Title: The gift of a good day
Rating: G (Series rating: NC-17)
Pairing/s: Merlin/Arthur, other background couples.
Character/s: Arthur, Merlin, Gwaine, Guinevere, Leon, Elena, Galahad.
Summary: We follow our heroes on the day of Christmas Eve.
Warnings: None. (Series warnings: buckets of angst)
Word Count: 5,050
Prompt: #72 Acceptance
Author's Notes: It's been over a month, but here is a loooong chapter to make up for it. I recommend reading the author's notes only after you have read the chapter itself. ... I cannot wait to write the next chapter. Sooo looking forward to what is coming. >:D
You can find the rest of this series on AO3, or here at Camelot Drabble.
I felt it was necessary to take stock of the characters, so to speak, before ... well, before what is to come, but I didn’t want to write a hundred more chapters. So I decided to put all the viewpoints into a single chapter, and do a little experiment with fluid exchanges of focal characters. It might come off as stilted; please let me know if it did.
In this chapter, I finally got the chance to address Guinevere’s refusal of Arthur’s proposal three years ago. Now, obviously, the true reason why she said no, is because this is a Merthur story, and I didn’t want to deal with infidelity. So giving voice to Gwen’s reasons is an extravagance, but also very difficult, because I didn’t plan for her reasons from the beginning. And why would she say no? She loves him, he loves her, they make kick-ass rulers! So I took the characters and tweaked them a bit. Where Merlin in canon loves Arthur deeply, but without the selfish possessiveness that comes from romantic and lustful love, my Merlin isn’t quite so able to share, which Gwen picked up on. As for Guinevere herself, I dialled her love for Lancelot up a notch, deepening the wound left behind by his death. This created a situation where a potential marriage to Arthur would be more complicated for her than it was in canon. In addition, I have one other reason why Gwen said no, but I am saving that one for the post-story author’s notes.
Also, I had planned on being much vaguer about Gwen and Leon’s relationship, but the characters ran away with me a bit and so Leon at least obviously has some feelings for her.
A group of entertainers arrive just in time for the celebrations. Their colourful wagons attract a great deal of attention as they creak through the snow towards the citadel, pulled by puffing ponies and filled, no doubt, with all kinds of exciting magic. Not real magic, of course, but the illusions and arts of jugglers, acrobats, storytellers, singers and jesters. Children mill about the train all the way through town. From the back of a faded, yellow wagon, a handsome dwarf in a brilliantly red coat throws sweets to the little ones, who reach out eager hands and cry out for more. Beside the dwarf sits a woman whose golden hair is streaked with grey, but whose eyes are full of life and laughter. She has bundled herself up in a colourful patchwork shawl, but underneath, her dress is plain.
On the roof of one of the wagons, a fire breather is spitting flames high into the air, to a chorus of gasps from the onlookers, and a young woman is doing a handstand on the back of one of the wagon horses, but however strange and wonderful the new arrivals appear to the children, it pales in comparison to what meets them when they mill through the upper gates and into the courtyard of the citadel. There is a marvellous snowball-fight going on, and it seems to involve most of the King’s knights.
Red capes stream in the air as full-grown men chase each other around like boys. Snowballs soar left and right, some find targets and send them sprawling, while others fly wild. In the midst of it all, the King himself is back to back with Merlin, the two of them standing their ground against any and all comers. Clear laughter rings through the courtyard like the bells that pealed that very morning to greet the coming of Christmas Eve.
A snowball comes out of nowhere and slams into the corner of the yellow wagon, spraying the woman and the dwarf with snow.
Sir Gwaine comes running up. He grins apologetically and bows low. “My lady, good Sir, it was not my intention to hurt you.” He takes a snowball to the back, and turns around just in time to duck as another comes flying at him. “Oi!” he shouts, and is given laughter in return. He turns back to the couple and winks. “Gotta watch your back with this lot.”
“No harm done, Sir Knight,” the dwarf assures him.
Gwaine inclines his head gratefully, and means to turn away.
“Oh, Sir Knight?” the woman says suddenly.
Gwaine looks up at her, and immediately takes a snowball to the back of the head.
The woman laughs aloud while Gwaine splutters.
“Now we are even,” she says. “Go back to your game.”
He just stares at her for a moment, taking in her shrewd eyes and the sharp corner of her smiling mouth, before bowing again, with more respect this time. “My lady.” Then he whips around and stalks into the crowd. “Merlin! I know that was you!”
