I knelt and drank some water from the river. The water was twinkling in the sun. I lay down on a rock and smiled. The rock was warm from the sun, the sky was blue, the river was gurgling peacefully and Gringolet was happily grazing. I closed my eyes. Life was finally good again.
I was woken by a droplet of water. I opened my eyes and saw the sky had turned grey and cloudy. I sat up and noticed it was starting to rain by the circles forming in the river. Gringolet was still grazing. Before I had fallen asleep, I could see fields as far as the eye could see, but it had suddenly become so misty, that the last piece of field I saw was only a stone’s throw away.
I prepared for the homeward journey, when I heard a horse galloping in the distance. I squinted at the horizon. I saw a big black horse, but I couldn’t see the rider. All I could see was that he was in a hurry. Just in time, I took a step back and closed my eyes.
When I opened them, I saw the horse drinking from the river, as well as the rider. I cleared my throat. ‘Excuse me, I...’ I immediately stopped talking when the rider turned his head. Well, her head, actually. In front of me was a girl with beautiful, clear blue eyes and many little freckles.
‘What is it?’ she said, a little angry. I didn’t know what to say. ‘I... well I, I thought...’ What was happening? I always knew what to say, but she seemed so irritated I didn’t know if it was a good idea to say anything at all. ‘I noticed that you were in a hurry, and I thought maybe I could help you.’ ‘Well I don’t need help, thank you very much. Now if you’ll excuse me, I...’ ‘Wait,’ I said. She raised her eyebrows.
‘Uhm, where are you going, if I may ask?’ She was quiet for a moment. ‘Well you may not,’ she said. Good god, she was stubborn. ‘If you have nowhere to go, you could come with me if you want.’
‘And how do I know if I can trust you?’ she said. I looked down at my green sash, but decided not to tell her. ‘Because I am a knight and I am here to help people.’ ‘Good for you,’ she said, ‘but I don’t need your help.’ ‘But your horse does,’ I said. And it was true. It looked exhausted. And so did she, but I didn’t tell her that, because if I would, she certainly wouldn’t listen to me anymore.
She looked at her horse and hesitated for a moment, but then she said: ‘I can take care of Angus by myself. I am not a weak damsel in distress and I really don’t need your help. Go help another person.’ I started losing my patience. ‘You know you and your horse are not in a good condition. I can offer you the care you need and a place to sleep. Just trust me,’ I said.
She glanced at her horse once again and sighed. ‘Fine’. She still looked quite angry, but I was glad she finally agreed. I offered her my hand, to help her mount her horse, but she looked at me furiously. ‘Don’t you dare touch me,’ she said. ‘All right, I won’t, don’t worry,’ I said. I mounted Gringolet in silence. ‘Let’s go,’ I whispered. ‘What did you say?’ the girl said. ‘Nothing, nothing,’ I answered.
We rode for a long time without saying anything, so I decided to say something. ‘What is your name, if I may ask?’ ‘Merida,’ she said curtly. ‘Merida,’ I whispered. ‘That’s a beautiful name.’ She said nothing. ‘Yours?’ she asked after a while. ‘Excuse me?’ ‘What is your name?’ ‘Oh, Gawain. My name is Gawain.’ No reaction. Thank god, someone in this land didn’t know my name. It felt great.
‘Where are you from?’ I asked. ‘Can’t you guess?’ she said. It was true, I had already guessed. She had a really thick, Scottish accent. ‘I’m sorry,’ I said softly. I looked at her, but she said nothing and turned her head.
Suddenly, we heard a loud bang and it started raining. Her horse neighed loudly and started running, and I quickly set off in pursuit. ‘Angus, Angus, stop that!’ she screamed. Gringolet was fast, but he couldn’t catch up with the frightened horse. The wind blew of Merida’s hood, and her hair came out. She had beautiful, curly, bright red locks. I had never seen locks like these. ‘ANGUS!’ she suddenly screamed. The horse stopped at once and looked terribly confused. I would’ve laughed if the circumstances were different, but it felt inappropriate since the girl didn’t have the ability to laugh.
She calmed down her horse, while I rushed towards her. ‘Are you alright?’ I asked, still looking at her hair. She didn’t respond to my question, but looked at me angrily. ‘Yes, I have devilish hair, so what?’ ‘Oh, no, I, I mean...’ I sighed. ‘I think it’s absolutely beautiful,’ I said. ‘Of course you do,’ she said sarcastically. We rode on through the pouring rain and the thunder, until we saw a little village looming up in the distance.
