Into the open Air

Gawain

‘Why don’t you want her to go?’ King Arthur had asked at dinner. And I just sat there, saying nothing. I had no idea why I wanted her to stay. Maybe because I needed a companion because Lancelot still hadn’t returned from his quest for the Holy Grail. But there were many knights in this castle, so why her?

Maybe she reminded me of Lancelot. But that was quite weird, because she seemed so reserved, while Lancelot was quite outgoing. But I knew Merida wasn’t that reserved. I just felt it. When she hugged me today, she seemed like a completely different person. That was also the first time she smiled, and that confirmed my feeling. When she smiled, it seemed like everything made sense, whereas in fact nothing made any sense anymore.

I lay down on my straw mattress. The other knights were already sleeping. Stop worrying, I said to myself. Nobody minds her presence and she’s a nice companion, so why would you even worry? I sighed and closed my eyes, but it took me ages to finally fall asleep.

I usually was one of the first knights to wake up, but today I was woken by the other knights who were getting dressed. ‘Good morning, sleeping beauty!’ Kay said with a high voice. ‘Oh shut up, you,’ I said and threw my pillow at his head. He laughed, caught it and threw it back. I smiled. It was good to be home.

I was the last person to enter the dining room. Merida was already chatting with my fellow knight Tor and the other people were also talking vividly. I took a seat next to Merida. ‘Good morning,’ I said. ‘Good morning,’ she responded. And that was our conversation.

I grabbed some food and started eating. ‘I think this is a good time to introduce you to all our knights,’ I said to her. She nodded. ‘You’ve already met our king Arthur, and that is our lovely queen Guinevere.’ Guinevere smiled. ‘Welcome to Camelot,’ she said, as if Merida had just arrived. Merida bowed her head and said nothing.

‘And that is Sir Erec, Sir Kay, Sir Bedivere, Sir Ector, Sir Lionel, Sir Ywain, Sir Pelleas, Sir Griflet and I believe you have already met Sir Tor. And where are the others?’ I asked King Arthur. ‘They went pheasant hunting. They have left early this morning.’

Merida shook her head. ‘It’ll take me years to remember all these names,’ she said. ‘Oh, but there are way more knights who aren’t present. Galahad, Bors, Percival and Lancelot are all searching for The Holy Grail. And then we have loads of other knights in Britain,’ I said laughing. Merida smiled with a slightly worried look in her eyes and continued eating.

‘There’s someone else you should meet,’ I said to Merida after breakfast. ‘Follow me.’ I grabbed a candle and lit it up. ‘Where are we going?’ she asked. ‘To the dungeons,’ I said. Her eyes widened and I laughed. ‘Don’t worry, there’s nothing to be afraid of. I walked to a big door and opened it. There was a spiral staircase that circled down into the darkness.

‘I hope you’re not afraid of the dark,’ I said with a smile. After what seemed like an eternity, the stairs just went on and on, we arrived at the lowest floor. ‘Are you all right?’ I asked. ‘I’m fine,’ she said but she didn’t seem too confident. It was a little damp, but I had seen worse. Way worse.

I stopped when I noticed that the stone wall made place for a wooden door. I knocked twice, but there was no response. ‘Knock again,’ Merida whispered. ‘Patience,’ I whispered with a smile. And, as I expected, after a minute or so, someone called: ‘Come in!’ I smirked at Merida, and opened the door.

‘Ah, Gawain, I’ve been expecting you, and of course your lovely companion too. Welcome, brave princess of DunBroch,’ Merlin said. Merida was staring at Merlin, and his long beard, and at the room we stood in. I remembered the first time I came here. All these cauldrons, books and shelves full of flasks and bottles filled with mysterious potions.

‘You have been in a place like this, haven’t you?’ he asked Merida, while he kept stirring a purple fluid in his cauldron. She nodded. ‘Well, you do not have to be scared, I will not sell you weird spells. I am only here to serve, not to sell. But your woodcarver-’ he winked at her ‘-will probably not agree with me.’ Merida giggled nervously. Merlin smiled.

I had no idea what they were talking about, but maybe it was better that way. ‘And you, Gawain,’ he said, ‘how are you?’ ‘Way better, Merlin. Thank you so much for your advice,’ I said with a smile. ‘I just help faith a little. That is my job,’ he said. I smiled. His cryptic answers always amused me.

‘But if you could excuse me, I have to finish this potion and that will need my uppermost concentration,’ he said, with his nose in some book. ‘Of course. Good luck,’ I said. We turned around. ‘Oh, and Merida,’ he said. ‘Ladies with bravery like yours are not rare, but those who show it are. Do not lose it.’ And with that he ended the conversation.

Merida and I walked back to the living room without saying anything. ‘Impressive, isn’t he?’ I said. ‘Yes,’ she said, still confused about everything. ‘Sometimes he says things that sound really weird, but all his prophecies will come true in the end,’ I said.

She shook her head. ‘Why... and how does he know everything about me?’ I smiled. ‘That’s a question that will never be answered. He probably knows more about you than you do yourself. It’s inexplicable, but it really is true.’ She still seemed confused. ‘Let’s go feed the horses,’ I said.

One more thing I loved about coming home: when you were hungry, dinner was ready. And not just a little roasted piece of meat, but a feast every single day. And today was no exception. And the company was also an advantage. When you’re on a quest, you’ll soon get lonely, but on Camelot, you’re never alone.

