Born to It
Disclaimer: I disclaim. Merlin and its characters are the property of the BBC/Shine.
Written for camelot_love 's Drabble Tag January 2011 Round 1: Free-for-all (took me a while to post here, but hope you enjoy)
Prompted by vexena_sky : "Arthur is watching Gwen take care of the people."
I watched you struggle. You told me you didn't understand well enough what I thought you interpreted fine.
Then it became clear to me what you meant. Everything changed with that one event. When so many others would have faltered, you rose like a blossoming flower to your duty, like that of the lavenders you so often wear in your dark springlets of hair. That day I saw you rise to your destiny.
And I knew you were wrong of what you said before.
It was not some mistake. Some chance by fate or love.
It was because of what became so plain that day.
You were born to it.
Beyond battle and magical, came it, a ravaging rain and wind storm, putting so many lives into peril. And yet no one could have predicted hours ago that the intensifying showers would turn to something so violently threatening.
"Good Morning." Outside a relentless wash of rain had begun to fall. The winds pulled at the trees' swinging branches. Seemed a bit of a rain storm.
In their lavish bedroom, she smiled softly and raised her lips to give him a noble bothered kiss.
Arthur moved to the door, knowing his servant should be there any moment to help him with his wear of the day. At the latch though, he stopped. Something about that kiss, about the past months. "Are you alright Guinevere?" He asked, eyes carefully watching her face.
Quickly, "Yes, of course."
He let go of the door's latch, treaded back to his wife, still in his sleepwear. She was beautiful in her lavender night dress, although her expression held no shine. He circled his arms around her front from behind. "You're doing wonderfully with it you know."
Her smile remained static, controlled for his benefit. He had work to do. She was expected idle decoration. "I know."
Something was wrong. Their marriage was in good order thankfully. Four months now, with her taking the role of queen a little over three months ago. It hadn't felt right to rush it. He had given her the time he hoped she needed before coronation.
She was loved and respected as queen. The servants were so proud to have one of their own now a ruler. The towns' folk often sent gifts and would cry out with delight when she entered the square.
He couldn't think of a single soul unhappy of her status, except maybe the queen herself.
Gently he lifted his hand over her heart. "Maybe we should go away. King Pernon has invited us for the festivities of the new spring harvest. We'll be sure to leave Merlin behind this time." He joked.
A month back they had shared a short excursion to the outlying borders and Merlin had joined them because Arthur wanted him to take care of all the menial tasks. It had ended up with each driving the other so crazy that Guinevere in the middle of it all gave them both a 'timeout'. Grumbles of 'prat' and 'idiot' were quickly silenced by her, and so now Arthur definitely did not want to repeat that fiasco.
Her mouth curled up wryly at his touch of humor. Arthur smiled at her reflection before turning his wife around to face him.
Guinevere looked up to his wondering eyes, reading the etchings of concern. She touched at his bottom lip before following the action with a soft kiss. "You have work to do. I must go meet with-
The ladies of the court."
It was there in her voice, how she didn't relish the fact. Arthur brought his lips to her neck, and then gently found her chin, her nose. "I know that being queen has its annoyances. Dislikes."
"A multitude sometimes."
It was rare she complained, so that when she did, it made him less happy.
Noticing his sad grimace, Guinevere reprimanded herself. She had no right to distract him like this. "I don't mean you of course." She caressed his cheeks with quiet passion. "I love you so much Arthur. And you know I love Camelot. It has always been my home. My heart. I don't mean to be ungrateful."
He shook his head solidly. "You don't sound that way at all. I know this is not about the people. It's about some of the other duties."
She said nothing. So many hours were spent on the throne, meeting with ladies of the court who talked about some of the most frivolous things sometimes. It was so different than her life before, some of what she felt herself yearning for as days passed.
Finally, "Don't worry about me. I'm fine. Just, some women are born to this.
I am not."
Tension clawed at his heart, flooded his soul like the ceaseless rain outside. He wished he could make her see it. He wished he could change certain aspects of the role, tailor it for just her. Maybe she missed her little home; perhaps it was wrong to take her from it. He just couldn't imagine his life devoid of her. He'd be such a lesser king. He'd be a holed man.
All the tumult. She pressed against his chest solidly. "Go. Go on. I will be fine. I'll meet with the ladies and see you later at the throne."