“It was Arthur!”
Guilty and innocent alike scatter, roaring with laughter, as Gwaine takes up the chase, the newcomers forgotten. The wagons roll away towards their old camp site: the fields stretching white and untouched beyond the castle.
Merlin runs to the steps of the citadel, climbs nimbly up on the dais where the statue of the mounted knight stands, and sends another snowball after Gwaine, who throws himself out of the way and behind one of the few mounds of last night’s snow that has not yet been flattened.
Merlin laughs like a fiend while Gwaine waves furiously to get Percival and Elyan to join him.
When the three burst out from behind the mound to pelt Merlin with snowballs, the little demon hides behind the legs of the stone horse, and sticks his tongue out at them as their projectiles miss their target.
“So it’s a siege, is it?” Merlin yells, scraping the top of the platform for snow.
His shout attracts the attention of Sir Dinadan, a knight big enough to rival even Percival, and Sir Gregor, who joined the ranks just last summer.
“Need any help, boy?” Dinadan bellows, and he and Gregor hurry to Merlin’s side, crouching down behind the statue’s base.
“It’s war!” Gwaine shouts, and then it is. More knights join each side. Leon, the traitor, goes to Merlin, but Arthur comes to Gwaine. A few rebellious fools try to form their own group, but give up quickly when they are flattened in their first attack by several dozen snowballs.
The strategy is to jump up, make a throw at the nearest available target, and duck down again to furiously gather more snow. A hit to the chest or the face means you are out. Slowly the number of balls flying through the air dwindles, as many of the “slain” knights take to the stairs to sit and cheer the factions on.
Merlin, on his bird’s perch, remains unbeaten, and he’s grinning like a loon.
Eventually, Gwaine and Arthur remain against Merlin, Leon and Gregor. The three at the statue huddle down to whisper amongst themselves.
“What are they planning?” Arthur mumbles, idly tossing a snowball from hand to hand.
It becomes clear when, with a mighty war cry, Leon, Gregor and Merlin abandon their base to run full tilt at Gwaine and Arthur, who scream like little girls before gathering their wits enough to take the offered shot. Gregor is hit and falls down theatrically. Merlin dodges, and he and Leon throw themselves over the mound and land heavily on top of Gwaine and Arthur.
Merlin, sitting astride Arthur, raises both hands into the air with a whoop of joy, and to great applause from the spectators.
Gwaine and Arthur immediately pull him down and shove him face-first into the snow. He comes up laughing like he can’t stop. Arthur rolls his eyes at him and pulls him to his feet.
“You don’t have to be so satisfied with yourself.” He brushes show from Merlin’s neckerchief, and the gruffness is belied by his smile.
Leon and Gwaine remain sprawled on the ground, breathing hard.
“That was a good work-out,” Gwaine says.
Then Merlin is bending over him. “I admit it,” he says, voice low, with a big, dumb grin on his face. “I did throw that snowball.”
Gwaine chases him all the way into the castle and up the first flight of steps before he has to stop and catch his breath. He can hear Merlin crowing with satisfaction somewhere up ahead, the sound fading as he disappears. The other knights follow more sedately. A few clap Gwaine on the back.
“Better luck next time, Sir Gwaine,” Dinadan says.
Arthur is one of the last to come up, and he stops next to Gwaine and waits for the hallway to empty. He keeps his arms crossed over his chest and looks a little uncomfortable. When they are alone, he glances quickly at Gwaine and says, “Thank you ... for cheering him up.”
Gwaine straightens up shrugs his shoulders. “Don’t know that it was me that did it, really.” He pulls off his gloves and wipes melted snow from his eyes.
For the past week, Merlin has been busy helping to tend to Gaius’ patients, and he’s been looking more wound up every time Gwaine has seen him. Sneaking away every evening to roll around in the King’s bed hasn’t seemed to help him either, and since Gwaine takes credit for opening that door for him and Arthur, he is very disappointed.
But today it is Christmas, and Merlin’s bad mood has melted away like a snowflake. His shoulders are down, his expression open, and his eyes are free of shadows, though he still looks like he could use a good night’s sleep.
“Well, you helped.” Arthur claps a hand to Gwaine’s shoulder, which is the most emotional gesture he is capable of, the poor sod. “You’re a good friend, Gwaine.”
“Thank you, Sire.”