The maids came into the dining room with plates full of delicious meat, potatoes, soup, sauces and much more. Everyone was talking, laughing, and happily eating. I smiled. ‘It’s good to see you smile again,’ Griflet said to me. ‘It’s good to be home,’ I responded with a smile.

After approximately half an hour, Arthur stood up. I could tell by the look on his face he had news. I hoped the news would be good, maybe Guinevere was finally pregnant! But he looked so serious, and I feared the worst. ‘Knights of the Round table,’ he spoke formally. Oh no. Maybe one of the knights had died. Maybe Lancelot was dead. I took a deep breath.

‘We have received bad news from an ally or ours. He has been in a conflict and it’s getting worse. He asked me for help if the situation escalates. Our ally will be able to maintain for a certain amount of time, but I have been told his enemy has allies from the mainland. And there is a chance that he’ll have lots of allies, so when our ally can’t sustain together with us, we’ll need more extra men. So if any of you know knights who could help us, please inform them.’

I arose and said: ‘A friend of mine, Sir Locke, probably has some available knights and I’m sure he’ll help us.’ Other knights stood up and talked about knights they knew. Then I saw Merida get up. ‘Maybe I could help,’ she said with a clear voice. ‘Oh?’ King Arthur said. ‘Do you know any other knights?’ ‘Well, yes, no, I mean, but maybe I could help?’

Arthur smiled. ‘That’s a nice offer, but we can bring our own trained nurses,’ he said. ‘No, I mean, maybe I could fight along with you,’ she said. Oh boy, I thought. Arthur started laughing, and so did anyone else.

A quiet and reserved person like she seemed to be would just stand there helplessly, but I knew she was different. And this was the evidence. She didn’t stand there like a newborn puppy; I could see she was getting angry. Really angry. So angry that it seemed like the colour of her hair became brighter every second. I tried to calm some of the knights down, but the damage had already been done.

‘How dare you talk to me like that? The fact that I am a girl doesn’t mean that I’m incapable. You think you’re such a great king with your Round Table and your equality, but the way you treat me doesn’t show any equality. It only shows that you’re a hypocrite-’ I walked over to her. ‘Calm down,’ I whispered. ‘But I-’ ‘Merida,’ I said calmly. ‘Go.’ She turned around and walked away.

‘I’m awfully sorry,’ I said to King Arthur. ‘Can I-’ He nodded. I turned around and walked away. Merida was sitting in a chair in a living room. When she saw me she continued with her waterfall of angry words.

‘How dare he? He just laughed at me! Can you believe that? He’s such an arrogant-’ ‘Merida,’ I said. ‘Don’t say things you’ll regret. I know that wasn’t too nice, but you weren’t that polite too. And I get that you’re angry, but you’re here now and you should serve King Arthur as your own king, even though you might feel like he isn’t. I think you should go back to him and apologise. I’m sure he’ll apologise too.’

She jumped up from her chair. ‘Apologize?’ she said indignantly. ‘I’m not going to apologise to him. He should apologise to me! Is that how a King treats his guests? Is it?’ ‘Merida please, I get it, but at the moment you’re not acting better than he did. And I think you should be happy that he has given you a place to stay, so you owe him an apology.’

‘You’re just like him! I need to serve him because he’s your king and you should do whatever he tells you, blah blah. Well I’m really sorry but I’m not a lickspittle like you, Gawain. And I’m never going to be!’ She turned around. ‘I shouldn’t have come here.’ ‘No, maybe you shouldn’t have!’ I said angrily. She looked at me as if she wanted to kill me. Then she walked away angrily.

I sighed. I never meant to be that rude. And I didn’t want to get angry, but she left me no choice. I turned around, back to the dining room. Everyone was still shocked by Merida’s words. ‘I’m so sorry,’ I said to King Arthur. ‘She’s just... quick to take offence.’

‘It’s not your fault Gawain, and I certainly don’t blame you.’ He stood up and walked away. For a moment I just stood there, and then I walked away too, hoping that Merida’s anger would drain away overnight.

I woke up panting heavily. My body was covered in sweat and I felt anxious. I looked around, but the dormitory was pitch-black. I only heard some knights snoring peacefully. I lay down again and closed my eyes. It was just a nightmare. But it didn’t feel like “just a nightmare”, mostly because I never had nightmares.

‘Gawain, you stupid fool,’ I whispered to myself. ‘You’re one of the bravest people in the kingdom, why are you freaking out over a nightmare?’ I laughed silently. I didn’t consider myself as one of the bravest knights in the kingdom, but it did comfort me.

But then I remembered the blue eyes I saw in the dream. I got up and put on my tunic as fast as I could. Then I grabbed a candle and lit it on fire. I needed to be quick now. I left the hall and ran to the tower room where Merida slept. I never went to this part of the castle and many times I felt like I was lost. But after a couple of minutes I finally reached her room and cautiously opened the door.

‘Merida?’ I whispered. No response. ‘Merida?’ I said again. Still nothing. I walked over to the bed. There was nobody in it. And I didn’t see any of her possessions. I opened the curtains. The sun was rising. I looked at the landscape, but I didn’t see anything. Shit. She was gone.


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