Arthur lowered his head against her shoulder, whispered, "I love you. And you are meant to be. Someday I will help you see that.
She held to the back of his head, the statue of a queen she was. Idle. A trophy no matter how much he tried to convince her otherwise. She still knew not her true role.
Hours of the bell's tolls later, the meeting with the ladies had to end early. Normally she would be thankful, but not this day. The storm outside was horribly increased. Glances out the windows showed nothing but torrents of rain and wind that blurred the panes. Something had to be done. The castle itself was made of hard stone that would withstand most anything, but the dwellings outside?
So many of them were crudely structured.
Picking up her skirts, she ran through the long hall to the throne room. Stepping inside, she let down the bustle of her scarlet magnificently made dress. Seeing him in troubled council with some of the knights, knowing it worried him too, she called out his name.
He turned away from the knights, moved down the steps and caught at her hands.
"The storm. It's getting worse. So much worse."
"I know." He looked up distractedly. Something had to be done, but what?
"The people." She went on strongly. "I doubt the tiny little house I stayed in could take much of this. There are so many like it around. Arthur, the people must be rescued. They cannot stay in such perilous conditions."
"I was getting the knights ready for that, but Guinevere, even the square, the courtyard will not protect them fully. I'm at a loss of what to-
"Don't you see Arthur?" She held tighter at his hands. "The castle. We can provide shelter and warmth, food. If we begin now, perhaps not a single life will be lost. We must try Arthur. They rely on us. On you. We are the people's protector."
It was ludicrous to bring that many into the castle. Of course the injured, but all those beyond too?
"Guinevere, you're talking about total anarchy. My father never would have entertained such a thing."
She faced him firmly. "And yet you are not your father Arthur Pendragon."
"It can't be done. We could not fit them all!"
"So you will turn your back on them? On those who follow you so devotedly. They would humbly open their homes to you and yet you cannot-
Guinevere frowned strongly.
"Maybe we cannot fit them all, but we can try. We can use the dungeons, the caverns underneath, all of it. There are so many rooms below. We will fit as many we can."
"I do not mean to sound uncaring. You know how much I love Camelot, Guinevere."
"Then show it. Help its people. Your people."
She was doing it, like she always did, giving her strong council. It's why he fell in love with her beyond beauty and other simple things. Her heart was so pure and her soul was so strong. When others gave up she never did, never let him rest on the easy. His father would laugh all this off, warn that the storm could become worse forcing all the nobility below to the lowest parts of the castle. And yet his father was deceased. This was his decision. Maybe his wife already made it for him.
"Our people. I will need you to help me keep order. Guinevere, with so many, it will be madness."
She held at his cheeks, her mouth set. "We will not allow it to be. Everyone that is able will have their duty. No one will think of causing trouble. Have faith in your people Arthur. Have faith in me."
He smiled finally, kissed quickly at her brow. "Always I do." Stepping away, he was all business. "Alright, I'm going to gather the knights, go with them and-
"I want to come with you."
He turned back, eyes widened. "No Guinevere. It's too dangerous. The winds are too strong. You stay here."
She grew angry at that. "And what, be an idle queen? No. Those ladies of the court, I know they will cower in their fine rooms and believe they should stay as such, that the poorer deserve their lot, but I will never think that. I must help."
She stood away from him firmly, head up high, chin raised to meet the sky's fury. "And you cannot tell me no."
He shook his head with the wonder of a man in love, and concern. "If I asked you with a begging sense you still would not see to my reason, would you?"
"No more than you follow it yourself."
He laughed softly at that, before kissing her forehead. "Be careful. I'll send Elyan with you and Lancelot."
He didn't say the latter lightly. He knew there were feelings still there, but he also knew she married the man whom she truly loved.
Guinevere shook her head resolutely. "No. Elyan will worry for me too much. Keep him with you. And Lancelot too. I only need one. All that can should be spared to ensure the safety of the people. Gwaine can accompany me."
"Why do I have the sense you already had that answer planned out?"
Finally, she smiled. "You know me well."
It was the tiny little house that had been her home since she was a babe that she went to first. She knew now that a small family of three lived there, including a baby of less than a year. She wanted to make sure they'd be protected well. The winds pulled viciously at her red dress and matching cloak. The pelts of rain soaked through the material instantly, plastering at the hood as the gusts attempted ripping it away from her head.