Gwaine knows that Arthur is not only speaking on Merlin’s behalf, but on his own as well, and it is as close to an apology as Arthur will ever make him, but it is enough. When Arthur walked away that day in the training room, mute and temperamental like a different man entirely, Gwaine had seriously considered packing up and leaving. Now, as he watches Arthur walk away again, he is glad he didn’t. Not only is Arthur returning to normal, but Gwaine has, over the past few weeks, realised just how close he is to his fellow knights, as they have spent evening after evening sharing their worries about their Captain over mugs of ale. This fellowship is something he never thought he would experience. He never thought he would find a place, not to mention a King, that he would be willing to lay down his life for. He doesn’t ever want to let go of this.
Later, in the solitude of his room, Gwaine peels off his wet clothes, hangs away his chainmail, and washes up before dressing in the clothes he will be wearing for the feast tonight. A fine green shirt under his favourite leather jacket, and the new boots Arthur gave him for an early Christmas present. The King gives presents to all his knights, and though many of them must, by necessity, be picked out by others, a few will come from Arthur himself, and this one did. The boots make up the rest of the apology; they are finer and more expensive than anything Arthur has given away before.
Gwaine puts them on, stands up from his bed and stamps his feet to make sure the fit is right. He wasn’t aware of just how worn his old boots were until he felt the snug, sturdy grip of the new ones, and the feelings brings him a simple happiness that warms him through.
After snagging a bite to eat from the kitchens, he ends up in the music room, where there is always life these days. Lady Mary is currently singing, accompanied by a harpist, and several lordlings are lounging on the many chairs and sofas, listening with varying degrees of genuine musical interest. Lady Mary’s eyes are on Arthur though, her smiles and her gestures all for him, and he looks like he wishes he could run away and hide somewhere. He is hovering distractedly by the game board where Merlin is playing against Percival. Merlin seems to be losing rather spectacularly, more focused on pretending not be bothered by the attention Arthur is getting from the lady, than on working out a playing strategy.
Gwaine shakes his head and goes to help him out.
On a sofa by the brightly burning fireplace, Guinevere is sitting with Lady Brangaine, Mary’s mother. Gwen is mending a pair of Elyan’s trousers. She ought to be doing embroidery or something else appropriate, but she would rather be useful. Luckily, Lady Brangaine is the kind of woman who appreciates honesty over propriety.
The lady puts her hot cider aside with a sigh, and watches her daughter with a regretful sort of fondness in her expression.
“Well. She can sing, I will give her that. None of her sisters can boast of that.”
Guinevere pretends to be very intent on her work, while trying to think of something tactful to say. “I am sure Lady Mary has many accomplishments.”
“I would rather she had a sharp mind and a larger portion of modesty,” the lady says bluntly. She smiles conspiratorially at Guinevere. “She takes rather too much after her father.”
Guinevere smiles into her lap. She needn’t encourage the old lady, entertaining though she is.
Mary does have her talents, though. She is very pretty for one, with her dark brown hair shining in the firelight, her delicate hands clasped at her slim waist, and her large, almond eyes drawing her audience in. She also does have quite a lovely voice; clear and steady. Unfortunately, she is spoiling the effect somewhat by staring rather too resolutely at Arthur, who in turn is focusing fervently on the game that Merlin is currently losing.
The King says something, and Merlin makes a reply that causes the men around the game board to laugh, and Lady Mary’s eyes to narrow.
Gwen focuses on her mending.
She can feel Lady Brangaine’s sharp eyes on her. “I have tried to tell Mary that the King will not take her for a wife, but she won’t listen to me.”
“She has as good a chance as anyone,” Gwen says without looking up from her work. “I am sure His Majesty is considering marriage.” There are rather too many rumours to the contrary going around already, though only Arthur’s closest friends know about him and Merlin. How long their secrecy will last is anybody’s guess though. “He knows the people would welcome a queen ... and an heir.”
Lady Brangaine gives Arthur a long look. “They would,” she says simply.
When the song ends, Lady Mary is quickly at Arthur’s side. She drapes herself on his arm, gestures as if she finds the room too hot, and obviously requests that he accompany her outside. Arthur looks momentarily panicked, before he resigns himself to his fate, gives the lady a quick bow and escorts her away. At the last moment, he turns his head and barks an order at Merlin, who stands up so fast he bangs into the game board and almost topples it, before running out the door after the couple.
