Bonus – Duplicitous Courtship

Hi, guys! I didn’t have enough time this week to finish a chapter. Instead, you get a bonus! This one was supposed to come a little later, but I’m pulling it forward so you still have something to read. It is canon. Some recycled pictures, sorry for that. Back to dread and misery next week. See you then! 😘

As Spring washed over the Kingdom of Camelot, the castle’s surroundings slowly came back to life. Trees grew new leaves. Flowers budded and bloomed. The greys and browns of the previous Winter were washed away by a beautiful array of colours, spreading around the castle as everything inside of its gardens began to blossom.

Though the castle gardens were not available to the public, everyone that lived in the castle itself could stroll through. The rich display of flowers and shrubs was alternated by chess tables, comfortable benches and even the occasional water fountain. In theory, only the gentry and nobility were allowed to make use of them. But in practice, everyone could be found in the gardens, from the servants to the guards that patrolled the castle hallways. There was always someone there, no matter the time of day.  

It made it the perfect place to spread rumours.

And spreading rumours was exactly what Lancelot needed to do.

“What about here? This should be a good spot.”
“To… hold hands?” Guinevere replied, a blush spreading across her face as she nervously looked up at Lancelot. The future Duke nodded at her in response.

“Yes. Just until we’re around the corner. It’s a narrow path and not too crowded,” he continued softly. “That knight over there would notice us, but it would not end up causing a scene. What do you think?”

Lancelot watched as the maidservant broke eye contact. Guinevere looked down at the ground, fiddling with her sleeves as she mumbled:

The future Duke could sense the discomfort underneath. His ability to feel other people’s emotions as his own had led to many situations where he cursed his child self. This time was no exception. Lancelot could feel his heartbeat pick up in response to the inner struggle of the girl next to him. He could sense the enormous discomfort, paired with guilt and a slew of other negative emotions as she visibly tried to keep calm. The future Duke let out a small sigh.

It would have been so much easier if he hadn’t understood.

“Guinevere… you don’t need to force yourself.”
“I-I’m not,” she muttered. “I can d-do it.”

He didn’t need a Fae’s blessing to know that Guinevere was lying. The maidservant was terrible at concealing her emotions. She carried her heart on her sleeve, her expression revealing everything that was going through her head.

The future Duke didn’t mind. Talking to her was a refreshing change. Guinevere’s inner emotions actually matched what she showed on the outside. He didn’t need to figure out her angle. The future Duke could tell just by looking at her. It was why he enjoyed being around Gawain, too. His friend never ended up giving Lancelot a headache, like what happened when he interacted with court. Apparently, Guinevere was cut from the same cloth as Gawain.

That was not good.

Guinevere wasn’t suited for this. She was timid. Quiet. Guinevere seemed to hate drawing attention to herself, shying away from the spotlight. It was the worst combination of traits that she could have had. Lancelot could tell how hard their arrangement was on her- how much of a strain just walking with him and being stared at already caused. Both physically and mentally.
For Watcher’s sake, Arthur. Out of everyone in the castle that you could have picked.

He didn’t want to force her. He wouldn’t. Lancelot could carry the burden by himself.
“It’s all right,” he said softly. “We’ll just walk for now. Okay?”

The girl looked back at him in surprise. Guinevere blinked before quickly giving him a stiff, silent nod. But Lancelot could feel the relief underneath. Her shoulders relaxed. The tension in her body slowly faded away, along with the nervousness in her mind. Lancelot could see her glancing at him from the corner of her eyes.
“How… how a-are you doing this so easily?” she muttered softly.
“What do you mean?”
“This. With… with me. How a-are you fine?”


“I’m not,” Lancelot replied honestly. “Not really.”
“Then why did you a-agree?”
The future Duke waited until the lady that passed them was out of earshot before answering.
“I’m his second-in-command. I cannot afford to refuse. And playing the game is essential in order to survive at court.”
“Playing the game?”
“Pretending,” Lancelot clarified. “Making people believe that what they see in front of them is real. I’m sure that you’ve seen your mistress do it before. It’s a skill that we all need to possess.”
“You mean, lying?” Guinevere replied. Lancelot shook his head at her in response.
“Close, but not quite. I suppose you could call it performing. Playing a role. Morgana in particular is very skilled at it. But everyone at court learns to pretend when they have to. At least to some degree. We all have a mask that we need to wear, Guinevere.”

Guinevere broke eye contact with Lancelot. For a moment, the maidservant fell quiet. He could tell that she was mulling something over. But when Guinevere spoke again, the words that came out of her mouth were not what he expected.
“That sounds very lonely.”