‘Finally,’ she sighed. We rode over the main street, searching for a tavern. We finally found a little inn at the edge of the village. We tied the horses to a bench and went inside. The innkeeper was sleeping in a chair. I pulled my hood over my head and made sure my green sash wasn’t visible. Merida didn’t seem to know who I was and I wanted to keep it like that for a while.
I cleared my throat, to wake up the sleeping innkeeper. He woke up and looked at us with an angry face. ‘What is it?’ he said. ‘We are looking for a place to sleep, sir,’ I said. ‘The hayloft is free,’ he said. ‘Got horses?’ ‘Yes, sir,’ I said. ‘There’s a stable behind the house. Good night.’ ‘Thank you very much, sir,’ I said. We went outside and walked to the stable with our horses.
The hayloft was big and dusty, but I was really glad we got a place to sleep. I created a comfortable sleeping place and took off my tunic and chain mail under the blanket. Merida had already fallen asleep, but her blanket was still lying next to her. I wrapped my blanket around me and silently walked over to her. I picked up her blanket and tucked her in. ‘Goodnight,’ I whispered, and went to sleep myself.
‘Good morning,’ I said when I returned to the hayloft. ‘Hmmm?’ Merida mumbled. ‘Good morning,’ I repeated with a smile. She sat up and looked at me. ‘Is it already morning?’ she asked. ‘It is,’ I said. ‘Ugh,’ she sighed and she turned around. ‘I got you some bread and apples. I’m going to prepare the horses.’ She didn’t say anything, so I turned around and left the hayloft.
The horses were already fed and ready to go when Merida finally arrived. ‘It’s so early,’ she said. ‘I know,’ I responded with a smile. ‘But we have got a long way to go.’
The trip took longer than I expected. The sun was already dropping, and we weren’t near Camelot yet. But the scenery seemed familiar again, so we were close. ‘We’re almost there,’ I said to Merida. She didn’t respond. I looked at her, and realised she had fallen asleep. I laughed. I had to admit she looked quite cute.
I told Gringolet to stop and jumped onto the ground. I carefully lifted her of her horse. Luckily, she was as light as a feather. I put her on Gringolet’s saddle, and mounted the horse too. I grabbed the bridles and held the girl close to me, with her back between my arms. ‘Off we go,’ I whispered to Gringolet.
I was ever so relieved when I saw the white turrets of Camelot. I hadn’t been away for so long, but it felt like it had been years. Gringolet recognised his home too, because he started galloping. ‘Easy, boy, easy. We don’t want to wake her up, do we?’ I said. We climbed the steep path that lead to the enormous castle. ‘We’re here,’ I said to the sleeping girl in my arms. She slowly opened her eyes. ‘What are you doing?’ she screamed when she saw me and she jumped onto the ground.
‘I’m sorry, but you fell asleep and I didn’t want you to fall off of your horse,’ I said. ‘Well you should have let me fall then!’ I sighed. Why didn’t she just accept the help she was given? I turned around and brought Gringolet to his stable. I filled his water tank and gave him his oats. He greedily dug in.
I wanted to take care of Angus, but I saw Merida already had. ‘Let’s go inside,’ I said. ‘No,’ she responded. ‘Angus is weak and I want to stay with him.’ ‘Others can take care of Angus. You need some caretaking yourself. Come with me,’ I said calmly. ‘I’m alright. I’ll stay with Angus,’ she said. ‘Please, Angus will be fine. Come with me now.’ ‘No!’ she screamed. ‘I’m staying with Angus!’ I quickly grabbed her wrist. My own aggression scared me a little, and it scared Merida as well, because she shut her mouth instantly. She turned around, said goodbye to Angus and followed me quietly.
We walked over the wooden bridge, under the portcullis and we crossed the courtyard, until we reached the big front door. I put my hand against the wood and pushed as hard as I could. The warmth of the living room welcomed us, along with the sound of lyres. It was so good to be home.
Suddenly, Merida collapsed. Luckily, I caught her in time. I thanked god she was still breathing, but she looked exhausted. ‘Assistance, please!’ I screamed as loud as I could. The musicians stopped playing and some maids quickly came to see what the problem was. ‘Get a nurse,’ one of them screamed. ‘Bring her to an empty room,’ she said to me. ‘Follow me.’ The maid quickly ran up the stairs and I followed her, with Merida in my arms. She brought me to a small tower room. I gently laid her on the soft bed. ‘Can I do anything else?’ I asked the maid. ‘No, we’ll take it from here. Good night, sir.’ I nodded at her and left the room, hoping that Merida was all right.