Guinevere puts the needle through the cloth, pulls it out, puts it in again, pulls it out, puts it in again-
“Go on,” Lady Brangaine says. “The mending will wait for you.”
Guinevere looks up at her, startled, sudden fear making her heart pound. How direct this woman is. How careless.
But Lady Brangaine’s expression is gentle. “I was young once too, Gwen,” she says, voice low. “Indulge your heart while it is still free, and you will make a wiser choice when you tether it.”
Gwen leaves at a quick walk. She doesn’t even know what she means to do, she just doesn’t want to lose sight of Arthur while he is with that ... that woman! Merlin will keep an eye on them of course, but ...
In the staircase she happens to look out of the window, and sees, through the diamond-paned glass, three blurry figures outside in the still afternoon. Lady Mary will not be feeling too hot anymore, but it seems to have given her an excuse to cling to Arthur all the tighter.
What am I doing?
Gwen leans her forehead against the glass and lets the chill cool her mind. She is acting on her lowest impulses, being jealous and nosy and selfish. As if Arthur is even hers to lose.
“Lady Guinevere, have you seen the King?”
It’s Leon, all dressed up in his finest red jacket. It is frayed in places, and has probably been mended before, but it suits him; gives colour to his cheeks and brings out his freckles.
He slows his approach as he nears her and catches on to her mood. She indicates the courtyard below with a gesture.
“His Majesty is busy with his duties.”
Leon looks outside. “Hard duties,” he comments. He spots Merlin idling at a respectful distance to the couple, and wonders what he thinks of the situation. Then he glances at Guinevere, and realises that she, at least, is not happy.
“Arthur will not have Mary,” Leon says, wanting to reassure her. “Even if he were to marry for political reasons, it would be to a princess, so he can marry kingdom to kingdom as well as man to woman.”
Guinevere’s expression wavers for a moment between sorrow and anger, before she smoothes it out. Now she just looks tired. “I know. But whomever he chooses, he must do it soon, before the talk grows dangerous.”
“There is talk?”
“There is always talk.” She sighs, and finally pulls her eyes from the window to look at Leon. “Even with a sorceress lose in the castle, the court is interested in little other than Arthur’s brideless bed.”
Leon watches as Arthur stops down in the yard and calls for Merlin to keep up. “Brideless, but not empty, I think.” He bites his lip. “Not anymore?” He glances quickly at Guinevere, but she is steady and calm. Always was, Gwen.
“Not anymore,” she says, and nods determinately to herself, even smiling a little.
He smiles too. Merlin has returned the King to happiness, and though Leon cannot himself understand the feelings they have for each other, a man for a man, he will not judge a bond that does so much good for both them and the kingdom. He understands that they need each other.
“I am happy for them,” he says. “I only hope that when Arthur takes a queen at last, Merlin will be as understanding of you, as you have been of him.”
She startles, gapes at him. “Leon!”
“Why should Arthur take anyone else? He will marry for love or not at all, and he loves you, and you have the support of the people, and the knights and most of the court. If you will only accept him ...”
She was always the unshakable one. Always wise and mature beyond her years. When Leon fell from the roof of his father’s house and broke his leg, it was little Gwen who sat with him and calmed him down while Elyan ran to get help. She did not cry, even at the sight of his twisted leg, though Leon, several years older, had cried loudly.
Leon has seen her step between Arthur and an assassin’s sword, armed only with the steel in her eyes, and it was she who had salvaged the treaty negotiations with Mercia, when Arthur and Bayard were unable to overcome past enmities.
How could she, with all her wisdom and patience, turn down the man she still loves when he offered her everything?
Leon poses the question, tentatively. She regards him steadily as he flounders to explain. “I have wondered … for years, but I knew it was not my place to ask, and it still isn’t, I shouldn’t-”
She places a hand on his arm, silencing him. “It’s alright.”
She looks around briskly. “Come,” she says. “Walk with me.”
He offers her his arm, and they set off in no particular direction. The castle is cheerful and busy. The feast tonight will be lavish, even decadent, and though the washing and sweeping and decorating and baking has been going on for days already, there is always more to do. In the midst of the bustle of servants, and with the nobility ensconced with the variety of entertainment available in the castle’s many rooms, Gwen and Leon find themselves enjoying a strange sort of privacy. Like a ship in the eye of the storm, they can walk and talk unmolested.
“The truth is,” Guinevere begins slowly, eyes downcast and thoughtful. “I’m not sure why I turned him down.”