Lancelot blinked. She’d caught him by surprise. Timid as she was, the maidservant seemed to have a keen intuition.
“I will not deny that,” Lancelot replied quietly. “You’re right. It’s very easy to lose track of your friends when you always have to wear a mask.”

“It’s even easier to lose track of yourself.”

The two of them fell silent. They had reached the end of the path, passing a young couple that was sitting on one of the stone benches. Lancelot could see Guinevere’s gaze linger on them as she walked by.

She was too easy to read.

Arthur was right. The nobles at court would eat her alive.

“Guinevere. Your feelings for him are genuine, aren’t they?”

There was no answer. She didn’t need to. Lancelot could feel the swirl of emotions that coursed through her body in response to his words.

He couldn’t leave her like this.

“I won’t tell you what to do,” the future Duke spoke quietly. “But if you really want to pursue him, then you need to learn to pretend. You need to wear a mask.”
“I… I don’t know,” the girl muttered, looking down at the ground. “I’m not good a-at lying.”
“Then don’t see it as lying. See it as a performance. Lady Morgana would call it a game. And reaching the outcome that you’re hoping for is your goal.”
“The outcome… that I’m hoping for?”

For the third time in a row, Guinevere fell silent. The future Duke could feel the conflicted emotions that radiated from her as she quietly struggled with herself. Lancelot knew better than to break that silence. Over the years, Lancelot had gotten very skilled at predicting people’s behaviour. He knew when to talk, and when to stay silent. The future Duke could tell that, if he stayed quiet, she’d eventually reach a conclusion on her own.

It also bought him some time to think, himself. Lancelot had been less than enthusiastic about Arthur’s idea right from the start. But he hadn’t grasped the full size of the problem until just now.

This was a disaster waiting to happen.

The two of them turned the corner, reaching the tail end of the castle garden. There was more of a crowd than Lancelot had thought there would be. The future Duke could see multiple raised eyebrows, along with a number of confused stares that were thrown his way. He ignored it as he continued to focus on Guinevere. But she wasn’t able to do the same. He could see the girl fold into herself, shrinking under the pressure of their stares. His brow furrowed.

As she was now… would she survive Arthur’s court?

No. She wouldn’t. The maidservant wouldn’t last more than a month, especially once the other nobles found out that Arthur was courting her. The stares that she got from being doted on by a future Duke would be nothing compared to the hostility that she’d receive from being favoured by the King.

Lancelot knew how that would end. It would not be pretty. They’d break her. And the rest of the court was something that even Arthur wouldn’t be able to change.

The young knight couldn’t leave Guinevere to that fate. He just couldn’t. He had to help her. To teach her, somehow. Before Arthur became King, Guinevere had to learn to wear a mask.

She would have to learn fast.

As the future Duke looked around, lost in thought, his eye fell on the flower patch next to the gazebo. Lancelot spent a few seconds looking at it absent-mindedly.

The next second, something suddenly clicked. A new idea welled up in his mind, taking over his thoughts and quickly rearranging the chess pieces in his head.

That could work.
That had to work.

The future Duke nodded to himself. He knew what to do, what step to take next. Lancelot would have to bring Morgana on board. But before that…

Before that, he had to make it personal.

“Guinevere. Are you familiar with the statues in the castle garden?”
“Yes,” she nodded at him. “I pass by them on my break sometimes.”
“I see. Do you know the story behind them?”

Guinevere shook her head, looking past him with a  curious look on her face. Lancelot followed her gaze. The statues in the flower patch were slightly mossy, having turned green in some areas. Years of wind and rain had done a number on them.

“Apparently, one of King Uther’s ancestors commissioned it,” the future Duke explained. “The royal adviser at the time hired a sculptor from Northumbria that was famous for his attention to detail. The artist observed everyone that lived in Camelot for inspiration. He eventually presented them with this.”

“What do you think?” he continued, pointing at the statues. “Pretty straight-forward, no?”
“I… think so,” Guinevere muttered. “She’s praying, a-and he’s looking at her. Are they lovers?”
“That’s how the story goes. According to the sculptor, that piece is based on an actual event. That man is a nobleman who had fallen in love with one of the court ladies. The story tells that he fell for her because of her purity and dedication to the Watcher.”
“That… makes sense,” the maidservant replied, carefully glancing up at the stained-glass window. Lancelot raised a single eyebrow at her words; his lips curling into a smile.