Guinevere knocked at the door and told the family of the evacuation plan. She instructed them firmly to gather only what they needed. Then she told Gwaine to assist as she headed to the next home.
Before she could leave, the rugged knight caught at her arm.
"The king told me not to let you go on your own Queen Guinevere."
She gave him a look of strong disapproval at all the formality and overcautious instruction.
Gwaine let it go quickly, not one much for protocol as his less than perfect wear suggested. "Alright, look Gwen, he's right about this one. That storm, it's only going to get worse."
"Which is why we must get to all the people we can as quickly as possible. Gwaine, do not worry for me. Arthur will understand this was the right thing to do, and if not, I will explain it to him later. Now, help these people in their departure and then head to as many homes as you can. Godspeed. And remember, for the love of Camelot."
Gwaine knew when she was like this that it was hard to win an argument. Reluctantly he agreed. "For the love of Camelot, be safe Queen Guinevere…Gwen."
Guinevere smiled with strong intent before rushing to the next house.
Many moments later, after going to a long string of homes to inform them to head to the castle, she came to one more. The wind bellowed, making walking near impossible, added to its detriment the torrent of rain. She gave the orders and began her departure, but before she could walk five steps, a gust pulled her up into the air, off her feet. She landed with dizzying affect. Hit the ground solid.
"Go that way! Over there, tell those people to run for the castle! I'll get this one!"
"But Sire, aren't you coming-
She felt something grab at her arm, speak in such a familiar voice.
"Madam, we need to get you up off the—
GUINEVERE?" Arthur asked anxiously, midsentence.
She felt his hands strongly pull her to standing. "Arthur." With his support, she regained her balance, even as around them swished floods of growing water.
"What are you doing? I thought you would have been back inside by now. Where is Gwaine?"
Like the king, she shouted above the roars of the storm. "I told him to go on his own. I needed to get to as many people as possible."
"That was foolish!"
"And I'm sure your knights think you are just as foolish!"
He laughed dryly, but kept a tight wet hold of her, the rain having soaked through all his clothing too. "Point taken. Come on. Come with me. Let's go inside before that flooding water reaches our ankles, or we die of pneumonia."
He was shivering, just like she was starting to, but she insisted. "The people-
Arthur shook his head. "Obviously you've reached most. There were strands of houses we didn't have to evacuate because I'm assuming you'd already taken care of them."
"With Gwaine's assistance."
He smiled fractionally. "Right. Come on. I'm not going to let you argue with me this time."
She knew it was no use fighting. Most the people were either in the castle or heading frantically to it now. They were all being protected. She felt so thankful that Arthur was now Camelot's king. Making caring thoughtful decisions like the one he had this day were reasons why she loved him so fervently. He was born to this, even if she was not.
Arthur held tight to his wife. She was a small thing, but she had such strength in that tiny body that it amazed him. Keeping her strongly in his grip, he felt it, saw it as they passed by-
"Oh." Guinevere lamented. The tiny little home she had once called hers, that now belonged to the precious little family, was being massacred by the storm. Its window coverings were being torn off. Its roof was ripping.
"Arthur…" She leaned against him.
The king kissed the top of his wife's head, whispering. He knew what this place meant to her. It meant much to him too. After all, they shared their first innocent, yet romantic kiss there. "We'll repair it. Guinevere, come on…My Love, we can't stay out here any longer."
It saddened her, but he was right. In all of this it was material. Lives mattered so much more. She hoped everyone had been saved that-
Hearing it, she shuddered.
A woman was yelling frantically, right at the castle's entrance.
Guinevere looked around to see a child dangerously running away, through the storm.
Tearing away from her husband's slippery grip, the queen gave brave chase.
"GUINEVERE!" Arthur yelled with shock.
The storm had already started to damage the house. The flooding was fully commencing; the winds were like a dragon's fiery blaze in force.
Guinevere caught at the child, a wild haired little boy, who had left a toy it seemed, and desperately ran back to get it, escaping the clutches of his frantic mother. Pulling away her cloak, Guinevere wrapped it around the soaked boy and headed to the castle, hoping the gusts didn't interfere her progress.
She was insanely courageous to try such a thing. But she had done it, saved the child. Seeing that the wind was rushing to knock them down, firmly Arthur gave chase, caught at her arm, and pushed towards the castle. The woman wept with relief as they approached her. She took the child from the queen with blessings upon both her and the king.