“You do seem to regret it,” Leon ventures to say.
“Again,” she says with a self-deprecating snort. “I’m not sure.” She takes a deep breath. “When he asked me, years ago, I knew that marrying him would entail much more than just waking up next to the man I loved every morning. I would be queen. Married to Arthur, and to Camelot.”
Leon hasn’t really thought of it that way before, but realises that it is an inevitable truth. The King can never be just a man, and so the Queen, he supposes, can never be just a woman.
“And then there was the matter of ... Lancelot.” She might be blushing, he can’t tell, but she speaks the name as if it is something precious, a secret or a treasure. “He is still in my heart, and always will be, just like Arthur. Had I said yes to Arthur, it would have been a marriage of four.”
They walk on in silence, and Leon stays silent, though he knows she is waiting for him to speak, to comment on her infidelity. But he will not. It is in the past now, and was never any of his business besides. When he dares another glance at her, she is looking at him curiously.
“And then,” she finally continues, turning her eyes forward again, “I looked around and realised that Arthur and I were not so alone in the royal gardens as I had thought. My poor suitor had brought his moral support with him, and he was sitting on a bench in front of the rose bushes, trying to look like he wasn’t watching.” She sighs again. “Trying to look like his heart wasn’t breaking.”
A maid curtseys as she passes with an armful of clean sheets, and Leon waits until she is well out of earshot before he speaks. “But Merlin was always urging Arthur to act on his feelings for you. No one wanted your union more than he did.”
Gwen smiles affectionately and leans her head on Leon’s shoulder as they stroll. Her hair tickles his chin. “Dear Merlin. Perhaps he didn’t think he had a chance.”
“Or perhaps he thought the two of them could never be together regardless,” Leon adds, and has to clear his throat. “Even now, the reality remains that Arthur must someday wed.”
Gwen’s eyes narrow suddenly. “You hit on something earlier, I think … Deep down I always expected Arthur to come back to me. I was able to let him go because I thought the window of opportunity would remain open. If I had not had that certainty, I would never have refused his proposal. I would rather have lived every day with Merlin’s wounded heart on my conscience, and Lancelot’s ghost in the bed between me and my husband, than lose Arthur altogether. I thought I had time.”
Leon hesitates, treading sensitive ground again. “Mustn’t … Merlin … now live with your … wounded heart?”
She shook her head. “I had my chance, and three years more besides.” They walk in silence for a while, and then Gwen says. “I am happy for them. Merlin completes Arthur in a way I never could have. And I still get to be close to them both.”
“Merlin cannot give Arthur children,” Leon says.
Gwen looks troubled. “I …” She frowns, frustrated. “I have a strange feeling that … Arthur never will have children.” She glances quickly at Leon. “I don’t know why, I just … feel it.”
Leon looks at her curiously. “I hope you don’t have the sight.” The joke is half lost because he can’t seem to lighten his tone.
She smiles anyway, though. “I doubt that. I am barren of magic powers. But I don’t need them.” They stop, and she turns to him. “I was a blacksmith’s daughter, and now I am a lady, independent of any man for my income. I answer to no one, and my opinions are respected by my peers. I have more than most women can ever dream of. Arthur has given me a great gift, and if I, by giving him this time with Merlin, can return a little of that generosity, then that makes me happy too.”
On an impulse that makes his heart leap in surprise at his own bravery, Leon leans down and kisses her dark forehead. It’s a chaste gesture and yet he can feel himself blushing, and her eyes have widened a little when he straightens up and can look at her again.
“I-I really admire you for all this,” he says quickly. “Always have.” He bows quickly and almost staggers around, walking away as fast as he can without looking like he is fleeing.
Around the corner he almost runs straight into Princess Elena.
“Oh, Sir Leon.” She looks a little stressed, her hair flying all over the place, but then again it would be rarer to see it properly braided. She looks around. “Have you seen Galahad anywhere? He has wandered off again.”
“I haven’t seen him,” Leon says, detaches himself with another little bow and hurries on down the hallway.
Elena, momentarily distracted from her search, watches him go. He seemed preoccupied, she thinks. Oh well. She draws her cloak closer about her and heads for the courtyard.
Galahad’s little boots and fur jacket is gone, so he is probably outside. The nurse, poor thing, was asleep by the fire, and had thought he was too. The old woman is currently searching the part of the castle where Emrys’ cloak was found, in case Galahad has gone back there. Elena suspects, however, that the fine afternoon, though cold, has lured him outside to play.