“Does it?” the future Duke answered. “I always thought it was strange.”
“Strange? What is?”
“The story. It doesn’t match. Have you ever stood inside the gazebo?”
The maidservant shook her head again, looking up at him with a confused expression on her face. His smile widened in response.
“I have a habit of noticing small details,” Lancelot explained. “I realised this in my first year at court. It didn’t make sense to me, so I looked up the original commission files in the castle archives.”

He looked back at the statues. Guinevere followed his gaze.
“As it turns out, the sculptor did something very interesting. When he made this, the artist created two stories. There’s one that everyone can see when they walk through the gardens. But there’s also a hidden truth,” Lancelot continued. “And that one only becomes visible when you step into their shoes.”
“What do you mean?” Guinevere asked, making Lancelot point towards the gazebo.
“Come with me. I’ll show you.”

He led her through the garden, dodging the stares of a group of ladies-in-waiting. The gazebo wasn’t far.
“Contrary to common belief, this isn’t a two-piece artwork,” Lancelot spoke. “There’s more to the story than that. There are four pieces in total. And that gazebo over there is the centerpiece. It’s hard to see with all the flowers growing around it, but the bottom of it is much older than the rest of the structure. I think that the sculptor had it built that way on purpose. He left a piece of history there.”
“I’m not sure. Most of this is conjecture, but my guess is that those statues are modelled after real people that stood there in the past. I noticed this when I first walked through this garden. From this side, it looks like he is gazing at her. But that’s not true. If you look at those statues from inside the gazebo, you’ll see that he’s not looking at her at all.”

“He’s looking at someone else.”

“Go on,” he continued, pointing at the gazebo’s entrance. “You’re curious, right? I’ll wait here. Go take a look.”

She did. Lancelot trailed behind her as Guinevere curiously made her way over to the structure, hesitating for a moment before stepping inside.

He hadn’t been lying. Not completely. Lancelot really had noticed that the statues were off-center, when he’d hidden behind them in his first year at court. The statues had been a lifeline to him when he’d been overwhelmed and desperately trying to process his emotional overload.

He just hadn’t looked it up in the castle archives. Lancelot had no idea what the sculptor had intended.

And it didn’t really matter. All that mattered was what kind of story Guinevere would see in them. She needed to see the connection. She needed to see Arthur in those statues. More importantly, she needed to see herself.

More than anything… she needed to believe that it was possible.

“You’re right! He’s looking at the other statue!”

Lancelot couldn’t help but smile at her enthusiasm.

It had worked.

“Interesting, right?” he replied. “This is all just conjecture on my part. But I think that our sculptor might have been inspired by a secret affair. One that they covered up by learning to play the game very, very well.”

“You think so?”
“Probably. The statues here make me think so, at least. The secret is very well-hidden. Almost in plain sight, unless you know exactly where to look. That has court intrigue written all over it.”

Guinevere looked back at the statues. As her gaze trailed from one side of the flower field to the other, the future Duke could sense the curiosity and discomfort make way for a tiny sliver of hope.
“Do you think they did it? Do you think they won?” Guinevere asked quietly. Her voice was almost inaudible. But he heard her anyway.
“I don’t know.”

“But they ended up with a whole statue built for them. I think there’s a very good chance that they did.”

“I know that you don’t like it the idea of pretending,” Lancelot said softly, purposefully turning his back to the bystanders behind him. “This won’t last forever. He assured me of that. But until then, we need to perform well. For all our sakes.”

The maidservant gave him a nod. His words had worked. Lancelot could see a strange, new focus in her eyes that hadn’t been there before. The future Duke looked down at her hands.
“Guinevere, I’d like to practice. May I touch you?”
She nodded again, keeping eye contact with him.
“Okay. But just my hands. Not more.”
“Of course. You have my word.”

He took a step towards her, gently taking hold of her hands. The maidservant didn’t flinch. For a moment, Guinevere had a strange, far-away look in her eyes, like she was looking through him.
It wasn’t ideal… but it was a good start.
“That’s it. You’re doing well,” Lancelot complimented. “Just remember who we’re looking at instead.”

At that, the maidservant suddenly pulled her hands back. Lancelot could see her look up at him curiously, a knowing smirk spreading across her lips.
“Just now… you said ‘we’.”
“A figure of speech, Guinevere.”

“…No. I don’t think so.”

For the second time in a row, the maidservant caught him by surprise. Lancelot had a feeling that she knew exactly who he had just misspoken about. Guinevere had a very good intuition hiding underneath her nerves. It was a pleasant surprise.

