Elyan walked through the streets of Camelot, his pack slung over his shoulder and a spring in his step. It was good to be home. Home...how well that sounded! He could not wait to try out the new forging techniques he learned at the Annual Greater Albion Smithy Convention. He particularly wanted to try his hand at the advanced chain-mail linking technique he had practiced at one of the workshops. He was sure that he could compete with the royal blacksmith for orders from the knights were he able to perfect his technique. The state of Arthur’s chain-mail was appalling. It was little wonder that the prince got injured so often.
Most of all, Elyan was looking forward to seeing his sister once again. He had only been away for a week, but he already missed the sound of her voice and her home cooking. He didn’t know how he had managed to be apart from her for four years!
Finally, he came to her house. He paused at the door and considered knocking. She could have company...royal company. It would only be polite to knock first. But then, Elyan truly treasured any chance to catch Arthur unawares. Just because he was crown prince of Camelot did not mean that he above the scrutiny and torture only the older brother of his lady love could provide.
“Gwen!” Elyan called merrily as he stepped into her tiny cottage. “I’m back from my travels to distant lands and I come bearing merchandise from the convention! I’ve got chain-mail trivets for your stove. I noticed you did not have any trivets, Trivets really are quite handy for keeping your tables free of...”
Elyan’s babbled greeting was cut off when his sister launched herself into his arms.
“Oh, I am so happy to see you Elyan,” she exclaimed as she kissed him soundly on the cheek.
Elyan was caught between bashfulness, brotherly disgust and concern.
“It is good to see you too, little sister,” Elyan replied as he tightened his arms around her having settled on happiness. “I was only gone for eight days and I’ve returned unscathed as promised.”
Gwen pulled back from him and smiled at him with tear filled eyes.
“I know, Elyan. Forgive me for being silly.”
Elyan frowned and gripped his sister by the shoulder.
“Come, What are these tears, Gwenie? What happened? Did Arthur do something? I know he is the prince, but I swear I’ll run him through if he hurt you...”
Gwen shook her head.
“No, Arthur has done nothing wrong. It has just been a stressful week,” Gwen explained with a weak smile. “Why don’t you sit down and have a cup of cider. Merlin’s coming over for dinner in a few minutes. I am sure he’ll be happy to see you.”
Gwen gave him a smile she thought was convincing before busying herself with gathering a third place setting for the table.
“I hope venison stew with dumplings is alright. Sir Leon was so nice as to bring by some nice cuts of meat after their hunt yesterday. And we have a cask of wine courtesy of Sir Percival and a block of the most wonderful cheddar from Lawrence the cheesemonger. You’ve really picked a good day to return, Elyan. We’ll feast like nobles tonight...”
Elyan walked towards the table and inspected the unexpected bounty. Gwen was well loved by most in Camelot, but her table had never been so well laid out. He plucked a grape from a bunch of bright green fruit as he returned his inspection to his sister.
“Did something happen while I was away?”
“No, nothing in particular,” Gwen replied as she avoided his eye.
“Nothing in particular? So Sir Percival regularly gives you choice wine from his table and the notoriously stingy Lawrence just suddenly decided to give you some of his best cheese?”
“It is a lovely surprise,” Gwen replied as she fussed with the centerpiece.
Elyan took her by the shoulders and turned her to face him giving her his most commanding brotherly stare.
“Guinevere Leondegrace there is something you’re not telling me.”
“Its nothing, Elyan. Everything is fine now.”
“I’ve brought sausages!” Merlin’s happy shout interrupted Elyan’s interrogation. Gwen used the excuse of their new guest to break from Elyan’s grasp and flutter about with the preparations.
After they had finished eating Gwen’s superb venison stew and moved on to the cheese and fruit, Elyan decided to change tactics.
“Merlin, did anything out of the ordinary happen while I was gone?”
Merlin took a big gulp of his wine and spluttered. “No, nothing out of the ordinary.”
“Merlin, you know I was away at the smithy convention where they gave the most wonderful door prizes. I got a collection of throwing knives that are frightfully sharp. Would you like to see them?”
Merlin’s eyes widened. “Ummm, no thank you.”
“Then I suggest you spill it!”
“Well, Gwen and Arthur had a romantic picnic and they were caught by Morgana and Uther. Gwen was banished from the kingdom but then Morganna planted a poultice under Arthur’s pillow so Gwen was accused of sorcery. Uther convicted her of witchcraft and sentenced her to be burned at the stake. Arthur renounced his crown and went batshit crazy. Then I...I mean a random crazy old wizard suddenly appeared and took the flap so Uther let Gwen go. The crazy wizard escaped in a spectacular display of magic and now Gwen and Arthur have to be very very discrete so that Uther doesn’t try to burn her for a third time...”
“A third time!” Elyan shouted. “He tried you as a witch before?”
“You see, it really was quite a normal week Elyan,” Gwen replied with a weak smile. “More wine?”
“That’s it. No more conventions,” Elyan sighed before knocking back another cup of wine.