Arthur smiled at it, before turning to action again. They needed to get everything into order.
Moments later, wearied, wearing half of his wet clothes, shirt changed because the soaked plastering had been too much to take, Arthur wiped at his sweating brow. This was harder than going into battle. There were people everywhere you looked. The castle was strong, but still as precaution the windows were being boarded up. Knights were put into duty of making sure that all the rooms were safeguarded. It was as the king headed to give further command, he noticed it.
She gave each direction shortly and firmly.
The first he saw was for the kitchen help.
"I want you to prepare as many meals as possible, simple ones. But hot. There are a lot of chilled people. Some injured. They will need good steaming food to warm their shivering bodies. Now start immediately. And thank you so much for all you do for Camelot."
"Yes Queen Guinevere."
Arthur stood back against the wall, attention rapt.
She rushed over to the healing quarters next. Gaius was in charge there of course.
"What more can I get you Gaius?"
"Blankets my Lady."
She turned back to some of the servants. "Gather all the blankets you can. Here for the injured and of course for all who are wet and cold. Strip every bed. Even the king's and mine. Spare none. Rip at curtains if you must. They are heavy and will warm strongly. Now go."
Guess they'd have to use body heat this night. Arthur inwardly chuckled; it was so like her to put all before them.
She stopped some of the servants in their progress. "Clothes too. There are so many extra pairs in this vast castle. Even the visiting ladies, tell them they must help. By order of the Queen. They have heavy cloaks that can be used, gowns that could be cut into enough wear for many. No one will be idle. Is that understood? We must all do what we can to help. Anyone who wishes not to, well then they will receive no assistance. We as people of Camelot will band together now to keep our precious kingdom well. EVERYONE must assist."
Arthur watched as now his wife ripped away at the bottom of her dress, taking away the build of the finely made petticoats. "Here, see what you can do with this."
Already she had wrapped her cloak around the child, Owen, outside. Her dress was now ruined. Her usually pulled together hair was a mess around her head, but still she had all the regal beauty. Still, maybe more-so than ever, she was queen.
He had worried that having so many in the castle would lead to full chaos, but she was right. The people of Camelot had faced dangers before, and as they were then, they were now ready. Everyone who was well enough took up positions of aid. They assisted each other. All under the queen's command really.
Taking the bundle of blankets just found, holding the heap of them, Guinevere delivered one each to the shivering. "Here, wrap this around. Keep warm. Food is on the way….here you go. Take this. Keep yourself as dry as possible. You do not want to fall to illness. Here…"
In the middle of this she noticed it, what most others would ignore.
There were so many children frightened, shocked by the events of the storm.
Arthur watched his wife give an order. The servant soon returned with it. A book that she told him once her father used to read to her when sleep didn't come easy after the demise of her mother.
His emotions turned to the slush of the flooding outside. She sat a chair in the middle and simply began to read. Within minutes there were children gathered all around her. She smiled so gently at them. They read together with her. They came closer to hold at the ruined hem of her dress. One crawled up to be in her lap. Another touched from the back at her curls of hair and asked how they came to be this way, so much like fancy rings.
She answered each question patiently, allowed each touch with grace, and continued to read with calm tenderness.
After everything he witnessed this day, in just these few precious moments, Arthur knew with no question. She had to understand it now too.
This was her calling. This was the reason.
As she smiled with delight, hugged at all her little admirers one by one, he whispered it.
"You never fail to surprise me…
Her eyes lifted, found his then, soft, loving, and with every sense of duty. She no longer wondered her role.
He smiled in caring. This woman made him a better king.
His father never would have done this. Lives would have been lost and the cost greater. But she taught him to be this way, to not see it as weakness to care for the people, but a great strength. The castle was a mess of activity, filled with love and safety.
And all because of Camelot's queen.
Her head was back down. She was filled with the attentions of the children.
The king had to suppress his tears.
"Oh my Guinevere.
You have to see it now.
You didn't fall into this by accident.
You were born to it."
Thank you for reading. Feedback is adored. No matter what I'm very thankful for the number of traffic my stories seems to get sometimes. It's lovely to see people from all around reading or at least giving the story a go. I'll be back soon with some more recently written stories and a few that I've yet to post here. Have a great one.