘When are we going?’ I repeated. Arthur sighed. ‘When do you want to go?’ he asked. ‘As soon as possible,’ I answered. ‘Fine,’ he said. ‘Who is going to be in charge of the kingdom while you’re gone?’ a knight asked. ‘I don’t know,’ the King admitted.
‘I could take care of it while you’re gone,’ Mordred said quickly. The crying baby he looked like yesterday was gone, he had returned to his mischievous self. ‘I think leaving Sir Tristan in charge would be an excellent idea,’ Merida said with a furious look in her eyes. I hadn’t even noticed she was here too. She was probably trying to show me that she was trustworthy after all, but I would never believe her again. However, if she wouldn’t have said it, I would have. Mordred would probably try to steal the throne, even though I told him that it was wrong. He had become so rotten that he wouldn’t listen to anyone but our mother.
A week later, I was preparing my horse for the crossing, when a hooded figure came toward me. ‘Will you promise me to keep quiet?’ the figure asked. I immediately recognised the voice. ‘I will,’ I said quickly. ‘Guinevere, what are you doing here?’ I asked when she took off the hood.
‘I need you to do me a favour,’ she said. ‘And why would I do that?’ I asked. ‘If the king finds out, he will have us both hanged.’ ‘Because I am still your Queen,’ she said. ‘Actually, you’re-’ ‘Gawain, do you remember Merlin’s prophecy? The one he told you before you left for the chessboard?’ ‘Yes, but what has that got to do with this?’ I asked.
‘Always do what people ask you to do. Even if it seems to be disadvantageous to you, do it! It might not help you at that very moment, but it will later. Faith can be changed by the tiniest things, and if you want your faith to be good, make sure to do what any stranger asks,’ said Guinevere. Exactly what Merlin had told me years ago.
I hesitated, but then I asked what it was that she wanted. ‘I want to go to Brittany. I don’t want to leave Lancelot alone. And if you kill him-’ she stopped to take a deep breath ‘-I want to be with him when he dies. So, could you help me and give me a boat or something?’
‘Why did you come to me for help?’ I asked. ‘Because you are the most loyal of all knights, and I don’t have anyone else to go to,’ she said. ‘Loyal? If I really was loyal, I would’ve told King Arthur about you and that traitor.’
‘You were loyal to your best friend, which is important as well.’ ‘He’s not my friend,’ I said quickly. ‘Gawain, he didn’t want to kill them,’ Guinevere said. ‘And I have to believe that?’ I said angrily. ‘It were his friends as well, Gawain!’ We were silent for a moment.
‘So, are you going to help me?’ she asked after a while. I hesitated for a moment, but realised I had nothing to lose. ‘Fine,’ I said, thinking about Merlin’s prophecy. ‘Tomorrow, I’ll bring a boat to the beach, far from the place where we will set sail. You’ll have to sail to Brittany on your own. Oh, and promise me one thing: don’t intervene with our fight, okay?’ ‘I promise,’ the former queen said.
I walked away to prepare the boat, hoping that Merlin was right and that this would have a positive outcome for me.