Lancelot approved.

“If you say so,” he smiled, leaning down and kissing the palm of her hand. “Are you ready to leave?”
Her smile widened at his lack of an answer. Guinevere let out a soft chuckle.


12 thoughts on “Bonus – Duplicitous Courtship

  1. This was a really heartwarming chapter.
    Lancelot is such a treasure. He is empathetic and nimble. The story of the three statues was a rather pedagogical feature.
    Guinevere’s sensitivity also includes an ability to figure it out when she forgets her own appearance.
    It’s spring, both in history and outside my window. Let it grow 💖

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Lancelot isn’t as strong as Arthur, Elyan and Gawain, but his intelligence and emotional intelligence are both very high. He definitely has his moments. 😊

      Yeeees let it grow! I love how my chapters lately are mirroring the seasons in real life. Makes it extra fun to write for some reason. I hope nature outside your window will grow just as well as the plants are growing here. 😁


  2. Camelot looks so pretty in the Spring < 3
    Although Gwen isn't comfortable about this at all, I like that you mentioned what I had on my mind; Gwen is the one person who, for the most part, can be read like a book-unlike most of the other people Lance and also Morgana deal with where there are about twenty different people in one, both on the inside and outside. I think everyone would feel protective about Gwen, she wouldn't last amongst the nobles at all if she has to. But Gwen is far too quick to feel remorse to put on a good facade. She'd probably immediately feel bad for 'lying' and tear up. It's always nice seeing how everyone influences each other in the story.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. True, her flaws are also some of her greatest strengths and the other way around. They’re very much two sides of the same coin. We haven’t seen her go against her nature very often yet; your prediction may or may not come true if she tries. Lancelot can appreciate the change of pace, though. Constantly having to be on your guard is exhausting.

      Liked by 1 person

  3. Aw Guin, she is too pure for this world. And he finds her refreshing. Well. Yes, Lance, yes this is a disaster waiting to happen. Ah, how clever! Although, with my jaded interpretation, I’d assume that maybe the man statue was probably just a guy with a wandering eye, especially as he’s only seeing the other lady from behind, faceless. But what do I know.

    Hee hee, Lance loves Morgana. Well, TOUGH LUCK LANCE! SHE’S WITH MONORAIL!

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Ha! He might very well have been just a guy with wandering eyes. Or maybe the assistants that lugged the statue over there were off by just a few inches. Maybe it’s just a coincidence. Maybe there’s a hidden button somewhere that will lead to a vampire basement. The story is always in the eye of the beholder, isn’t it?

      😂🤣 poor Lancelot. He’s no match for the sheer force of that ship. We’ll see if itsails or crashes and burns magnificently.

      Liked by 1 person

  4. Cut to me FINALLY getting a chance to catch up and post my comments 80,000 years later.

    First thing, why are you doing this to my heart Lancelot!?!?!?! I have spent a lot of this story thinking of him as a very pretty but mostly standoffish/stuck-up side character. Then you started putting in the stuff with Morgana, and he had Arthur’s back, and you slowly made me fall in love. Honestly, how dare. He’s so clever! Yes, Lancelot, stroll around the garden! Start those rumors, baby!

    Oh man, and he really sees her. “Guinevere wasn’t suited for this. She was timid. Quiet. Guinevere seemed to hate drawing attention to herself, shying away from the spotlight. It was the worst combination of traits that she could have had.” YES. I have been thinking this. I love her, but I’m afraid for her because it’s a jungle out there. Also, the more time I spend in Lancelot’s head, the more I think Arthur’s love for her is a bit…er…selfish.

    Sigh. Enough of my lance-a-thoughts.

    Wait, one more thing. I know it was pretend at the end, but man did it feel real when he kissed her hand.

    Guinevere is a good person. She’s sensitive but also smart and I love the way she surprises him with her observations….


    oh no…


    Send help.

    Liked by 1 person

    1. Fashionably late! Just in time for the luxury snacks and drinks 😄

      Lancelot has a lot of hidden depth, and this arc he finally had a chance to show some of that depth. He’s not as strong as Gawain or as beefy as Elyan, and he doesn’t take the spotlight in the way that Arthur does. But his emotional intelligence is off the charts. Being in Lance’s head doesn’t paint Arthur’s pining for Guin in a very good light, does it? As Arthur said himself: “What about what I deserve?”

      Lance-a-thoughts 😂🤣 Dead. I’m dead.


      Liked by 1 person

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