Last chapter, but you know me, there's bound to be a follow on... ;-)
Gwen sat on the river bank, hardly believing she was there. She sat on the rug, sharing a picnic with Uther, and occasionally throwing crumbs at the ducks. Gwen kept sniggering as she threw bread at the fat drake that in her mind she kept calling Arthur. Uther watched her now and again, smiling and then eating.
They were accompanied by Arran and Lucien, and also Olwen and Robert. Arthur had almost had a fit when Uther declared his intentions to go out with Gwen, and since Uther had been told by his son he couldn't just take two guards, he had also selected two knights. They were part of Arthur's personal guard and it also wasn't lost on Arthur that they were the two people that Uther had hinted were marriage material for Gwen. Gwen hadn't helped by sniggering when Arthur had told her.
"I'm sure Olwen could be considered good husband material," Gwen had mused with mock seriousness, much to Arthur's indignation.
The shopping trip had been interesting for Gwen. Most of the people had gazed in shock at Uther, covertly looking but being respectful towards him. He was their king. They had gone to find her material for a new dress, which was now neatly stored away in the saddle pack belonging to one of the ponies, and then just wandered around. Uther gazed at everything around him with interest as if seeing it from an entirely new perspective.
During that walk around Uther had completely stunned her, and she couldn't say that his jaunt out with her was a bad thing. She was astounded to find herself thinking that he was a good king. He often looked like he didn't care about people, but even if he didn't seem to, he remembered them.
He had been talked to, as he was out, and he remembered people, their names sometimes, occasions when they had come to him for an audience. Problems that had occurred over a decade ago came to him as he spoke, and talked and asked questions. Gwen led him a little, when things became awkward. But it occurred to her, Uther knew his people, and he was proving everyone wrong, when they thought he was out of touch. The fact was, he had slowly separated himself from his people, believing that distance would help with the hard decisions. He was wrong, and he was learning that.
Uther rarely openly admitted a mistake but that didn't stop him trying to rectify them. He looked at Gwen, he had not forgotten her father had died trying to escape the dungeon, locked up on a charge that did not warrant an execution. Thinking on that Uther rummaged in the nearby saddle bag and pulled out a neatly rolled up scroll which he had written that morning. Gwen looked at it in confusion as Uther held it out to her. She took it automatically, but frowned slightly.
"What's this?" she asked him.
"Open it," Uther replied, looking pleased with himself but there was a trace of nerves in his gaze. Still frowning Gwen opened it, and read what was inside, blinking in shock as she took in what the paper actually meant.
"You can't do this," Gwen said stunned, as she re-read the parchment, just to be on the safe side.
"I can," Uther announced. "I'm the king. I know technically I should have spoken to Elyan first, as he is your brother, and therefore responsible for you…"
Gwen looked up, frowning at him. Uther swiftly carried on.
"But I thought you would probably be cross if I did that, and you have been looking after yourself for a while now, so I thought I would just give it to you." Uther concluded his speech and waited. Gwen wasn't quite sure how to answer that. The king was regarding her very seriously.
"You don't have to do this," Gwen said.
"No, I don't, but I have done. Everyone else who was involved in subduing the coup was knighted. I can't exactly knight you, although," he frowned and paused, staring out in the middle distance as he considered it. "I'm fairly certain there isn't anything directly referring to knighting women, so maybe I could. I just thought this was better. It's only a small tithe, but you should have a proper income."
Gwen still gaped. She supposed in relative terms it was only a small amount, but what it would offer her was more than she would ever hope to have in her lifetime. After her father's death Arthur had signed the cottage over to her. Gwen had discovered that Arthur had bought it, but had no intention of doing anything but letting Gwen live there. It had been half in her mind to rent it out, now she was living in the small apartment in the castle, but she hadn't really wanted to even though the income would help. Now she didn't need to.
Uther reached out and patted her hand before taking the parchment back and carefully rolling it up, to stow it safely away in the saddle bag again. Gwen just still stared at him, utterly stunned.
"So, now you can buy lots of material, and have lots of nice new dresses," Uther concluded looking anxious at her lack of response. Gwen blinked and gave a slight smile, which seemed to ease the king's mind. Then they were both distracted as the little fat drake waddled up the bank searching for scraps.
"Sorry, Arthur," Gwen said and threw a few more chunks of bread at him. Uther frowned.
"The drake there, he seems like an Arthur."
Uther laughed, looking at the drake, who was strutting around, the rest of the ducks trailing in his wake. The drake bullied them around making sure they paid attention to him.
Gwen watched as the drake chased after another little male, who ran away but came scurrying back when 'Arthur' waddled off again.
"He looks self-important and seems to think he's in charge," Gwen said.
Uther laughed, "I wonder what the prince regent would make of that."
"Ask him and find out," Gwen said. Uther sniggered again. Gwen lay back, and threw some more bread in the direction of the ducks.
"Picnics are fun," Uther said.
"Not when it's raining," Gwen mused, staring up at the blue sky, with a few white fluffy clouds drifting past.
"So, we'll just have picnics on nice days then," Uther decided. "It's nice to have some peace and quiet."
"And you don't have to worry about hosting the next meeting," Gwen said. "Thanks to Olaf." And then frowned, when had she started addressing so many kings by name? It was quite interesting.
"I don't even have to go," Uther said, smirking happily. "I can just send Arthur."
Gwen reached out and smacked him on the arm.
"Now that's not nice, Uther!" Gwen told him, which only caused Uther to start laughing again. "You'll be going as well."
"You're going to come with me, aren't you?" Uther asked.
"That's all right then."
"But if you try marrying me off, I will be cross."
"What have you got against getting married, you're very eligible now you have an income, although you were before as well."
"Just stop it!" Gwen ordered him, trying not to giggle, it didn't help when Uther grinned at her.
"I will get married when I am good and ready, and in love."
"And until then, we can keep going out for picnics. And that's a Guinevere," Uther added, making Gwen frown in confusion, until Uther pointed and she saw the elegant swan gliding across the lake, a bundle of fluffy cygnets in tow. Gwen gave a smile, and Uther grinned.
"If we keep going out for picnics," Gwen said, quite prepared to get her own back. "People will start to think you want to marry me."
Uther smiled at her. "We can bear that in mind."
"Now you're just being silly," Gwen told him. Uther smirked, sitting back on the blanket again, and shutting his eyes against the bright sunshine. Gwen sat back a little, still watching the birds on the lake, until Uther roused long enough to add.
"Oh, I don't know," He pondered. "I think you'd make a very good queen."