Sure enough, as she circles the edge of the courtyard, she finds a set of tiny footprints to follow, leading, not into town as she had first thought they would, but to the fields behind the castle. Yesterday they lay empty and untouched, heaped with snow, but today they are crowded with the colourful wagons of the gypsy-folk. They have built a great fire, and are gathered around it, making their food and huddling together for warmth.
Elena spots Galahad’s white-haired head amongst them, and approaches to see him bundled up on the lap of a woman who is singing gently to him. As Elena nears, the woman stops singing, and says, “Here comes your mother, Galahad. She will be unhappy that you left her.”
Galahad blinks sleepily, looks up and sees Elena. With a slow, unbeguiling smile, he reaches out for her.
“Thank you for looking after him,” Elena says as she lifts her child into her arms.
“Thank you for not accusing me of luring him away,” says the woman, as she untangles Galahad from her shawl, and wraps it around her own shoulders again. “Most would not be so kind to my kind.”
Elena shakes her head. “Oh, Galahad wanders off all the time.” She bounces him. “Don’t you sweetie? But he stays out of trouble. He has an ability to read peoples intentions before they know them themselves.”
Elena covers Galahad with her own cloak and places his head on her shoulder, where his eyes quickly close for sleep.
“A remarkable child,” says the man sitting next to the woman, stirring a pot of stew on a branch in the fire. He is hardly taller than Galahad, but well-shaped, with auburn hair tied back in a ponytail, and a good smile. “Connected to the world around him in a way most people will never be.”
“But then,” says the woman, regarding Elena with eyes that seem to pierce her soul. “So are you, Your Majesty.”
Elena has never spoken of her own abilities to anyone. For the past few years, she has been able to sense where great magic has been performed, or when there are magical beings present. It is not something she can explain, or control. She hardly knows how it works, and has not dared to discuss it with anyone. Not her father, and certainly not her husband.
As if understanding, the dwarf grins and places a finger to his lips, promising secrecy. “Come,” he says, “sit and warm yourself a while. Have a bowl of broth. My name is Tom, and I was just going to ask Taliessa for a story.” He winks. “She is very good with those.”
The woman gives him a good-natured glare. “I am saving my stories for tonight, Tom Thumb. For their proper time.”
But Elena decides that Taliessa doesn’t really mean it, and so she promptly makes herself comfortable on the ground next to the two. “I would love to hear a story,” she says.
Taliessa laughs. “You are ruining your dress, Your Majesty.”
Elena looks down, makes sure she is sitting mostly on her cloak and not just her dress, and then shrugs. “It’s only a dress. Please call me Elena.”
Tom is whistling to himself with some satisfaction as he ladles stew into three bowls.
Taliessa looks from the one to the other, sighs and rolls her eyes in defeat. “Very well. I will tell you a story.”
She does not, though. She does not merely tell a story. She weaves a tapestry. She takes Elena on a journey, makes the characters come alive to whisper their lines into her ears, each voice distinct, each face as clear to her as her own dear father’s. Sometimes Taliessa breaks into song, her voice strong and undeniable, but also sweet and lulling. Tom produces a brass flute from inside his coat and gives her a melody.
Elena loses herself, and when she later awakens, as if from a dream, darkness has fallen. The castle windows shine with golden light like candles. Galahad lies quietly on his mother’s lap, having listened as intently as her. White stars are reflected in his eyes, as if they contain the heavens.
Elena moves, and realises she is aching with stiffness and the cold that has seeped through her clothes and into her skin.
“Who are you?” she asks the woman.
“A storyteller,” she replies, and the last vestiges of the remarkable dream fade from the air, taken by the cold.
“You must come to the Christmas feast,” Elena insists as she takes her leave. “You and Tom. You can tell your stories to the King and the court.”
Taliessa looks reluctant. “A large feast makes a poor stage for me. I much prefer a smaller, and less drunken, crowd.”
But Elena will not hear of it. “Come anyway. They will listen to you; you’re incredible.”
Taliessa and Tom share a long look, and then they bow their heads.
“Very well. We accept your invitation, Your Majesty.”
Delighted with her discovery, Elena hurries back to the castle. She is late and must get ready for the feast.
“This will be a wonderful addition to the evening, don’t you think so Galahad?”
But Galahad is asleep on her shoulder, and can no more predict the future than she can.